A decade of war

Soldiers and airmen spend 10 years fighting

By Army and Air Force sources, Fort Lewis Museum on January 20, 2017

Fort Lewis became the leader of the Army's model Transformation Initiative process, which would serve as a model for change in the U.S. Army to create a new combat power (see previous chapter and following stories). With the terrorist events of September 11, 2001, however, the world and base entered a new era and century bringing new challenges and requirements. Assets were active in providing support for real-world missions on the "Global War on Terrorism" (GWOT) with Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan, force protection Operation Noble Eagle (ONE), and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) in Iraq. Fort Lewis supported I Corps' implementation of a persistent individual soldier readiness training and exercise schedule and an aggressive acceleration of the swiftest deployability dates of the new Stryker Brigade Combat Teams (SBCTs) were also employed. From 2003, Fort Lewis had a central role in preparing units that deployed several times for 12 months or more rotations to either Iraq or Afghanistan to support the Global War on Terrorism.

I Corps back at it

February 4, 2004, marked the first time that I Corps command elements forward deployed in combat since the end of the Korean War. From February 2004 to January 2005, Task Force Olympia (TFO) deployed to Mosul where it assumed its mission from the 101st Airborne to form a headquarters to exercise command and control of all coalition and Iraqi forces in northern Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).  The HQs coordinated the efforts of both of the Army's first two Stryker Brigade Combat Teams, attached engineers, civil affairs, signal, and other supporting units as well as, ultimately, more than 12,000 Iraqi security forces.

Then, and for the first time since the Korean War, in February 2009, Lt. Gen. Charles Jacoby, I Corps commander, led the entire I Corps staff of 900 soldiers and civilian employees to Iraq to replace XVIII Airborne Corps and assume duties as the Multi-National Corps - Iraq. During this period, Lt. Gen. Jacoby was second in command under Gen. Raymond Ordinero in Iraq. I Corps returned to Fort Lewis a year later. In the meantime, as terrorism activity increased in Afghanistan, U.S. combat operations were augmented and Fort Lewis units took their turns to deploy and contribute to the region.

Citizens take up support

On a much larger scale than during the Gulf War, and as a result of the command's outreach to local communities through the Community Connector Program, as well as the Capt. Meriwether Lewis Chapter of AUSA's Subchapter program and funding from the Pierce Military Business Alliance, local organizations and individuals supported servicemembers in hundreds of different ways.  From the Single Soldier Project, which put Welcome Home Baskets in every returning single soldier's barracks room to numerous parades and welcome home barbecues, the South Sound military supporters wrapped their arms around deploying and returning servicemembers from war time after time, and continue to do so to this day.

At McChord

The C-17 has done well in the high operations tempo of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan going back to day one of operations following 9-11.  Most of the decade has been filled with a constant uptempo in war operations, humanitarian missions, and resupplies to the South Pole, including supporting Hurricane Katrina victims in 2005 and evacuating people from Haiti in 2010.