Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

Posts made in: October, 2011 (84) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 84

October 1, 2011 at 6:04am

Road construction update for JBLM

Bitar Avenue

Electrical work on Bitar Avenue has shut down traffic between Lewis Drive and 9th Division Drive. Work started Monday and is scheduled to be completed Sept. 30. Limited access for local residents living on Foltz Place will be allowed at the intersection of Bitar and 9th Division.

Roy Bridge

Drivers who use the Roy Gate of JBLM should be aware of an upcoming road closure where North Warren Street crosses Muck Creek at the Roy Bridge. Pierce County construction crews are rebuilding the existing bridge, and expect the road to be closed for about four months.

The new bridge will have two lanes with paved shoulders and prestressed concrete girders.

Construction will begin as soon as the water in the creek recedes. For more information, call Henry Gertje at 798-6826.

Pendleton Avenue

Construction to upgrade the road substructure under Pendleton Avenue near the Town Center on JBLM Lewis Main will be completed in a few months. Pendleton between 8th and 12th streets will be closed daily for construction from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. Access to offices and other buildings will be maintained. Traffic will be detoured to Liggett Avenue during construction hours. Officials are working to mitigate noise impact to Town Center residents.

This is the first of several major construction projects on two miles of Pendleton Avenue during the next 18 months, as crews widen the road and upgrade communication, power and water lines underneath.

The widened avenue will result in better traffic flow, parking and facility access, creating a friendlier environment for bikes and pedestrians. For more information, visit the Pendleton Avenue website at

North Gate Road

Road repairs on the JBLM North Gate Road (Huggins Meyer Road SW), a 1.7 mile stretch between JBLM Lewis North's D Street Gate and Lakewood, will continue through today. Commuters who normally use North Gate Road will be detoured through Lakewood and Steilacoom.

The D Street Gate on JBLM Lewis North will remain open throughout the road repair projects.

Emergency vehicles will have access through the construction site for emergencies. Clover Park School buses will also have access to transit through the construction site.

Upon completion of the North Gate Road repairs, East Drive will close for repairs. East Drive repairs include adding a right turn lane and a traffic signal. Repairs to East Drive are expected to take 90 days.

These road repair projects were designed to improve roadway surfaces, increase traffic mobility, and create a safer driving environment for the community. More information about traffic revision updates and construction changes will come as the contractor announces them. For road conditions, call 967-1733.

October 1, 2011 at 6:07am

Deployed soldiers field test weapons, gear


Soldiers are giving two thumbs-up to five key weapon systems tested over the summer in Afghanistan - two that protect lives and three designed to take them.

Soldiers also gave combat trousers and boots a thumbs-down, and fixes are on the way.

The reports were given directly to the two generals responsible for equipping soldiers: Lt. Gen. Robert Lennox, deputy chief of staff for Army programs (G-8), and Lt. Gen. Bill Phillips, principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology). The duo recently returned from Afghanistan's Regional Command-East.

And don't think they sat back in an air-conditioned office awaiting reports from hand-selected "yes men." The generals planted themselves at Forward Operating Base Joyce to get a firsthand look at the weapons and gear in action.

"We got to confirm things we thought, we got to learn things we thought we knew but then found out we didn't and set about making them right," Lennox said.

Here's what they found:


October 1, 2011 at 6:09am

Officer evaluation reports getting a new look


The Army is about to launch a series of changes to the Officer Evaluation Report that will reinstate senior rater box-checks for company-grade officers this fall, and the fielding of separate reports for junior, midcareer and senior officers next summer.

A new NCO Evaluation Report also is in the works, but details of that redesign will not be available until summer 2012, according to Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, Army personnel chief.

"We're still in the initial stages of design on the NCO-ER, so I can't say what the final [product] will be," Bostick said.

Near-term changes to the officer evaluation system take effect Oct. 1 and include:

  • Reinstatement of the senior rater promotion potential "box-check" for the roughly 60,000 captains, lieutenants and junior warrant officers in the active and reserve components.


