Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

Posts made in: February, 2010 (54) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 54

February 2, 2010 at 7:32am

Joint Base is official

"This merger creates an even more powerful asset in the defense of our nation," said Army Col. Thomas Brittain, Joint Base Lewis-McChord garrison commander. "We have worked together on deployments and now we are bringing that joint system back home."

As of Jan. 31, Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force base merged to become Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM). The difference between this merger and one in the corporate world is that there will be no reduction in workforce here. In fact, base officials expect that the realignment will create new jobs as they work to improve services on the base. Department of the Air Force civilians will keep their positions but be systematically transferred to the Department of the Army over the next eight months.

"The biggest expenses we face now are administrative. The relocation of base employees along with the set-up of different offices," said Joint Basing PA Specialist, Joe Jimenez. "Plus there will be costs involved with rebranding, starting with replacing signage."

The hope is that the joint base system will eventually yield cost savings in the form of utilities and contracts. Of the 12 existing joint bases, JBLM is the largest under Army management and the only one with a Corps command. It would stand to reason that since the Air Force faces the most changes they would be apprehensive, but according to Jimenez, supporting the Air Force's mission was always a top priority.

"We are excited. This is about finding the best practices, decreasing the duplication of services and working towards common solutions that deliver improvements," said Air Force Col. Kenny Weldon, deputy commander, Joint Base Garrison.

"Despite all that went on before now, the real work starts today," said Brittain. "Through a phased integration JBLM will control everything that is not considered fly away, go-to-war services for the installation." In total, there are 49 functions for the city that JBLM will handle.

The transition will be complete by Oct. 1, 2010 at the start of the new fiscal year. By that time, all contracts and services will be provided through the Army. JBLM will support a population on base and in neighboring communities of more than 100,000 people, which includes service members and their families, civilian and contract employees and retirees.

Filed under: JBLM,

February 2, 2010 at 8:33am

Obama floats new concurrent receipt plan

Army Times has the story here.

Filed under: Benefit,

February 2, 2010 at 8:41am

TAX TIPS for military

Check out's great tax tip site.

Filed under: Benefit,

February 3, 2010 at 7:03am

Soldier accused of holding 4 year-old's head underwater

A Fort Lewis soldier was arrested this week for supposedly holding his daughter's head underwater after she failed to recite the alphabet.  Click here for the story.

Filed under: Crime,

February 3, 2010 at 7:14am

Wounded Warrior: Blind Soldier Becomes Company Commander

Capt. Scott M. Smiley grins while passing the guidon back to 1st Sgt. Deon E. Dabrio during the U.S. Army Warrior Transition Unit at West Point change of command ceremony Feb 1. The 2007 Army Times Soldier of the year is the first blind officer and second

WEST PONT, N.Y. - Soldier, infantryman, Airborne Ranger, combat diver, mountain climber, skier, tri-athlete, surfer, husband and father are just a few words to describe Army Capt. Scott M. Smiley.

Yesterday, the title of company commander was added to Smiley's distinctive resume, as he became the first blind officer to lead a company as he assumed command of the Warrior Transition Unit at the U.S. Military Academy here. 

Smiley was wounded and permanently lost his vision during his 2005 deployment to Iraq. He attributes his strength and drive during his recovery to his family, faith and friends. 

"It was my wife, my family and friends who were in my hospital room singing songs and reading the Bible that gave me the strength during my recovery," said Smiley, a member of the USMA Class of 2003. 

"It was all of this which allowed me to put one foot in front of the other," he continued, "and has allowed me to accomplish everything that I have done to get to where I am today." 

Over the past six months, Smiley had been an instructor with the academy's Behavioral Sciences and Leadership department, teaching a leadership course to third-year cadets. 

Smiley's "endurable spirit and character are traits that the cadets can just relate to," said West Point instructor Lt. Col. Eric Kail. "He has overcome so much, through his attitude and desire to excel in life. Scott is a great teacher." 

