Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

Posts made in: November, 2011 (63) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 63

November 2, 2011 at 6:30am

4 soldiers killed in NATO convoy identified


Four U.S. soldiers killed in a suicide car bombing of a NATO convoy in Afghanistan on Saturday have been identified.

Seventeen died in the assault in Kabul. A vehicle packed with explosives rammed into an armored coalition bus.

The Pentagon identified the dead soldiers as Lt. Col. David E. Cabrera of Abilene, Texas; Staff Sgt. Christopher R. Newman of Shelby N.C.; Sgt. James M. Darrough of Austin, Texas; and Sgt. Carlo F. Eugenio of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

Cabrera, 41, was assigned to Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md.

Newman, 26, was assigned to Medical Company A, Tripler Army Medical Center, Hawaii.


November 2, 2011 at 6:33am

Study: Kids of deployed vets prone to violence


ATLANTA - A new study suggests that when parents are deployed in the military, their children are more than twice as likely to carry a weapon, join a gang or be involved in fights.

And that includes the daughters.

"This study raises serious concerns about an under-recognized consequence of war," said Sarah Reed, who led the research of military families in Washington state.

Last year, nearly 2 million U.S. children had at least one parent serving in the military. Deployment can hurt a family in a variety of ways. There's stress while that parent is overseas and in danger, as the remaining parent has to shoulder all responsibilities and family roles shift. There can also be challenges after deployed parents' return, especially if they were physically or psychologically damaged.

The effect of military deployment on kids is an emerging field of research. The new study is considered the first of its kind to focus on those affected by deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. It's unique in that it looked at a statewide swath of the population in comparing the behavior of kids in military families to children in nonmilitary families.


November 2, 2011 at 6:40am

Do Benefits Keep Military Couples Married?


Ten years of war and extreme stress on servicemembers and their families haven't made the military's divorce rate any higher than that of civilians, according to a new report. And the likely reason, the lead researcher says, is the pay and benefits the military offers to married couples.

"Our speculation is that civilians don't get paid extra if they're married, but [servicemembers do]," Benjamin Karney, the study's lead researcher, told "The fact that the military pays people to stay married [likely] keeps them married. There's really something going on there, it seems."

The perks of marriage in the military don't stop at the extra pay and housing allowance, Karney noted. Among other benefits, military families also receive subsidized childcare, free counseling and marriage support, free or greatly reduced healthcare, and employment help for spouses.

Karney said the findings could be seen as a lesson for civilian society. If the military can make marriage work over years of war-related stress, he said, the rest of American culture should be able to follow suit.


November 3, 2011 at 6:38am

Eligible vets to receive 3.6% COLA next year


Congress acted Wednesday to make sure veterans don't miss out on the 3.6 percent cost-of-living adjustment that is already coming Dec. 1 for Social Security recipients and military retirees.

By voice vote and little debate, the House gave final passage to S 894, a bill authorizing the Veterans Affairs Department to make a 3.6 percent hike in veterans' disability compensation, dependency and indemnity compensation for survivors and pensions for low-income veterans. This will be the first increase in those payments since Dec. 1, 2008.

About 2.9 million people will be affected by the bill. The Senate passed the bill earlier this year, so the measure now goes to President Obama for his signature.

Social Security, military and federal civilian retired pay and other federal entitlements are automatically tied to the Consumer Price Index, a measurement of the cost of goods and services, but veterans' benefits are adjusted only if Congress acts.


November 4, 2011 at 6:46am

Sacrifice part of Soldiers’ daily routine

Pvt. Jessie Nelson, an all source analyst with HHC, 4th Bde., 2nd Inf. Div. Raiders, speaks to her stepson on the phone Oct. 21, at brigade headquarters at YTC. Even though she's away at training, Nelson still shows her family she cares by calling every d

YAKIMA TRAINING CENTER - Sergeant Matthew McCrea has a switch. It turns on the moment he puts on his combat gear.

He goes from being a Family man who cares for his wife and children to a squad leader who takes care of his Soldiers on the battlefield.

So as he conducted a live-fire with his unit, C Company, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, Oct. 19 at Yakima Training Center, it didn't dawn on him to call home for his son's birthday until the mission was completed. He had set a reminder on his cellular phone; however, the phone was on ‘silent' so as not to disrupt training. Many servicemembers endure the same sacrifice McCrea and his Family make every day whether they're gone due to deployments or training.

Special events are missed, including birthdays, anniversaries, and weddings. For McCrea, this wasn't the first birthday missed.

