Today, Kathy and I headed to Joint Base Lewis McCord for the Soldier for Life/Hire conference at the American Lake Conference Center. The basic idea is to help those who served our country get the training/education/employment they need to re-enter civilian life.
We received email instructions today, but they came after we left the house and the print was so small on my iPhone, I couldn't make it out, but I could tell there was a gate I was supposed to go to off Steilacom-Dupont road and something about Integrity gate. Heck, that has to be off exit 119, I know, because that is the way to one of my favorite Mexican restaurants in Washington State. From I5, I could see what looked like a gate to the East, so I turned left on Steilacom-Dupont road. It was a gate alright, but no label, until you were halfway down the feeder road; Dupont gate. I pulled up to the nice man with a machine gun, drivers license in hand, and explained I was looking for Integrity gate. He said this was Dupont gate and he would have to turn me around.
Turning around, as I came to be an authority on the subject, entails them keeping your license until you turn around and they give it back to you on the way out of the gate.
He signaled a nice young lady, also with a machine gun, and I turned around and she gave me my license back with some driving instructions. Drive the other way down Steilacom-Dupont, you will hit a dip, turn right, can't miss it. So I did. Hit the dip, turned into the D street gate. Did the turnaround. Instructions were, drive the other way on Steilacom-Dupont, when you get to a stop light, turn left, that is Integrity gate, can't miss it.
Got to the light, turned left, there was the sign, Integrity gate. Integrity gate has to be one of the most beautiful military gates on the planet. It is huge, lanes everywhere. Showed my license to the nice man with the machine gun. He beckoned another nice man with a machine gun over. He said they had been briefed on this. He told me pull over, he had spoken with an MP who would help me. The MP said I needed to go to the Visitor's Center. It was off of exit 122. Now we have to turn you around.
Off we went, back down Steilacom-Dupont, North on I5, I could see the gate from the highway, pulled in. Nope, the visitor center is off exit 120. This time a man in a uniform that look like a State Trooper turned me around. But he gave accurate directions to the Visitor's Center. If you are driving South on I5, watch for the signs to JBLM Main. It is going to look like it will dump you back on I5, but at the last minute you can exit to JBLM Main.
It was just like every other visitor's center at every other base I have been to in my clearly misspent life. Everyone has to "pull their own ticket", kind of like they often do at DMVs. When your number comes up, you go to that window. Kathy and I had consecutive numbers, I was at Window 1, she was at Window 5. She got her vehicle pass and ID in five minutes. I got called back to the window four times. "Who is your sponsor?" "What is this event?" "How many people are coming?" The answer to that by the way is at least 1,000 people all hoping to help veterans. But after 20 minutes I got my pass and ID.
There might, it is within the realm of possibility, that there will be a bit of chaos tomorrow morning.