October 1, 2011 at 6:12am

Military retirees to pay higher health premiums


WASHINGTON - Military retirees will pay slightly more for their health care starting today, and more cost increases are on the way.

Premiums haven't been raised since 1994 and still will be just a fraction of what civilians pay. Under a change announced by the Defense Department on Thursday, individuals who enroll in the retiree program as of Saturday will pay $260 annually, up from $230, and it will be $520 annually for a family, up from $460.

Retirees already in the program will not see any increase until next year because they have already paid for this year. But "modest annual increases" are planned in the future, Cynthia Smith, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said.

Active-duty service members get free health care and that will remain the same. But other personnel changes unpopular with service members may be in the offing due to U.S. budget problems, including changes to the system for retirement pay, which is under study.


October 2, 2011 at 7:02am

General presents his vision for future warriors


FORT BENNING, Ga. - Collective training that challenges soldiers and embraces technology is coming to your post. Commanders, it will be your job to see that it is done right.

That is the message of Gen. Robert Cone, commanding general of Training and Doctrine Command, as he lays out the vision for 21st-century training.

"The world as we have known it for 10 years ... will change on New Year's Eve," Cone told a packed house attending the Maneuver Conference outside Fort Benning in mid-September. The New Year brings with it a transition out of Iraq and a sweeping return to training for unified operations in the full spectrum, specifically offensive, defensive and stability operations. Expect a lot of training in leadership principles, the profession of arms, autonomous squad operations, combined arms maneuver and wide-area security.

But a successful switch is not simply a matter of flying to the National Training Center instead of Iraq. The Army is facing a new era of warfare, and that requires a new approach to training.


October 3, 2011 at 6:52am

Romance Scammers Use JBLM Soldier IDs


Internet impostors are co-opting the identities of well-known Soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in bids to scam people out of thousands of dollars, according to Army reports.

One scam artist on a dating website called last month claimed to be Lewis-McChord senior Army officer Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, who is currently deployed to Afghanistan as the war's deputy commander.

The impersonator wanted a woman to give him about $6,000 -- cash he said was necessary to help him get a package of cash, medals and uniforms out of Kabul. It was similar to a pitch a Taiwanese woman fell for last month when she sent $30,000 to a person who claimed to be former Afghan War commander Gen. David Petraeus, according to reports from Taipei.


October 3, 2011 at 7:05am

VA to waive difference in home loan fees


COLUMBIA, S.C. - The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will cover extra costs for veterans who struck deals on home loans and faced the possibility of higher fees amid confusion over a federal law change, the agency said Saturday.

The problem involves a Sept. 8 notice from the Department of Veterans Affairs loan operations that said certain fees would be lower beginning Saturday. But Congress delayed those lower fee rates from taking effect until November in legislation awaiting President Barack Obama's signature.

Lenders, who didn't know about the change, made loan deals based on the lower rate, including Scott Thigpen, who runs The Citizens Bank in South Carolina's mortgage operations. Thigpen said Veterans Affairs created a problem that left lenders with the choice of imposing higher fees on mortgages heading into closing and delaying those deals or absorbing the higher costs.

"Somebody had to have jumped the gun," Thigpen said. Thigpen said a Sumter veteran was to close a deal on a $160,000 loan on Monday and faced a $1,200 fee increase. The bank decided to cover the additional costs.

That won't be needed now after Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said the VA will waive fee...

October 3, 2011 at 7:12am

DoD Program Gives Spouses Career Options

Balancing a civilian career with a military spouse's career can be tough. While the service member might see a permanent change of station move as an inconvenience associated with furthering their military career, such moves can leave spouses stuck hoping to find a new job in a new area.

Robert L. Gordon III, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy, said it doesn't have to be that way. He joined a DoD Live "bloggers roundtable" yesterday to explain how the Military Spouse Employment Partnership is giving spouses more career and education options.

