Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

Posts made in: May, 2011 (78) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 78

May 1, 2011 at 8:04am

Wounded JBLM spc. finds ‘Plan B’ shadowing civilians


JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. - Spc. Dan Biskey lost his Plan A when a mine exploded beneath his left foot in Afghanistan a year and a half ago. Those wounds cost him part of his leg and ensured he wouldn't be able to spend a full 20-year career serving in the infantry.

Now the 27-year-old soldier from Gig Harbor is on to Plans B, C and D while he awaits a medical retirement from Joint Base Lewis-McChord's Warrior Transition Battalion.

He's among the first "wounded warriors" taking advantage of opportunities to shadow civilian workers in Pierce County's Department of Emergency Management. Biskey puts in his hours a couple days a week with the county's radio communications team, learning how to install and maintain equipment for law enforcement officers.

click here for more

May 1, 2011 at 8:09pm

Bin Laden killed

Osama Bin Laden has been killed.  Follow the story at CNN.

May 2, 2011 at 7:45am

A HUGE list of military health links

Thanks to AUSA's Family Programs, we provide the following health related links for our military readers:

DCoE Releases New Children of Military Service Members Resource Guide

Deployment not only affects our military service members individually, but also has a significant impact on their families, especially the children. From toddlers to teenagers, children may face difficult separations, strong emotions, and recognize changes in parent’s behavior once the deployed family member returns.  IThe guide was developed in support of The Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) mission to identify and promote effective instructional material for wounded warriors, families, and health care providers.  Children of Military Service Members Resource Guide is an online resource to assist families and health care providers address the mental and emotional health needs of military children. The guide is available through AUSA’s Family Programs Resource listings at:  To read this article in full, please go to:

TRICARE Online Improves Health Data Access

New TRICARE Online features give users access to expanded personal health data, including lab results, patient history and diagnoses, and provider visits.  The military health plan’s new online features expand the website’s “Blue Button” capability, which already allowed beneficiaries to safely and securely access and print or save their demographic information, allergy and medication profiles.  The Blue Button was fielded by TRICARE and was made generally available by other federal health care providers last year.  With more than 250,000 users, it is the result of a close interagency partnership among the Defense and Veterans Affairs Departments and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  TRICARE Online is the Military Health System’s Internet point of entry, giving the health plan’s 9.6 million beneficiaries access to available health care services and information through a secure portal.  To learn more, please go to:

National Center for PTSD Mobile App: PTSD Coach

The PTSD Coach mobile app can help you learn about and manage symptoms that commonly occur after trauma.  Together with professional medical treatment, PTSD Coach provides you dependable resources which you can trust.  If you have, or think you might have PTSD, this app could benefit you as well as your family and friends.  PTSD Coach was created by the Veterans Affairs (VA) National Center for PTSD and the Department of Defense (DoD) National Center for Telehealth and Technology.  To learn more, please go to:

Army Telebehavioral Project Broadens Access to Mental Health Care

A pilot regarding a telebehavioral mental health project which the Army is running in Afghanistan has widened access to treatment, with both patients and providers reporting satisfaction with the system.  The mental health counselors, psychiatrists and psychologists participating in the pilot project expressed overall satisfaction with the system, though they would have been more comfortable if the patient were in the same room, and only five of 23 Soldiers surveyed said they had difficulty understanding providers in the remote sessions.  In many ways, the Army’s experience thus far with the Afghanistan project resembles the results of a three-year program run by Peter Tuerk, a psychologist at the Charleston, S.C., VA Medical Center, who has used videoconferencing systems to conduct prolonged exposure therapy sessions with veterans who cannot make it to the hospital for face-to-face counseling.  To read this article in full, please go to:

Vets Substance Abuse, Mental Illness Link

As many as one-third of U.S. military veterans who suffer from mental health disorders also have substance abuse disorders.  A total of 1,001,996 VA patients were diagnosed with one of the six designated mental disorders.  A study published in The American Journal on Addictions, found rates of substance abuse disorders among those with mental illness ranged from 21 percent to 35 percent.  The discovery of high rates of substance abuse disorders were among veterans with mental illness with the highest rates occurring with those with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.  To read this article in full, please go to:

VA to Rename Suicide Hotline

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will soon launch a new suicide prevention campaign entitled the "It's Your Call" campaign which revolves around the National Veterans Suicide Prevention Hotline (800-273-8255, press 1). This hotline will now be called the Veterans Crisis Line and will still be available 24 hours a day and seven days a week. The Veterans Crisis Line has answered more than 390,000 calls and has made more than 13,000 life-saving rescues since its inception. For more information, visit the VA website at:

