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(Enlarge) Melvin Russell, acting director of the Defense Media Activity, addresses distinguished guests, DMA employees and visitors during a ribbon cutting ceremony outside DMA's new facility on Oct. 20. The ceremony marked the end of Base Realignment and Closure transition at Fort Meade and was the final step in the consolidation of 14 military news organizations including the Pentagon Channel, Soldiers magazine and the American Forces Network. (Photo by Phil Grout)

Six years after the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Act began, all three major Department of Defense organizations moving to Fort Meade have officially opened following a ribbon cutting ceremony of the Defense Media Activity.

DMA held its opening ceremony Oct. 20 outside of its new facility on Mapes Road. The event marked the conclusion of the BRAC transitions, which also brought employees from the Defense Information Systems Agency and the Defense Adjudication Activities to the installation.

DISA officially opened its new 1.1 million-square-foot facility in May to house 4,300 workers. Defense Adjudication Activities held its ribbon cutting ceremony in August to open the 151,000-square-foot facility, which brought 760 employees from 10 federal agencies to Fort Meade.

Formed as a result of the BRAC changes, DMA is the last organization to begin operations at the installation.

"We were told to take seven separate activities that belonged to the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and the Office of the Secretary of Defense and to consolidate them into one organization, and then to move that organization to Fort Meade and to do it by September of 2011," said Melvin Russell, acting director of DMA. "We have successfully completed that task."

Russell called the ribbon cutting an "important milestone" for DMA, which was established in 2008 to consolidate the Army Soldiers Media Center, Naval Media Center, the Marine Corps News, Air Force News Agency and the American Forces Information Service, the Stars and Stripes newspaper, Army Broadcasting Service and the Defense Information School into a single DoD field activity. The organization also maintains 450 DoD websites.

Last week's ceremony was the final step in the consolidation of the 14 military news organizations, which include the Pentagon Channel, Soldiers magazine and the American Forces Network.

"It is great to get us into one facility," Russell said. "We had people in Texas, in Maryland and in Virginia. To finally bring them all together into one facility has really made the consolidation complete."

Scott Williams, an audio/visual producer for Joint Hometown News Service, said it is advantageous for the media to be working under one roof.

"There's a difference in working right across the table from somebody instead of calling them up or communicating via email," he said. "We're all right here now, so there's a big difference there."

Construction of the new 178,000-square-foot DMA headquarters and production building, located next to the Courses, began April 8, 2009. The Hensel Phelps Construction Company finished the $63 million facility in May. Employees began to move to the facility in June, at a pace of 200 personnel per month.

Williams moved from San Antonio to Fort Meade with eight members of the Joint Hometown News Service staff two months ago. But the preparation and moving of all of the studio equipment to the new facility took a total of about six months.

"We got here, we got set up, the building's beautiful, we have a lot of nice equipment to work with," he said. "It's turned out to be nice, but we're still in the moving process, so there's growing pains."

Williams said the move was unique. Not only did the Joint Hometown News move its production offices across the country, the office also needed to launch its mission at the same time.

"That made it tougher," he said. "We're all going to get through it, it's all going to be better. I think everybody understands that."

More than 600 DMA employees now work out of the headquarters and production building. In total, DMA consists of 1,900 employees in four states, Washington, D.C., and 15 countries around the world including the Armed Forces Network in Afghanistan. Half of the worldwide staff, Russell said, are active-duty service members.

"Around the world, our military members serve side-by-side with the units they cover," Russell said. "We do all of this for one reason: the men and women in uniform serving around the world, often in very dangerous places -- the same men and women in uniform that you see in this audience."

While the DMA mission is to provide a broad range of multimedia products and services to inform, educate and entertain DoD audiences, the organization's main goal is much simpler.

"Our passion is to provide a touch of home to them wherever they serve," Russell said.

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