Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

Posts made in: April, 2010 (50) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 50

April 1, 2010 at 7:53am

How lawyers train here

Found this blog from Minnesota about Guardsman from the legal branch training at the Joint Base before heading to Iraq.

April 1, 2010 at 3:00pm

JBLM law enforcement to carry TASERs

Sgt. Christopher Irvine of 51st MP Det., trains on the use of a TASER to safely, effectively subdue combative or threatening suspects. (Photo by 1st Lt. Rayvaun Smith)

Next week, Joint Base Lewis-McChord security and law enforcement personnel will begin carrying the latest, most effective means to subdue suspects who are combative or pose an immediate physical threat.

Starting Monday, most will be equipped with Thompson A. Swift Electric Rifles, known better by their acronym - TASERs.

"It's important that the community knows that in addition to other standard equipment, the law enforcement officers here have this item available to them," said Matt Toth, JBLM director of law enforcement. "The officers can quickly gain control of this person, so the arrest takes place with a lot less physical (force). You're not having to use other non-lethal methods, such as a baton."

TASER technology was developed in 1973 and began proliferating 20 years later among police forces with Air TASER seven-watt stun weapons. Today, TASERs are common tools to most police officers, though military installations have been slower to adopt them.

At JBLM, law enforcement officials wanted their personnel to become thoroughly familiar with TASERs and versed in their safe employment. As a result, TASERs were first used by its security personnel in confinement settings during operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. JBLM law enforcement officers also undergo double the TASER training of most off-post counterparts. The Army required 16 hours of TASER training, much of it hands-on and situation-based.

Law enforcement officials have exercised an abundance of caution in fielding TASERs; the technology is actually safer than directly physical apprehension techniques.

"It's important for the community to realize is that this is a system that greatly protects the law enforcement officer," Toth said, "because they now can get a little stand-off whereby they can get a little control without (resorting to) the hands-on physical restraint of a combative suspect."

Statistics have also shown that injuries to suspects have dropped dramatically in communities where its police officers carry TASERs. Mike Hayes, chief of training in JBLM law enforcement, said according to the instructor's manual from TASER International, injuries to suspects have plummeted by 80 percent in Austin, Texas, for example, after fielding TASERs. Cincinnati reports 40 percent and Phoenix claims 67 percent reductions.

"The main point behind this is that other law enforcement agencies have shown an actual decrease in injuries to officers and suspects through use of TASERs," said Maj. Lawerence Grant, JBLM provost marshal operations officer. "We always hear the horror stories, but (considering) the number of times they've been deployed, you actually see a drop in the number of injuries because you're not using an impact weapon to strike someone hands-on."

Horror stories about TASERs are more myth than reality. Nobody gets electrocuted; the shock is brief and the amperage minuscule.

"It's not the volts that are dangerous; it's the amps," Hayes said. "A wall (outlet) has 16 amps. The amps you receive from a TASER are roughly one-quarter of what you'd get from a Christmas tree bulb, (approximately) .0021."

"It's nowhere near the same as plugging your hand into a domestic wall socket," Grant said. "It's a lot lower amps, which is why it's safer and more effective for personnel."

The relative safety of the technology combined with the scenario-based certification and recertification training completed by JBLM police personnel make law enforcement officials confident in equipping them with TASERs.

"All of us have been TASed," Grant said. "It takes five seconds and it's over. It's a training requirement on (JBLM). It's a lot safer for officers and civilians and subjects involved if we have those TASERs out there."

TASER timeline

1974: Original TASER less-lethal 7-watt firearm

1993: Air-TASER, Inc. founded

1994: Air TASER No. 34000 (7-watt)

Non-firearm stun weapon

Smaller, automatic timing

1998: Changed name to TASER International, Inc.

1999: Advanced TASER M26

NMI - Sensory and motor nervous system override

Dataport function and integrated laser

2003: TASER X26 Shaped Pulse Technology 5 percent more effective

60 percent smaller and lighter

Digital pulse controller

Improved dataport functions

Source: TASER International, Inc.

