Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

Posts made in: June, 2011 (141) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 141

June 2, 2011 at 8:06pm

Steel Rain Soldiers depart for Iraq

Photo by Ingrid Barrentine Tatiyana Melrose, 7, hugs her father, Spc. Daniel Smith following a ceremony May 26 for 81 Soldiers with A Btry., 1-94 FA, 17th Fires Bde. deploying to Iraq.

The Soldiers of A Battery, 1st Battalion, 94th Field Artillery, 17th Fires Brigade became the first of the battalion to deploy last week, after a May 26 ceremony.

The unit left for northern Iraq after only 89 training days to reorganize from a two platoon High Mobility Artillery Rocket System firing battery to a three-platoon organization capable of conducting security operations with Iraqi forces.

A Battery had previously been preparing for a mission as a Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System unit.

"The road that this unit has traveled over these last months to achieve this capability has tested their agility, adaptability and resiliency," Commander Lt. Col. Patrick Quinn said.

In its brief training period the 81 Steel Rain Soldiers were continually recognized for their above-and-beyond performance, Quinn said. At the deployment ceremony 87 training days later, he was completely confident of their abilities.

"Standing before you is a formation of highly motivated, well-trained Soldiers that each embody the warrior ethos, and are technically and tactically proficient in their warrior tasks and battle drills," Quinn said.

Another person confident in the unit's abilities was 1st Sgt. Cesar Zertuche, 17th Fires Bde. His son, Pfc. Cesar Zertuche, Jr. will be deploying with A Battery.

"I think he's going to do real well," Zertuche said of his son's first deployment. "He's really confident of himself."

Cesar Jr. said the reorganization was tough, but now the new Soldiers are a seamless part of the unit. And while his dad's still got a few concerns, he knows his son has all the training he needs.

"He's got a good head on his shoulders," he said.

In the end, the Soldiers lived up to the 1-94th's motto - flexible.

"It really took a lot of flexible leadership within the organization ... They took it all in stride," Quinn said.

Another 200 1-94 FA Soldiers are expected to deploy by the end of this month, either as HIMARS units or to train the Jordanian army.

June 2, 2011 at 8:18pm

Leaders reconfirm covenant at CDC opening

Photo by Ingrid Barrentine Monique Marshall, a child and youth program assistant at the North Fort Youth Center CDC annex, reads to a group of prekindergartners.

The Army and Air Force at Joint Base Lewis-McChord reaffirmed their commitment to military families by re-signing the Armed Forces Covenant May 23. Demonstrating that commitment, the new (Lewis) North Fort Youth Center Child Development Center annex officially opened the same day.

"This again is just another one of the examples of what the Army commitment is to providing for our servicemembers and their families," Joint Base Lewis-McChord Garrison Commander Col. Thomas H. Brittain said at the ribbon cutting.

The annex, which had been in use for about a week before the ceremony, will provide more space for children as Lewis North expands.

The space has four new modules, and will provide 80 to 100 additional spaces for preschoolers, the group with the largest waiting list on base.

"They asked, we gave it," Child, Youth and School Services Coordinator Bea Curl said.

So far the space is working out well.

"It's really great to have such an open and bright center," module supervisor Tammy Grice said.

Grice is enjoying the bigger windows and open spaces, and noted that the facility really is new and improved from the old one.

Children from Clarkmoor CDC will be moved to the new center while their building undergoes renovations.

Since 2007, the AFC has lead to renovations and new construction of CDCs, homes and other facilities and installations.

62nd Airlift Wing Commander Air Force Col. Kevin J. Kilb praised the teamwork between the Army and the Air Force re-signing the covenant represented.

"Sometimes it's a knife fight, but never amongst each other," Kilb said.

"(The covenant is) the very best of what we're doing here," he said.

Instead, the teams are fighting those who don't understand what they're trying to build.

June 2, 2011 at 8:22pm

CSM Troxell's new program tests resiliency

Photo by Sgt. Bryce S. Dubee 1st Lt. Josh Pugh completes part of the Physically, Mentally, Emotionally Hard Gauntlet, also known as PME Hard Gauntlet.