After receiving medical attention following his tour in Iraq, Smiley was transferred to the Fort Lewis, Wash., Warrior Transition Unit, where he began his recovery and journey to return to active status. 

"There were some very long dark days, physically and mentally, but I just had to keep pushing on," Smiley said. 

Smiley said he'd looked at what had happened to him in Iraq and made the decision that he was not going down the same path as the character Gary Sinise played in the 1994 movie Forrest Gump. Sinese's character of Army Lt. Dan had been grievously wounded in Vietnam and was initially portrayed as bitter and self-destructive. 

"The decisions that Lt. Dan made after his injuries never came into my mind. I wanted to take care of myself -- physically, mentally and spiritually," Smiley said. "I just did not want to give up because of something that negatively happened to me." 

Smiley transitioned back to active duty, working at the U.S. Army Accessions Command at Ft. Monroe, Va. After being there for some time, Smiley's commander told him he had been selected to go to graduate school. 

"I thought he was kidding me. I was absolutely shocked," Smiley recalled. "Then, they are going to let me go teach -- that was awesome." 

Smiley attended Duke University where he received his Masters of Business Administration. While there, he cultivated a friendship during the summer of 2007 with legendary Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, a 1969 graduate of the Military Academy. 

This was just before the men's basketball world championships and Olympics, Smiley recalled, noting his brigade commander had approached him and asked if he'd like to speak to the premier U.S. men's basketball squad. 

"Why would the national basketball team want me to talk to them?" Smiley said he wondered to himself at the time. 

"The first time I met him, he spoke to the Olympic team in Las Vegas. We were trying to teach the team about selfless service," Krzyzewski said. "They not only heard what Scott had to say, but they truly felt what he had to say. 

"When I think of Scotty, I think of ultimate service, especially selfless service," Krzyzewski added. 

After completing his master's degree, Smiley returned to start a new chapter of his life at West Point, where his military career began in the summer of 1999. 

Smiley's former commander at Accessions Command and present U.S. Army Chief of Engineers and commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Lt. Gen. Robert Van Antwerp, shared his thoughts on the occasion. 

"Scott brings a whole new dimension to soldiering and leadership," said Van Antwerp, a 1972 graduate of the Military Academy. "When you are around him, you can't help but want to do your best -- without complaining -- because he gives his best every day." 

About Smiley being the second Wounded Warrior to hold a command position, Van Antwerp said, "Scotty will be a great commander. He will lead from the front like he has always done. I am proud of him and proud of our Army for giving him this opportunity." 

Krzyzewski seconded Van Antwerp's pride and confidence in Smiley. 

"He may not have the eyes to see, but he sees more things than most leaders could ever see," he said of Smiley's leadership abilities. 

At West Point, Smiley now takes command of a company that he personally understands. 

"I know what they are going through. I understand the dynamics of the company, how it works and areas of concern that need to be improved," Smiley said. 

With only half of his command based on West Point's grounds, Smiley will travel from the rocky shorelines of Maine to the rolling hills of Pennsylvania to ensure his troops are being taken care of and doing what they need to do to recover. 

"It is now my responsibility to inspire them and to continue to help them get the job done," Smiley said.

Filed under: Army News,

February 3, 2010 at 8:19am

Free phone calls home on Valentine's Day

The VFW is making it all possible.  See their Facebook page here.

February 4, 2010 at 9:28am

Michael Yon back with 5th Brigade

Check out his Facebook page here.

Filed under: Strykers,

February 4, 2010 at 9:57am

5th Stryker Memorial

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Family, friends, Service members and

the Joint Base community will remember a Soldier who died while deployed

in support of Operation Enduring Freedom with a ceremony to be conducted

Friday, February 5, at 3 p.m. in the JBLM Lewis North Chapel.

Spc. Kyle J. Wright, 22, of Romeoville, Ill., died Jan. 13 at Kandahar

Air Field, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered earlier that day when

insurgents attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device in

Kandahar Province. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry

Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.

