Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

Posts made in: May, 2012 (111) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 111

May 1, 2012 at 7:03am

Communication also a problem in December helo crash at JBLM


A veteran Army pilot should have seen and avoided another helicopter in a Joint Base Lewis-McChord training area in rural Thurston County just before he crashed into it, according to the Army's first investigation into a December accident that killed four soldiers in two OH-58 Kiowa helicopters.

Yet pilot Chief Warrant Officer Shan Satterfield's failure to identify the other aircraft was not the sole cause of the accident, according to the document released Monday.

An Army investigator found systemic communications problems in the undeveloped area where the nighttime crash took place -- problems that Lewis-McChord officials were aware of early last year. Radio transmissions and radar signals are blocked from reaching an important training area for Lewis-McChord's growing combat aviation units.

Those dark spots contributed to the Dec. 12 accident in that they prevented an airspace manager from providing accurate information to the two crews during their routine training missions.


May 1, 2012 at 4:35pm

JBLM's small CBRNE teams pack large capabilities

Capt. Robert Bone, commander of the Bravo Company CBRNE Response Team, relays radio traffic back and forth between his team. Many checks and balances are in place to ensure chemical and biological samples are verified and entered into evidence.

SOUTH KOREA - Consisting of highly specialized small teams, they have a big name with an even bigger mission.

Called CRTs, a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, high-yield explosives response team is made up of only 15 soldiers but its mission is to do field presumptive identification, which means detecting bio-weapons while donning protective gear and entering sites deemed too dangerous for others. This mission isn't for the squeamish. It's dealing with germ warfare-when the enemy commits a war act by using biological toxins or infectious agents like bacteria, viruses or fungi with the intent to harm or kill humans, animals or plants.

Bravo Company from the 110th Chemical Battalion (Technical Escort) deployed from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., to South Korea and participated in Foal Eagle, a monthlong, annual, joint/combined field training exercise that concluded, April 30.

CRTs were created to deploy within the U.S. or overseas and can conduct CBRNE assessments, disablement, elimination, escort, site remediation and restoration in support of combatant commanders and other federal agencies.

During Foal Eagle missions, the CRT worked together with CBRN specialists from 2nd Infantry Division and the Republic of Korea. Each had a responsibility. While some soldiers remained outside establishing decontamination lines, guiding communication flow, or directing the course of events, others entered a dimly lit tunnel to safeguard it from explosives or other possible hazards and provide an initial assessment, followed by a different set of soldiers who gathered and packaged samples for analysis.

"The missions vary from six minutes to 12 hours, said Capt. Robert Bone, CRT commander, who stood outside and relayed information by radio between soldiers working in the tunnel and his lieutenant who logged all events taking place.

Members of 2ID's 4th Chemical Company are CBRN specialists. They include medics, engineers, mechanics and communicators. Covered head-to-toe in safety gear, to include air tanks on their backs, three soldiers are anxious to enter the tunnel on a reconnaissance mission. But they're going to have to wait a bit longer. One of them has a problem with his communication equipment.

After a short time and some technical assistance, the problem is resolved and the team goes inside. In order to give the most accurate account of what they saw, they'll take photos, draw maps and relay detailed information to help the next team - the samplers. But they'll need to be quick. The tanks hold less than an hour of air.

"The bigger you are, the more air you take in," Spec. Matthew Harris, from Wild Peach, Texas explains. "It's important for us to give a back brief on what we saw. It could be liquids, solids, powder or could be any kind of chemicals or nerve agents. It could be anything really," Harris said. "We're supposed to go narrow down the possibilities."

A heads up display inside the mask will help the recon team track remaining air time. The team surveys make-shift rooms inside the tunnel while checking the air quality outside their suits. There are stairs to navigate through fogged up face masks and a laboratory with chemicals still brewing in beakers. The team also discovers six shells that represent chemical munitions and two are leaking. The three end their survey session and head down a steep hill to go through decontamination procedures before providing information that will help the next team.

The survey team from Bravo Company gathers necessary equipment based on information learned from the 4th Chemical Company's initial assessment and loads it into a wagon for the long trek up the hill and into the tunnel.

"This is the first time we've worked together so we're starting off to form a good partnership," said Bone. The CRT commander also said he and his team talked to their ROK counterparts and they both look forward to building a good working relationship.

