Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

Posts made in: September, 2011 (102) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 102

September 1, 2011 at 5:54am

Federal hiring rules eased for some spouses

Spouses of deceased and disabled veterans will have an easier time applying for federal jobs under a new rule that takes effect Sept. 30.

Currently, agencies can hire someone outside the normal competitive hiring process within two years of the death or disability of their military spouse.

The new rule will eliminate the two-year limit, giving spouses an unlimited amount of time to apply for jobs under the authority.

The Office of Personnel Management published the rule in the Federal Register on Wednesday.


Filed under: Get A Job Blog,

September 1, 2011 at 6:12am

Bluebirds from JBLM making new home in San Juan Islands


A five year effort to reintroduce Western bluebirds to the San Juan Islands has been successful, according to the American Bird Conservancy, a nonprofit that helped with the project. For the first time in about 40 years, bluebirds are returning to and nesting on San Juan Island.


A bluebird, being readied for transport to San Juan Island from Fort Lewis, as part of a reintroduction effort. Mike Siegel, photo

We've followed the project here at the paper for years: Read my stories in the Seattle Times, see photos of the bluebirds -- and even learn how to make a bluebird box.

Native to the San Juans, the birds had become scarce there and elsewhere in the Puget Sound region, as development took out the trees the birds used for their nest sites. Cavity nesters, they need old snags and trees in which to make their nests. But bird boxes will do and the efforts of a volunteer at Fort Lewis to put up box after box created a large enough source population of bluebirds to serve as a source of birds to relocate.


September 2, 2011 at 7:10am

Sears to reopen gift registry for troops Sat.

If you think you've applied for a holiday gift card in Sears' Heroes at Home Wish Registry, you'll have to try again. Sears officials said initial applications are being discarded after glitches arose in the online registration process Wednesday.

A new registration process will open at 2 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday. How long it will remain open is not specified - it will be on a first-come, first-served basis, and will close once the maximum of 20,000 applicants is reached. To register, visit after 2 p.m. Saturday, when Sears will post a "Registration" link on the site.

"We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused, but we want things to be fair for all families," said Sears spokesman Tom Aiello.

The glitches in the initial process prevented some people from being able to register.


September 2, 2011 at 7:16am

JBLM Soldiers to be featured in new Army reality show

A video crew shot the final scenes of a reality series recently on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

"Starting Strong," a project headed by television actor and producer Ricky Schroder, matched potential Army recruits with senior NCO mentors and two battle buddies. Each segment followed a civilian who was interested in a particular military job experience a few days-in-the-lives of those types of Soldiers.

Toward the end of each episode, each civilian "prospect" met an Army veteran to discuss how those Soldier skills translated to a civilian career. Each prospect then made the decision whether to enlist.

"It's a concept that I brought to the Army because I heard the Army was trying to come up with some concepts for ways to connect with the public, to show just how professional of an organization it is. They liked the pitch and decided to give me a shot," said Schroder, whose company Old Post Productions has shot the series on several Army installations.

Schroder's grandfathers served in the military and were his inspiration for coming up with the concept for the show. His goal is to show the Army as a significant stepping stone for life plans.

"We feature 13 Military Occupational Specialties over 14 episodes, one being a two-parter," Schroder said. "I narrate and provide voiceover. Our actual on-camera host is a Soldier, Staff Sgt. Kristen King."

The five MOSs shot at JBLM were military police, artillery forward observer, infantryman, Avenger air and missile defense crewmember and aviation crew mechanic.

"The Army picks the occupational specialties that we feature on the show and wanted to highlight (JBLM). This installation is one of the most-requested places for Soldiers to be stationed," Schroder said.

The prospects are referred from a variety of sources, including recruiters in Accessions Command. The crew found a few themselves. Once they survived a final selection process, producers matched them with mentors and battle buddies from the participating units as well as Army veterans now working in civilian jobs.

