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August 13, 2014 at 11:51am

Phantom Squadron 3-38th Cavalry held family "Spur Ride" at Joint Base Lewis-McChord

3-38th Cavalry Squadron's family "Spur Ride" included a close zodiac boats race at American Lake. Photo credit: Capt. Patrick McGiniss

Weapons training, obstacle courses, and zodiac boat races are not typically the domain of Army spouses, but the families of Phantom Squadron 3-38th Cavalry are not your typical families. Aug. 1 the 3-38th Cavalry Squadron held a family "Spur Ride" to let families get a taste of what their Troopers do as Cavalrymen. Family members of all ages participated in an obstacle course, treat a casualty lane, individual movement lane, weapons practice at a simulator, a radio communications exercise, and a zodiac boat race on American lake. A "Spur Ride" is a cavalry tradition dating back to the original American Cavalry units where new Soldiers proved their worth as Cavalrymen by completing a series of grueling tasks. In addition to challenging the family members, the event provided an excellent opportunity for families to strengthen relationships in the unit, build trust through shared experiences, and for the squadron leadership to disseminate command information pertinent to family members.

>>> Christian Gomez climbs while his mother, Yaelmine, steadies the rope ladder during the 3-38th Cavalry Squadron family "Spur Ride." Photo crdedit: Patrick McGinniss

At the obstacle course, spouses helped each other over a high wall while children giddily and effortlessly crawled under simulated barbed wire and navigated rope ladders. Once they were through, the families conducted an individual movement lane using Nerf guns and water balloons. Jammed weapons stressed the participants and simulated real world conditions while Lt. Col. Bruce Vitor, the squadron commander, was known to stand in as a target for the simulated hand grenade throw.  After being given a chance to throw a water balloon at the squadron commander, participants evaluated and treated a casualty before pulling them to safety using a foldable plastic litter.

The "turkey shoot" at the marksmanship lane was a hit, no pun intended, where families were familiarized on the M4 carbine before shooting enemy fowl that appear on screen. Like a modern Army version of Duck Hunt the simulator uses compressed air to cycle the weapons and lasers to determine where the families were shooting. When the participants hit the turkeys they were rewarded with gratuitous Hollywood-like explosions on screen.

A short bus trip took families to American Lake where they were showed how to talk on the radio and practiced with soldiers on the other end. After a short safety demonstration families raced each other in zodiac inflatable boats and saw firsthand how important teamwork and communication is when conducting waterborne operations.

After the event concluded everyone returned to the squadron headquarters for a barbeque and awards ceremony. Marie Meyer, wife of Sgt. Michael Meyer from B Troop, was chosen as the "Spouse of the Quarter" and presented with a certificate of appreciation from Vitor. He and Command Sgt. Maj. Eric Alfieri, then congratulated all the participants and handed out commemorative gifts while posing for pictures to capture the special day. The families might have been covered in sweat, mud, and camouflage face paint but all you could see were smiles from the newest Spur Holders of the Phantom Squadron.

Capt. Patrick McGinniss is the 3-38th Cavalry Squadron Fire Support officer.

August 12, 2014 at 9:25am

3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team rolls into the future of battlefield communication

Cpl. Jesse Croswell, with 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, sets up new communication equipment in a Stryker combat vehicle July 29 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo credit: Sgt. James J. Bunn

The 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division are about to get even more maneuverable on the battlefield.

This summer the brigade is upgrading their communications equipment to the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical Increment 2, a new satellite communication system that enhances a commander's ability to exercise mission command.

The upgraded equipment makes 3-2 SBCT a more adaptive and ready force for future missions around the world.  The new system helps the unit meet the chief of staff of the Army's vision of a globally responsive and modern force.


August 8, 2014 at 10:55am

JBLM cuts on the horizon: South Sound leaders mobilize to soften blow

Congressman Denny Heck, D-Olympia, spoke about how pending cuts to the number of soldiers and civilians at JBLM will affect the South Sound economy. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

The worst-case scenario is that Joint Base Lewis-McChord - the nation's premier West Coast power projection platform - may lose up to 16,000 soldiers and civilian workers as the Army works its way through a reduction in force process.

"We are living and operating under a real threat," said Rep. Denny Heck, D-Olympia, during a forum held yesterday afternoon at Lakewood City Hall.

