Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

Posts made in: January, 2012 (80) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 80

January 2, 2012 at 6:08am

Bill to aid military spouses signed into state law

In today's economy, secondary household incomes are typical and often necessary. This trend reaches to military homes as well. However, with recent surveys indicating 26 percent of military spouses are unemployed, certain government agencies and representatives are scrambling to help those married to Servicemembers.
Washington Senator Derek Kilmer has been working on a way to assist military spouses coming into his state. He pushed to have the Military Spouse Licensing Bill (SB 5969) brought before the Senate Government Operations Committee. Both the State Senate and House approved the bill unanimously.
On Dec. 20, Gov. Christine Gregoire signed the bill into law, making Washington the twelfth state to pass such a measure. SB 5969 establishes abbreviated processes for military spouses to obtain professional licenses in Washington when that person is licensed in another state with similar licensing requirements to Washington.
"We are especially thrilled that Senator Kilmer's bill had strong leadership push in both houses, and with Governor Gregoire's support, this came together very quickly. It will undoubtedly help the 33,000 active duty military spouses who live in Washington," said retired Air Force Lt. Col. Mark San Souci, who works as the Regional Liaison Northwest for the Defense State Liaison Office, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, DASD (Military Community and Family Policy).
"I see the bill as being really important, especially with the numerous spouses transferring in and out," said Debbie Delisle, the local National Military Family Association representative.
Aside from her work with the NMFA over the past few years, Delisle has also lived the military lifestyle firsthand, having been a National Guard spouse for decades. "It is a win-win for everyone and can really help to alleviate the stress associated with moving and PCSing," she said.
The statistics support this, according to San Souci. "With 14.5 percent of military spouses moving every year and 34 percent of those being licensed in some capacity, we have the ability now to help up to 1,650 licensed professional spouses annually," he said.  
Since there is no centralized office to handle military spouses seeking licensure under this law, San Souci recommends that spouses contact the respective regulatory agencies for their career fields and be aware of how this new law can assist them.  

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Filed under: Get A Job Blog,

January 2, 2012 at 7:03am

U.S. troop deaths in Afghanistan fell in 2011

FROM THE LA TIMES...

It was by no means a common occurrence. But in the year that just drew to a close, a day would often pass, sometimes several, without an American service member dying in Afghanistan.

For the first time in years, U.S. military deaths here declined in 2011. American and Taliban commanders have very different explanations, and very different views of what that means for Afghanistan in the new year and beyond.

As they prepare to accelerate their withdrawal from Afghanistan, U.S. officials speak of having turned a corner in 2011. From the Taliban perspective, the Americans took fewer fatalities only because they lost the taste for aggressive combat.

Until last year, U.S. fatalities in the decadelong conflict had usually climbed _ sometimes sharply _ from year to year, peaking in 2010 at 499. That number dropped last year to 417, according to the independent website icasualties.org _ a significant drop, but still averaging more than one per day.

Overall deaths in the NATO force fell even more, from 711 in 2010 to 565 last year.

U.S. officials say successful tactics and the effect of sheer numbers broke the momentum of the Taliban and other armed militant factions in the year just passed, when American troop strength topped out at more than 100,000. Since summer, 10,000 U.S. troops have left, and an additional 23,000 are scheduled to depart in 2012.

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January 2, 2012 at 7:18am

Arrowhead Brigade sets foot in Afghanistan

Soldiers offload a CH-47 Chinook helicopter as they arrive at Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan Dec. 17, 2011.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE LAGMAN, Afghanistan - The night was dark with a crisp winter wind as the soldiers of the Arrowhead Brigade gathered inside Sheridan Gym waiting for their names to be called off the manifest. They had already said goodbye to their loved ones, whom they would not see for the next year. One by one, each soldier filed out the back door, yelling "here" as they exited, and loaded onto buses that would eventually deliver them to McChord Airfield.

Arrowhead soldiers reached McChord Airfield dropped their bags and grabbed a bite to eat before loading the plane that would take them to the other side of the world.

The word was given to load up, soldiers scrambled to their feet, bags and gear being slung on shoulders and over backs. Once everyone was on the plane, the Arrowhead soldiers settled in for a long flight, many just wanting to sleep the entire way.

The seatbelt light illuminated and the captain announced that the flight was starting its final decent into Bangor, Maine. With a jolt, the plane touched down and taxied to the terminal. The layover was long enough to get a coffee, call home and walk around before the announcement called everyone back onboard.

Next stop was Leipzig, Germany where, for many, it was the first time outside the borders of their own country.