April 1, 2010 at 3:02pm

62nd ready to go back overseas

62nd Medical Bde. Commander Col. John P. Collins, left, and Command Sgt. Maj. Eugene Jeffers case the colors at a deployment ceremony at Soldiers Field House March 26. (Photo by Ingrid Barrentine)

For the fourth time since 9/11, only 17 months after its last return, the 62nd Medical Brigade headquarters cased its colors last week for movement to a combat theater of operations.

The ceremony took place March 26 in Soldiers Field House on Joint Base Lewis-McChord Lewis Main.

As one of the busiest, most complex organizations at JBLM, subordinate elements of the brigade have served in theater almost continuously since the conflict began.

The headquarters departs during the coming weeks to take command and control of all medical units above the brigade-level operating in Afghanistan in support of United Nations International Security and Assistance Force.

Brigade commander, Col. John P. Collins, and senior NCO, Command Sgt. Maj. Eugene Jeffers, cased the brigade colors for movement to Bagram Air Field, where they will set up the headquarters.

Collins will not only command the brigade, but also serve as U.S. Forces-Afghanistan surgeon.

The mission will be to command, control and coordinate with an array of U.S. and coalition forces. It will be, said reviewing officer Brig. Gen. Heidi V. Brown, deputy commanding general for sustainment of I Corps and JBLM, "undoubtedly ... their most challenging mission to-date."

The 62nd Med. Bde. will oversee medical personnel and facilities from all U.S. branches of service and coordinate with those run by many allied partners, including Canada, Norway, Germany, Jordan, Egypt, Korea, Spain, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Though all allies have their own mandates and parameters for medical care, the headquarters shares information and coordinates with each.

Eighty-six brigade personnel and 10 augmentees deploy to oversee medical care throughout Afghanistan. Though most will perform duties at Bagram, teams will liaison at facilities in each of the military regions in the country. And though the mission doesn't qualify as a joint one, a Navy and an Air Force hospital fall under the medical task force as well as an Army hospital. An array of subordinate units will provide a range of health care for coalition forces, including routine and emergency medical services, surgery, dental care, optometry, preventive medicine, laboratory support, combat stress treatment, blood services and veterinary services.

"They find strength in their mission, the coordination and provision of front-line health care and what it means to Soldiers, to your sons and daughters, husbands and wives," Brown said of the headquarters Soldiers.

Collins took command in October 2009, in time to preside over the conclusion of a homeland security mission, take the headquarters to Camp Atterbury, Ind., for a field-training exercise, travel to Afghanistan for a predeployment site survey to coordinate with 30th Medical Command, and return in time for the brigade's mission readiness exercise at Fort Stewart, Ga. The 62nd Med. Bde. validated its readiness and began final preparations for deployment by the end of January. Collins pledged the highest level of medical care for U.S. Soldiers and their coalition partners.

"Rest assured America's medics will continue to make our nation proud by ensuring our Soldiers get the very best care they need whenever and wherever they need it," he said.

April 2, 2010 at 6:45am

4th Strykers: Helping others get buzzed

The master beekeeper passes a section of a buzzing bee hive during a March 27 beekeeping training program graduation for several Iraqi women.

TARMIYAH, Iraq - A blossoming new program organized by embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team-North is creating a buzz and giving some area women a much sweeter outlook. 

The "buzz" is teaching Iraqi widows and divorcees the ins and outs of beekeeping in order to help them put food on the table while they help put honey on the tables of others.

Twenty-five Iraqi women graduated from the beekeeper training program, March 27.

"These women are the heads of the household, many [because of] the sectarian conflict," said Mary-Denise Tabar, the public diplomacy and women's affairs advisor for ePRT-North. "The program aims to train local rural women on the theoretical and practical applications of basic beekeeping."

ePRT-North embeds with 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, and receives its security from the brigade's subordinate battalions. This allows them to work safely on projects in areas north of Baghdad, including Tarmiyah and the city of Taji, including the bee course.

Taught in four-hour sessions over a period of six days, the course covered the proper care of bees and techniques to harvest their honey.