It was both an introduction and a reunion for members of the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division during a recent physical training session.

Members of the brigade's 2nd Squadron, 1st Calvary Regiment participated in an hourlong session of Physically, Mentally and Emotionally Hard, or "PME Hard," a workout program created by the brigade's former command sergeant major and now I Corps senior enlisted Soldier, Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell.

Designed by Troxell during 4th Bde., 2nd Inf. Div.'s 2007 deployment to Iraq, and borrowing exercises from various sports including football and mixed martial arts, the aim of the program is to create what he calls "tactical athletes."

A grueling gauntlet of 30 exercises including tire flips, parachute sprints and individual relays with a 200-pound log, the focus of PME Hard is exactly what its name implies: building physical, mental and emotional resiliency in the Soldier.

"It's a proactive program," said Lt. Col. Charles Lombardo, commander of 2-1 Cav., who had brought 20 of his unit's platoon lieutenants and several NCOs out with him to participate in the workout. "If we get guys physically fit, it bleeds over into everything."

Both he and Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Griffin, the command sergeant major for 2-1 Cav., have known Troxell for several years and are advocates of his program.

"If you come down to 2-1 (Cav.), you'll see we have a lot of this (equipment) down there," Griffin said, adding that it's not about being able to tackle just one event, as the prolonged workout makes every event just as physically demanding.

Lombardo said the reason he brought his platoon lieutenants out was to show them the entire "holistic" concept that is PME Hard, something they could take back to their units.

A large part of what makes PME Hard work is its mental elements. The sheer intensity of the workout, switching from exercise to exercise, with little break in between, builds the Soldier's ability to look past the immediate discomfort of the workout and push through.

This becomes key later on during a deployment, Troxell said, when Soldiers find themselves lugging 60 to 80 pounds of gear over several miles, scaling walls and hills along the way.

"(A Soldier) will be able to say, ‘OK, that hurt - but I'm OK,'" he said.

As the workout came to a close, few showed signs of slowing down, although understandably logs weren't heaved up as quick, or tires thrown as high as they were earlier in the morning.

Despite their fatigue, the Soldiers gathered afterward smiling, each sharing with each other what they thought the toughest event was.

"This thing's no joke," laughed one.

"It's doable," said another. "But if we had to do it twice..."

For more information on PME Hard go online to

June 2, 2011 at 8:25pm

BSB Soldiers complete PSD orientation course

Photo by Capt. Juan Lopez PSD Soldiers prepare to recover an overturned vehicle in one of the recovery scenarios May 27 on JBLM.

Eighteen Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Support Battalion took on the challenge and became the Personal Security Detachment upon their graduation of the orientation course May 20 at Mustang Field, Joint Base Lewis-McChord Lewis North.

The Soldiers were hand-picked from the BSB's five companies. This course tested their ability to secure convoy equipment and personnel by rigorous mental and physical assessments.

The Soldiers were tested in their physical abilities, obstacle course, marksmanship, recovery and extraction operations, communications, casualty care, and culminated with a 12-mile road march while carrying their battle equipment. During the graduation ceremony, Lt. Col. David Chipchase, commander of the 2nd BSB, spoke about what it means to be a PSD Soldier.

"That Soldier is a leader, that Soldier is a fighter, that Soldier is a protector, that Soldier can accomplish any task, any challenge, nothing is too difficult," he said.

The mission of the PSD is to provide security for the command team while they travel from one forward operating base to another as well as safeguard the BSB's equipment during movement. The six-day long training was necessary to refine the PSD Soldiers' warrior skills from land navigation to marksmanship.

"This is a great program that will benefit the battalion during the deployment," said Sgt. 1st Class Adrian Cisneros, NCO in charge of the training.

The training also provides the opportunity for the Soldiers to get recognized by the battalion command team as effective warriors and protectors who will not fail them when the time comes to take action. Some of the PSD Soldiers were further recognized by the battalion command team for their outstanding performance during the training event. Specialist Kirby Yazzie from C Company received an Army Achievement Medal for his accomplishment in becoming the PSD Distinguished Graduate; Spc. Victor Basilio from Headquarters Company was recognized as the honor graduate with a battalion coin. Specialist Brandon Calkins from B Company came in third place.

