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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.

January 6, 2015 at 7:00pm

Army leadership engage soldiers during virtual town hall at Google Headquarters

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III, right, listens to U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno answer a question during a virtual town hall at the Google Headquarters in Washington, D.C., Jan. 6, 2015. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Mikki L. Sprenkl

U.S. Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler held a live virtual town hall meeting at the Google Headquarters in Washington, D.C., Jan. 6, 2015.

For a little over an hour the Army leaders - speaking over a webcam - took questions from soldiers stationed around the country and around the world - including members of I Corps at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Spc. Marabello of I Corps asked the two senior leaders about health care. She pointed out that U.S. troops are often deploying to environments with high concentrations of parasites and communicable diseases. She asked what the Army is doing to prepare soldiers for these dangers, and how they treat the afflicted. Recent deployments to West Africa to help contain Ebola - along with soldiers and airmen at JBLM currently undergoing quarantines after their return - have brought health issues to the forefront.

Odierno told her it's been a challenge. He explained soldiers returning from overseas are asked to fill out questionnaires, but he acknowledged they've had mixed results. "It's right when you get home from a deployment, you're in a rush, you don't want to take the time," he said. But Odierno stressed soldiers need to take the time to report any changes or symptoms.

It's about knowledge.

A soldier from Fort Lee, Virginia, asked how social media and quick spread of information are changing Army leadership. "Everybody has to realize that the world we live in has changed significantly," Odierno answered. "Like it or not, everything we do is going to be much more public."

He explained they need leaders who can comfortably navigate the new media landscape of the information age. But, Chandler weighed in and said the best way to communicate is still face-to-face contact where people actually talk to each other. He warned that intent could be misinterpreted in text and e-mail conversations.

It is indeed another a changing world.

A soldier with Ft. Benning's Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade asked about the prestigious Ranger School accepting female candidates and women wearing Ranger tabs. "What do you define success as?" he asked.

Odierno answered there was no criteria for success or failure, explaining that it's about giving women the opportunity to go through the program with the same standards as the men, and letting the results speak for themselves.

Chandler turned the conversation to the instructor, asking him how he felt about it based on his experience.

"It's a great idea," the soldier replied. "I feel like this is something that could have come along years ago."

January 5, 2015 at 6:17pm

JBLM combat engineer Spc. Asa Bingham receives Purple Heart

Spc. Asa Bingham, right, a combat engineer assigned to the 555th Engineer Brigade received the Purple Heart medal during a ceremony at JBLM Jan. 5. Maj. Gen. Terry Ferrell presented the medal. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Mark Miranda

A combat engineer assigned to the 555th Engineer Brigade received the Purple Heart medal during a ceremony at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Jan. 5. Spc. Asa Bingham, 22nd Engineer Clearance Company, suffered traumatic brain injury from a roadside bomb blast during deployment to Afghanistan in January 2014.

"I was hit twice - once in December 2013, but at the time I didn't really feel the effects from that first one," said Bingham, a native of Pismo Beach, Calif.
"It was the one January 3rd (2014) that I was medically evacuated, transferred to Germany for treatment before being sent home."

Maj. Gen. Terry Ferrell, commander, 7th Infantry Division presented the medal to Bingham. He took the opportunity to thank the soldiers of the 22nd Eng. Clearance Company for their mission success and to talk about U.S. Army current topics.

Bingham was in good spirits after receiving the Purple Heart, and joked in his closing remarks, "I want to thank the ‘Hooligans' (22nd ECC) for the support, getting me through that last deployment ... it was a blast."

Bingham receives treatment for his TBIs and returned to full duty status with the 22nd Eng. Clearance Company.

December 17, 2014 at 2:46pm

Servicemembers held for Ebola monitoring at JBLM go home

Technical Sgt. Joe Greene happily returned home to Montana late Tuesday afternoon.

"I was ready to get back to my family for Christmas," he said during a telephone interview from his home in Montana. "I missed Thanksgiving with them."

One of 15 individuals monitored for Ebola symptoms, Greene spent 21 days in isolation at Joint Base Lewis-McChord North.

The monitored group of servicemembers came from the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force. None were from JBLM.

Assigned to the 819th Red Horse Squadron at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, Greene had been deployed to West Africa as this country attempts to tamp down the spread of the deadly disease.

About 2,600 servicemembers are deployed to West Africa, building and operating a number of Ebola-treatment facilities.

A deployable, heavy operational repair squadron, the unit is commanded by Col. Ron Pieri.

The servicemembers entered isolation on Nov. 25 and were released on Dec. 16.

It wasn't as though Greene didn't he know would be held and monitored for the symptoms of Ebola when he returned from his deployment.

"I understood. It's one of the things we gotta do," he said in a matter-of-fact way. "It is what it is."