"The women were chosen by the non-government organization, Fafedian Foundation, who knows the community and the women who need it most," explained Tabar.

Interest in the beekeeping course proved to be extremely high, explained Tim Lowery, an agricultural specialist with the ePRT. They received more applications than there were available seats, so the team is already planning more for courses. 

Upon completion of the training, each woman received her own active and healthy beehive containing thousands of the bees, along with all the necessary equipment to operate it.

In total, the entire beekeeping training program including the 25 beehives for the graduates, tools and supplies cost approximately $23,450, said Tabar. 

Each beehive houses anywhere between 10,000 and 30,000 bees that on average can produce about 15 to 20 kilograms of honey a year. Bees also provide a valuable resource for local farmers, helping to pollinate their crops.

"For most of these women, this is how they earn income for their households," said Tabar. "They can sell a kilo of honey anywhere from $20 to $50."

During the graduation ceremony, family and friends looked on as the new beekeepers were called forward to receive their certificates and beehives. They showed their support of each other with rounds of applause.

The honey has yielded an additional benefit, bringing together these women who are dealing with great adversity, and with the new skill, the added bonus of reducing the stigma that they are a burden on their families and society. 

One graduate was so overwhelmed that she was brought to tears during the ceremony.

"A woman told me that she was so thankful for everything and can remember having bees as a child," said Lowery, "She said that she will raise the bees like they were her own children."    

April 2, 2010 at 6:46am

Traffic to increase 25% come summer, officials say

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Redeployment means many things to Soldiers, spending time with family, a comfortable bed or a hearty meal. One thing that may not be on their minds is the increased traffic on post.

The return of deployed Soldiers means more congested driving on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, but a little planning and knowledge can be the difference between arriving at work on time or being late.

"The installation could see a 20 to 25 percent increase in traffic later this summer with the return of more deployed Soldiers," said Larry Mickel, transportation systems manager from Altoona, Pa. "Many traffic chokepoints for JBLM-main and north are the gates in the morning and evening hours."

Part of the reason for delays at the gates is due to Interstate 5. According to the I-5 Transportation Alternatives Analysis and Operations Model, prepared for the city of Lakewood, traffic from JBLM and Camp Murray could fill up six lanes of the freeway by themselves. Traffic along some portions of I-5 is more than 50 percent military related. 

"When Soldiers are back, of course traffic is going to be tedious," said Sgt. Stephen Katende, 47th Combat Support Hospital. Katende, originally from Kampala, Uganda, currently lives in Puyallup and leaves home an hour early to compensate for the morning traffic.

To improve the flow of traffic, JBLM is planning some improvements to the road system. 
There are plans to add a new lane for northbound traffic exiting Dupont Gate within the next three months, Mickel said. Plans also include an extra lane at the D Street Gate, which can have significant congestion, later this summer. Even further in the future, possibly 2012, a new gate may be added to JBLM-North.

While officials at JBLM look to improve the traffic system, drivers can also help alleviate the congestion. The first step is to plan ahead.

"We have a need for Soldiers to get from one end of the post to the other," said Theron Smith, a driver training instructor at JBLM from Charlotte, N.C.

By planning ahead, on-post drivers can leave a few minutes early to avoid a delay that might cost them an hour. Avoid certain gates (such as Liberty Gate with approximately 30,000 vehicles passing through per week) in favor of a lesser used gate (like Center Drive Gate that has approximately 1,000 vehicles passing through it per week).

"Traffic also tends to congests around many of the area eateries during lunchtime," Mickel said. "Most notably is the intersection of A Street and 41st Division Drive and the Post Exchange area."

Failing to either account for the traffic delays or taking steps to avoid them can put drivers in a rush to get back to work on time. This hurried pace can increase the risks for drivers and pedestrians.

"We have pedestrians at crosswalks that try to cross and if you're not paying attention to the roadway--looking down, looking away, changing the station, engrossed in a conversation--you easily could run up on someone who's trying to cross traffic and has the right of way at the crosswalk or intersection," Smith said. 

