Purpose project: Why becoming honorary commander at joint base is so fulfilling

Ray Zardetto is an honorary commander at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. – Courtesy photo

Becoming an honorary commander at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst was one of the best decisions I ever made. And the dozens of people I know who are, or who have been, honorary commanders would say the same thing.

Being an honorary commander at Joint Base MDL is an eye-opening education into the incredible scope of activities that take place there.

Experiencing the enthusiasm, dedication and patriotism of the men and women at the joint base — military and civilian both — is a never-ending well of inspiration.

That is why I recommend to everyone reading this Op-Ed that they consider applying to become an honorary commander at JBMDL.  The application window is open through Jan. 31.

An honorary commander term is one year. Each honorary commander can serve up to three years.

Honorary commanders also fulfill an important role as joint base ambassadors, constantly reminding New Jerseyans these pertinent facts about the joint base:

  • There are few overseas missions that the joint base does not support;
  • There are few disasters around the nation or the world where personnel and equipment from the joint base are not engaged;
  • The joint base pumps about $5 billion into New Jersey’s economy each year and is the state’s second-largest employer.

If you are selected to be an honorary commander, you will be partnered with a senior commander at JBMDL.

Your commander will invite you to participate in activities involving his/her unit, so you get an understanding of what the unit does and how it supports the joint base’s overall mission.

In turn, you can involve your commander in your professional activities, so he/she gets a better understanding of what you do.

More info?

Contact the author at rzardetto1056@gmail.com for more information.

As an honorary commander, you also will be invited to social activities on the base, from formal dances to informal receptions to change-of-command ceremonies and commemorations of significant anniversaries.

The leadership at the joint base is looking for a wide variety of individuals to be honorary commanders — there are currently about 60 and they represent a wide range of ages, professions, interests and walks of life.

The following are not eligible to serve as honorary commanders:

  • Those who have served in the military (since a main aspect of the program is to demystify the military for those who never served);
  • Immediate relatives of currently serving honorary commanders;
  • Members of Congress, their staffs and federally elected or appointed personnel;
  • Department of Defense contractors, subcontractors or those seeking to do business with the joint base.

The honorary commander program requires exactly as much time as you can and care to put into it.

And, believe me, as you become more integrated into the culture of the joint base, you will want to put more time into it.

Ray Zardetto is a board member of the Military Support Alliance of New Jersey.