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July 5, 2014 at 9:34am

Words & Photos: Freedom Fest at Joint Base Lewis-McChord

Carla Cooper-Haamid and Sibley Haamid IV pose for an image promoting the Madigan Army Medical Center during Freedom Fest at Joint Base Lewis-McChord July 4. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

What a delight!

Perfect weather - and it can't get any better than it was yesterday - combined with the tradition of delighting and entertaining families from the local area greeted the general public during Joint Base Lewis-McChord's annual Freedom Fest.

Held at Cowan and Memorial Stadiums, the festival featured live entertainment, aerial demonstrations, military displays, carnival rides, a fantastic classic car show, food, and games.

On this day, the nation's 238th birthday, the attitude among many attending Freedom Fest is decidedly patriotic.

"I am very proud to be an American," said Vietnam veteran Jerry Murphy as he stood next to his immaculately restored 1970 Ford Mustang.

Murphy's car underscored his patriotism.

Inside the car were visible the multiple Purple Hearts he had earned while serving in Vietnam.  In the truck were Silver and Bronze Stars neatly arrayed next to his flight suit.

"I served in the infantry and aviation," he told me.  And I value our freedom to be able to live our lives as we see fit."

>>> Vietnam veteran Jerry Murphy's 1970 Ford Mustang was one of the many classic cars on display. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

>>> Classic Cars:  Thousands of individuals turned out in ideal weather conditions to enjoy Joint Base Lewis-McChord's Freedom Fest activities. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

Joan Greenwood clearly understood the value of freedom today represents.

"My dad served in the Navy and died for this country.  My brother served and died for this country.  My husband is a Marine, and I am proud to be a part of this country," she said.

>>> Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Walker, 110th Chemical Battalion, holds the American flag during Freedom Fest activities at JBLM July 4. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

>>> Abigail Hart enjoyed Freedom Fest by receiving an air brushed red dragon. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

July 4, 2014 at 8:17am

5 Things to Do Today: A Hard Day's Night, Freedom Fair, Freedom Fest, B-Lines ...

Those boots, those suits!


1. Meet the Beatles! Just one month after they exploded onto the U.S. scene with their Ed Sullivan Show appearance, John, Paul, George, and Ringo began working on a project that would bring their revolutionary talent to the big screen. The Fab Four romp and smirk and sing their way through Richard Lester's exuberant 1964 film, A Hard Day's Night. The Beatles play wily, exuberant versions of themselves, captured the astonishing moment when they officially became the singular, irreverent idols of their generation and changed music forever. The film has been restored for its 50th anniversary, and screens at 2 and 6:30 p.m. at The Grand Cinema and at 6:30 p.m. at The Capitol Theater.

2. Today is national Front Yard Barbecue day. Invite the neighbors over for a front yard barbecue. And those who don't have a front yard can still use any park, plaza or public space. Last year more than 30 front yard barbecues took place in the Tacoma area. For more details, go to http://frontyardbbq.org/.

3. What would a Fourth of July celebration be without fireworks? If you said lame, you’re absolutely correct. The Freedom Fair knows this, which is why, blessed with the perfect backdrop of a Commencement Bay sky, technicians will detonate what’s being toted as the biggest fireworks show in the Northwest. The fireworks are set to start at 10:10 p.m., and every color of the rainbow will be represented. The Tacoma Freedom Fair is promising the display will shake the waterfront, the city, and beyond. It will last about 21 minutes, and the display will be synchronized to a musical score that will be pumped through every speaker along the waterfront. The music will also be simulcast on Click 98.9 FM and KLAY AM 1180 for your enjoyment. Before the fireworks, Ruston way will be full of live entertainment will run all day on five stages, including the Back to Beale Street Blues Competition, air show, food and silliness.