A Red Cross message he received while deployed to Iraq from 2007 to 2008 informed him his wife was in labor. Still, he missed the birth of his son by nearly six days.

Once the unit redeployed he was able to witness one of the few birthday celebrations for his now 4-year-old son.

"I got to see him blow out his one candle," remembered McCrea.

Luckily, his Family is understanding and supportive, so much so that he considers himself "blessed." It's his and his wife Amy's spirituality, he said, that has helped them get through two deployments without an argument. Still, he admits that at times, being away from his Family is hard to take.

"Days are filled with (stress and training), but the nights when you're trying to get your couple hours of sleep ... you start thinking about it and thinking, ‘Wow, I could have a 9-to-5 job and be a civilian and be there for everything,'" said McCrea. "But at the same time, everyone has to sacrifice something."

He doesn't consider the sacrifices he makes as putting work before his Family. For him, it's a different responsibility.

"I put my nation first, and I do what I can for my nation," said McCrea. "It's pretty much one of those things where you take the good with the bad."

Another Soldier in 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division "Raiders," Pvt. Jessie Nelson, is missing her one-year wedding anniversary while training at YTC for the month. Nelson was married last October and left for basic combat training the following month.

"We haven't really been able to experience the newlywed phase yet at all," she said.

Though distance can be tough on a newly-married couple, Nelson and her spouse see it as an opportunity to value the time they do have together.

"The only thing that changed is the time that we do spend together is a lot more intense," said Nelson. "It really has made us appreciate each other a lot more."

Instead of never celebrating special events, Nelson and her Family celebrate even more on the holidays they are together.

"October 22 is just the date that we were married," she said. "I think my birthday (in December) is more the time we celebrate."

The all-source analyst with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Bde., 2nd Inf. Div., saw her husband a few times before graduating advanced individual training and reporting to her new duty station at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Now she's at YTC for a month.

Spending so much time away not only from her husband, but her stepchildren, hasn't been easy.

"I think with being freshly married into an already-established Family, I missed out on a lot of the bonding that comes with stepkids," said Nelson.

Even though she's away at training, she still shows them she cares by calling every day and sending her stepchildren gifts, like flowers for her 4-year-old stepdaughter.

"I just try to do extra things while I'm gone, so they know that I'm still thinking about them," she said.

While a 20-year career in the military isn't in Nelson's future, enlisting was simply following family tradition, she explained.Her father, grandfather and great-grandfather all served in the military.

"I don't regret walking in (my father's) footsteps," Nelson said. "The entire military experience has shown me a lot about myself."

As Exercise Raider Fusion continues, McCrea, Nelson and other Soldiers separated from their Families take such sacrifices in stride, understanding that tough training now will make future deployments easier to endure.

November 4, 2011 at 7:14am

‘The Cup’ returns to JBLM after year on shelf

After a year-long hiatus, the Commander's Cup is back in play.

The Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Directorate presents the trophy annually to a Joint Base Lewis-McChord unit that accumulates the most points during the intramural sports year. Once flag football and wrestling finish up this month, final points will be tallied and a winner will be announced. No trophy was awarded last year due to a transition in the FMWR staff, but this year's trophy will be awarded in December.

Points are counted in basketball, bowling, swimming, soccer, cross country, volleyball, softball, golf, triathlon, flag football, power lifting, wrestling and the Sound to Narrows run. During league play four points are awarded to first place, three points to second, two points to third and one point for participation. Points are also earned for team placement in league standings or championship tournaments.

In the case of a tie, the unit that earns the most first, second and third place finishes in that order is declared the winner.

"It tries to facilitate and draw in more team participation for the units and promotes their unit cohesion," said JBLM Intramural Sports Coordinator Kathy Salcedo.

One of the purposes of having the Commander's Cup is to assist in developing and maintaining a high state of mental and physical well-being among military personnel and to enhance readiness. It is much of the same reason why the 593rd Sustainment Brigade is so involved in intramurals.

Brigade Soldiers are continuously deploying and redeploying with Soldiers currently in four countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Qatar.

"With the sports it's a great way to build esprit de corps, bringing them together," Lt. Col. Doug Levien said. "It's also a good stress release for the Soldiers and a way to deal with 10 years of war and constant deployments and constantly being away from your home."

The 593rd Sust. Bde. competes in just about every intramural sport and special event offered and is one of the four leading units in the 2011 Commander's Cup standings. Also in the top four are the 62nd Aerial Port Squadron, 627th Civil Engineering Squadron and the 38th Engineer Company. But the standings could change drastically once flag football and wrestling points are figured in.