They loaded back on the plane glad that the next stop would be the last for the next few days. Twenty-three hours after taking off from Joint Base Lewis McChord, the plane touched down at Manas, Kyrgyzstan. At Manas the soldiers of 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, received a brief on the rules of engagement and completed Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle Egress Training.

After a few days, the men and women of the Arrowhead Brigade loaded an Air Force C-17 Globemaster ready for the flight into Kandahar, Afghanistan. This was the first main wave of Arrowhead soldiers to reach Kandahar Airfield. The brigade had deployed three times before but this was the first time 3-2 SBCT would have soldiers on Afghan ground.

Soldiers trained on how to spot improvised explosive devices as well as zeroing their individual weapons over the next two days.

"I thought the counter improvised explosive device lane was very informative," said Sgt. Richard Wallace, chaplain assistant, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd SBCT, 2nd ID. "I thought it was good instruction for the soldiers to have."

Arrowhead soldiers loaded CH-47 Chinooks at Kandahar, which transported them to forward operating bases throughout the Zabul province. There, the Arrowhead Brigade would take command of Combined Team Zabul, which currently has two Romanian mechanized battalions and 1st Battalion 24th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division.

"We have it pretty good here, we have good food, we have a gym next door," said Spc. Mark Neace, Fusion Cell, HHC, 3rd SBCT, 2nd ID. "It could be a lot worse."

Upon reaching their respective FOBs, the soldiers of 3-2 SBCT had little down time and instead started learning as much about the area as they could from the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Virginia National Guard, whom they replaced.

"This area [Zabul province] is already well established, it's been an economy of force mission," said Lt. Col. Robert D. Halvorson, executive officer 3rd SBCT, 2nd ID. "The efforts that the units before us have put into place whether it be 3rd ACR [Armored Cavalry Regiment] or whether it be 116th IBCT have set this place up for success, so really we're building on that."

Even before the 116th IBCT transferred its authority of the Zabul province to 3-2 SBCT, Dec. 27, 2011, Arrowhead soldiers were "On Point" and taking the lead. No matter what their role or position, the soldiers of the Arrowhead Brigade have shown that they have what it takes to accomplish the mission.

"I think the attitude is, just a willingness and readiness to succeed," added Wallace.

January 2, 2012 at 3:16pm

JBLM Soldier Suspected of DUI Crashes Vehicle Into Lakewood MultiCare Building

FROOM PATCH...

A Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier suspected of DUI crashed his vehicle into the MultiCare building in Lakewood causing severe damage, according to Lakewood Police Lt. Chris Lawler.

The vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed Saturday night and caught fire upon plowing into the medical building located at 9332 Bridgeport Way SW. Local authorities then say the driver attempted to snatch the phone from a witness who reported the accident.

The McChord airman was the only person in the car and was released to the military police. 

SEE THE REST HERE

January 3, 2012 at 6:26am

Have an old car, boat or motorcycle? Help vets

Trade-in values for older cars are never what you want them to be. So why not do something good for veterans instead by donating it?
The Cars Helping Veterans organization works to do just that by collecting donated cars and selling them for scrap metal and parts. All funds raised are used to provide food, shelter, clothing and other services to wounded war veterans and veteran organizations that aid the thousands of homeless veterans sleeping outside every night.
In addition to cars, the nonprofit organization also accepts boats, trucks, vans, conversion vans, motorcycles and RVs. Furthermore, it doesn't matter whether the car is in running condition or not. However, regardless of what type of vehicle or its condition, all donations must include the title and a lien release (if applicable).
The company will send a towing company out to collect the car (for free) within 48 to 72 hours, at your scheduling convenience. All donors will receive an IRS tax deductible receipt after their car is picked up.
Cars are collected nationwide. In Washington, there are six locations serving Cars Helping Veterans, and donors can request that their proceeds be used locally. To donate a vehicle, visit www.carshelpingveterans.org/secure/donate-a-car.php and complete the appropriate forms. For more information, call (888) 480-VETS.

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January 3, 2012 at 7:52am

JBLM can't catch a break

Following stories released last week accusing the situation at Joint Base Lewis-McChord as being "on the brink of disaster," come to find out, the shooter of a park ranger over the weekend at Mt. Rainier was a former and troubled soldier from JBLM.

The News Tribune raised issue last week in an editorial, indicating that the base had troubles but shouldn't be considered "on the brink."  Then a few blogs grabbed that piece and took issue.  See here.

Now it is your turn.  Tell us what you think below, or send us an email at editor@ftlewisranger.com.