"It is very, very real," he emphasized to the audience of about 75 community, state and business leaders.

This past June, the Army released its Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Assessment, or SPEA.  The document indicated that JBLM is being considered for a potential reduction of 16,000 soldiers and civilian workers between 2015 and 2020.

The assessment found that the reduction in personnel would result in a "significant impact to socioeconomic resources."

But the Army's assessment of what a "significant impact" is and what area leaders and businesspersons perceive as a "significant impact" vary greatly.

For example, the SPEA stated that Washington state would lose $3.5 million in retail taxes in fiscal year 2016.  On the other hand, the Washington State Office of Financial Management analyzed the same data and determined that the state would lose $20.47 million in retail taxes.

The reason for the large difference in numbers is that the state used a model that factored in data specific to Washington state rather than the broad-brush approach the Army took, pointed out Kristine Reeves, director of military and defense sector for the State Department of Commerce.

"The Army basically used a ‘cookie-cutter' approach," quipped Heck. "It's brain dead."

In eliminating a significant portion of JBLM's workforce - which is the state's second-largest employer - a significant portion of the South Sound's economy will be adversely impacted.

"Based on some initial calculations, the reduction could result in almost $1.3 billion annually in income losses to our region," wrote Lakewood City Manager John Caulfield in a recent article.

"Local government would lose billions of dollars in revenue from sales, property and other taxes."

The SPEA is silent on how Madigan Army Medical Center will be affected; the report does not address how businesses that have invested in the South Sound to help support JBLM during the last decade would lose money; and the findings do not acknowledge how service industry workers on JBLM would find new employment.

"The Army found that a reduction of up to 16,000 personnel from JBLM would have no significant impact on the surrounding community," Heck said.

"Let me be clear: They are wrong, and we disagree, and it's our job to make sure they understand. Our future is in our hands."

Public input matters.

Last year, when the first assessment on potential base reductions was released, the South Sound region submitted only one public comment. The result was that JBLM lost 4,200 soldiers.

On the other hand, the Fort Polk, Louisiana community mobilized and submitted more than 4,000 public comments and lost only 250 personnel.

Connect the dots - public input matters.

"The best way to make an impact is to write letters about how the base is tied to the local community," said Mary Huff, program coordinator of the South Sound Military and Communities Partnership.

"I don't think it's hard once you think ‘What do I need from JBLM?  How does my community benefit from JBLM?'"

Huff also stressed that letters that specifically show how the drawdown will affect businesses and jobs are vital.

"You must make your voice heard," Huff stressed.

Considering public comment is more than just a formality that the Army must follow.  The Army is required to address all submitted public comments, as long as they fall within the scope of the SPEA.

"We are on solid ground," Heck concluded.  "We're right; they're wrong."

To submit a comment via letter or email, visit the South Sound Communities and Military Partnership website and click the links under "Public Involvement." 

Written comments should be sent to: U.S. Army Environmental Command, ATTN: SPEA Public Comments, 2450 Connell Road, Building 2264, Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, TX 78234-7664, or emailed to usarmy.jbsa.aec.nepa@mail.mil.

The comment period closes Aug. 25.

August 1, 2014 at 9:58am

Hiring Heroes Career Fair coming to Joint Base Lewis-McChord

If you're transitioning from the military or are a veteran looking for work, then Sylvia Parker has an event especially for you.

The Hiring Heroes Career Fair is coming to Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Parker, a human resource specialist for the Department of Defense coordinating the job fair, said she has 62 employers coming.

"We're excited," she said.

There are career opportunities for wounded, ill, injured and transitioning servicemembers as well as veterans, military spouses and primary caregivers.


July 28, 2014 at 12:21pm

Joint Base Lewis-McChord nerds and geeks unite!

8-bit hoo-ah!

Sure, there are spouses groups for Joint Base Lewis-McChord husbands and wives looking to integrate into the local community, make friends or learn more about how to navigate within the military world. There are resources galore, and yet sometimes spouses may want to connect and get together over a different topic than military resources. Spouses may simply want to get together and talk about shared interests - especially if those shared interests are something that maybe not everyone out there relates to.

For this exact reason, Monica Rice blazed a new trail and recently formed her own group - the JBLM Geeky/Nerdy Spouses, a Facebook group open to spouses of both genders so long as they identify as geeky and/or nerdy. After spending some time with the general spouse groups, she thought others out there might want to connect on all things geeky like she did.