The 593rd Sust. Bde. won the Sound to Narrows run and finished high in several sports. Winning the Commander's Cup would be a significant achievement for the unit.

"Any time you come in first that would be a great honor for the Soldiers and the unit," Levien said. "It's not an achievement for one sport over a short period of time, it's over nine or 10 different sporting events."

While this year's Commander's Cup season began with basketball and ends with wrestling, it will look different next year.

Only five core sports will earn points toward the Commander's Cup: basketball, volleyball, soccer, flag football and softball. The 2012 season will begin with basketball and end with flag football.

The trophy is rotated each year. A unit that wins the cup three consecutive years retains its own permanent trophy and another becomes the prize.

November 4, 2011 at 7:15am

ACOE waives fees to honor veterans

In honor of Veterans Day, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it will waive "day-use" fees for veterans, active and reserve component servicemembers, and their Families on Veteran's Day at all district recreation areas, as well as the more than 2,400 USACE-operated recreation areas nationwide.

USACE's Northwestern Division covers the entire states of Washington and Montana, as well as most of Oregon and Idaho, and extends across the Plains States as far as Missouri. In the Pacific Northwest, USACE has more than a dozen sites which will offer Veterans Day waivers this year.

Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, said whether it's in the Northwest or nationwide, she encourages current and veteran troops to allow USACE to give back to those who gave or continue to give of themselves every day.

"More than 350 million visitors a year enjoy the outdoors at Army Corps of Engineers' recreation projects," Darcy said. "This Veterans Day we will continue the valued tradition of honoring our veterans, active and reserve servicemembers, and their Families with an invitation to visit one of the thousands of USACE recreation sites throughout the country, free of charge. As the Corps is an active member of this administration's America's Great Outdoors initiative, we hope that you will join us."

USACE said verbal confirmation of eligibility will be all that's needed for a waiver which will cover boat launch ramp and swim beach fees. It won't apply to "camping and camping-related services" or "fees for specialized facilities such as group picnic shelters." They also specify that other government agencies do manage facilities on USACE land, and while they're encouraged to also offer this waiver, it's not required.

To learn more To discover the USACE recreation areas nearest you, please visit

November 5, 2011 at 7:39am


Finding a job in the current dismal economy can be nearly impossible, even for those who are educated, trained, qualified and experienced. For military spouses, many of whom relocate every few years and might have difficulty maintaining career continuity, finding work can be even more challenging. But the Heroes at Home 2 program, which launched last month at the Stone Education Center, is seeking to assist spouses stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord with training, tuition, career counseling and job placement.

The program, made possible by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to the Washington State Employment Security Department and overseen locally by WorkForce Central and the Pacific Mountain Workforce Development Council, is funded to support 825 military spouses who lost their jobs in order to accompany a Servicemember on a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move or Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) dislocation to JBLM.

The creation of three Stryker Brigade Combat Teams over the past eight years, along with the effects of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, has led to a 65-percent increase in the active-duty service member population since 2003.

There are currently more than 41,000 Servicemembers (and 53,000 family members) assigned to JBLM, said John Norgren, legislative liaison and community relations representative at the JBLM Public Affairs Office.

And many of those spouses - whether they have been working part or full time, with or without a college degree - need help finding a job.

There are local jobs available, said Linda Nguyen, chief executive officer of WorkForce Central, but matching the right company to the right employee is not always simple.

"People just aren't able to find each other easily," she said. "Our job is to provide training and job placement."

To be eligible for Heroes at Home 2 assistance, spouses must meet the following criteria:

  • Must have dislocated from a job (either full or part-time, career or survival) due to a PCS move or BRAC-related reassignment since 2005
  • Servicemember must be assigned to JBLM
  • Servicemember must be active duty or Title 10 (activated) member of the National Guard or Reserve

For qualified applicants, the program provides funds for tuition, certification fees, lab fees, books and even support services such as short-term child care, transportation costs and rent. Eligible applicants can even receive vouchers for appropriate work clothes, uniforms and equipment.

Heroes at Home 2 is not just for those spouses who need assistance with education or specialized training - those who already have a degree can benefit as well.

For instance, the program can assist with resume building, interview skills refreshment and even provide funds for training in a new, high-demand career field, if the spouses' current skills are no longer in demand.

Spouses who aren't quite sure if they need any of the available services should still apply, Nguyen said.

"Just get in and get verified," she said, "even if you think you don't need it yet."

To apply for the program, call (253) 966-7366 or (360) 570-4271 or stop by the Stone Education Center in building 6242 on JBLM Main and set up an appointment.