Is JBLM a time bomb?  Has it already exploded?

January 4, 2012 at 6:05am

Law signed to speed troops through TSA security

FROM ARMY TIMES...

President Obama has signed a law that within six months could make it easier for service members and their families to get through security checkpoints at major airports.

The Risk-Based Security Screening for Members of the Armed Forces Act, signed by Obama on Tuesday, orders the Transportation Security Administration to come up with a plan to expedite security screening for service members traveling in uniform on official orders so they don't have to remove their jackets, shoes, belts and medals.

Additionally, service members in uniform and their families could receive expedited screening at major airports that have special screening lanes for frequent travelers who have been prescreened by TSA. Expedited screening would be available only when a service member is traveling on orders and is in uniform, so it would not help on family vacations or other travel.

Any special relaxed screening procedures could be halted if there is a specific security threat regarding people in uniform.

SEE THE REST HERE

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January 4, 2012 at 6:16am

National Guard's senior officer elevated to Joint Chiefs of Staff

The chief of the National Guard Bureau is a statutory member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

With the stroke of a pen, the same month the nation's oldest military institution celebrated its 375th birthday, President Barack Obama signed legislation that includes a provision adding the CNGB to the Joint Chiefs on Dec. 31, 2011.

The provision -- part of the fiscal year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act -- ushers in a change some National Guard historians have called the most significant development since the Militia Act of 1903 codified the modern day dual-status structure of the Guard.

"We are grateful for the efforts the executive and legislative bodies have gone to in placing the chief of the National Guard Bureau on the Joint Chiefs of Staff," said Air Force Gen. Craig McKinley, the chief of the National Guard Bureau.

"We look forward to working alongside the other Joint Chiefs to provide our nation's senior leaders with a fuller picture of the non-federalized National Guard as it serves in support of homeland defense and civil support missions," McKinley said.

The provision is part of an annual federal law that has for the last half-century specified the Defense Department budget.

The 2012 NDAA authorizes $670 billion in spending for Defense Department programs and Energy Department nuclear weapons programs.

Other provisions of the bill that affect the National Guard include re-establishing the position of vice-chief of the National Guard Bureau at the three-star level while rescinding the two-star position of director of the NGB's joint staff.

The bill also requires that National Guard general officers be considered for command of Army North and Air Force North and authorizes funding for the National Guard State Partnership Program.

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January 5, 2012 at 6:07am

Pentagon chief to unveil warfighting strategy today

FROM ARMY TIMES...

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will lay out the Pentagon's overarching war-fighting strategy Thursday, a set of guidelines that will influence the trimming of more than $450 billion from the Defense Department's budget over the next decade.

Panetta and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will present the strategy during a briefing at the Pentagon, spokesman George Little said Tuesday.

The strategy is informing the Pentagon's 2013 budget plan, which is expected to be sent to Congress in early February.

DoD's budget, which customarily is sent to Capitol Hill on the first Monday in February along with the rest of the White House's federal spending proposal, is expected to include $260 billion in cuts to planned spending over the next five years. Overall, the Pentagon is preparing to cut more than $450 billion over the next decade to help lower the federal deficit.

Last year, DoD launched a comprehensive strategy review that is expected to inform the budget cuts. The number of wars the military is expected to be able to fight simultaneously is one area likely to be addressed.

SEE THE REST HERE

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January 5, 2012 at 6:13am

Friends of park ranger murder suspect speak out

FROM KING 5...

In a statement sent to KREM's sister station KING 5 News, friends of the man who killed a park ranger on New Years Day shed new light on the suspect.

"Benjamin Barnes did a horrible thing and, unfortunately, we will not know why and how he got to that point," said the friends, who were reached through Facebook and asked to remain anonymous.  "We knew Barnes for almost two years and not once [has] Barnes exhibited behavior similar to the one several days ago."

Authorities said Barnes, a 24-year-old Iraq War veteran, shot and killed park ranger Margaret Anderson at Mount Rainier National Park Sunday morning.  His body was found face down in a snowy creek Monday with a handgun and rifle nearby.  An autopsy performed Tuesday showed he had hypothermia and drowned.

Friends knew that Barnes received a misconduct discharge at Fort Lewis in 2009 after he was charged with driving under the influence and improper transport of a privately owned weapon.  In their statement, friends said Barnes stopped drinking after the DUI and spent most of his time in the gym.

They also said Barnes loved his one-year-old daughter "more than life," adding that he worked hard on his custody paperwork.

SEE THE REST HERE

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