By being safe, planning ahead and being aware of slow spots in the traffic system, everyone who lives and works on JBLM should be able to get where they need to be without incident and without being late.    

April 2, 2010 at 6:54am

Casey rolls out plan for 21st Century Army

SAN ANTONIO (April 1, 2010) -- Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr. asked the crowd of about 2,000 how they were doing and after a hearty "Hooha" response, he proceeded to tell them how they were doing.

Casey iterated statistics and time lines for the present while laying out a future for Soldiers of the 21st century, unveiling the Installation Management Command's campaign plan during the Association of the United States Army's 2010 Army Installations Symposium & Exposition, March 29.

"What you do is so important to the long-term health of this force," Casey said, adding he wanted to personally deliver the operational context of the plan and stressed leadership focus on change as the Army moves forward.

He said objectives set in 2007 to rebalance a force stretched from current demands by 2011 were already, or nearly met this year and included supporting strategic objectives in Iraq and Afghanistan; sustaining Soldiers, families and the civilian workforce; establishing an integrated management system for Army business operations; implementing leadership development; and continuing to transform the Army for an uncertain future.

A first priority for Army rebalancing was growth, said Casey. Originally slated for an increase of 74,000 Soldiers by 2012, with 65,000 on active duty and the rest in the Reserve and Guard, the objective was met in 2009.

"We're three years ahead of time and it wasn't a moment too soon with the plus up in Afghanistan," Casey said.

Readjusting dwell time - the amount of time Solders spend at home between deployments - was significant for Casey.

"It's clear to me the most important thing we can do in the Army to restore balance is increase the time Soldiers are at home; not just so they can spend time with their families - that's important - but so they can recover themselves."

Casey cited a scientific study completed last year concluded Soldier recovery between deployments takes 2-3 years for a one-year deployment. He said 70 percent of the active force will have a two-year dwell time and 80 percent of Reserve and Guard a four-year dwell by 2011. The remaining force will be included in the schedule by 2012.

"When you see a unit that's had 18 months at home, it's light years different than 12 months at home. You can already see the impact," Casey said.

Planned since 2004, all 300 Army brigades were set to convert to modular organizations as part of rebalancing. Casey said 90 percent are completed; the rest will convert by the end of the year.

"Taken together, modular reorganization and rebalancing is the largest organizational change of the Army since World War II," he said, "and we've done it while we've deployed 150,000 Soldiers over and back to Iraq and Afghanistan every year. That's a lot of moving parts."

Casey discussed the process of moving 160,000 Soldiers with skills necessary in Cold War, to skills which are more relevant today.

He said the Army has already stood down 200 tank companies, artillery batteries and stood up corresponding numbers of civil affairs, psychological operations, special forces and military police units.

"We're about two-thirds of the way through that and will be done by the end of the year."

Casey was positive on Base Realignment and Closure, saying that although 380,000 Soldiers, civilians and families will be on the move in the next two years, the effort will result in better-quality facilities and an exponential jump in opportunity.

He announced a new rotational model that brought several gasps from members of the audience. Casey said rotational schedules originally drawn up in 2005 were not implemented as a result of demand. But with drawdown in Iraq, he said he is seeing a way ahead and will publish deployment schedules for the next three years in the next 60 days.

Casey also asserted that the Army has fiscal challenges to confront as a result of eight and one-half years of war, but said he can see meeting objectives as set out for this year. 

"The money is in the [20]11 budget and it's a matter of executing now, we'll be in a much better place at the end this fiscal year than four years ago."

Consolidate, assess and refine - those are the three things that I see going on over the course of the rest of this year as we build the 2017 program, Casey said.

"We need to refine this great Army and I say refine rather than adapt. We're in pretty good shape but there are still things we could do differently."    