4. The 2014 Joint Base Lewis-McChord Freedom Fest continues its annual tradition of delighting and entertaining families from all around the region. The general public is cordially invited to join the JBLM community from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. for an all-day, all-evening holiday celebration like no other. Held on base at Cowan and Memorial Stadiums, the festival will feature live entertainment, aerial demonstrations, military displays, carnival rides, a car show, food, games and a spectacular Fourth of July fireworks show starting about 10 p.m. to cap off the evening.

5. B-Lines are very much not in the mood for fancy-pants subgenre naval-gazing. No hifalutin descriptors; just "stupid punk" emblazoned on their page. One thing does pop up, though: they refer to one of their albums as "post-proto-hardcore," a designation so colossal in its meaninglessness that it approaches the sublime. There needn't be much attention paid to pitches and press kits with B-Lines, however, because the music speaks for itself in furious volumes. Their most recent 12", Opening Band, is a quick burst of nine songs, just barely passing the 15-minute mark. Along the way, B-Lines are steadfast in their desire to get in and out with as much tuneful efficiency as possible. Even their name - B-Lines - is evocative of the breakneck rush they're in to get from A to B, completely waving off the possibility of a C. Read Rev. Adam McKinney's full feature on the B-Lines in the Music & Culture section., then catch the band with No Body and Arc Ov Light at 8 p.m. in Olympia's all-ages club Northern.

LINK: Friday, July 4 arts and entertainment events in the greater Tacoma and Olympia area

July 2, 2014 at 4:46pm

Col. Otto Liller replaces Col. Robert McDowell as commander of 1st Special Forces Group at JBLM

Col. Otto Liller receives the colors from Col. Robert McDowell during 1st Special Force Group change of command ceremony at JBLM July 2. Photo credit: Gail Wood

In his parting speech as commander of the 1st Special Forces Group, Col. Robert McDowell praised his unit, thanked those who have assisted in his career and reflected on his two years at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

He said it's been a fulfilling and rewarding moment in his military career that began after graduating from Ball State University in 1987.

"This has truly been the highlight of my 27 years in service," McDowell said. "It's an honor I'll never be able to top. Thank you for everything. I wish you the best. You are the best."

McDowell, who has been reassigned to Fort Bragg, is replaced by Col. Otto Liller, who began his military career in 1993.

"I wish you the very best," McDowell said to Liller during a 45-minute change of command ceremony today. "I know you're going to love this job. You'll love every bit of it."

Liller, who has been deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and the Philippines, is no stranger to the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne). Prior to his promotion as commander to replace McDowell, Liller commanded the 1st Battalion, the 1st Special Forces Group on Torii Station in Okinawa, helping support Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Philippines and throughout Asia Pacific.

Liller is looking forward to the challenge of his new assignment.

"This is more than a unit," Liller said. "This is a family and I'm glad to be home. I expect the utmost effort and professionalism from all of you. You should demand the utmost courage, compassion and leadership from me."

Liller first served with the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) from 1999-2002.

"Together we'll continue to uphold the finest traditions of the 1st Special Forces Group and the Special Forces Regiment," Liller said. "And we'll serve our nation proudly."

Brigadier General Darsie Rogers, the commanding general for USASFC, praised the performance of 1st Special Forces Group under McDowell.

"They're capable of adapting at a moments notice to a changing scenario or environment," Rogers said. "One that the 1st Special Forces Group has excelled here in the past two years under McDowell. They truly performed in any environment at any level."      

Rogers was confident that the 1st Special Forces Group will continue it's high level of performance under Liller.

"Now is the time to turn the page," Rogers said. "Otto and Wendy, you're no strangers to 1st Special Forces Group. You bring an in-depth knowledge of Asia and 1st Group. Under your command they'll continue to excel."

In 2005, Liller returned to 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) when he served as GWOT Operations Planner, Special Forces Company commander and Group Operations officer. After graduating from the University of Miami in 1993, Lillers' first assignment was with the 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment.

July 2, 2014 at 11:09am

Seattle Seahawks bring Lombardi Trophy to Joint Base Lewis-McChord

Seattle Seahawks and Sea Gals pose for photos with Col. David Kumashiro and other leaders at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo credit: Gail Wood

It was one hero thanking another.