Gordon said the program has been growing. The program's website currently lists more than 50,000 jobs. Since June 29, when the program began, more than 5,600 military spouses have found jobs. This success has attracted more companies to the program, he said.

"We have about 50 companies now who are expressing interest in becoming MSEP partners, and that is in addition to the 146 companies who have already submitted applications to become a part of MSEP," Gordon said. "And we are currently in the process of vetting those 146 companies. So that makes a total of 210 companies who we're either vetting or who have an interest in joining."

Gordon added that the jobs listed through the program aren't only entry-level jobs one might find in the classifieds. He said 42 percent of the jobs on the website require a college degree.

"And in fact, when we looked at job category -- we looked at that data, this is some of the data -- of the 54,000 jobs, over 10,000 of those jobs are in computer and mathematical fields," he said. "We've got jobs for education, for health care, for installation management and repair, 800 jobs in information and technology, jobs in legal, in life, physical and social science, in management, in office and administrative support, 150 jobs in architecture and engineering, building grounds and cleaning maintenance."

Another plus for the military spouse on the move: nearly one-third of the jobs on the MSEP website are overseas. Gordon said once word of the employment program started getting around, companies came forward asking about tapping the military spouse market. In some cases, he said, a military spouse working in the United States could transfer to their employer's new overseas office.

That kind of continuity is the program's goal, he said. Getting spouses jobs and paychecks is a priority, Gordon said, but he'd like to see spouses who can start and maintain careers through the new employment program.

Right now, Gordon said, the best way to reach that goal is to continue to use and promote the program. He said continued user feedback from spouses is the best way to make sure MSEP is providing the intended benefits.

"We've got a good start, but we need to continue to sharpen and refine what we do," Gordon said. "What I encourage you to do: Once again, kick the tires. Let's get the word out.

"Tell me what's not working, so we can fix it," he added, "and let's also talk about the things, I think, with our communities that are working as well, so that they can use the website and find jobs."

*Related Sites:*

Military Spouse Employment Partnership [ ]

Filed under: Get A Job Blog,

October 4, 2011 at 6:33am

Can you take your career with you when you PCS?

As a military spouse, you've probably already encountered how hard it is to make good use of your education and skills when you and your family transfer locations. If your career requires maintaining a license or continuing education credits in order to work, you've also discovered how hard that process is not to mention how costly it can be.

Sure, it's true that the fastest growing areas for job growth are computers, technology; education and healthcare but are careers in these fields portable when you move? If you are a Social Worker or a Teacher, will you be able to hit the ground running when you transfer to say, California from Florida or overseas from the U.S.? If you're thinking about expanding your career skills or changing careers altogether, these are some serious questions to think about. 

Unpacking your Home and your Career
Four Compelling Ways to Minimize Career Downtime when you Transfer

So, how do you maximize your current or newly acquired career skills so that they are transferable? If you're already working in your career field or heading back to school, research how easy or difficult it may be to find work in your field when you move; wherever you move.  Here are some tips to help jump start your research:

1.       If your career requires licensing, find out what you need to do to ahead of your move to keep a valid license.  

Teachers, Law Enforcement, HVAC technicians and Healthcare workers are required to be licensed to work in their field in all states and each state has a different set of rules governing licensure. When you prepare for transfer, in addition to getting your family and home ready to PCS, does some leg work about the job front in your new location. Make sure you are ready for what you'll need to do in order to work in your field.

 2.       Use your skills and education to start new career or home-based business.

 If you are a realtor, for example, think about jobs in commercial or residential property management companies or real estate brokerages. Your experience with contracts and general real estate law will be invaluable to employers because you can hit the ground running with relatively little training while working to get your state license.

Many state real estate boards have reciprocal agreements that allow you to hold a license without re-examination if you have taken and passed the same exam in your previous state and you've met all your continuing education credits, pre-licensing requirements and your license is in good standing.