"We found a former light wheeled vehicle mechanic who is now a track mechanic on the (National Hot Rod Association) circuit," Schroder said. "We have a food service specialist who is now a top chef at a ski resort in Colorado. We featured a combat medic who transitioned to working in a hospital ER. We take the prospect into these workplaces to show him how skills Soldiers learned in the Army were used to build a career."

After his experience with infantrymen, prospective recruit Jeremy Navarette went to Chicago to meet Soldier and mixed martial arts fighter, Staff Sgt. Tim Kennedy.

Staff Sergeant Marc Yonkovich, a food service specialist stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., served as a mentor for Matthew Gates, a college student from San Diego, Calif.

"Going to the range was definitely fun, but jumping twice with the Golden Knights was unbelievable," Gates said, "something I'll never forget. I really liked talking to Soldiers, seeing them as real people with real experiences and to see for myself what Army life is like and see what misconceptions I'd had."

In the final segment of each show the prospect commits to joining the Army or decides to say "no," for now at least, to military life.

"Through the course of shooting the show, sometimes we do find that the Army isn't for everyone," King said. Initial shooting wrapped up Aug. 18, and while the crew completes its post-production work, earlier episodes will be pitched to different networks to try to reach as wide an audience as possible.

Schroder's two sons, 18 and 20, came along as camera assistants while filming on the installation.

"My oldest son is already taking an interest in the military, already talking about it. If this is what he wants to do, I would support him 100 percent," Schroder said.

September 2, 2011 at 8:54am

Local commander, ballplayer ready for his ‘Day at the Show’

Doug Levien, right, with his father, whom he credits with his success in baseball. Levien will play at Safeco Field Sunday for the Seattle Barons, a Puget Sound Senior Baseball League team.

When Doug Levien played against Manny Ramirez in high school baseball, he knew Ramirez would be something great.

He was right. Ramirez went on to be a two-time World Series champion during his 18-year Major League Baseball career. Levien took a much different route, but he has had glimpses of what it's like to play in the big leagues.

In his first season with the Seattle Barons of the Puget Sound Senior Baseball League, Levien will play center field in a charity game, "A Day at the Show IV," at Safeco Field Sunday at 3:30 p.m.

The PSSBL is a nonprofit baseball organization for adults that features 65 teams in eight age and skill divisions with more than 1,000 players.

Sunday won't be the first time Levien will play in a professional stadium. He played at Yankee Stadium twice and once at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. Soon he can add Safeco to his list.

"It's a great opportunity any time you play in a professional park," Levien said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime dream."

Only 68 PSSBL players will have the opportunity to play at Safeco Sunday. Levien and the Barons will play an exhibition-style charity game. There will be a professional announcer speaking over the stadium's sound system. Admission is free and parking in the Mariners' parking garage is $5. The home plate gate will open at 11:30 a.m.

"I have played in the PSSBL for 18 years," said Mike Ruger, the Barons' general manager. "Doug is one of the most gifted, talented players I have played with ... He is also a great person and cares about all of his teammates."

After a successful high school career Levien went on to play baseball at La Salle University where he was an all-conference player. His baseball days were phased out as he pursued a master of arts degree in international relations from Webster University.

Levien, who has served in the U.S. Army for 17 years, moved to Joint Base Lewis-McChord last year, where he is the commander of the 593rd Special Troops Battalion.

Since college, Levien continued to play intramural softball and when he saw an advertisement for the PSSBL, he took advantage of the opportunity to continue to play the sport he loves. Levien plays a 20-game season in a 35-and-older league.

"Sports and baseball are important to a Soldier," Levien said. "It's all about dealing with pressure, stress and the competitiveness. Any key leaders or Soldiers, whatever your gig is, it's important to relax. For me mentally, it's easy once you walk on the diamond and leave the day's activities behind."

The JBLM intramural program is important to Levien and the 593rd STB. With Soldiers constantly deploying Levien said sports are essential for resiliency and keeping them recharged for their day-to-day work.

In the week leading up to Sunday's game, Levien prepared to be deployed to the East Coast after Hurricane Irene for hurricane relief.

"We were alerted Friday night for possible deployment and it looked like I was going to miss (the game)," Levien said.