Greene and the others were not exposed to Ebola-infected patients, and the risk that they are infected was minimal, Maj. Mary Ricks pointed out in an earlier press release.

JBLM could house up to 1,000 quarantined military members and civilian contractors in World War II vintage barracks that until recently were used by Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) cadets during Warrior Forge.

"Yeah, we were in these older barracks," continued Greene. "It wasn't bad.  We had open bays like basic training, a large separate bathroom and showers and a pretty decent dining facility. We were set up pretty well."

Other accommodations included Wi-Fi, cable, movies, video game consoles, books and a tent gym with exercise equipment.

In November, the Department of Defense announced that JBLM would be one of five installations that would provide a monitoring site for servicemembers and civilians returning from missions in West Africa.

The other four locations are the Army's Smith Barracks in Baumholder, Germany; Fort Bliss and Fort Hood in Texas; Fort Bragg in North Carolina; and at an Army base in Vicenza, Italy.

According to the World Health Organization most recent statistics, there have been approximately 18,500 cases of Ebola with more than 6,800 resulting in death.

Back at JBLM and with plenty of time on their hands, the monitored servicemembers did a lot of reading, working out, and in Greene's case, working with wood.

"Yes, I had time so I built some furniture," Greene said.

A medical team from the Madigan Army Medical Center checked the monitored servicemembers twice per day and asked if there was any fatigue or muscle pain.

"The medical folks were superb," Greene added. "In fact, everyone I encountered here at JBLM was very professional, and I think the Army did a great job."

December 8, 2014 at 11:41am

I Corps in Japan for Yama Sakura 67 exercise

Lt. Gen. Stephen R. Lanza, I Corps commanding general, speaks during the opening ceremony for Yama Sakura 67, on Camp Asaka, Japan. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Adam Keith

For the 34th time, U.S. and Japanese Soldiers stood side-by-side to kick off Japan's largest command post exercise at Camp Asaka, Japan, Dec. 8.

Yama Sakura 67 officially started with a brief ceremony in which commanders from I Corps and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force's Eastern Army lauded the long-standing partnership between the two nations and encouraged their troops to work closely together.

"This year's Yama Sakura will not only be challenging, but it should be a rewarding experience for all of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines," said Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza, I Corps commanding general. "And over the next several days our teams will have the opportunity to train together, to work together, but more importantly to build those everlasting bonds of trust and partnership that are so critical to this alliance."

Yama Sakura pits about 4,500 Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members and about 2,000 U.S. Service members against a notional computer-generated invader, and simulates the full spectrum of military operations with an emphasis on bilateral counter-attack and amphibious operations.

Yama Sakura 67 is scheduled to run from Dec. 8 through Dec. 14, though many American Service members arrived a week or more ahead of time to prepare the exercise area, and to engage in cultural exchanges to build stronger relationships with their Japanese partners.

This year marks only the second time in about eight years I Corps has participated in Yama Sakura. It is the first time in six years for Eastern Army, as the exercise rotates between Japan's five regional armies.

According to Eastern Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Koichi Isobe, since the exercise's inception in 1982, during the Cold War era, it has changed and evolved to keep pace with real-world events.

Isobe said throughout the past three decades, Japan's American partners have been a crucial component in Japan Ground Self-Defense Force training.

"U.S. Forces are an irreplaceable partner of (Japan Ground Self-Defense Force). We will continue working together in response to new challenges and emerging threats," Isobe said.

Filed under: Army, I Corps, Military, Training,

November 10, 2014 at 5:14pm

I Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza discusses Veterans Day with Lakewood students

Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza, commander, I Corps, talks about the meaning of Veterans Day with students at St. Francis Cabrini School. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

Veterans Day can be described simply as the day set aside to honor our country's veterans.

"This is about service, about the sacrifices that give us our rights, liberty and environment," explained Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza this afternoon to the student body of St. Francis Cabrini School.

Invited by the school to speak, the commander of I Corps at Joint Base Lewis-McChord arrived with his wife, Madeline, and without an entourage.

The first person he shook hands with was a veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

"Thank you for your service," Lanza said.

Soon surrounded by students wearing red, white and blue and waving flags, Lanza spoke about the need to remember the service and sacrifices of our nation's veterans. 

"This day of honor began on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918," he began.

During his remarks, a couple of first- and second-graders asked questions.

Without breaking stride and wearing a big smile, Lanza took the time to answer their questions - but with an enduring message to his young audience.

In talking about those who have sworn an oath to uphold and protect the Constitution, Lanza closed by quoting President John Kennedy.

"A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers."