The brigade deployed to Afghanistan in July, 2009.

Filed under: Strykers,

February 4, 2010 at 12:56pm

200 Members of the 47th Combat Support Hospital return from Iraq Friday

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Members of the 47th Combat Support

Hospital will be reunited with their families at a ceremony currently

scheduled for 11 p.m. Friday at Soldiers Field House.

The 47th Combat Support Hospital deployed to Iraq in February 2009. Upon

arrival, the unit assumed control of the 1st Forward Surgical Medical

Detachment, operating three Level III hospitals near the cities of

Tikrit, Mosul, and Al Asad- providing surgical, nursing, and ancillary

care to military personnel throughout the northern and western portions

of the Iraqi theater of operations.

While deployed, 47th CSH personnel conducted 57,000 patient evaluations

or procedures, hosted the first-ever web-based tele-medicine consult

between its Mosul-based hospital and Brooke Army Medical Center in San

Antonio, Texas, and conducted clinical training with Iraqi military

forces, and at the Tikrit Teaching Hospital.

Filed under: JBLM,

February 5, 2010 at 10:33am

17th Fires excited about new satellite frequency

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE BASRA, Iraq - The Army's planned satellite frequency changeover from Ku to the Ka-band may seem insignificant; however, this small change represents a multibillion dollar transition. 

Since 2000 the U.S. Department of Defense has been in the process of purchasing and deploying the new military Wideband Global Satellite Communication satellites previously known as the wideband gapfiller satellite system, a high-capacity communication satellite for the sole purpose of augmenting the X-band communications now provided by the Defense Satellite Communications System. In the interim, the government has been renting commercial Ku satellite bands at a heavy price. 

Lt. Gen. Steven W. Boutelle (ret.), the Army's former chief information officer, recently told a conference that a lack of military satellite capacity resulted in the DoD spending one billion dollars in 2007 on commercial satellite leases. 

The Ka-band changeover represents a huge step by the Defense Department in their investment in a DoD-only satellite network. This new satellite network will save American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year as well as provide more bandwidth and flexibility to its military users where ever they find themselves. 

The Ka-band allows improved network communications for more reliable and more mobile communication systems on the battlefield. 

Members of the 256th Network Support Company, 17th Fires Brigade, from Fort Lewis, Wash., are excited about the change to the Ka-band. The communication Soldiers are proud to provide even greater network support for the Thunderbolt Brigade and its subordinate units throughout southern Iraq. 

As the 1st Infantry Division assumes responsibility of United States Division-South, the brigade will be one of many units within the area to take advantage of the Ka-band capabilities available to the DoD network. USD-S has been selected to lead the way in Iraq as the Army transitions from its reliance on commercial satellite leases. 

As with any new piece of equipment, training was conducted recently by General Dynamics Field Service Representatives. Soldiers supporting the outlying camps came to COB Basra for the intensive 40-hour training on the switch process to the Ka-band. The training gave 256th NSC Soldiers the hands-on experience they needed to ensure that the changeover went smoothly for 17th Fires Brigade and its supported units. 

"This training was crucial in ensuring that each team was fully capable of accomplishing the mission of changing over to the new Ka feed system," Sgt. Dane Scharff, team chief, said.

Benefits of the Ka-band network have military commanders looking forward to the fulfillment of promises of faster, more flexible Video Tele-Conferencing and faster more reliable phone, email and internet services. 

Already enjoying the benefits of the Ka-band, Sgt. Shelby Coulter, the senior ranking satellite communicator for 256th NSC, summed up the changeover. 

"This Ka changeover has provided end users with noticeably more bandwidth and helped smooth out communications within our unit," Coulter said. 

Communication is critical to U.S. Department of Defense operations and the move to the Ka frequency highlights a large step in achieving DoD satellite self-sufficiency, increased networking capabilities and a move towards more fiscally responsible spending.     

Filed under: Iraq,

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