CRTs include explosive ordnance disposal capabilities. Maj. Young Pyo, a chemical officer with 7th Corps, a command at Jung Won approximately 64 miles (103 kilometers) from Camp Stanley, observes two EOD soldiers double and triple bag the "leaking munitions" for safe transport following sampling during the Foal Eagle exercise scenario.

"The ROK army has studied and learned from the U.S. for several years so our procedures are similar," Pyo said. "But I'm impressed by U.S. procedure because the U.S. specifies following the manual step-by-step. ROK procedures are kind of loose compared to U.S. procedures."

Inside the survey team continues to bag samples, fill out paperwork and radio back the sample number for checks and double checks during a procedure that'll last more than five hours today. Samples are split for ROK and U.S. lab analysis. The process is tedious, meticulous and time consuming.

"You have to know what you're doing," said Private 1st Class Jazmin Lopez Perez, a sample team assistant from Los Angeles, Calif. who's been in the CRT for nine months. "You have to have chemical, biological and nuclear knowledge so to be part of that makes me feel special."

The CRT deployed to Korea not only to participate in Foal Eagle, but also to build a strong relationship with its Republic of Korea Army counterparts. It will continue do so by being permanently reassigned to the Korean peninsula.

The CRT is the first to occupy the peninsula in support of Eighth Army and 2nd Infantry Division. By the end of this year elements of the 110th as well as the 23rd Chemical Battalion, also located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, will be restationed in Korea.

May 1, 2012 at 4:38pm

Our home, too: 593rd soldiers pay it forward in Washington's state capitol

Pfc. Darius Delafoisse, a human resources specialist with the 22nd Human Resources Company, 593rd Sustainment Brigade, cuts weeds and grass from a crack in an Olympia, Wash., sidewalk April 21 during the semi-annual Olympia Downtown Cleanup. Delafoisse's

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Pfc. Darius Delafoisse knows there are two types of soldier: The one people see on TV and in movies, and the one that actually exists.

But with rakes, brooms, pruners and tiny shovels in hand, the latter can sometimes come as a surprise to the public.

"A lot of people think the military is just all about killing," said Delafoisse, a small gardening shovel in one hand and a soiled work glove on the other, prying weeds and grass from cracks in a downtown Olympia parking lot. "People always think we don't really care about the community.

"I don't think they even realize we're soldiers until they actually come up and ask us why we're out here and what we're doing."

Delafoisse and more than 70 fellow soldiers from JBLM's 593rd Sustainment Brigade might have debunked some common Soldier stereotypes for those who have never actually met one April 21 during Olympia's semi-annual Downtown Cleanup, an event that put gardening tools in the Soldiers hands and took them briefly away from their Army environment.

The city uses the cleanup - a widespread, three-hour volunteer effort in which anywhere from 150 to 200 community and service members participate - to polish up the streets downtown in preparation for Arts Walk, a series of performances and displays that showcase the talent of local musicians and artists.

"We care about making sure the streets are clean, making sure the parks look good, because we live in these communities just like they do," said Lt. Col. Douglas Levien, commander of the 593rd Special Troops Battalion. "We care about them, just like they care about us."

The 593rd has offered volunteers for almost the last decade to the city, which partners with the brigade under JBLM's community connector program, an initiative that joins local communities with Army units for varying forms of support.

And the support goes both ways.

The brigade lends it assistance for the cleanup twice a year and delivers a holiday tree to the city's park every December. Whenever any of the brigade's soldiers deploy, the city holds a parade to wish them farewell and assembles care packages for them.

"I'm a business man here in town, and I know that it's all of us working together, and our service people our an integral part of our community," said Jeffrey Trinin, a board member for the Olympia Downtown Association and one of the founders of the cleanup event. "It's been a real opportunity for me to get to know a lot of Soldiers here."

Trinin isn't a veteran, but he's well versed on the rigors of military life, the biggest of which can sometimes be adjusting to life in a new region of the country or world.

But even pulling weeds, trimming hedges, sweeping sidewalks and picking up trash can help welcome the new with open arms.

"I've got various family members who are veterans, so I really understand the military way of life," Trinin said. "When folks are at a duty station, although they have friends and a social network, they don't have quite the family in other networks they have.

"In a lot of ways, we've been able to be friendly with folks and help them feel more comfortable in our community."

Some of the soldiers who volunteer for the cleanup for their first time have never been to Olympia.

Delafoisse never even knew it existed.

"My first month here, I didn't even know what Olympia was," said Delafoisse, a human resource specialist with the 22nd Human Resource Company. "I had no idea it was the capitol."

