Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

Posts made in: July, 2011 (90) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 90

July 1, 2011 at 5:46am

191st Inf. Bde. welcomes new commander

Photo by Sgt. Stephanie Bacon Col. Shawn Reed (left) receives the brigade colors from Maj. Gen. Charles Anderson, commander of Division West, First Army, in the change of command ceremony for the 191st Inf. Bde., First Army Division West, at JBLM June

Colonel Shawn E. Reed assumed command of the 191st Infantry Brigade, First Army Division West, from Col. J. Gordie Flowers in a ceremony June 24 at Watkins Field, Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

"My wife, Mary, and I are both personally and professionally proud to be a part of the great team of the 191st, Division West, First Army and Joint Base Lewis-McChord," Reed said. "We look forward to contributing to this team in achieving our mission."

Flowers took command of the brigade in July 2009. On his watch, the 191st has trained 109 units totaling more than 11,700 U.S. servicemembers from the Army, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard, both active and Reserve components. He is moving on to serve as the G-3 of I Corps.

Reed comes to the 191st following a year at the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pa., though he is no stranger to JBLM or Stryker units.

Reed was assigned at Fort Lewis from 2001 to 2003 with the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, serving as the operations officer first for 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, then for the Lancer Brigade.

"These training support brigades, like the 191st, are professional training teams," said Reed of his new command, "and are absolutely critical for the preparedness of our Reserve components and the defense of our nation."

July 1, 2011 at 5:49am

JBLM Engineers ready for deployment

More than 600 Soldiers from the 14th Engineer Battalion, 555th Engineer Brigade, nicknamed the "Rugged Battalion," took part in a casing ceremony June 23 as the unit prepared to deploy to Afghanistan.

This deployment, the unit's first to Afghanistan, comes nearly two years after its last return.

In the interim the Soldiers focused on the fundamentals of soldiering - and the effort has paid off.

"Ruggeds, you guys look awesome," their commander, Lt. Col. John Buck, told them before doing a final inspection.

"Together we've worked very hard to get here today," he said.

The two-year gap between deployments came after three back-to-back tours of Iraq. Now the 14th Engr. Bn.'s primary mission will be route clearance, which they started preparing for about 15 months ago.

"The training has been immense," Buck said.

The Soldiers have done three rotations at Yakima Training Center, and experienced every imaginable form of weather along the way. More than 400 have been sent to the Route Reconnaissance and Clearance Operator's Course at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and several mobile training teams came to Joint Base Lewis- McChord.

Throughout their preparations, all the Soldiers kept in mind the support they received, both from the community at JBLM and from their Families.

"You single-handedly keep the home fires burning," Buck said.

For Sina Holmesbrown, that can be tough to do. Originally from Germany, navigating a new country during her husband Staff Sgt. Ray Holmesbrown's first deployment was tough.

Now she knows to talk about finances in advance and plan visits with Family while he's away - but some things never get easier.

"I hope to talk to him as often as possible," she said.

Buck appreciates the differences in communication from when he came into the Army in 1992.

"You're literally on the other side of the world, but it is amazing how Soldiers and Families can stay connected," he said.

As for Ray Holmesbrown, he's been preparing by reading about other people's experiences in Afghanistan and focusing on training. In the end, though, the goal is clear.

"Just get down there and bring everyone back in one piece," he said.

July 1, 2011 at 5:57am

British troops home after I Corps exercise

One hundred multinational personnel from Innsworth based Headquarters Allied Rapid Reaction Corps returned home to the United Kingdom this week after taking part in the three-week combined Exercise Unified Endeavor.

The purpose of the exercise, hosted by the I Corps at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, was preparation for participation in the NATO-led International Security and Assistance Force operations in Afghanistan.

I Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Mike Scaparrotti said, "Unified Endeavor is the capstone exercise that will prepare us for our deployment to Afghanistan. It provides us with an oustanding opportunity to build and train our team."

Two thousand personnel from 21 allied nations participated in the exercise, which linked by sattelite communications five separate locations from the East Coast of the U.S. across 10 time zones and 5,000 miles - as far afield as Poland.

The ARRC personnel will depart for Afghanistan soon to take over from their colleagues who will be returning after six months.

I Corps was officially created Jan. 15, 1918, and its divisions were the first units of the U.S. Expeditionary Force to land in France. In July 1918 it participated in the key offensive on the Aisne, which subsequently led to the final victory in the Great War.

I Corps also participated alongside British and Commonwealth forces in New Guinea in 1942 and during the Korean War, so is no stranger to the British Army.

