Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

Posts made in: July, 2012 (75) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 75

July 2, 2012 at 6:29am

JBLM soldier sent to hospital after accident


An accident at the Lake of the Ozarks sent a man to the hospital over the weekend.

32-year-old Paul Wells, of Columbia, and 30-year-old Ryan Wells from Fort Lewis, Washington, were each riding waverunners across the channel on the Osage arm of the lake.

July 2, 2012 at 6:31am

Making Commanders Accountable for Soldiers’ Suicides


Suicide remains an alarming and growing problem throughout the Army, with the annual number of suicides now greater than the number of deaths resulting from combat.

A few years ago the Army took the aggressive position that suicide prevention should be taken away from its Medical Department and given to the "line" - the commanders of troops. This was accomplished by placing the deputy chief of staff of the Army at the time, General Peter W. Chiarelli, in charge of suicide prevention.

This was a tremendous move in the right direction. However, it wasn't enough and hasn't solved the problem, as recent data show.


July 3, 2012 at 7:10am

I Corps' commanding general meets with community leaders upon return from Afghanistan

TACOMA, Wash. - Less than a week after returning from a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, the commanding general of I Corps, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., and I Corps' Command Sgt. Maj. John Wayne Troxell took the time to reinforce JBLM's connection to the leadership in the surrounding communities.

More than 40 leaders in close proximity to JBLM attended the bi-annual community connector meeting, June 19, at the McChord Co-Located Club. During the meeting several local community leaders were shown I Corps' appreciation by receiving U.S. flags flown at the Kabul International Airport during I Corps' deployment this year.

For over a decade, the leadership of JBLM has met with leaders from local communities to share information, which has allowed them to provide support to each other.

Col. Thomas H. Brittain, the JBLM Garrison Commander, began the meeting by informing the community leaders about infrastructure changes and upcoming events on base.

He informed the community of a few scheduled summertime events on base that include the 4th of July "Freedom Fest" and the first-ever air show which officially combines Army and Air Force assets at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Air Expo, July 21-22.

Next up, Lt. Gen. Scaparrotti gave the community leaders his experienced opinions regarding some of the improvements to Afghanistan during their recent deployment.

"Afghanistan has changed, said Scaparrotti." In 2009, the average life-span in Afghanistan was 47 years, two and a half years later the average life-span is 62."

"Today, 85 percent of Afghans have health-care within one hour of where they live," added Scaparrotti.

Mayor of Lacey, Wash., Virgil S. Clarkson who attended the meeting and received a U.S. flag in appreciation for his support to the military community, had a strong sense of appreciation for hearing the general's perspective on Afghanistan.

"With one in ten of our Lacey residents serving on active duty, this was very good information for those of us who are non-military," said Mayor Clarkson. "This is an outstanding opportunity for leaders who represent cities near the base to get this information first hand."

July 3, 2012 at 7:13am

Brown is in, Scaparrotti headed to the Beltway

Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. - Lt. Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti will relinquish command of I Corps to Lt. Gen, Robert B. Brown 10 a.m. Tuesday, July 3, at Watkins Parade Field.  More than 2,000 Service members in 22 unit formations, plus the I Corps Band will line the parade field for the ceremony. There will also be a 75mm Pack Howitzer salute and a unit pass and review during the event.

Brown, who will receive his third star during a ceremony before the change of command, is no stranger to JBLM. He served as the commander of 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, the Army's second Stryker Brigade to be fielded, and deployed with that unit to Iraq from 2004 thru 2005 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Scaparrotti took command of I Corps on October 15, 2010. He led the corps to Afghanistan for year-long International Security Assistance Forces Joint Command deployment mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He is the 64th commander of "America's Corps."

Scaparotti will next serve as the Director of the Joint Staff in Washington, D.C.

Bios for Lt. Gen.Curtis M. Scaparrotti, Lt. Gen, Robert B. Brown, and I Corps Command Sgt. Maj. John W. Troxell can be found at the links below:

Information about the Joint Staff can be found at:

July 3, 2012 at 7:17am

Tricare Prime enrollment fees to increase


Enrollment fees for military retirees will increase Oct. 1 but within limits set by Congress last year.