But now, just six months after the first time he visited the city for a cleanup, it's where he goes to get the best sushi in the area.

"I love sushi, and we always come out here and get sushi," he said, just around the corner from his favorite sushi restaurant, on his hands and knees behind a local eatery paying back the community for the many amenities he and his fellow soldiers enjoy on a regular basis.

"I feel like we owe it to them," said Delafoisse, a Houston native, leaning back on his knees to take a quick break from his work. "We go to their Walmarts, we go to their grocery stores. We're dealing with the people who live in this community, so just because we're not physically living here doesn't mean we shouldn't help."

To Delafoisse, it's all part of giving for a change instead of taking away.

"It feels good just to put something back into what I'm taking out of," said Delafoisse, who also volunteers regularly at an animal shelter in Seattle. "We might be in our Humvees, and we might hold up traffic, or we might be at the range, and our range might be right behind someone's backyard."

But as Levien sees it, volunteering has every bit to do with where you live as it does where you came from - the communities soldiers left back home before joining.

"All the soldiers here come from neighborhoods, and they all come from hometowns, and this is the type of stuff that you ought to be doing in your hometown," Levien said. "And now that you're part of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, you have an adopted hometown."

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May 1, 2012 at 4:39pm

Memorial Ceremony for 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division Soldier Wednesday

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Family, friends, Service members and the Joint Base community will remember a Soldier who died while deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom with a ceremony to be conducted Wednesday, May 2, at 3 p.m. in the JBLM Lewis North Chapel.

Spc. Philip C. S. Schiller, 21, of The Colony, Texas, died April 11, in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with small arms fire.  Spc. Schiller was assigned to 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

The brigade deployed to Afghanistan in December, 2011, Spc. Schiller's unit, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, deployed in March.

May 2, 2012 at 7:34am

Army asks for armed aerial scout demonstration, replace Kiowa

The Army released to industry, April 25, a "request for information" about a replacement for the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior aircraft, including a proposal to industry to provide for the Army a demonstration of the current "state of the art" in rotary-wing aircraft and their subsystems.

It's expected any demonstrations would happen this summer or fall.

Currently, the Army has more than 300 Kiowa Warriors filling the armed aerial scout, or AAS, role. But that airframe entered into service during the 1960s and no longer meets all the needs of commanders. Yet it still remains in high demand.

"The Kiowa Warrior, in its current form, is still the basic airframe of an OH-58A/C that we flew in Vietnam," said Ellis Golsen, director of the Capability Development and Integration Directorate at the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence. "We have continued to modify it and address it. But the airframe itself and the environments we fly in now and the ones we look to in the future are going to require greater performance."

Golsen said the Kiowa Warrior, as an AAS, is "our most demanded capability," and added that the Army's AAS has not received the attention other airframes have.

"If you look at the history so far, we have corrected or adjusted or fielded an upgraded system for everything except AAS," he said. "But those are the guys that are continuing to have to fly in a hostile environment, to provide close support to ground Soldiers, and that's the reason we exist, to provide support to the ground Soldiers."

The request for information, known as an RFI, spells out capability shortfalls with the current OH-58D. Those shortfalls include responsiveness in terms of speed, range and endurance; the performance margin to operate in high and hot environments; and aircraft lethality due to limitations on weapons payload capacity.

Officials expect that this summer or fall, they should begin viewing demonstrations of aircraft from industry. And industry participation in the demonstration is totally voluntary, the RFI explains. Aircraft developers who don't participate in the demonstration will have an equal chance to compete to sell the Army a new armed aerial scout, or AAS, if and when the Army decides to buy one.

"This voluntary flight demonstration is really an effort, an extension of the 'analysis of alternatives,' or AOA, to help us verify the data in the AOA and give us a better idea of what we can ask for, and what is achievable within our budget constraints," Golsen said.

There are multiple options for the Army to purchase a new AAS. Included in those are:

-- improving the current Kiowa Warrior to fill its capability gaps

-- creating a new aircraft, a developmental aircraft, from the ground up

-- pursuing a commercial off-the-shelf replacement.

The COTS solution means finding something already being made by industry, and deciding that with acceptable modifications it could fit the Army's needs.

Maj. Gen. Anthony Crutchfield, commander of the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence, said in Afghanistan today, the Kiowa Warrior is showing gaps in what it's able to do.