The top three Soldiers also received the coveted battalion knife and a set of tactical gloves. Other Soldiers also recognized included Sgt. Robert Robbie from HHC who shot expert even under stressful scenarios, Spc. Curtis Suafoa from C Company who mastered the day and night land navigation courses, and Spc. Kelsey Rodgers also from C Company who became the only female to successfully complete the course.

Upon completion of the graduation ceremony, Chipchase said, "Command Sgt. Maj. Nemec and I will rest easy knowing that the PSD has the mission."

June 3, 2011 at 5:59am

Afghanistan commander wraps up Wash. state trip


JOINT BASE LEWIS McCHORD, Wash. - The U.S. commander in charge of day-to-day operations in Afghanistan wrapped up a three-day visit to Joint Base Lewis-McChord on Thursday, telling the man who's about to replace him that building upon improvements in Afghan security forces is key to a successful thinning and ultimate withdrawal of American troops.

Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez has been working with the top soldier at Lewis-McChord, Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, to ensure a smooth transition as Scaparrotti takes the helm of the NATO's International Security Assistance Force Joint Command, reporting to the top U.S. commander, Gen. David Petraeus, this summer.

Rodriguez and Scaparrotti sat down Thursday afternoon for an interview with reporters from The Associated Press, The Seattle Times and The News Tribune of Tacoma. Rodriguez said that as U.S. troops prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan between this July and 2014, they can expect more attacks targeting Afghan political leaders from insurgents seeking to destabilize the country. But Rodriguez and Scaparrotti said Afghan forces are becoming more capable of responding to and preventing such attacks, and despite assassinations that have claimed a number of political leaders, a new crop of civic-minded Afghans is stepping forward.


June 3, 2011 at 6:16am

New show wants to unite families of Servicemembers

Have you and a relative been torn apart by a long-standing rift?

Have you gone years without speaking?

Is a life-changing event or circumstance (deployment, pregnancy, wedding, illness, etc.) now shining a light on the void it's left in your family?

Are you finally ready to take the first step toward healing your broken relationship?

Breakthrough Entertainment is currently casting a brand new series for a Major International Women's Network. "Mending Fences" is a compelling one-hour documentary-style series that will be dedicated to working one-on-one with family members who desperately want to repair their broken relationships. An estrangement can have a devastating impact on a family, but it's never too late to step forward and extend an olive branch. On this series, family members will work with  Janet Morrison , a well-respected and dedicated Family Mediator, who will be there to lend support, encourage honest conversation and ultimately, give family members the chance to reconcile and start again.

If you live anywhere within a two-hour flight of Toronto and want to learn more about this exciting opportunity, we want to hear from you! Please include a description of yourself, the family member with whom you're feuding and the issues plaguing your relationship, along with a recent photo. This is a five-day (non-consecutive) filming commitment and participants must be willing to travel and share their stories on television. Each participant will receive a  $3500 financial honorarium as a "thank you" for their time and commitment.

We look forward to hearing from YOU! 
Danielle Gervais 
Casting Director, Breakthrough Entertainment
Ph. 646.678.4999

June 3, 2011 at 6:19am

VA expands TSGLI payment eligibility for injured

Servicemembers previously ineligible to receive insurance payments for injuries they received outside of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom will soon have the opportunity to submit claims for Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Protection Program.

Effective Oct.1, 2011, servicemembers outside a combat zone who suffered a qualifying injury -- such as loss of a limb or an eye for example -- may be entitled to $25,000 up to a $100,000 maximum total for all qualifying injuries received between Oct. 7, 2001, and Nov. 30, 2005, regardless of where the injury occurred.

Previously, only servicemembers who had been injured while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan between those dates were entitled to the TSGLI injury benefit, which was added to the SGLI death benefit policy on Dec. 1, 2005, but made retroactive to Oct. 7, 2001. Servicemembers did not need to have SGLI coverage during this retroactive period in order to be eligible for TSGLI. Servicemembers who had SGLI as of Dec. 1, 2005, were automatically enrolled in TSGLI.