But the local authorities and the National Guard's aid proved to be enough.

Unfortunately for Levien, Hurricane Irene changed the plans of his father, Doug Jr. (the younger is Doug III), to fly from New York to see his son at Safeco. Levien credits his retired Marine dad for his joining the Army and pursuing baseball. Levien's wife, Lt. Col. Deborah Ellis, and Soldiers from the 593rd will be in attendance at Safeco to support Levien.

September 2, 2011 at 8:55am

DES team wins golf league title again

In his second season playing Joint Base Lewis-McChord intramural golf, Brad Shanrock took home his second team championship trophy.

The Directorate of Emergency Services team combined for a score of 339 to repeat as the intramural golf champs Monday night at Eagle's Pride Golf Course.

League play began in June with competitions every Monday night. Four golfers from each of the 14 teams were sent out to play in a best ball scramble. At the end of the regular season, DES finished first in one league while Madigan finished first in the other league.

The playoffs began Aug. 22 with the golfers shooting nine holes. They played their final nine holes on Monday.

"We had some good matches," Shanrock said. "We'll try for the three-peat next year."

Shanrock was joined with Larry Freeman, Marvin Johnson, Douglas Reeves and Leroy Shamburger. The DES team also included Mike Bosse, Ed Dahl and Rob Miller. The 593rd Special Troops Battalion finished second overall with a score of 352. Madigan Healthcare System finished third with a score of 358.

Poor weather conditions during the first nine hole playoff added a challenge and the scores showed it. The 593rd STB improved on last week's score by six points. "Last week was pretty rough with the rain, but with the dry weather we pulled it together," said Garrett Hugo of the 593rd STB. "It's a lot more focused competition on the last day of the event."

Hugo and his teammate Pablo Cabanillas accepted their second place trophies and team plaque. Battalion Commander Doug Levien was present to snap photos of the unit's new hardware.

This year was Hugo's first season playing intramural golf.

"It was nice to come out here every Monday and meet a bunch of new people," he said.

Coming up

The golf trophies were barely handed out before a golfer said, "The real playoffs start Wednesday," referring to the intramural softball playoffs. The double-elimination tournament began Wednesday and the championship will be Sept. 9 at the McChord Field ball fields at 8 p.m.

Next up on the race calendar is the Joint Base Half Marathon Sept. 17. The 13.1-mile race is through the JBLM Military Impact Training Areas. Registration deadline is Sept. 13.

September 2, 2011 at 9:01am

JBLM's 9-11 ceremony to mark 10th anniversary

Joint Base Lewis-McChord first responders have marked the anniversary of 9/11 each year with a flag ceremony - but for the 10th anniversary of the event there will be a few changes.

Much of the ceremony will be the same as it has been in the past. Former Lakewood police chief and retired military police colonel Larry Saunders will serve as the guest speaker, a mixed-service honor guard will raise the flag and Col. Thomas Brittain, JBLM commander, will make closing remarks.

This year, though, the ceremony will take place outside of the fire station on West Way. Organizers think it will give the event more of a first-responder feel and maintain a joint base context.

The time of the ceremony has more significance this year as well. This year it will start at 8:46 a.m. in Eastern Standard Time, the exact minute hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. The new location and time will help keep the focus where it should be.

"To remember those that gave their lives to try and save other people," Lt. Robert Rothrock, JBLM law enforcement, said.

JBLM ID cardholders are welcome to attend the ceremony, which will take place outside of Building 4100. The event will begin promptly at 8:46 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 11.

September 2, 2011 at 9:06am

Army developing new self-propelled howitzer

The U.S. Army is developing a next-generation, 40-ton 155mm Howitzer artillery cannon able to fire precision rounds, accommodate additional armor protections and power more on-board electrical systems.

The M109 Paladin Integrated Management, or PIM, is slated to begin low-rate initial production by 2013, and features a 600-volt on-board power system designed to accommodate emerging networking technologies as they become available.