Tricare Prime enrollment fees will increase for some retired military personnel and their families by 3.6 percent and for most by 17 percent starting Oct. 1.

Tricare Management Activity announced July 2 its new annual fee structure for military retirees enrolled in Prime. For those who enrolled before Oct. 1, 2011, annual fees will increase for individuals from $230 to $269.28, and from $460 to $538.56 for families.

Those who enrolled after Oct. 2, 2011, and all new beneficiaries will pay $269.28 a year for individuals, up from $260, and $538.56 for families, up from $520.


July 3, 2012 at 7:18am

GAO upholds Tricare West contract switch


The Government Accountability Office on Monday upheld a Pentagon decision to award the $20.5 billion contract to manage the Tricare West region to UnitedHealth Group, the nation's largest insurer.

The decision strips the business from Phoenix-based TriWest Healthcare, which has held the contract since 1996.

TriWest had been granted the contract in 2009 but after UnitedHealth lost an opportunity to manage a different Tricare region contract, it persuaded the government to reopen the bidding process for the West region.

The Defense Department decided March 16 to award the contract to UnitedHealth. But TriWest protested, arguing its bid was lower than the competition's and the government had not fully vetted UnitedHealth.


July 6, 2012 at 2:05am

3rd Stryker's C-IED teams locate roadside bombs using metal detectors on steroids

FORWARD OPERATING BASE LAGMAN, Afghanistan - The joint Afghan National Army-U.S. forces counter improvised explosive device team of seven soldiers walked down the dusty rural road in Shamulzai District, Afghanistan, ahead of their convoy; scanning the route with their eyes for subtle clues that might help them visually identify an IED hidden on the road. When they see nothing, they verify as much by sweeping the same area with their VMR-2 Minehound and VMC-1 Gizmo metal detectors in a slow precise manner before walking ahead.

"We walked a good four and a half (kilometers) in front of the whole convoy because we had just recently been hit with an IED on the route back (to Forward Operating Base Sweeney)," said Staff Sgt. Antonio Barajas, 3rd Platoon, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. "All seven of us had Gizmos and Minehounds (and were) out there clearing the whole road so the rest of the convoy could make it back to FOB Sweeney safely."

"The Gizmo is just an easy (to use) metal detector used to identify metal or you can switch it to minerals," explained Barajas when asked to describe the two devices used that day.

"It's a lot like the metal detectors you see men on the beach with, but on steroids," said one of his soldiers, Pfc. Niko Williams, also from 3rd Platoon, 5-20 Infantry, Task Force 1-14 Cavalry.

The use of such gadgetry has been a blessing to both ANA and International Security Assistance Forces in Afghanistan. For Barajas and his team, the MineHound's ground penetrating radar enabled them to discover a secondary IED earlier in the day, prior to the IED strike on their convoy. That IED was only a hundred meters forward of the one that hit them. Without the MineHound, there stood a chance Barajas' team may have missed that roadside bomb.

The Minehound and Gizmo metal detectors, by Vallon, are "the current state-of-the-art technology dual sensor detectors capable of detecting command wires, non-metallic and low-metallic signature IEDs using ground penetrating radar," according their product description online. "In addition to GPR, the Minehound uses Vallon's advanced metal detector sensor, which is the same sensor used in Vallon's VMC-1 Gizmo detector to find both metallic and non-metallic threats."

The Vallon Company claims to have more than 2,000 Minehound detectors currently in use in Afghanistan. They, along with the Gizmo, have become an invaluable item in finding IEDs and weapons caches before they can be used against ANA or ISAF forces.

The use of the Minehound and Gizmo detectors started with combat engineers and explosive ordnance disposal personnel, but they are now issued to non-EOD units such as Battle Company 5-20 Infantry to aid in the discovery of IEDs and weapons caches.

Since the onset of the Afghan War in 2001, homemade bombs have increasingly become the insurgent's weapon of choice here in Afghanistan and certainly their most effective weapon. Almost 60 percent of all coalition forces wounded or killed in Afghanistan since the start of the war in 2001 have been due to IEDs, according to a May 2011 report from the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, a U.S. Department of Defense organization located in Washington D.C.