"I'm still pretty new to the military lifestyle and haven't made many friends with spouses," says Rice. "Also, because of my passion in computers and programming, I don't have many lady friends with those same interests. I knew I couldn't have been the only woman with what I think are pretty niche hobbies, so I wanted to reach out while simultaneously forming a small network wherein all members could talk about their favorite passions without feeling like an oddity."


July 24, 2014 at 1:42pm

2-75th Ranger Regiment changes hands at Joint Base Lewis-McChord

James B. Bartholomees assumed command of 2-75th Ranger Regiment from Col. Gregory K. Anderson, July 24 at JBLM. Photo credit: Richard Baker

During a week of hot weather, heavy clouds and a cold snap threatening when Lt. Col. James B. Bartholomees assumed command of 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment from Col. Gregory K. Anderson, July 24 at Watkins Field, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, he inherited a unit with a long and proud fighting history. The 2nd Ranger Battalion is the second of three elite special operations commando battalions belonging to the Army's 75th Ranger Regiment. Guests huddled together and waited for rain as events of the battalion were related.

World War II brought about a need for special units and, along with the 5th Ranger Battalion, was quickly formed at Camp Forrest, Tenn. Only the best soldiers are chosen for special commando units and the 2nd Ranger Battalion felt like the best of the best when they were trained and sent to Great Britain to prepare for the D-Day invasion. Six Ranger battalions were eventually formed during the war.

Lt. Col. James Rudder attempted to land three companies of the 2nd Ranger Battalion at Pointe du Hoc during the invasion. Nothing goes as planned, especially during war, and several landing craft capsized drowning soldiers and losing supplies. Any chance at surprise was lost when the remaining unit landed an hour late. Undeterred, the remaining 190 men scaled rope ladders and completed their mission by disabling a battery of captured French artillery used by the Germans and pointed at Utah Beach. The cost, however, was high and only 90 soldiers were able to continue the fight and held off German counter-attacks for three days. After being brought to strength, the battalion continued to fight in the Hurtgen Forrest and led the assault on Hill 400 at Bergstein.

>>> Col. Gregory K. Anderson and Col. James B. Bartholomees watch over the 2-75th Ranger Regiment change of command ceremony at Watkins Field, JBLM, July 24. Photo credit: Richard Baker

The 2nd Battalion was reactivated as an elite combat unit at Joint Base lewis-McChord Oct. 1, 1974 and considered "world-wide deployable" by the Chief of Staff of the Army. In 19 deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, they have conducted more than 3,500 raids against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. One company is always available for deployment within 18 hours, the remainder within a day.

For Lt. Col. Bartholomees, the change of command is almost like a homecoming. He served with the regiment as a rifle platoon leader, as the battalion logistics officer, and ranger rifle company commander. He was later assigned as the battalion liaison officer followed by executive officer. After moving to regimental headquarters he served as senior liaison officer, operations officer, executive officer, and regimental deputy commander. Many men know and respect him as an honest, intelligent, and fair commander. He returns that respect.

>>> Col. Gregory K. Anderson salutes the 2-75th Ranger Regiment during the change of command ceremony at Watkins Field, JBLM, July 24. Photo credit: Richard Baker

On three occasions, outgoing commander Col. Anderson deployed three times with the unit to Afghanistan. He will continue his military career by attending the U.S. Army War College before commanding the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vicenza, Italy.

During the ceremony, the band sparkled, the troops looked smart, and even the rain held back out of respect for one of the finest fighting units in the military. At the completion of the ceremony, the sky broke apart and the sun shone through. No change of command has been better orchestrated.

July 18, 2014 at 7:39am

Friday Morning Joe: Malaysian airliner update, Gaza ground offensive, war funds, Army captains speak ...

2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, practice throwing training coffees before beginning a live-coffee exercise on Range 800. Original photo by Cpl. Joseph Scanlan


Malaysian airliner shot down over eastern Ukraine: First came the loud explosion that made buildings rattle: then it started raining bodies.

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine agreed to allow investigators access to the scattered crash site of a Malaysian airliner that was shot down, killing all 298 aboard.

Separatist rebel claims about the flight recorders have profound implications for the integrity of the plane crash investigation.

It's finally time to stand up against Putin.