Madigan's Puyallup Clinic Opens

Active duty family members stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord has expanded access to health care with the opening of an Army community-based, primary care clinic in Puyallup on April 25.  The Madigan-Puyallup Community Medical Home is one of two in which the Army is opening in the local area; a second clinic will open in Olympia around October.  The clinics will be in leased spaces, staffed with civilian employees, and at capacity, each clinic is expected to each provide patient-centered care to more than 8,000 active duty family members.  To read this article in full, please go to:

Feeding May Help Brain Injuries

According to a report by the Institute of Medicine, military personnel who suffer traumatic brain injury (TBI) need to be fed adequately and immediately to reduce the severity of trauma and improve their chance of survival, a finding that also suggests the same for those who sustain head injuries in other situations, such as sports and traffic accidents.  The report, commissioned by the U.S. Defense Department (DoD) and released on 20 April, recommends that in the first 24 hours after head trauma, patients need to receive at least 50% of their typical calorie intake, including a higher-than-normal amount of protein, in order to reduce inflammation and swelling of the brain and to provide enough energy to help the brain repair itself, and an intensive nutrition schedule should be continued for at least two weeks.  To read this article in its entirety, please go to:

Louisiana Doctor Describes Clusters of Ailments Among Gulf Residents

The April 20, 2010 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon led to the worst oil spill in U.S. history, with more than 200 million gallons of oil released into the Gulf.  Hundreds of thousands of gallons of chemical dispersant went into the water as well.  At the peak of the crisis, in June 2010, 37% of Gulf waters were closed to fishing.  Some Gulf Coast residents and former clean-up workers are suffering from an array of mysterious illnesses, according to a Louisiana physician who has treated dozens of patients complaining of similar symptoms.  This doctor said he has treated about 60 patients suffering from a combination of these symptoms but believes many more are suffering.  To read this article in full, please go to:

Little-Known Benefit Can Give Veterans a Late-in-Life Boost

A need-based, tax-free pension, Aid and Attendance (A&A) supports wartime veterans and their spouses who cannot pay for non-service-related medical needs.  Veterans with service-connected disabilities are able to get compensation through a separate program operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  About 182,000 veterans and their spouses take advantage of the A&A benefit, which has been around since World War I, but VA officials say that many more are eligible.  Beneficiaries must be at least 65 years old and be veterans or married to veterans who served during a wartime period.  A&A applicants must mail the forms, copies of service records, marriage certificates, proof of insurance and medical records to the regional VA office.  Prospective applicants can get information from veterans’ organizations such as the American Legion or they can call the VA at 800.827.1000.  To learn more, please go to the following link:

New 'Atomic Veterans' Website

Atomic Veterans are troops who were stationed as ground troops or POWs near the detonation sites in Hiroshima and Nagasaki or participants in above ground nuclear tests conducted from 1945 to 1962 in the Pacific Ocean and southwest U.S.  Some conditions (mostly cancers) are considered "presumptive conditions" for Atomic Veterans. The VA is encouraging all Atomic Veterans to visit the new website for the Veterans' Advisory Board on Dose Reconstruction (VBDR) found at: . Also, the VA offers an evaluation, known as the Ionizing Radiation Registry (IRR), free-of-charge to all eligible "Atomic Veterans." Information is available on the VA's Radiation page if you click:

National Resource Directory's New Mobile Version

Wounded warriors, Veterans, their families and caregivers can now access information from the National Resource Directory (NRD) whenever and wherever they want it through the site’s new mobile version, which is accessible through any Internet-connected handheld mobile device to include smartphones. To use the National Resource Directory mobile version, just enter into the browser of any mobile device.  Key features of the NRD mobile version include the ability to search by subject, state or territory; immediate access to news and helplines; and the ability to interact through social media like Facebook. It will also provide tips for writing a resume, techniques to prepare for job interviews, information on Veterans’ benefits and compensation and family caregiver support, as well as a host of other resources covering health care, education benefits and help with housing.  To learn more about the National Resource Directory, please go to:  For the new mobile version of the NRD, please go to:

Bush Hosting Bike Ride For Wounded Warriors

Former President George W. Bush will host and join 14 people who were wounded while serving in the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan on a three-day mountain bike ride next week in the Big Bend region of West Texas.  Bush is hosting the Warrior 100, a 100-kilometer (62 miles) ride which is part of an initiative of his presidential center to highlight the work of those helping others. Several organizations that support wounded military members and their families will be represented on the ride, which begans April 25.  The George W. Bush Presidential Center is being built on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and is expected to be completed in 2013.  To learn more about this event or The George W. Bush Presidential Center, please go to:

Health Net Federal Services Proudly Supports "Joining Forces" for Our Nation's Military Families

Health Net Federal Services, LLC (HNFS), part of the Government Contracts’ segment of Health Net, Inc. recognizes first lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of the Vice President, on the recently announced White House initiative entitled “Joining Forces.” Joining Forces will advocate for and encourage appreciation for  the extraordinary stress endured by families of active-duty military, veterans and reservists by calling on our nation’s businesses, charitable groups and communities to lend their assistance.  To read more about this initiative, please go to:

May 2, 2011 at 11:36am

Capturing blue birds on JBLM Wednesday

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - JBLM wildlife folks will conduct an early-morning capture of Western Bluebirds at Joint Base Lewis-McChord Wednesday, May 4, beginning at 7:30 a.m.

This is the 5th and final year of the JBLM Directorate of Public Works- Environmental Division's partnership with the American Bird Conservancy (ABC), Ecostudies Institute (EI), and other partners to return western bluebirds to the San Juan Island via the deliberate capture and release of mating pairs.

The San Juan Island Western Bluebird Reintroduction Project is one of a series of efforts to restore western bluebird populations throughout the Pacific Northwest. Loss of suitable nesting cavities is believed to be responsible for much of the decline, but nest boxes have helped to successfully re-establish the birds in some locations, including JBLM.

Since 1980, the number of western bluebirds at the base has increased from almost none to more than 400 individual birds, due to habitat preservation and nest box programs. The current partnership was created in 2007, with the goal of establishing a nest box program on the island and re-establishing adult birds re-located from the growing bluebird population at JBLM.  

Post-release monitoring efforts at San Juan Island indicate the populations of both relocated and non-relocated birds (nestlings/fledglings born on the island, adult birds that have spontaneously re-located) are steadily increasing. When the capture-and-release program ends this year, the partners expect the population of bluebirds on the island will continue to increase with continued assistance from a managed nest box program.

May 3, 2011 at 5:43am

2-75 Ranger commander publicly recognizes rangers for valorous combat actions

Photo by Sgt. Christopher Gaylord The words of the Ranger Creed reverberate between high-rising bleachers as members of 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment on Joint Base Lewis-McChord shout each stanza April 29 at the close of an award ceremony at Stadiu

TACOMA, Wash. - With the quiet, picturesque Puget Sound as a backdrop, members of 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment were distinguished April 29 for the first time in a public setting for exceptional gallantry while engaged in recent combat operations in Afghanistan.

Lt. Col. Dave Hodne, the battalion commander, awarded two Bronze Stars for valor; 11 Army Commendation Medals for valor; four Joint Service Commendation Medals for valor; 16 Purple Hearts; five Orders of Saint Maurice; and one Order of Saint Martin on the stadium grounds at Stadium High School. Ten Rangers who couldn't be present also received awards.

The Order of Saint Maurice is special to the infantry community and recognizes individuals who, in the eyes of their senior leadership, have contributed significantly to the infantry and served it with distinction. The Order of Saint Martin singles out those who have rendered conspicuous, long-term service to the Army Quartermaster Corps.

Hodne's decision to honor his Rangers in the local community - marking the battalion's first-ever recognition ceremony outside the installation - was simple: to give the Rangers some much-needed face time with the public.

"It's too easy to do an award ceremony in the confines of the unit area in front of our families, but it's important that the community see these guys, because they give so much to their country and their nation," Hodne said. 

Hodne said there were civilians who showed up that otherwise wouldn't have been afforded the opportunity had the ceremony been held on-post.

"There were some civilians from the local community who showed up because they heard about it through word-of-mouth," he said. 

"A lot of Rangers live off post, and their neighbors don't have access to the installation, and they invited some of them out here," he added.

In the true fashion of most heroes, Sgt. 1st Class Eric Echavarria, a platoon sergeant with the battalion who was awarded the Bronze Star for valor for outstanding leadership during combat operations in Kandahar province last fall, said he did nothing more than what was expected of him.

"I don't think I was doing anything other than what I should have been doing; it was my job," said Echavarria, who was quick to assemble a landing zone for the medical evacuation of a wounded comrade and continued to lead security and litter teams to the landing zone before personally signaling the incoming evacuation helicopter, even though it exposed him for several minutes to a barrage of enemy fire. 