The PIM is the Army's modernization program for the 155mm self-propelled Howitzer fleet, said Lt. Col. Dan Furber, product manager, Self-Propelled Howitzer Systems.

"The [space, weight and power] buy-back the PIM will provide is huge," Furber said. "It allows us to add additional armor to the platform and it allows us to add additional capabilities such as automation or electronic packages."

The PIM's on-board power system harnesses technologies developed for the Non-Line-of-Sight Cannon, or NLOS-C, a 155mm Howitzer formerly developed for the Future Combat Systems, Manned-Ground Vehicles program. That program was canceled in 2009.

"We've also harnessed the electric drives from the NLOS-C, which are faster than the hydraulic drives used in the existing fleet," Furber said. "With the electric drives and rammer, we are finding more consistent ramming of the round which allows for more consistent muzzle velocities and we are a little more accurate and responsive with the electric drives."

Prototypes of the vehicle, built by BAE Systems, are now undergoing government testing in preparation for an low-rate initial production decision. The PIM vehicle's cannon rests on a chassis built with Bradley Fighting Vehicle common components including engine, transmission and tracks.

"Being common with Bradley decreases the logistics footprint that echelons above brigades will have to manage," Furber said. "In the long term, it will decrease the amount of money needed to sustain the Bradley and Self-Propelled Howitzer fleets. We will only have to manage one engine, for example, in the supply chain, so there are economies of scale that are beneficial to the Army."

The testing includes reliability, availability and maintainability mission testing as well as ballistic hull and turret testing. Both testing regimes are designed to prepare the program for a Milestone C production decision by 2013.

Like other 155mm artillery systems, the Paladin will be configured to fire precision munitions such as the Excalibur and the Precision Guidance Kit. The PIM is being designed to provide key fire-support for a range of potential combat operations to include conventional, hybrid, irregular and counterinsurgency scenarios.

"While PIM is associated with the heavy brigade combat team, it is a full-spectrum operational platform," Furber said. "For instance, it would allow the artillery crew supporting light infantry on a forward operating base to be protected from indirect fires -- something towed artillery pieces are not able to do."

The PIM includes a sustained rate of fire of one round per-minute and a maximum rate of fire of four rounds per-minute, said Ed Murray, Department of the Army Systems Coordinator - Artillery.

The Army plans to build 580 new Paladin PIM sets. Each set includes a self-propelled howitzer and an ammunition resupply vehicle. The existing fleet of M109A6 Howitzers are nearing obsolescence. Those weapons were originally designed in the 1950's and produced in the 1960's.

As a result, the current fleet exceeds its weight and power capacity and does not provide for growth in mobility and force protection, thus emphasizing that the PIM program is necessary to address the existing capability gaps for self-propelled artillery.

September 4, 2011 at 6:57am

Dwell time increases to 2 years next month


Army units that deploy starting next month should enjoy two years of dwell time when they come home. That's the Army's plan for its war-weary troops even as it transitions from 12-month deployments to nine-month tours, a senior Army planner said.

"If you're a deploying unit for this coming quarter, when you return, can we tell you you're on a two-year dwell cycle? The answer is yes for most Army units," said Col. John Hort, a senior planner at Forces Command. "Our goal is to be able to provide a unit two years of dwell minimum when they return. Even under a nine-month [boots on the ground], our goal is 24 months of dwell when that unit returns."

As always, Hort said, these goals are dependent on conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan, especially as the U.S. remains on track to withdraw from Iraq by Dec. 31 and reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan.

"Based on what we are seeing for demand, we could state with a fairly high degree of confidence that we could start to see [two years of dwell time] next year," Hort said.


September 4, 2011 at 7:07am

75th’s aim: More grads from Ranger course


Just 18 months after revamping and expanding its selection program, the 75th Ranger Regiment believes it is producing better-prepared soldiers for its battalions.

However, efforts are underway to increase the program's 37 percent graduation rate - without softening the course.

The product of the eight-week Ranger Assessment and Selection Program I is critical for the regiment, which has had soldiers continuously deployed for 10 years, officials said.


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