Filed under: Army News,

April 2, 2010 at 3:59pm

Donate to support Scouts

DuPont Cub Scout Pack 472 FundraiserPosted on: 2010-04-02Do you have just a few items for the city-wide garage sale and don't want to go to the trouble of putting them out to sell? Are you moving and need to get rid of a few items? If so, you can help us support Scouting! Local DuPont Cub Scout Pack 472 is conducting a spring fundraiser and is soliciting donations of items for the DuPont City-Wide Garage Sale on June 19, 2010. The Scouts are seeking serviceable items which are able to be resold. The boys will be conducting pick-ups of larger items in DuPont from May 15 to June 17. If you wish to donate items for pick up or drop off, please contact Suzanne McCrum at 253-964-1361. All donations are tax deductible. On the day of the sale, the Scouts will be selling the donated items in front of Chloe Clark Elementary School on Palisade Blvd from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.    

April 3, 2010 at 8:15am

3rd Strykers hand over their first base to Iraqis

As the Iraqi flag is being raised, Pfc. Scott Brown, of Ririe, Idaho, and a of Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, holds the U.S. Flag that was previously flown

DIYALA, Iraq - As part of the Responsible Drawdown, U.S. Forces signed over command of Forward Operating Base Caldwell to the Iraqi Forces and renamed it Kirkush Military Training Base on April 2.

Responsible for this turnover was 1st Squadron, 14th Calvary Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. FOB Caldwell is the first base handed over by 3 SBCT, 2nd ID.

"This is a monumental moment where we're executing our reduction of forces and helping ourselves get one step closer to having U.S. Forces out of Iraq," said Lt. Col. Joseph Davidson, commander of 1/14 Cav.

Soldiers from 1/14 Cav. that have called FOB Caldwell home have been preparing the base for the handover over the past few months. After a majority of the personnel had left the base, those remaining had to cook their own meals and wash their own clothes. They stayed behind to ensure the facilities would be in pristine condition for the turnover.

"Essentially we've been cleaning stuff up, everything was in pretty good shape when we got here," said 1st Lt. Jake Creecy, of Colorado Springs, Colo., and the assistant supply officer for Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1/14 Cav. "We're just making sure that everything is functional and clean for [the IA] when they move in."

The IA received the base well, finding the facilities and equipment left for them suitable and ready for use.

"When we came here to receive this camp we found all the buildings, all the equipment, generators, gyms, everything here we can use," said Iraqi Army Maj. Duraid Khaldom, of the Location Command for Iraqi Military Bases. "Any unit from Iraqi forces who come here can find it ready to use for training."

After the ceremony, both U.S. Forces and IA Soldiers gathered for lunch to celebrate this historic occasion.

"Any forces' deployment here has been a historical step. It may not seem like it at the time because it's small steps," said Lt. Col. Davidson. "I get to see not only the fruits of my labor, but of everyone in the Army's as well."

Filed under: Strykers,

April 3, 2010 at 8:17am

5th Strykers graduate their first class of firefighters

taff Sgt. Mark Covington from Gibson, N.C., assigned to the 402nd Brigade Support Battalion, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, coaches students through performing first aid tasks on a casualty during firefighting training located at

FORWARD OPERATING BASE SPIN BOLDAK, Afghanistan -- Ready. Aim. Fire. Afghan national police have been receiving training on security tactics in southern Afghanistan for some time now with programs like the Legion Academy in Maiwand District and the Shah Wali Kot Police Academy. But now their skills are expanding to encompass another vital role in security for the people of southern Afghanistan.

April 1 marked the first ever graduation of the 5th Stryker Brigade's Firefighting Academy, located near the Pakistan border on FOB Spin Boldak. On that day 10 ANP stood proud with the knowledge and skills to protect their people from not only the insurgent threat but also dangerous scenarios such as blazing fires, extreme car accidents and severely injured casualties. The students attended eight days of training where they learned how to operate a fire truck and high-pressure hose, as well as how to maintain the truck and its equipment. Training also included first aid, vehicle extrication, all while maintaining security of the site. 

"They really hit the ground the running and took the training seriously," said Staff Sgt. Mark Covington, from Gibson, N.C., assigned to the 402nd Brigade Support Battalion, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. "I was very impressed with their ability to learn quickly, and grasp the concepts of the training instead of just going through the motions."