"The Kiowa Warrior, quite frankly, has challenges in some of the altitudes that we fly in Afghanistan, in reaching those altitudes, and having the appropriate station time that a ground commander needs," he said. "That is one of the biggest gaps. We want to be able to not only reach the target area, but we want to have the loiter time commanders need."

Crutchfield said commanders can make trades with the capabilities of the Kiowa Warrior, such as adjusting the aircraft's weight by taking less fuel or less ammunition. Those kinds of changes can affect altitude, station time and payload. A longer range, with altitude and environment taken into consideration, might mean a tradeoff with fuel and ammunition, for instance. Less fuel can also means less station time, and less ammunition might mean not meeting a ground commander's needs.

"It's trades, it's give and take," Crutchfield said. "What we'd like to see is an aircraft that we don't have to make that choice; that we don't have to give up something. We can give the commander the station time he needs and the payload that he needs. That's what we are really after."

The Army's current AAS, the Kiowa Warrior, is good at "going out and finding things, reporting them, synchronizing the battlefield, calling for indirect fire, and doing all the other things we expect of a scout on the battlefield."

Like AH-64 Apache, the Kiowa Warrior is armed, but unlike the Apache, the Kiowa Warrior is more subtle in its approach, Golsen said.

"When you're doing recon, you don't necessarily want the other guy to know you're looking at him," he said. "Apache is big and heavy, it was designed to go out and no kidding, kill stuff."

The AAS needs to be able to loiter and watch, and to be ready at a moment's notice "to deal with fleeting targets that you don't have time to coordinate for, and you have a small window of opportunity to destroy the target and it's a high pay-off target," Golsen said.

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May 2, 2012 at 7:37am

Soldiers death from rabies has troops being screened before leaving Afghanistan

Spc. Kevin Shumaker, 24, a cook for the 615th Military Police Company, died tragically on Aug. 31, 2011, from wounds he received while deployed to Afghanistan. His injury didn't come from a bullet wound or shrapnel from an improvised explosive device, or from a mortar attack. In truth his injury didn't come from a battle at all. His injuries came from a dog.

When Shumaker was bitten by a rabid dog in Afghanistan and died, he became the first Soldier to die from rabies since 1967. His death and the sheer number of feral animals Soldiers come in contact with in Afghanistan prompted the Army to add rabies screening to their demobilization screening process.

"Rabies is a serious infection of the nervous system and is caused by a virus," said First Army Division East Clinical Operations Officer Capt. Akil Rahman. "It's transmitted through contact with the saliva of infected or rabid warm-blooded animals, such as dogs, cats, bats, foxes, skunks, raccoons, mongooses and jackals."

Although encounters with rabid animals are rare, Shumaker proved they do occur. The Army directed 100 percent screening to minimize the risk of deployed Soldiers returning from theater with the rabies virus.

"The death of this Soldier is very tragic, and we are taking actions to ensure something like this does not happen again," Lt. Col. Steven Cersovsky, director of epidemiology and disease surveillance at the Army's Public Health Command, said in news release.

"In the aftermath of the Soldier's death, we [First Army Division East] were directed to screen 100 percent of our Soldiers," said Rahman. "We published an order and had brigades conduct and report the screening results. Army Medical Command is now mandating 100 percent documentation of every Soldier readiness processing encounter in the Department of Defense electronic health record."

As part of the screening, individuals who meet the following criteria are advised to report for a medical evaluation as soon as possible:

• Those who had a possible animal exposure that occurred after March 1, 2010. A possible animal exposure is a bite or contact with the saliva of warm-blooded animals such as dogs, cats, bats, foxes, skunks, raccoons and jackals.

• Those who had no medical evaluation or incomplete/undocumented evaluation or an incomplete series of rabies shots following an exposure incident. Individuals who are not 100 percent confident they received appropriate and completely documented care should be evaluated.

"Soldiers don't have to be bitten to get rabies. If Soldiers have an open wound and come into contact with a rabid animal's saliva, they can contract the disease," explained Rahman. "It is important that Soldiers identify all contact with animals in theater."

Additionally, First Army Division East provides Soldiers preparing to deploy information on preventing rabies during medial threat briefings.

According to the U.S. Army Public Health Command, humans can carry the virus for weeks, and occasionally, years before showing symptoms. The incubation period averages one to three months.

However, "once the signs and symptoms of rabies develop, the disease is almost always fatal," stated Cersovsky on the public health command web site.

One myth about rabies that the Army's Public Health Command website dispels is that animals with rabies will always be foaming at the mouth and rabid or overly aggressive. Infected animals may not always look or act strangely.

