Weekly Volcano Blogs: Walkie Talkie Blog

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February 9, 2015 at 3:37pm

Skanska USA, BCRA partner with JBLM nonprofit for new 2-2 SBCT memorial

A sketch of the proposed Lancer Brigade Memorial. Courtesy illustration

In just a few short months, the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team will finally have a memorial on Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The monument will join several other unit memorials in the installation's Memorial Park, which is located on Lewis Main near the Cascade Community Center.

Groundbreaking is set to begin soon, and a dedication ceremony is planned for the end of May.

"We are currently the only Stryker brigade on the installation without a memorial for its fallen soldiers," said Danielle L'Heureux, a 2/2 spouse and chairwoman of the Lancer Soldier and Family Fund, a nonprofit 501c3 organization. "It's an important thing to make happen."

The project has been in the works since 2013 and is a joint effort between construction company Skanska, design and engineering firm BRCA, their subcontractors and the Lancer Soldier and Family Fund.

Angela Crabtree, a spouse in the brigade at the time, initially approached members of Skanska to ask if they would be willing to help with the project.

"As with each Skanska project, we look for opportunities to give back to the communities that we work in," said Brian Urban, a senior project manager with Skanska who is leading the JBLM memorial effort, "whether it's donating toys to the toy drive, sponsoring and building a gingerbread house to support the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund, and donating services to build a memorial. On top of that, it is an honor to help pay tribute to fallen soldiers."

Skanska, BRCA and their subcontractors have donated thousands of dollars in manpower and materials toward the 2/2 memorial project, and the Lancer Fund is working to raise the roughly $23,000 needed to pay for the granite pillars. Fundraising was slow to start, but monies are now starting to add up. Efforts have included a ride with Northwest Harley Davidson in Lacey last year that raised thousands of dollars; a similar fundraising event is planned for April 24.

"We are amazed and thrilled that Skanska has been able to pull together all the materials and labor at no cost to us," L'Heureux said. "To have it all donated is awesome."

Work on the project will begin soon. "We are in the process of obtaining a dig permit through JBLM, and once that is in hand, the project will be completed within 30 days," Urban said.

The memorial design features a central bench with boot prints leading away from it with two large granite pillars on each side. The names of the brigade's 51 fallen soldiers will be etched on those pillars, and the back of the bench will read "Seize the High Ground."

When it stood up in 2007, the brigade was known as 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. It was reflagged as 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division three years later after returning from a yearlong deployment in Afghanistan. Current units include infantry and field artillery battalions, a cavalry squadron and a support battalion.

L'Heureux said she hopes the memorial will bring closure for the families of the fallen. "There isn't one place on this installation [for all of the brigade's fallen soldiers]," she said. "Some battalions have a memorial, but it's in their building and not really for everyone."

The group is also looking to raise money to help defray the cost of bringing in as many Gold Star families from the brigade as possible for the memorial's unveiling and dedication in May.

For more information or to donate, visit the Lancer Soldier and Family Fund on Facebook.

September 4, 2014 at 9:15am

Cool Desk Job: 5-20th Infantry Regiment virtually prepares for anything at Joint Base Lewis-McChord

5-20th Infantry Regiment soldiers work the VBS2, an interactive simulated training software that uses video game graphics to simulate real world environments and training objectives. Photo credit: Sgt. James Bunn

"Enemy troops in the open, three o'clock," a soldier calls out. The gunner scans for the target and in less than a second identifies and engages the enemy combatants.

This was the scenario for soldiers with 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team as they conducted Virtual Battlespace 2 training at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Aug. 28.

The unit organized the training to familiarize soldiers with different terrain, weapons and vehicle procedures before an upcoming live-fire exercise next month at Yakima Training Center.

"The soldiers are getting used to the equipment," said 2nd Lt. John Howell, a platoon leader with 5-20th Inf. Bn. "They're going over fire commands today and learning to work together."

The VBS2 is an interactive simulated training software that uses video game graphics to simulate real world environments and training objectives. Since its introduction in 2007, the system has helped better prepare soldiers and units for deployments and saved the Army millions of dollars according to Jeffery T. Du, a VBS2 facilitator.

This training saves the Army money by allowing units to go through scenarios based on the terrain they will experience at the upcoming exercise without stressing vehicles, equipment or using live ammunition, said Du. The soldiers will be more efficient when they go to the range because they have practiced multiple times in the simulator.