The Seattle Seahawks, winners of Super Bowl XLVIII and the heroes of the fans, came to say thanks to what they called the real heroes - the military and their families at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

"They're the real heroes," said Armando Mejia, assistant manager with the Seahawks community relations. "We want to thank them. That's what this is all about."

Hangar 9 on McChord Field, with a C-17 Globemaster III as the backdrop, was turned into a Seahawks shrine, complete with the Lombardi Trophy, which the Seahawks won for winning the Super Bowl. The Seahawks have paraded the trophy to five military bases in the Northwest, thanking the military for their service.

"We appreciate you guys a lot," said Seahawks wide receiver Bill Bates, one of three Seahawk players at the event. "Without your support we wouldn't be here today."

Other special guests besides the Lombardi Trophy, which fans stood by and got their pictures snapped, included Seahawks linebacker Korey Toomer and cornerback DeShawn Shead. Six members of the Blue Thunder and six members of the Sea Gals also came, entertaining the crowd of about 1,000 military families.

"My kids are very excited," said Erin Philippart, who brought her three children to the Seahawks event. "It's awesome."

With her husband in the Air Force, she appreciated the thank you from the Seahawks.

"It's so awesome," Philippart said. "They've come to say thanks to the troops. It's greatly appreciated."

Col. Pete Stavros, who was at the event with his wife and children, was impressed with the Seahawks coming to JBLM, allowing the base to be part of the celebration.

"The kids get to see the trophy, which is pretty cool," said Stavros, the commander of the Western Air Defense Sector. "We're celebrating an outstanding season."

While the fans' focus was on the Seahawks, the Seahawks' focus was on thanking the military.

"For them to come down on this day it's a great statement about the relationship between the Seahawks organization and the military," said Stavros, who did a flyby over the stadium prior to the Seahawks-Dallas game in the 2012 season. "It means a lot."

Capt. Tim Slater, holding two footballs to get autographed, was among the eager fans standing in long lines waiting to get an autograph.

"It's almost hard to put into words about them coming," said Slater, who didn't miss a Seahawks game on TV last season. "That's the Lombardi Trophy. How cool is that? The Seahawks came here. It's fun."

 Seahawk fans were hoping Russell Wilson, the Seahawks quarterback and team leader, would show up, but he wasn't among the Seahawks that came.

"Russell usually goes to the Children's Hospital on Tuesdays and Wednesdays," Slater said.

The Lombardi Trophy was a big attraction. There were also life-size standup posters of Seahawks Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor. There were also huge cutout mug shots of coach Pete Carrol, Wilson, Sherman and Marshawn Lynch. Kids would hold up the mugs and get their pictures taken.

"We want to thank the military and their families," Mejia said. "We understand that the Super Bowl trophy is cool, but here is where it counts."

After a 30-minute presentation that included the Blue Thunder playing and the Sea Gals dancing and Tony Ventrella, the Seahawks PR director and former local TV sports announcer, interviewing the three Seahawks, asking them questions, the players began signing autographs. Long lines more than 200 deep formed and the players began signing.

It was their way of saying thanks.    

June 24, 2014 at 12:30pm

Outdoor Expo returns to Joint Base Lewis-McChord Saturday


A military ID gets you in. Without it, you're stuck outside the gate, watching Northwest outdoors expert after expert drive through the gate with their sports utility vehicles loaded with the latest outdoor toys. Clutching cups of scalding coffee in camouflage travel mugs and shouldering backpacks better suited for navigating trails than city traffic, they'll set up booths at Joint Base Lewis McChord's Main Exchange. Indeed, Saturday, June 28, hunting and fishing guides, vendors and outdoor experts - including representatives from Twisted Horn Outfitters, Heroes on the Water and JBLM Northwest Adventure Center - will be on hand in the Exchange parking lot as part of the JBLM Outdoor Expo. Included will be 10 Northwest hunting and fishing experts on hand to answer your questions and offers tips. Let's read a press release from Joint Base Lewis-McChord Public Affairs. ...