Although rabies is a fatal disease, it is preventable. It is also very rare in the United States, due to an active vaccination program for pets. The vast majority of rabies cases in the United States each year occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes. In developing countries, however, the vast majority of human rabies cases are the result of bites from rabid dogs.

"The best treatment is prevention and post-exposure prophylaxis, which includes thorough cleansing of the wound as soon as possible, timely completion of a vaccine series and administration of human rabies immunoglobulin," said Rahman.

For more information on rabies and how to prevent the disease, visit: U.S. Army Public Health Command,

First Army Division East, headquartered at Fort Meade, Md., mobilizes, trains, validates, deploys and demobilizes Reserve Component troops. The division demobilized almost 27,000 service members in support of overseas contingency operations, such as Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation New Dawn, at three mobilization training centers across the eastern United States in 2011.

May 2, 2012 at 1:56pm

More info on the death of Sgt. Nicholas M. Dickhut

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. - According to the Dept. of Defense, Sgt. Nicholas M. Dickhut, 23, of Rochester, Minn., died Apr. 30 in Zharay, Afghanistan, from wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with small arms fire.  He was assigned to the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

According to unit records, Dickhut enlisted in the Army in September 2008 and attended Army Basic Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and Advanced Individual Training in Military Occupational Specialty 13F (Fire Support Specialist) at Fort Sill, Okla. He arrived at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in February 2009, and was assigned to 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team. 

The 3rd Stryker Brigade deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in December.  Sgt. Dickhut deployed with the brigade and was attached to the 82nd Airborne Division during this deployment. This was his first deployment to Afghanistan, he previously deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from July through December 2009 with 3/2 SBCT.

"The loss of Sgt. Dickhut is deeply felt by all members of Attack Company. Sgt. Dickhut was not only incredibly talented as a Forward Observer, he possessed great maturity and intelligence. His positive attitude and eagerness to share lessons learned made him an invaluable member of our Company. There is no way to describe the loss created by his absence." said Capt. Lawrence Csaszar, commander, Co. A, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment. "His fellow Soldiers are committed to ensuring that he did not give his life in vain and remain focused on successfully completing the mission at hand."

His friend and peer, Spc. Connor Higgins said "He was easily the best Forward Observer I have ever met in the US Army. More importantly, he was a great friend and someone who would always help you out no matter what. He was the kind of NCO that the Army needs more of. He was dedicated to his job and his fellow Soldiers. I hope my words have enough gravity to somehow help his family through this inconsolable time. Sgt. Dickhut was surrounded by Soldiers who loved and respected him. I'm sure the Soldiers he trained will carry on in his footsteps."

Dickhut's civilian and military education includes a high school diploma (2007), Military Occupational Specialty 13F: Fire Support Specialist (2008), Combatives Level 1 (2008), Combat Lifesavers Course (2010), Precision Strike Suite (2010), Joint Fires Observer Course where he was recognized as the Honor Graduate (2011), and he graduated the Warrior Leaders Course with honors as the Class Leader (2011).

His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Army Achievement medal, Army Good Conduct Medal (two awards), National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal with campaign star, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Ribbon (two awards), Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon and the Combat Action Badge.

On behalf of the entire Joint Base Lewis-McChord military and civilian community, we extend our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Sgt. Dickhut.

May 3, 2012 at 5:58am

U.S.-Afghanistan security deal has loopholes


WASHINGTON - The 10-year security compact that President Obama signed with Afghan President Hamid Karzai contains promises the United States and Afghanistan cannot guarantee they will keep, and loopholes for both nations.


May 3, 2012 at 6:00am

Women in combat: Army to open 14K jobs, 6 MOSs


The Army will start placing women in as many as 14,000 combat-related jobs by opening up six military occupational specialties and placing women in 37 battalions across nine brigade combat teams.

On May 14, the Army will begin implementing the new Defense Department policy.

The new DoD policy opens up an additional 3 percent of Army jobs to women.


May 3, 2012 at 6:03am

WA Guardsman was wrongly fired for Iraq tour by Catholic Community Services


SEATTLE - A federal jury in Seattle has awarded $485,000 in damages to a Washington National Guard sergeant who said she was fired because of her military service. reports the jury found Catholic Community Services violated state and federal law in discriminating against Grace Campbell. The jury said the charity wrongly fired Campbell after learning she would deploy to Iraq in 2008.


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