Through an advanced program editing system, VBS2 instructors can tailor training to the needs of individual units based on mission requirements, create realistic battlefield situations and allow Soldiers to operate simulated land, sea, and air vehicles.

"This training allows for a diverse amount of situations that we can encounter with the Stryker," said Spc. Ryan Sweeney, a fire team leader with 5-20th Inf. Bn.

Soldiers focused on marksmanship with mounted weapons, calling for indirect fire, identifying targets and maneuvering through various fighting positions in a simulated Stryker combat vehicle.

The scalable VBS2 system is able to train small teams in urban tactics, entire combat teams in combined arms operations or even squad and platoon offensive, defensive, and patrolling operations.

Leaders can use VBS2 to assist them in developing the organizational skills required to execute successful missions. Soldiers can use the system to learn and validate the unit's tactics, techniques and procedures before any exercise.

 "We have a lot of new soldiers and this is an easy way for them to get a baseline of how to operate in a fire team and build good habits early," said Sweeney.

Although it's a simulation and not the real world, the VBS2 system provides diverse training opportunities for the soldiers of the 5-20th Inf. Bn. and the skills necessary as a modern fighting force said Du.

"I like that we are diversifying our training techniques to match all fronts," said Sweeney. "This system is a good way for us to build up our new training strategies to meet the battlefield of tomorrow." 

Sgt. James J. Bunn is with the 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.

September 2, 2014 at 12:46pm

Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier wins FORSCOM NCO of the Year

From left, Staff Sgt. Peter Kacapyr, FORSCOM NCO of the Year; Cpl. Zachary E. Bandli, Staff Sgt. Luke R. Klein and Spc. Cole Spoon. Photo courtesy of Facebook

A reconnaissance team leader from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and a signal support systems specialist from Fort Carson, Colo., were named U.S. Army Forces Command Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year, at a banquet Aug. 28, at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Six NCOs and six soldiers, representing the First Army, I Corps, III Corps, XVIII Airborne Corps, the 32nd Air and Missile Defense Command, National Training Center, and Joint Readiness Training Center, competed over four days to earn the title of FORSCOM NCO/Soldier of the Year.

Staff Sgt. Peter Kacapyr, an infantryman and reconnaissance team leader with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, from JBLM, was named 2014 FORSCOM NCO of the Year.

Cpl. Zachery E. Bandli, a signal support systems specialist and retransmission operator assigned to 534th Signal Company, 43rd Special Troops Battalion, 43rd Sustainment Brigade, at Fort Carson, Colo., was named 2014 FORSCOM Soldier of the Year.

Competing alongside FORSCOM competitors were 4 NCOs and 3 Soldiers from the Continental U.S. Army Service Component Command. Staff Sgt. Luke R. Klein, an internment/resettlement NCO with the 339th Military Police Company, 525th MP Battalion, 302nd MP Brigade, currently serving as Joint Task Force Guantanamo Bay, was named CONUS ASCC NCO of the Year.

Spc. Cole Spoon, a microwave systems operator/installer and a network controller for the Southwest Asia Cyber Center, at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, was named CONUS ASCC Soldier of the Year.

All four winners will compete later this year at the Department of the Army NCO/Soldier of the Year competition.

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.


May 16, 2014 at 4:58pm

Ride in Remembrance raises funds to honor fallen 2-2 SBCT soldiers at JBLM

Sgt. 1st Class Matt Collins, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment prepares to ride 60 miles during the "Ride in Remembrance" fundraiser put on by the Lancer Soldier and Family Fund and Northwest Harley-Davidson, May 16. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

On his Saturday morning walks through Joint Base Lewis-McChord's Memorial Park, Col. Louis Zeisman pauses to honor the base's fallen heroes

"My family and I walk through here," the commander of 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, recently said.

"It's a way to remember, and we treat it as a place of honor."

In the park are monuments honoring the 3rd and 4th Stryker Combat Brigade Teams, 42nd Military Police Brigade and the 555th Engineer Brigade.

What Zeisman does not see is a memorial honoring the brigade he commands.

That will soon change.

"Currently, our memo to build a memorial is at the Pentagon," he said.

Comprised of two tall pillars of granite, the names of the fallen will be etched in stone. In between the pillars will be a bench with footsteps walking away.