Israel steps up Gaza ground offensive, civilian casualties grow.

Why Israel launches a ground war in Gaza.

The Pentagon could use a new $5 billion counterterrorism fund, strongly opposed by the US Congress, to purchase new intelligence gear and aircraft for American and partner militaries.

A U.S. Senate panel approved nearly $550 billion in military spending, while also proposing to keep alive weapon systems the Pentagon wanted to retire. But senior members made clear it may never see the Senate floor.

Pentagon officials defended their request for $60 billion in war funds before the House Budget Committee as lawmakers accused them of trying to avoid budget caps and congressional scrutiny.

All four Congressional defense committees have aligned to support an increase in Tomahawk missile production in 2015 and beyond.

Afghanistan's future was the most popular discussion point during Thursday's confirmation hearing on Gen. Joseph Dunford's nomination to become the next Marine Corps commandant.

Sustaining the readiness and training in the Republic of Korea, includes soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Captains across the Army are telling their chief of staff that distance learning can be a powerful tool, but its be-all-promise may be a stretch, and its method of delivery may need some re-tooling.

Mission command challenging in peacetime, captains advise Army chief of staff Gen. Ray Odierno.

Researchers at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, or NSRDEC, take shelter ballistic protection to the "X" Level.

The Army is creating a standard marketplace of tactical communications hardware to support the Common Operating Environment initiative and deliver a familiar and intuitive experience for soldiers.

The Hornet's Nest is a product of a two journalists - Mike and Carlos Boettcher, a father and son team who were embedded with the unit for nearly two years, filming soldiers' actions and daily lives, as well as those of the Soldiers from 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 101st, and Marines with 2nd Battalion of the 8th Marines.

Airman to publish story of tragedy, perseverance.

Complaints are surfacing about a new contractor that recently took over the process of shipping service members' privately owned vehicles to and from overseas locations.

Here Kitty Kitty!: How a cat poop parasite could help scientists develop a cancer treatment.

A hoodie made from speaker fabric won't muffle your headphones.

A tent with built-in LED lighting eliminates midnight flashlight hunts.

R.I.P., Elaine Stritch and Johnny Winter.

Here's a roundup of books that inspired various indie tunes and albums.

A.V. Club writers share their favorite songs of the year.

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert appear in this funny Star Wars video for a good cause.

Finally: a few of these vintage Disneyland pictures are horrifying.

Got paddle?

LINK: Original photo by Cpl. Joseph Scanlan

July 17, 2014 at 3:07pm

Military Budget Cuts: Joint Base Lewis-McChord, local communities mobilize

Possible budget and personnel cuts at Joint Base Lewis-McChord will have significant economic impacts on cities such as Lakewood. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

Again, change may be coming to Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

In 2013 the Army announced a reduction in force from a wartime peak of around 570,000 in 2010 to 490,000 as well as a substantial realignment of the remaining force.

These changes were required to achieve the savings specified in the Budget Control Act of 2011 and to adjust the Army's force structure to meet evolving mission requirements.

To analyze the potential environmental and socioeconomic impacts on surrounding communities, the Army prepared a Programmatic Environmental Assessment in 2013 whereby 21 Army and joint base installations were evaluated.

Since 2013, the mission and fiscal considerations of the Department of Defense have continued to change, and now the size of the Army must be reduced to below the 490,000 discussed in the 2013 PEA.

The 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) states that the active Army will now reduce to a force of 440,000 to 450,000 soldiers.  The QDR also states that if sequestration level cuts are imposed in fiscal year 2016 and beyond, force strength will be further reduced to 420,000.

As a result, the Army has recently prepared a Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Assessment (SPEA) to assess the environmental and socioeconomic impacts on local municipalities of further reductions and to provide information to decision makers and the public.

The assessment has a direct bearing on JBLM.

As part of the reduction of force, in a worse case scenario the SPEA indicates that JBLM is being considered for a potential reduction of 16,000 soldiers and civilian workers.

The timeline for any kind of reduction would be between now and 2020.

"Under the proposed action, the Army estimates the JBLM Region of Influence (ROI) - encompassing Pierce and Thurston counties - would see an income reduction of $971.6 million; what the Army acknowledges to be a ‘significant impact' to Washington's 10th District," said Congressman Denny Heck in an email. "It is critical that we take advantage of the SPEA's public comment period to evaluate the Army's assessments and respond accordingly."