November 10, 2014 at 11:17am

Staff Sgt. Matthew Roth receives America's Service Heroes Scholarship from Saint Martin's University

Staff Sgt. Matthew Roth received some extra spotlight action during the Saint Martin's University's Gala 2014 Nov. 1. Roth, a SMU senior from San Diego, California, was honored for being the University's sixth recipient of its America's Service Heroes Scholarship.

The folks at SMU have more details. ...

Read more...

November 8, 2014 at 11:11pm

Seahawks mural unveiled at new USO Northwest Center at SeaTac Airport

Servicemembers from local military branches posed in front of a large-scale 12th Man flag that hid a new Seattle Seahawks mural for an unveiling at the new USO Northwest SeaTac Center Nov. 7. Photo credit: Gary Lott

At Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Sgt. 1st Class Bryant Hargrove spends long days recruiting new members for the U.S. Army.

At home, Hargrove's wife spends long nights trying to recruit the soldier into the 12th Man army.

"It's always a great experience going to Seahawks games and I'm coming along," said Hargrove. "I may not be a fully-converted fan just yet, but I've been supporting the 12th man a little more than my friends and family expect."

He was one of the dozens of servicemembers from all branches present for the Seahawks mural unveiling at the new USO Northwest Center at the SeaTac International Airport Center Friday, Nov. 7.

>>> Sgt. 1st Class Bryant Hargrove, a U.S. army recruiter based at JBLM, shows off some of the new Bose speakers and other Seahawks swag donated for the Internet Café inside the new USO Northwest SeaTac Airport Center. Photo credit: Gary Lott

It's hard to ignore the excitement of Seahawks football.

"It just shows support. I remember when I was in Iraq and my XO was still the biggest Seahawks supporter," said Hargrove. "Knowing that we get all that support back and that the entire organization recognizes the military and all that we do, is truly special."

The theme of community, bonding and support is front and center in the halls of the new USO center.

>>> A U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Northwest member takes a moment to reflect on the USO "Every Moment Counts" campaign at USO Northwest SeaTac Center Nov. 7. The campaign honors servicemembers and highlight the moments that matter most for troops and their loved ones. Photo credit: Gary Lott

>>> Each tile on this wall represents some form of remembrance and/or contribution made to the new 7,500 sq. ft. USO Northwest SeaTac Airport Center. Photo credit: Gary Lott

"It's a community bonding event," said Staff Sgt. Charles Spencer of the Washington National Guard while tightly gripping a signed Doug Baldwin football. "There are a lot of fans in this area and a lot of military members, so it's nice to overlap the two and see the outpouring level of support for the military and local community."

These types of high-exposure events work well at shining some light on military efforts.

"It highlights some of the important things that just a small portion of our United States military does for us," said Spencer. "The Seahawks constantly help to bring those to the forefront."

>>> Staff Sgt. Charles Spencer of the Washington National Guard joins Seagal cheerleaders in front of a 12s Seahawks-supporting flag. Photo credit: Gary Lott

>>> Servicemembers from local military branches posed in front of a large-scale 12th Man flag that hid a new Seattle Seahawks mural for an unveiling at the new USO Northwest SeaTac Center Nov. 7. Photo credit: Gary Lott

If it were up to the USO Northwest Center staff, they would've had thousands of people attend the mural unveiling, but decided to keep some of the surprises for the grand opening in February 2015.

"We were debating on if we should have 3,000 or just 300 people here for this event, but we decided to stick with 300 since we will be unveiling the whole center here in a couple of months."

>>> Tech Sgt. Conner Welborn of Joint Base Lewis-McChord smiles with his two little Seahawk supporters during a Seahawks mural unveiling event at the USO Northwest SeaTac Airport Center Nov. 7. Photo credit: Gary Lott

USO Northwest at SeaTac International Airport Center will host a grand opening celebration in February 2015.

"I'm standing here with Blitz (the Seahawks Mascot) and it's a wonderful moment for the USO," said USO Northwest Executive Director Don Leingang. "When we moved here, we knew that we are never moving again."

Liengang was referring to the new USO Northwest Center down the hall from the existing one at SeaTac Airport.

"We're gonna be here forever and forever happens only because you have great partners," he added.

The USO staff was ready to upgrade in size.

"We were busting at the seams," said Bill Baker, Service Center manager for the USO Northwest Center.  

Through an agreement and donation from the Port of Seattle, the center will open up in a new, 7,500 square foot center to better support the movements and travels of more than 100,000 servicemembers every year.

>>> A Super Bowl ring magically finds its way on a Coast Guard servicemember's finger at the new USO Northwest SeaTac Center. The Seahawks adopted the U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Northwest as their military service branch for 2014. Photo credit: Gary Lott

"(Seattle Seahawks) is an organization that supports the troops," said Baker. "Their Salute to Service campaign for this month is providing 10 percent of all proceeds from Salute to Service clothing wear back to the USO Northwest. It's just a way for them to say thank you for the service that our servicemembers do - day in and day out. They know that we will be here to do that 24/7 and that this community really does value and support the service that they do for our country, day in and day out."