"When you see the footsteps walking off by themselves, it touches everybody," Zeisman added.

>>> More than 200 bikers rolled by the diagram showing the memorial 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team and the Lancer Soldier and Family Fund want to build to honor those lost in Afghanistan. Photo credit: J.M. Simspon

The brigade deployed to Afghanistan on two separate occasions.

Some history is in order.

5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team deployed in 2009 thru 2010.  Thirty-seven soldiers did not come home. 

In 2010, 5th Brigade reflagged as the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team.  It deployed to Afghanistan from 2011 thru 2012.  Eight soldiers lost their lives.

The memorial will honor the fallen from the brigade's two deployments to Afghanistan as well as those who died in training.

Leading the effort to build the memorial is the Lancer Soldier and Family Fund, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization.

Connie Dotson, wife of 2nd Brigade's top enlisted soldier, Command Sgt. Maj. Tim Dotson and the chairwoman of the fund, said the organization has worked for over a year to raise funds.

"We've got $13,000 in the bank," she said this morning as more than 200 motorcycles roared to life at the Northwest Harley-Davidson in Lacey.

The daylong event also featured food, music and a number of vendors. All proceeds went to fund the memorial.

"We need $60,000 to complete the memorial and fly the family members of those lost out here for the dedication," Dotson explained.

The granite for the memorial has already been delivered. All the Lancer Soldier and Family Fund group need is to receive an OK from the Department of Army and finish its fund raising.

"I'm confident we will make our goal," Dotson said.

"We expect to have the memorial finished by May of next year."

>>> Pfc. Kevin DeJesus, 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, holds up his shirt before the "Ride in Remembrance," May 16. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

Dubbed "The Ride in Remembrance," hundreds of motorcycle riders - most of whom active duty or veterans riding Harley-Davidsons - and thousands of soldiers, family members and community leaders showed up to support the fund raising.

"It's an honor to be here today and ride in support of the memorial," said Sgt. 1st Class Matt Collins, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, as he fired up his Harley.

"No one should be forgotten."

For more information about 2nd Brigade's memorial and fundraising efforts, visit www.lancerfund.org.

May 2, 2014 at 10:03am

2-2 SBCT headed to National Training Center this summer

Soldiers with Company C, 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 2-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division secure an avenue of approach during platoon urban-operations training. Courtesy photo

1st Lt. Zachary Simons from the 2-2 SBCT files this report:

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - The 2-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division is slated to deploy to the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., later this summer, where it will certify as a globally-available and regionally-aligned combat brigade.

The NTC is one of the nation's premier training facilities, and to prepare, the Lancers sent senior leadership from the brigade down to the subordinate companies to a Leader Training Program in Fort Irwin, April 14 - 23.

However, training doesn't stop when leaders are away.

"First Lt. [Henry] Hart has performed very well multiple times with minimal guidance and oversight. He is a very strong leader that shows great potential and understanding of combined arms maneuver," said Capt. Justin Shine, commander of Company C, 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 2-2 SBCT, 7th ID.

Hart, a Philadelphia native, is a mobile gun system platoon leader with C Company, 1-17 Infantry, and during LTP, he assumed command.

During Hart's time in command, the company conducted urban operations training April 14-18.

"The Platoon Leaders showed great initiative and discipline during my absence. They have taken ownership and have worked with their NCOs to develop great teams," said Shine.

Hart is slated to be promoted to captain Friday, May 2.

April 25, 2014 at 9:28am

2-2 SBCT, 7th Inf. Div. stand united against sexual assault

This month the 7th Infantry Division will race to gain ground in the fight against sexual assault.

To raise awareness, 7th ID will host a sexual assault awareness run, April 29, on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

"In the month of April we are observing the 10th annual Sexual Assault Awareness Month," said Col. Louis Zeisman, commander of 2-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th ID, in a special message to Soldiers of his brigade. "Leaders at all levels must establish a climate of dignity, trust, and respect."

The intent is to educate leaders, Soldiers, and Department of Defense civilians on the consequences of not intervening to stop sexual assault before it happens.

In addition, each brigade under the Bayonet Division will hold a Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention safety stand-down day.