Much of the training was hands on, giving students a chance to get comfortable with the equipment they were using. The first day at the simulation range the high pressure hose gave them trouble as they struggled to keep the hose from flying around. The instructors rushed in and, once the dust cleared, gave some pointers and sent the firefighting team out again to master the hose. From then on, the team was able to put out the flames with a hard-earned sense of control and skill. 

The officer in charge of training was 1st Lt. Angelo Palacios, from Mongmong, Guam, assigned to the 402nd BSB, 5/2 ID (SBCT). Palacios said the students' ability to work as a team shows the training is working as intended.

"I have complete confidence that they'll be able to apply what they've learned here back in their own towns and villages," he said. "They work together well and really showed great skill with what they've learned. We've been especially impressed with Blackbeard [Abdul Rashid]. He really shined above the rest and showed us he's completely capable of not only applying his new skills, but leading his men well."

Rashid, known as "Blackbeard" because of his distinctive facial hair, was the Distinguished Honor Graduate. He's also the commander of the firefighting team. He said he is truly grateful to learn firefighting and looks forward to helping his people and his land with his new skills.

"My country has been at war for a very long time," Rashid said. "We have a need to learn new skills to help our people stay safe and well. This training is exactly what we need, and we all have confidence now that we can handle ourselves, and our problems on our own, and help our people, towns, and villages."

These men won't have powerful hydraulic machinery to aid them. They were trained with simple tools, the old fashioned methods powered completely by the men themselves. It takes a greater physical toll but they are completely capable. They spent an entire day just learning how to pry the doors off of a wrecked vehicle while being careful not to hurt anyone inside. They also learned how to treat severe wounds, apply tourniquets and administer CPR to casualties. 

Essentially, the training exists to build a fire fighting team. But the training goes beyond just fire emergencies. Rashid says his team knows how important the first aid training is and is glad they will be able to apply it in any situation where it's necessary.

"It's satisfying to know when these guys leave here and go back to their villages, they're taking with them the knowledge and skills to keep their villagers safe," says Palacios. "I look forward to graduating the next team of firefighters."

Filed under: Strykers,

April 5, 2010 at 7:29am

A first for the 17th Fires' 308th

With the passing of the guidon, 1st Sgt. Valanteen Skilang accepts the full responsibilities inherent in her role as Alpha Company, 308th Brigade Support Battalion's first sergeant.

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE BASRA, Iraq - The 308th Brigade Support Battalion, 17th Fires Brigade, in concert with Women's History Month, conducted the first ever female-to-female change of responsibility in the history of the 308th BSB March 10 on COB Basra. 

The historic ceremony marked the official transfer of Alpha Company first sergeant responsibility between the outgoing first sergeant, Jillana Malachi, and incoming first sergeant, Valanteen Skilang. 

"First Sgt. Malachi's tremendous impact during her 18 month tenure with Alpha Company is a significant reason why we were so successful back at Fort Lewis and have continued that success here on COB Basrah," said Capt. John Roy, A Co, 308th BSB, 17th FiB company commander.

"I've enjoyed watching you grow as individuals and as a team," Malachi said. 

"I wish you all the best in life and I appreciate all the support you have given me and this command over the last 18 months," added the Sacramento, Calif., native.

Up next for Malachi is a year of study at the U.S. Army Sergeants' Major Academy in preparation for an eventual assignment as a sergeant major, the highest onlisted rank possible for Soldiers in the U.S. Army.

As ceremonial guest speaker, 308th BSB Command Sgt. Maj. Wendell Jordan commented on the history of the unit as well as the significance of the event. 

"Numerous historic battlefield events are embedded within the history of the storied 17th Fires Brigade and its subordinate units," Jordan said. 

"The change of responsibility between two hard-charging female first sergeants during combat operations is a momentous achievement for women in the Thunderbolt Brigade. This represents the tremendous achievements that women have made in our Army and society in general," he added.

The 308th BSB served in multiple European campaigns during World War II but at that time, female soldiers weren't allowed to serve in combat organizations. 

Due to the pioneering efforts of all women and specifically those serving in the United States Military, the sight of women in critical leadership roles in Iraq has become commonplace.    

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