Joint Civilian Orientation Conference: An Inside Look at Our Military’s People

By Marine Sgt. Drew Tech
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

Have you ever wondered what military life is really like? Sure you’ve seen a few war movies, but have you ever wished you could get a real inside look at what life is like for the men and women serving in our military?

Well, for the lucky group of Americans who are attending the Secretary of Defense’s Joint Civilian Orientation Conference (JCOC) next week, that wish is going to become a reality.

Participants of Joint Civilian Orientation Conference walk the flight line to board a C-2A Greyhound at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., Aug. 19, 2016. JCOC increases public understanding of national defense by enabling American business and community leaders to directly observe and engage with the U.S. military. DoD Photo by Marine Sgt. Drew Tech

History of JCOC

So what exactly is JCOC?

Established by Secretary of Defense James V. Forrestal in 1948, JCOC is the oldest and most prestigious public liaison program in the DoD, and is the only outreach program sponsored by the secretary of defense.

James V. Forrestal was appointed as the first United States Secretary of Defense by President Harry S. Truman in 1947. In 1948, Forrestal established what is known today as the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference, the oldest and most prestigious public liaison program in the Department of Defense. Navy photo

The initial concept was a quarterly, 10-day course for about 60 participants. The course would complement separate service-level civic leader programs to “present an integrated picture of the military establishment.” It would “deal with national policy, the problems confronting the United States in pursuing its policies, and the economic, political, and military means to carry out that policy.”

As planning progressed, the 10-day JCOC condensed to six days — the original Washington phase was three days. It was decided in January 1952 there would be no repeat participants. Four JCOCs per year became two per year in 1953, and one per year in 1962. Conferences have had participant numbers from 23 to 90.

In 2003, for the first time, the conference traveled to U.S. military installations outside of the United States. Each visit during that period was hosted by a major combatant command and was designed to highlight the capabilities of forward-deployed service members. A redesign of the program was completed in 2010 and resulted in an overall increase in the participants’ actual time with the troops by concentrating visits to military installations within the United States. The program was temporarily halted in 2013 and 2014 due to sequestration spending cuts.

Roger Rocha, Jr., national president for League of United Latin American Citizens, fires the M4 service rifle at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., during Joint Civilian Orientation Conference Aug. 15, 2016. JCOC increases public understanding of national defense by enabling American business and community leaders to directly observe and engage with the U.S. military. DoD Photo by Marine Sgt. Drew Tech

What’s the Mission of JCOC?

The JCOC mission is simple: increase public understanding of national defense by enabling American business and community leaders to directly observe and engage with the U.S. military.

This is achieved through a six-day tour where participants are given the full gamut of military experience. They begin JCOC each year in Washington with a tour of the Pentagon, where participants attend briefings by senior military and civilian officials. From there, the group sets out on a tour of military installations across the continental U.S., visiting one installation from each branch of service, where they gain firsthand experiences through operations and interactions with troops and military leaders.

F. William McNabb, III, right, Chairman and CEO of Vanguard, and Dr. A. Wesley Burks, Executive Dean for the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, talk with Marines at The Basic School at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., during Joint Civilian Orientation Conference Aug. 15, 2016. JCOC increases public understanding of national defense by enabling American business and community leaders to directly observe and engage with the U.S. military. DoD Photo by Marine Sgt. Drew Tech

Guns, Planes and the People: My Experience with JCOC

I have the pleasure of this being my second year on the JCOC staff. Last year I was assigned to be the military photographer, and I’m excited to say that I’ve been welcomed back, this time to serve as the writer.

It was such an awesome opportunity to meet all of these American leaders and travel with them for a whole week. I’m just a young Marine sergeant, and here I was spending the week with presidents and CEOs of well-known companies and organizations, deans of major universities, you name it. These were all such influential people, and they were all eager to learn about our military and about me! I was eager to learn about them.

Throughout the week, we did all kinds of really cool things that most civilians would typically never get to experience. The group got to fire a variety of weapons with the Army Green Berets and the Marines. We saw and even got to ride in a plethora of different military aircraft and equipment. We even went underway on a Coast Guard cutter and a Navy aircraft carrier. With all the action that we experienced throughout the week — and I didn’t even cover the half of it — every participant I talked to seemed to agree that their favorite part about JCOC wasn’t the exciting hands-on stuff, but rather the people. Getting to interact with and learn about the lives and experiences of our troops was the highlight of their week, and that was truly awesome. That’s what this week is all about, and I certainly shared in their sentiments.

Eric Shanks, president, COO and producer of Fox Sports, converses with a group of airmen about the A-10 Thunderbolt at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., during Joint Civilian Orientation Conference, Aug. 17, 2016. JCOC increases public understanding of national defense by enabling American business and community leaders to directly observe and engage with the U.S. military. DoD Photo by Marine Sgt. Drew Tech

Looking ahead to this year’s conference, I am excited to begin the six-day journey all over again. This should be an awesome week with a lot of great people!

For more information about JCOC, go to http://jcoc.osd.mil/

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