The South Sound Military and Communities Partnership (SSMCP) has put together an action team to analyze the SPEA and develop talking points for local communities to use in preparing official comments on the SPEA.

For more information on how to respond to these changes, contact Mary Huff, interim program manager, SSMCP at mhuff@cityoflakewood.us or 253.983.7774.

July 15, 2014 at 10:34am

Fun, friends and learning at the 446th Airlift Wing's Family Day

About 3,200 people took part in the day for reservists at Heritage Hill on McChord Field, July 12. Photo credit: Gail Wood

It was a day for having fun, meeting new friends and finding help.

That's the focus of the 446th Airlift Wing's annual Family Day symposium and picnic. With an emphasis on fun, it was a mix of kid's games, a tasty barbeque lunch and a morning of hearing about support programs for families.

"It's one of our ways to say thank you," Lt. Col. Anna Sullivan said. "These families put up with so much."

About 3,200 people, from parents to grandparents to kids, took part in the day for reservists at Heritage Hill on McChord Field, July 12.

There were three pieces to the event. In the morning, there was a spouse flight around Mount Rainier in a C-17. Then there was the education piece in the morning that worked as a conduit, connecting families with helpful programs from health care to counseling to employment.

The free picnic, which was catered by Dickey's Barbecue, and games, which included a bouncy castle, paper airplane throw, ball toss through a hoop, jewelry making, putt-putt golf, ping pong and volleyball, put the fun into the event.

"This is also a good way for all the families to get together," Sullivan said.

There was information on programs that covered airmen and family readiness, military family counseling, fitness and employer support for those in the Reserves. There were symposiums on 13 different programs, which included Air Force Aid Society, Hero 2 Hire and the Wingman Tool Kit.

Another program was Yellow Ribbon, a congressional mandate that has a mission to tell reservists about employment and connect them with potential employers. It's for pre- and post-deployment. To attract families to Yellow Ribbon, an expense-paid trip to Disney World for the reservist's family is offered.

"It's bait," Sullivan said.

The objective is to find employment for the reservists.

"If they work here, they stay here, and we don't have to get other people, that helps keep everyone happy," Sullivan said. "We want them to be happy and employed. Lots of the programs are good to our people."

Representatives from these different programs gave presentations to show the resources available to them.

The day was also about reservists getting a chance to bring their family to the picnic and introduce them to co-workers.

"Typically, we're coming out one weekend a month or coming out on our annual tour," Sgt. Minnette Mason said. "What we do each year is set up an event that is family friendly."

It was mission accomplished. The food and games, which was coupled with a beautiful sunny 90-degree summer day, was certainly crowd-pleasing.

"Today is about the families of our reservists," Mason said. "It gives the airmen a chance to come together and get to know the families. They're the ones who allow us to do our job."

Michelle and Daniel Faust stood in a long line with their children waiting to get a hearty barbeque lunch.

"It's fun, but the lines are a little long," said Daniel, a reservist in the 446th Airlift Wing.

The lines were about 300 people deep. Michelle was among the 40 spouses who took the airplane ride in a C-17 around Rainier in the morning.

"It was a wonderful day," Michelle said. "It's a fun, fun day. It gives you a chance to connect with the other families."

July 11, 2014 at 1:21pm

Foster Farms recalls chicken products at McChord Commissary at Joint Base Lewis-McChord

California chicken producer Foster Farms is recalling an unspecified amount of its chicken products because the products may be contaminated with a strain of salmonella Heidelberg, according to a Department of Defense All Food and Drug Activity message sent July 9.

The U.S. Department of Food and Agriculture said Thursday it has found evidence directly linking Foster Farms boneless-skinless chicken breast to a case of Salmonella Heidelberg, an antibiotic-resistant strain of the disease that has sickened more than 500 people in the past 16 months and led to pressure from food safety advocates for federal action against the company.

As a result, Foster Farms issued a recall for 170 different chicken products that came from its Fresno facilities in March.

The Defense Commissary Agency has publicized this recall to all its stores. Whenever a commissary has a recalled or withdrawn product in its inventory, the product is immediately removed from store shelves.


About this blog

News and entertainment from Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s most awesome weekly newspapers - The Ranger, Northwest Airlifter and Weekly Volcano.

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