July 1, 2011 at 6:33am

Monument on JBLM turns 170

There will be a commemoration ceremony Tuesday at 2 p.m. on Joint Base Lewis-McChord Lewis North by Lake Sequalitchew at the monument marking the site where, on July 5, 1841, Capt. Charles Wilkes, U.S.N. celebrated the first Independence Day West of the Missouri River. Wilkes was surveying and charting the lower Puget Sound for the U.S. government. To attend the ceremony, enter Lewis North on 41st Division Drive, turn left at the first light onto San Francisco Ave. and right on Vancouver Road. The monument will be on your left. This event is sponsored by the Mary Ball Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution.

July 1, 2011 at 6:36am

Freedom Fest rugby with SF

The 1st Special Forces Group will host rugby matches in conjunction with Freedom Fest July 4 on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, with 16 teams competing for the "Commanders (Rugby) Cup."

Matches begin at 9:30 a.m. on Watkins Field with a beer tent scheduled to open at 10 a.m. For information, call Nick Punimata at 222-1178 or 978-8988.

July 1, 2011 at 6:40am

New campaign star approved for Afghanistan


The Pentagon has authorized additional campaign stars for troops who have deployed recently to Afghanistan.

Troops can wear a bronze campaign star on their campaign medals for each phase of the war they were involved in, and the Pentagon has added a fourth phase to the war, which began on Dec. 1, 2009.

The updated campaign phases for Afghanistan are:


July 1, 2011 at 6:55am

Senate Vote Could Gut Commissary Benefits


The Sen­ate Vet­er­ans Affairs Com­mit­tee voted to pro­vide VA health care to vet­er­ans and their fam­i­lies who served on Camp Leje­une dur­ing the years when the water was contaminated. They voted to fund this ini­tia­tive by con­sol­i­dat­ing the exchange and com­mis­sary sys­tems into a sin­gle store sys­tem, which the CBO claims could save approx­i­mately $9 bil­lion over the next 10 years. Crit­ics con­tend that con­sol­i­dat­ing the two sys­tems will, in effect, gut the com­mis­sary ben­e­fit. 

As Amy Bushatz keenly points out in Spouse Buzz, "a vote in a Sen­ate com­mit­tee does not a law make." This must still make it through the Sen­ate and House.


July 3, 2011 at 5:45am

Afghan war’s toll on U.S. forces hasn’t eased


KABUL, Afghanistan - Despite U.S. reports of progress on the battlefield, American troops were killed in the first half of this year at the same pace as in 2010 - an indication that the war's toll on U.S. forces has not eased as the Obama administration moves to shift the burden to the Afghans.

While the overall international death toll dropped by 14 percent in the first half of the year, the number of Americans who died remained virtually unchanged, 197 this year compared with 195 in the first six months of last year, according to a tally by The Associated Press.

Americans have been involved in some of the fiercest fighting as the U.S. administration sent more than 30,000 extra troops in a bid to pacify areas in the Taliban's southern heartland and other dangerous areas. U.S. military officials have predicted more tough fighting through the summer as the Taliban try to regain territory they have lost.


July 3, 2011 at 6:55am

The Chairman's 4th of July Message

This Independence Day we celebrate our Nation's 235th birthday. As we enjoy all the traditions and pleasures this singularly American holiday has to offer, I also ask that we take a moment to remember those who have done so much to secure and safeguard our independence throughout our history.

Today, more than 200,000 Americans in uniform are deployed in harm's way, protecting us. Their steadfast service reminds us that defending our Nation is not a "sometimes" thing, but a pursuit that requires persistent and disciplined commitment each day, every day. I remain profoundly grateful for the gifts of their service in far off, distant places and the sacrifice of the families who faithfully wait for their return.

During this decade of war, we have been reminded of another way we keep America's promise to those who protect it -- the care and support of our wounded warriors, their families, and the families of our fallen and missing in action. For many, their healing from wounds, both seen and unseen, will last a lifetime, and so must our commitment to them.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who shepherded our Nation through the Great Depression and World War Two, once said, "In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved." Today, we honor everything that Americans have done to earn and achieve that freedom.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff, their families, and Deborah and I wish every citizen a happy and safe Fourth of July. Happy Birthday America!

July 4, 2011 at 5:38am

DoD grooms new commanders for disaster response


PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. - The Defense Department is grooming a new type of commander to coordinate the military response to domestic disasters, hoping to save lives by avoiding some of the chaos that plagued the Hurricane Katrina rescue effort.

The officers, called dual-status commanders, would be able to lead both active-duty and National Guard troops - a power that requires special training and authority because of legal restrictions on the use of the armed forces on U.S. soil.

No one commander had that authority in the aftermath of Katrina, and military and civilian experts say the lack of coordination contributed to the nightmarish delays, duplications and gaps in the huge rescue effort.

"It was just like a solid wall was between the two entities," said Georgia National Guard Col. Michael Scholes, who was part of the Katrina response.


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