Applicants will meet with one of the program's career coaches, who will verify eligibility, then complete an employment assessment and set up an action plan.  

"They'll assess your needs and ramp them up for the end goal," Nguyen said, "employment."

For more information, visit

Filed under: Get A Job Blog,

November 6, 2011 at 6:05am

Veteran Faces Eviction If He Displays US Flag


SPRINGFIELD, Ore. -- Edward Zivica, a 70-year-old who served in the Navy in the 1960s, faces a hard choice come Veterans Day next week: He can obey the rules and remain in his apartment complex, or he can follow his tradition of hanging the American flag outside his place.

The managers at his subsidized housing project in Springfield, Ore., have given him notice he'll be evicted if he again violates the rules against putting anything on the exterior walls.

That notice came after the flag went up on Oct. 27 for Navy Day, one of several that Zivica marks by hanging it outside the community room near the main entrance. He'd gotten a letter from the management in June telling him to quit.

Zivica was in the Navy's Submarine Service from 1960 to 1967, the Eugene Register-Guard reported.


November 6, 2011 at 6:52am

Program helps families of Wounded, Fallen Start Businesses

Later this month, a group of 17 family members who care for wounded warriors, as well as surviving spouses of fallen service members, will gather at Syracuse University in New York to learn how to start and run their own businesses.

Syracuse's Whitman School of Management will host its second Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans' Families smack in the middle of Military Family Appreciation Month.

The program is a spin-off to a similar program Syracuse and six other universities offer for disabled veterans.

Participants -- family caregivers of post-9/11 veterans with a service-connected disability or surviving spouses or adult children of service members who died since 9/11 as a consequence of military service -- will attend the program at no charge, officials said. Syracuse University and its donors will pick up the cost of tuition as well as transportation, lodging and meals.

The goal, explained Tina Kapral, the school's director of education programs, is to help family members whose lives have been turned upside down by loss or a loved one's disability get back on their feet and provide for themselves and their families.

For many, entrepreneurship may be the perfect solution, she said. It offers the opportunity to pursue a rewarding career while maintaining the flexibility they may need to work around their loved ones' medical appointments and other care-giving responsibilities.

"Our goal is to allow these family members to find a financial path forward and some financial stability for themselves and their families," Kapral said.

As an additional benefit, the boot camp brings together people who understand each other's challenges and provide support. "Our program allows networking and relationship-building and a built-in support group when you are with other people who are in the same situation as yourself," she said.

Participants in the upcoming boot camp actually began the program in October with a full month of online coursework, Kapral explained. They will arrive at Syracuse on Nov. 13 to begin the second phase of the program, an intensive week-long residency course focuses on small-business management. Classes frequently run from 7 a.m. to as late at 10 p.m., all aimed at providing students the best possible foundation to succeed when they return home.

"The whole purpose of all the classes is that at the end, [participants] are writing their own business plan and doing their final venture pitches to experts and faculty for the business they want to kick off," Kapral said.

In many cases, the boot camp experience helps family members identify the kind of business best suited to their interests and needs and refine their ideas and goals, she said.

The businesses they go on to launch run the gamut, she said. During the first family boot camp last year, participants drew up plans to open a bridal boutique, a language translation service, a framing shop, a pottery and glasswork business and a caf�. One planned to work as a consultant, educating other families of veterans about services and benefits available to them and how to apply.

After completing the boot camp, residents receive ongoing support and technical assistance from a team of faculty members, experienced entrepreneurs and other experts to ensure they're positioned to realize their entrepreneurial goals, Kapral said.

Florida State University, one of seven universities that sponsor the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities, soon will launch a second program for family members. Seats are still available for that program, which will run Feb. 22 to March 1 at FSU's extension campus in Panama City, Fla.

Randy Blass, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who serves as director for the FSU program, said he welcomes the opportunity to expand the school's support for disabled veterans and their families.

"This program gives caregivers of the men and women who served our country an opportunity to secure their financial future," he said.

Although Syracuse and FSU offer the only entrepreneurship programs for veterans' families, they are part of a consortium of seven schools with entrepreneurship boot camps for qualified disabled veterans. Those programs are available at the University of California, Los Angeles; Texas A&M University; Purdue University; the University of Connecticut; and Louisiana State University.

Details about both the disabled veterans and family member programs and how to apply are posted at with links to participating universities' websites.

*Related Sites:*

Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans' Families [ ]

*Related Articles:*

Program Helps Disabled Vets Become Entrepreneurs  [ ]

Filed under: Your Biz ... A Blog,

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