If you are a teacher, look for jobs as a corporate trainer or explore starting a tutoring or home schooling business. While licensing requirements for tutors and home schooling vary by state, some for example, only require you to work in conjunction with professional evaluators in addition to providing the school district with progress and test results.

 You can learn more about tutoring at Learn more about the requirements for home schooling by state at the Home School Legal Defense Association website.

3.       Find out who the Military Spouse-Friendly Employers are in your new location.

Challenges like frequent moves or maintaining childcare while your service member is deployed can sometimes make it difficult for a military spouse to get and keep employment. Luckily, there are many companies that understand the military and the military family community and they seek out the employment of those supporting a family member who serves.  

Annually Military Spouse Magazine provides readers with a list of the Top 10 Military Spouse Friendly Employers. This list could prove invaluable for you as you prepare to PCS.  Click any link below to learn more about each program.

4.       Consider getting additional training from an accredited online school.

If, in your research you discover that you need additional training, find out what online schools are available to you and how school will fit into your lifestyle. And always make sure any school you choose is nationally and regionally accredited. 

And finally, Keep an Open Mind.

You might miss a great opportunity if you feel you need a certain job based on your experience and education. Though you've chosen a specific career path, you just may find that the skills and training you've gained could lead you into a fulfilling career that is the polar opposite of what you've done in the past.

We will continue to cover other military spouse online education topics on the Army Wife Network website over the course of the next few months. So look forward to getting additional information in our next month's posting: "Study Tips."

Filed under: Get A Job Blog,

October 4, 2011 at 6:54am

JBLM spouses working from home

Military wives often have unique challenges that civilian wives do not have. Because of the constant PCS moves and the crazy, unpredictable work schedule that their military counterpart has, working from home has become an increasingly popular choice. Some spouses work from home for a company while others start their own businesses based on an individual talent, hobby or skill.

There is a multitude of in home businesses that are set to work around the employee's schedule. One of the companies that have really taken off is Scentsy. Joint Base Lewis McChord spouse, Amy McCrea ( ) is an Independent Scentsy Consultant. She has been working for Scentsy for a year and enjoys it.  "It is such an awesome product and I love sharing it with people." McCrea says that, "Working at my own pace is such a blessing and I thank God everyday for this opportunity. Not only do I get to stay home with my kids, but also contribute to my family."

The flexibility of in home sales jobs is one of the perks that many spouses accredit their decision to work from home with.  Rachel Slebo, ( ) a Pampered Chef consultant, adds that, "The decision to start a home business was something that I have given thought to in the past and I am so glad I finally jumped into it! I have been around Pampered Chef as a teen when my mother had parties. I know the quality is there because she still has her items that are well over 10 years old and still work great. Pampered Chef's items come with a guarantee and a consultant. Who else can say there kitchenware comes with that? I am earning extra income and working on days that work for my family. I no longer work a Monday through Friday, nine to five job."

Many military wives find a company and make a career out of working and networking from home. Brenda Davis (
) is a Biltmore Inspirations Founding Consultant, says that she joined the company because, "After 15 years in Sales and Marketing managing a very large team of field representatives, I felt like it was time for a change.  I needed something that I could do alongside my family and our ever-changing Military life-style.  My little girl is only 4 so I wanted something that was completely flexible but that would allow me to bring in the extra income we needed.  I was also ready to do something enjoyable."

For some wives selling from home is a temporary assignment. "I started selling as something to keep me busy while my husband was away. I chose PartyLite because I love candles and I was the most familiar with it. Not to mention the free vacation! Working for home isn't for everyone and it's not a career step for me but it sure is good time filler and a nice paycheck for what seems to be doing almost nothing!" Said, Danielle Skiba, Partylite consultant.

Whether it is joining an already established business team or venturing out on their own, many military spouses are finding a way to make their own stable career, bring in extra income, and network around the service member's schedule.

Filed under: Your Biz ... A Blog,

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