"The Veterans Administration is charged by law with managing the insurance program," said Stephen Wurtz, VA deputy assistant director for insurance. "In 1965 the VA bought a group policy from a commercial insurance company and that company does the day-to-day functions of the programs, whether it's paying claims or collecting premiums."

Wurtz added that the VA and service branches are notifying individuals who had been turned down due to the previous requirement that the injury must have taken place in theater. He noted that current servicemembers and veterans who suffered qualifying injuries between Oct. 7, 2001, and Nov. 30, 2005, should be proactive in filing claims beginning Oct. 1, 2011.

"We'll work hard to get the word out and to locate as many individuals as possible and to work with the branches of service in collecting the information they'll need, such as the medical evidence to document their claims," Wurtz said, adding that the TSGLI benefit in no way affects VA benefits.

If the individual service determines the injury meets the criteria, it then determines the amount of payment. The service next sends the decision to the insurance company, which will generate payment.

If the service determines the injury doesn't meet the criteria, the service will notify the insurance company, which will in turn send a letter to the claimant informing them they are not eligible to receive payment and the reason for that decision.

Congress and the president mandated the change to TSGLI through passage of the Veterans' Benefits Act of 2010. TSGLI coverage includes all servicemembers, active-duty, as well as inactive Reserve and Guard, regardless of where they were at the time their injury occurred. While SGLI may be carried by veterans for 120 days after discharge (or two years if totally disabled), the TSGLI policy does not transfer once a servicemember has left active service.

More than $550 million in TSGLI benefits has been paid since the program was initiated in 2005. TSGLI covers a wide range of injuries and losses, including amputations, limb salvage, paralysis, burns, loss of sight, hearing or speech, facial reconstruction and also provides benefits for a servicemember's inability to perform daily living activities due to traumatic brain injury or other traumatic injuries.

For more information on TSGLI and a complete list of qualifying losses, visit the VA website at:

June 3, 2011 at 7:45am

A special place for last words: 23rd Chem's Battalion run one CSM’s final JBLM hurrah

Command Sgt. Maj. Kenneth Graham (left) - now the former command sergeant major of the 23rd Chemical Battalion - looks on with a smile as Lt. Col. Sean Kirschner, the battalion's commander, officially welcomes the battalion's new senior enlisted leader, Command Sgt. Maj. Denise Jackson, during a change of responsibility ceremony at Wilson Gym on North Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., June 1. Graham, who moves on to lead the Fort Hood, Texas-based 48th Chemical Battalion in late June, said he'll greatly miss both his soldiers and the Pacific Northwest.    

June 3, 2011 at 7:47am

Joint Base Lewis-McChord Alcohol Treatment Program Breaks Barriers

Tyler Huber's motorcycle after he collided with a car. 24-year-old Huber was stationed at Joint Base Lewis??"McChord. Huber was killed. The driver of the vehicle suffered minor injuries. Photo courtesy Washington State Patrol.


Alcohol abuse is a significant problem for the Military. Heavy drinking effects troop readiness. It's often intertwined with mental health issues like depression and Post Traumatic Stress. In fact, almost 30 percent of the Army's suicide deaths between 2003 and 2009 involved alcohol or drugs.

Yet Army research shows that many soldiers are reluctant to seek help on their own because it involves notifying unit command. In response, the Army has been testing out new ways to reach out to soldiers in need of help by offering a confidential treatment option. KUOW's Patricia Murphy follows up on the results of the Confidential Alcohol Treatment Education Pilot.


June 3, 2011 at 8:31am

Spouses showing their wares today

FROM 2-23 INF ...

Several talented women in 2-23 IN are hosting a free open house tomorrow from 3:00pm - 6:00pm at Eagleview Community Center on North Fort Lewis! Various vendors will be showing off products from AVON, Mary Kay, Thirty-One, Pampered Chef, Party Lite, and their own handmade items! Join them for some delicious appetizers and refreshments, including coffee and wine, while you shop. No better way to celebrate Friday!    

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