Filed under: USO, Army, National Guard, Ceremony, Sports,

November 4, 2014 at 12:29pm

Lakewood City Council states Veterans Day Proclamation, honors military residents

Lakewood high school ROTC students added fanfare to the city of Lakewood's annual Veterans Day Proclamation. Photo credit: Kevin Knodell

Monday, Nov. 3, the Lakewood City Council celebrated Veterans Day early with its annual Veterans Day Proclamation.

The council honored Lt. Gen. William Harrison (Ret.) - Lakewood's mayor emeritus, President of the AUSA's Captain Meriwether Lewis chapter and of the Pierce Military and Business Alliance Carlene Joseph and Rally Point/6 founder and CEO Anne Sprute. They also proclaimed November to be Veterans Appreciation Month.

The ceremony featured members of Clover Park High School and Lakes High School ROTC programs as color guards, and a video presentation honoring veterans. Each service was recognized as veterans were asked to stand as their service anthems were played.

Lakewood Deputy Mayor Jason Whalen spoke about the contributions the honorees have made to the community, and congratulated them for their accomplishments over the course of the year. The council thanked Harrison for his service to the city and congratulated him on the recent dedication of Harrison Hall, the new 7th Infantry Division headquarters at Joint Base Lewis-McChord named in his honor.

Joseph received the AUSA's 2014 Maj. Gen. Anthony J. Drexel Biddle Medal, an award for members who've significantly contributed to advancing the interests of the AUSA. The council thanked Sprute for her tireless efforts in support of veterans through Rally Point/6, one of the most ambitious veteran support organizations in the state.

>>> Lakewood Deputy Mayor Jason Whalen honors Rally Point/6 CEO Anne Sprute at the Lakewood City Council meeting Monday, Nov. 3. Photo by Kevin Knodell

All the honorees received a city of Lakewood challenge coin. The coin, a military tradition, is meant to symbolize the community's military roots. The young city of Lakewood has deep military roots indeed.

>>> Lt. Gen. William Harrison (Ret.) / photo credit: Kevin Knodell

After leaving the Army, Harrison was one of the leading members of the campaign to incorporate the city in 1996, and was elected Lakewood's first mayor shortly after. Owing to its proximity to JBLM and Camp Murray, Lakewood has a large population of both active-duty military members and their families. Many decide to reside there permanently after leaving the service, with a large veteran population as well.

October 30, 2014 at 7:43am

5 Things To Do Today: TEA, scary run, Oly Mountain Boys, DJ Niros ...

From Left, Kathy Hsieh, Susan Mayeno, Eloisa Cardona, Aya Hashiguchi and Joy Misako St. Germain star in Dukesby Productions' "TEA," which opens tonight. Photo credit: Jason Ganwich

THURSDAY, OCT. 30 2014 >>>

1. During the American occupation of Japan at the end of World War II, more than 100,000 native Japanese women married American soldiers. Between 1946 and 1960, they came to the United States with their husbands and were settled at remote Army posts around the country, one of which, Fort Riley, in Kansas, is the setting for Velina Hasu Houston's born-in-anger play, TEA, opens at Tacoma theater company Dukesby Productions at 7:30 p.m. The story revolves around five Japanese women who are supposed to become a part of the great American melting pot. But when one of them shoots herself, the others are drawn to the traditional Japanese teapot.

2. New works by some old favorites in pen and pencil, metal and dirt can be seen for the last time as "Metal & Paint: New Work by Jeremiah Maddock, Kyle Dillehay and Quinn Honan" closes today at Moss + Mineral.

3. The Tacoma Runners will summon their inner ghoul for tonight's Night Before Halloween Run. That's right, the Runners will don costumes for their weekly 3-mile run, which begins at 6:30 p.m. at The New Frontier Lounge in Tacoma's Dome District. We're talking running zombies people!

4. A Pre-Halloween Extravaganza featuring The Oly Mountain Boys, The Pine Hearts and Br'er Rabbit hits the McLane Grange Hall in Olympia at 8 p.m. The all-ages show is $5, but only $3 if you bring a carved pumpkin. 

5. The Sixth Avenue Mexican restaurant turned dance club at night Masa hosts two Halloween parties: DJ Niros and a costume contest tonight at 10 p.m., and another costume contest and DJ Sessions upstairs and DJ Derdee downstairs Halloween night. Cash prizes for best costumes and drink specials are on the dockets.

LINK: Thursday, Oct. 30 arts and entertainment events in the greater Tacoma and Olympia area

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