"I know they [other Rangers] would have done it for me just the same way," he added. "There are other guys who deserve the same recognition because they went out into that hot area just like I did, knowing the risk."

Capt. Brendan McCarthy, Echavarria's platoon leader during the operation, doesn't necessarily agree with Echavarria's modesty.

"Just because everyone here [the 2-75 Rangers] would do it doesn't mean it's not a valorous act," McCarthy said of his platoon sergeant's exceptional courage. "And everyone here would do it because everyone here would gladly put their life on the line for another Ranger."

"Any normal person probably wouldn't," he added.

McCarthy refers to the Rangers on Joint Base Lewis-McChord as a "dark matter" - something most people don't fully understand, if at all.

"Being in the Ranger Battalion, a lot of people don't really know what we do or who we are," he said.

For this reason, McCarthy says, it's good for the public to witness the unit and know of its accomplishments - its uniqueness. 

"It's nice to see the unit publicly recognized," he said, "and just being put out here on public forum, I think that's the best thing."

"For me, personally, it's not about being awarded; it's about recognizing the unit," he added, "and about showcasing ourselves and that we are something special."

As the words of the coveted Ranger Creed roared from the mouths of hundreds of combat-proven Rangers - some of the Army's most elite war fighters - echoing between a canyon of high-rising concrete bleachers, wives gazed upon beloved husbands; children upon fathers; a proud community upon a group of extraordinary soldiers that until now have been mostly a mystery.

"This is the template for the 2nd Ranger Battalion," Hodne said of the ceremony. "We're the Pacific Northwest Rangers and doing this in a venue with the Puget Sound behind us - there's nothing more fitting."

May 3, 2011 at 7:22am

Troubles (possibly) ahead for those PSCing this summer

From Army Times ...

(Don't be surprised if the movers don't show up, officials say)

Officials from the Marine Corps and other services have told Transportation Command about their dissatisfaction with several elements of the new moving system - including the claims system, described as cumbersome. TRANSCOM officials have said short-term fixes will be made in time for late-summer claims filing, and they are working on long-term solutions to address all the system's weaknesses.

Those expected to move between May 15 and Sept. 30 should plan ahead, and are advised to attend a command-sponsored permanent change-of-station workshop; log on to or contact their local personal property office (or transportation office) to arrange the move; and consult the local personal property office for additional help when necessary.

See the entire story HERE

May 3, 2011 at 7:26am

Obama wants to wait on lifting DADT

From Stars & Stripes

The Obama administration wants a federal appeals court to maintain the ban on openly gay servicemembers until the Pentagon is ready for them, probably by the end of the year, and to reject a demand for an immediate halt to "don't ask, don't tell," The San Francisco Chronicle reports.

In a filing, the Justice Department asked the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to suspend legal proceedings while the government implements a federal law repealing "don't ask, don't tell," the 1993 statute barring military service by gays and lesbians who disclose their sexual orientation.

President Obama signed the repeal in December. It takes effect 60 days after he and the Pentagon certify that it will not interfere with military effectiveness or recruiting, the paper reports.

See the entire story HERE

May 3, 2011 at 7:15pm

Update on I Corps deployment this summer

From the AP

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - A Joint Base Lewis-McChord unit heading to Afghanistan this summer for a yearlong deployment will play a crucial role in beginning to draw down U.S. forces.

The Defense Department is sending the I Corps Headquarters to serve as the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command Headquarters in Kabul, in charge of day-to-day operations.

The unit has 700 soldiers and is led by Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti. The (Tacoma) News Tribune reports he'll be expected to manage the withdrawal President Obama has set to begin in July. The unit returned last year from Iraq.

see rest of story here

May 4, 2011 at 5:52am

1.6 percent pay hike for troops in House defense budget proposal

From Stars & Stripes

WASHINGTON - Troops would receive a 1.6 percent pay raise in January and Tricare fees for veterans would be held steady under a defense budget plan released by House lawmakers on Tuesday.

The pay raise is slightly above this year's 1.4 percent boost but roughly half of the typical increases servicemembers received during the last decade. If approved, the increase would mean about $40 more a month for an E-4 with six years service and about $90 for an O-4 with six years.

President Barack Obama proposed a 1.6 percent raise in his defense budget outline in February, but in past years lawmakers have offered pay hikes larger than the White House proposals. The figure is tied to the projected rate of increase in civilian pay.


May 4, 2011 at 6:50am

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