June 22, 2014 at 2:34pm

JBLM soldier killed during training exercise at Army National Training Center

A Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier Pfc. Andrew J. Sass, 23, was killed June 21 in an accident at the Army’s National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.

The 7th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office has sad news to report:

A 2-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division Soldier was killed during a training exercise at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., June 21.

The Soldier has been identified as Pfc. Andrew J. Sass, 23, of Fremont, N.C.

Sass was an infantryman assigned to Company C, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment.

Sass entered military service in May 2013 and attended One Station Unit Training in Military Occupational Specialty 11B (Infantryman) at Fort Benning, Ga.  He arrived to 2-2 SBCT at JBLM in Oct. 2013.  He had not served on an overseas deployment.

His awards and decorations include the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon.

"[This is] a true loss to the Lancer team. He was a husband, warrior, and true friend to all. He will be missed, but we will not forget him," said Col. Louis A. Zeisman, commander of the 2-2 SBCT. 

The incident is currently under investigation.

The 2-2 SBCT deployed to the NTC in early June to conduct a month-long training exercise.

June 22, 2014 at 1:49pm

Words & Photos: 64th Anniversary of the Korean War Commemoration in Olympia

Col. Paul Bontrager, deputy commanding general, 7th Infantry Division, helps a member of the Korean delegation lay a wreath. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

Retired Maj. Gen. John Hemphill captured the mood of the moment when he said, "Old soldiers may fade away, but we haven't done that."

He made the remark during the 64th Anniversary of the Korean War Commemoration held on the campus of the State Capitol in Olympia June 21.

Often referred to as the Forgotten War, approximately 400 veterans, family members and friends attended the event.

The Washington Korean War Meritorious Veterans League, the Washington-Tacoma Korean American Association and the Seattle Chapter of the National Unification Advisory Council sponsored the event.

The Korean War was a war between the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea). 

The war began in June 1950 when communist forces from North Korea invaded South Korea. The United States intervened in support of South Korea. Fighting ended in July 1953.

>>> Honor Guard soldiers assigned to 17th Field Artillery Brigade don ascots just prior to the beginning of the 64th Korean War Commemoration in Olympia. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

"Sixty-four years ago the attack marked one of the first actions of the Cold War," said Col. Paul Bontrager, deputy commanding general, 7th Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

"We have a heritage of respect; we have forged an alliance that continues today."

Reminiscences amongst Korean War veterans, speeches of remembrance and renewed friendship and numerous wreath layings characterized the hour-long ceremony.

>>> Retired Col. Don Roberts, who served two tours of duty in Korea and 26 years in the Army.  Note the two stars on his Combat Infantry Badge. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

"It's really good to be here," commented Col. Don Roberts, a 26-year Army veteran who served two tours during the Korean War.

Above his ribbons was a rare Combat Infantry Badge with two stars.  He said only 400 have been awarded and that only 100 awardees are still alive.

Korean War veterans will fade away, but they will not be forgotten for the bravery and sacrifice they demonstrated that created today's free South Korea.

>>> Korean War veterans placed white chrysanthemums and saluted at the Korean War Memorial during the 64th  Korean War Commemoration. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

June 20, 2014 at 9:53am

World Class street skateboarding at Joint Base Lewis-McChord

Torey Pudwill shows a move while skatingboarding at the JBLM Skate Plaza. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

When it comes to street skateboarding, Torey Pudwill and Joey Brezinski are some of the best on the board with four wheels.

Both young men visited Joint Base Lewis-McChord yesterday to autograph posters at the Base Exchange before heading over to the Skate Plaza to work and interact with about 150 youngsters.

Red Bull and JBLM's Family, Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Directorate sponsored the visit.

"We've worked on making this event happen for quite a while," commented Carly Michael, sponsorship director for MWR.

"Tonight should be a lot of fun for everyone here."

