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NEWS | June 22, 2020

Farewell: A walk to remember

By Tech. Sgt. Robert Hicks 633d Air Base Wing Public Affairs

U.S. Army Col. Jenn Walkawicz, 733d Mission Support Group Commander, recapped the last two years of her leadership as her change of command approaches.

“When I first arrived I had no idea what I was getting into,” Walkawicz said. “I am an Army officer commanding an Air Force group on an Air Force-led joint base that supports predominantly Army mission partners, so I wanted to keep it simple.”

Walkawicz explained when she arrived on post she wanted to focus on what she called the three R’s -building relationships, ensuring readiness and focusing on resiliency for service members and families across the installation.


During the discussion the commander stressed the importance of relationships and how they have grown in the last two years.

“We have phenomenal relationships across JBLE, particularly on Fort Eustis,” she said. “We worked really hard to create those relationships with all our major mission partners, but those relationships aren’t just inside the installation, they are external as well.”

According to Walkawicz, Fort Eustis has built great working relationships within the local community to include the Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, and the cities of Newport News and Hampton.

“We have been successful in creating relationships even at the state level with Secretary Carlos Hopkins at the Governor’s office handling Military and Veterans Affairs,” she said. “We really tried to focus on how we can bring the entirety of the installation, the local area and the state together and I think we did a remarkable job because everyone was so willing to be a team player.


According to Walkawicz, when she first took command there were some who believed Fort Eustis could not successfully deploy a unit with little to no notice.

“When I look at readiness, we have come a long way in the last two years in regards to service members’ readiness to deploy, but more importantly the installation’s ability to support the deployment of our organizations,” Walkawicz said.

During that time the unit took proactive steps to better its capability and change its perception.

“We brought in external organizations to access our infrastructure and our ability to deploy whether it’s by ground, rail or air, she said. “We focused on a series of mission-related exercises and rehearsal of concept (ROC) drills and it all paid off in dividends when this January - right after New Year’s Day - we sent two units from the 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary) out the door with little to no notice. It was tough, but it was a complete team effort and it was the fastest deployment they have had in history.”


From live concerts to hosting the first ever nationally televised Legacy Fighting Alliance mixed martial arts fight from a military installation to Fort Eustis’ 100th anniversary, the installation has always had the Soldiers’ resiliency in mind.

“A lot of times we hear the word resiliency and we think about individuals, whether it be our physical or mental resiliency. We created a lot of programs across the installation and held plenty of events to give our service members, civilians and their families a mental break,” Walkawicz said.

Fort Eustis also played a role in the Army’s Holistic Health and Fitness program that focuses on physical training, proper sleep and nutrition, and mental and spiritual readiness.

“We also focused on helping the Army implement the new combat fitness test here, and helping them lead the efforts to implementing the H2F program for the Army,” she said.

But resiliency isn’t just about the individual. Fort Eustis went through a period of time during which the installation would lose power, having a negative effect on the mission.

“For the last 12 to 18 months the team has fought hard for an electrical substation upgrade and it paid off when we received funding of more than $25 million to upgrade our substation and to create a micro-grid plan for the installation needed to provide a redundant energy source,” Walkawicz said. The team was constantly looking for ways to improve the installation’s resiliency in order to ensure that they could support any known or emergent mission requirement. We want our units to feel confident that the installation will always be there to support their mission, because those missions will always go on regardless of what is happening.”

According to Walkawicz, the 733d MSG doesn’t have the capacity to do what needs to be done to support the installation on its own, but gets great support from all of JBLE to get it done.

“The simplest thing I can say to all of our mission and community partners is thank you. We could not do it without you and I ask you to provide that same support as the new commander comes on board,” Walkawicz said. “I will never be satisfied; there is always more to do, but I am incredibly proud of what this unit has accomplished. Those accomplishments are not mine, I was just merely fortunate enough to be on the team for the last two years.”

Walkawicz will transition to the Pentagon after relinquishing command.