April 15, 2014 at 5:04pm

Remains of missing JBLM soldier identified

This just in from 7th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office at Joint Base Lewis-McChord:

The Thurston County Sheriff Department recovered the body of Spc. Christopher S. Dombroski, 20, of Wasilla, Alaska, a Joint Base Lewis-McChord Soldier missing since April 13.
Dombroski was a Stryker systems maintainer. He entered military service in August 2011 and attended Advance Individual Training in Military Occupational Specialty 91S (Stryker Systems Maintainer) at Fort Lee, Va. Dombroski served on one overseas deployment to Afghanistan from November 2012 to July 2013 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
He was assigned to the 4-2 Styker Brigade Combat Team at JBLM in May 2012. His awards and decorations include the Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terror Medal, NATO Medal, and Army Service Ribbon.
Thurston County search and rescue crews found Dombroski's remains Tuesday. Thurston County authorities informed the chain of command that they suspect there was no foul play involved. The incident is still under investigation.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with Spc. Dombroski's family and friends during this time of loss," said Lt. Col. Joseph Sowers, 7th Inf. Div. Public Affairs Officer.  "We'd like to thank Thurston County search and rescue crews and Gray's Harbor authorities for their efforts. Our focus now is on supporting the survivors who have lost their beloved son, friend and teammate."

April 10, 2014 at 11:30am

City of Lakewood to honor Seahawk and hometown hero Jermaine Kearse April 12

Seattle Seahawks wide-receiver Jermaine Kearse / photo courtesy of seahawks.com

Late in the 3rd quarter of Super Bowl XLVIII, Lakes High School graduate Jermaine Kearse broke five tackles and danced into the end zone to give the Seattle Seahawks a 36-0 lead over the Broncos.

You know the rest of the story.

Saturday, April 12, Kearse returns to his hometown of Lakewood so the community can give him a giant hug. 

Check that, it won't be that giant of a hug as the 2-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team will run crowd control. Seize the High Ground Hugs!

The community celebration for the Lakes High alum will take place at 1 p.m. in Harry E. Lang Stadium (6615 111th St. SW, Lakewood), the same field where he made countless plays as a Lakes Lancer.

The Clover Park School District board of directors will present Kearse with its Board Values Coin and unveil a special banner that will hang at Lakes High School. The Lakewood City Council will also recognize Kearse with a proclamation and a Key to the City.

The event is free to the public. Those planning to attend are encouraged to carpool as parking and seating will be limited. Gates will open at 11:30 a.m.

For more information about the celebration, call Clover Park School District at 253.583.5000 or the city of Lakewood at 253.589.2489.

April 4, 2014 at 7:17am

Friday Morning Joe: Fort Hood heroism, military wish list, Army in Europe, drone war, Muppet man ...

Paesan Kitchen and Bar serves espresso via the Slayer, a powerful, slick industrial-quality machine.


Army mourning loss of soldiers at Fort Hood.

One of the three soldiers killed in the shooting rampage at Fort Hood died while trying to hold a door shut that would have led the gunman to a room packed with military personnel.

The U.S. military services have sent Congress wish lists that include $36 billion in priority items that were not included in the Pentagon's 2015 budget proposal. But actual passage of the lists seems unlikely.

Without the benefit of a full defense review covering force levels to support national needs, Hagel has left civilian support for the Pentagon largely untouched.

Budget cuts threaten military readiness, officials said.

Hagel said sending another permanent Army brigade to Europe could be a possibility.

The Senate Intelligence Committee voted to declassify parts of the panel's controversial 6,200-page report that is harshly critical of the CIA's Bush-era interrogation program.

Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh and Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James on defended plans to scrap the A-10 fleet and retire roughly 40 C-130s.

Army's part in the so-called Pacific Pivot remains in the concept phase.

A new kind of drone war: UCAV vs. UCLASS

Latest Army Virtual Battle Space release adds realism to scenarios, avatars.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord Arrowhead soldiers play a part in Operation Alaska Shield.

Nine ingenious urban hacks to make the city smarter.

The best part of Letterman's retirement announcement is that it was revealed by R.E.M.'s Mike Mills.

Bill Murray explains his bucket list on Letterman.

Surreal reversed footage of a man walking backward in Tokyo.

Watch the first seven minutes of FX's Fargo.

The Big Bang Theory will have a special Star Wars Day episode ...

What the Internet looks like as a subway map.


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