>>> Joey Brezinski talks with a skateboarder while Torey Pudwill autographs a poster.  Sponsored by Red Bull and brought to JBLM by the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Directorate, the two are world-class skateboarders. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

>>> Young skateboarders at JBLM's Skate Plaza cheer a move by Joey Brezinski. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

As skateboarding gained popularity during the 1980s and 1990s, skateboarders began to perform tricks in urban areas by using existing urban features to perform acrobatic stunts.

Pudwill and Brezinski continue to promote the sport.

Named the Best Street Skater at the 2011 Trans World Skateboarding Awards and a third place finisher at the 2013 X Games in Street League Skateboarding, Pudwill is passionate about the sport.

"I work hard and skate every day because it's something that I do for fun," he said during a break in signing autographs.

"I'm just trying to get kids to be as stoked for skateboarding as I was as a kid."

>>> Joey Brezinski gets ready to skateboard with JBLM boarders. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

Often referred to as the "Manual King" for his ability to balance his board on two wheels, Brezinski created the first ever "manual based contest" and has since become a force to be reckoned with winning four of the last six contests since 2007.

"It's just great to be here, meet these kids and have a great time," he said as he watched the action. 

"There is definitely some talent here at JBLM."

June 18, 2014 at 12:30pm

Missing 1952 McChord AFB C-124 Globemaster personnel have been identified

The Department of Defense announced today 17 servicemembers have been recovered from a C-124 Globemaster aircraft that was lost on Nov. 22, 1952.

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Lawrence S. Singleton, Pvt. James Green, Jr., and Pvt. Leonard A. Kittle; U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Earl J. Stearns; U.S. Navy Cmdr. Albert J. Seeboth; U.S. Air Force Col. Noel E. Hoblit, Col. Eugene Smith, Capt. Robert W. Turnbull, 1st Lt. Donald Sheda, 1st Lt. William L. Turner, Tech. Sgt. Engolf W. Hagen, Staff Sgt. James H. Ray, Airman 1st Class Marion E. Hooton, Airman 2nd Class Carroll R. Dyer, Airman 2nd Class Thomas S. Lyons, Airman 2nd Class Thomas C. Thigpen, and Airman 3rd Class Howard E. Martin have been recovered and will be returned to their families for burial with full military honors.

On Nov. 22, 1952, a C-124 Globemaster aircraft crashed while en route to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, from McChord Air Force Base, Washington. There were 11 crewmen and 41 passengers on board. Adverse weather conditions precluded immediate recovery attempts. In late November and early December 1952, search parties were unable to locate and recover any of the service members.

On June 9, 2012, an Alaska National Guard (AKNG) UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter crew spotted aircraft wreckage and debris while conducting a training mission over the Colony Glacier, immediately west of Mount Gannett. Three days later another AKNG team landed at the site to photograph the area and they found artifacts at the site that related to the wreckage of the C-124 Globemaster. Later that month, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) and Joint Task Force team conducted a recovery operation at the site and recommended it continued to be monitored for possible future recovery operations. In 2013, additional artifacts were visible and JPAC conducted further recovery operations.

DoD scientists from the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) used forensic tools and circumstantial evidence in the identification of 17 service members. The remaining personnel have yet to be recovered and the crash site will continued to be monitored for future possible recovery.


Today's military news in the Morning Joe

June 18, 2014 at 9:43am

JBLM soldiers donate time to help Tillicum students

Soldiers from the 514th Medical Company volunteered this year to help Tillicum Elementary students with reading, math, science and other subjects.

Clover Park School District tells us an awesome story before heading out on summer break. ...

Soldiers from the 514th Medical Company stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) helped students at Tillicum Elementary with reading, math, science and other subjects at least once a month this year. Tillicum has always had a partnership with a medical brigade at JBLM but the visits weren't on a regular basis. Capt. Jonathan Williams, commander of the company, started working with Tillicum principal Taj Jensen in 2013 to see if they could organize the visits on a regular basis to provide some consistency for the students. Anywhere from a dozen to two dozen soldiers visit each month.


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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