To complicate matters, insurgents in Afghanistan have been increasingly constructing IEDs to circumvent simple metal detectors. Some IEDs contain rudimentary materials such as wooden boards, foam rubber, and plastic containers. The finished product contains very little metal making it difficult for a traditional metal detector to pick up, but not for the Minehound with its ground penetrating radar.

Increasingly compact, collapsible, light-weight metal detectors, such as the MineHound and Gizmo, are finding IEDs with more frequency than ever before, all of which has reduced the number of injuries or deaths to Afghan civilians, ANA and ISAF troops. In the hands of an infantry platoon, or similar-type unit, they are also being used to find weapons caches which often provide the insurgency with ample arms to fight for weeks or months.

"In the orchards (the Minehound and Gizmo are) good because that's where they often hide the caches," said Barajas. "So far we've found two caches with the Gizmo and Minehounds, and also with the ANA helping us out with their resources."

Without doubt, improved technological devices such as the VMR-2 Minehound and VMC-1 Gizmo metal detectors are helping coalition troops across Afghanistan.

"It helps a lot when we're in the orchards or going through the towns when we use the Gizmos and Minehounds because it also allows if something does get missed by sight it will pick it up," said Williams. "That's what makes the Gizmo and Mine Hound so important," said Williams. "It helps make sure people are not being taken out of the fight ... (that) you're keeping them in," said Williams.

Photo: gt. Christopher McCullough

Pfc. Nikko Williams, 3rd Platoon, Battle Company, 5th Battalion 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron 14th Cavalry Regiment, uses a Minehound to search for weapons caches in an orchard outside the village of Sowkray Tangay, Afghanistan, May 7, 2012. The Minehound is a handheld detector that uses ground penetrating radar and metal detection technology which gives it the ability to detect deep buried, low metallic threats such as mines and caches.

July 6, 2012 at 2:17am

JBLM Crime Report

June 26: A Soldier from the 75th Ranger Regiment was cited for Driving While License Suspended, Altered Temp Tag, Failure to Provide Proof of Insurance, and Article 92 Failure to Obey an Order (Unregistered Weapon). The Soldier was attempting to enter the installation with an altered Oregon temporary tag which was noticed by the gate guard. The Soldier had changed the date of expiration from April 2012 to September 2012. Upon arrival of JBLM Police, a DOL check revealed that the Soldier's driver's license was suspended in the third degree effective October 2011. The Soldier also could not provide proof of insurance. The vehicle was towed, and while conducting an impound inventory an unregistered, loaded weapon was found for which the Soldier did not have proof of ownership. The weapon was retained as evidence and the Soldier was issued three District Court Violation Notices, a Post Driving Revocation Letter and released to his unit.

June 27: A sergeant from the 555th Engineer Brigade was cited for Driving While License Suspended and charged with Article 92 Failure to Obey an Order (Post Driving Revocation). The sergeant was attempting to enter the installation during a double ID check and was unable to produce a driver's license. A DOL check revealed that his license was suspended effective November 2011. The sergeant was cited on two District Court Violation Notices issued a Post Driving Revocation Letter and his vehicle was towed. The sergeant was released to his unit.

June 29: A Soldier from the 593rd Sustainment Brigade was charged with Article 132 Insurance Fraud. The Soldier filed a report for theft of private property with Tacoma Police Department and placed an insurance claim with USAA. Investigation revealed the property was not stolen and the claim was fraudulent. The Soldier was advised of his legal rights, which he waived, rendering a sworn written statement admitting to the offense. The Soldier was processed and released to his unit.

June 30: A Soldier from the 17th Fires Brigade and his wife were charged with Article 121 Larceny of AAFES Property and 18 USC 641 Larceny of AAFES Property as well as Possession of Alcohol by a Minor. The Soldier and his wife entered the Lewis Main Exchange and the wife selected various items of clothing, a bottle of Jack Daniels, a pair of Coach shoes, lighter fluid, and placed them in her purse. The wife also placed a printer in the bottom of a shopping cart and the Soldier placed a pair of Nike shoes on his feet and attempted to exit the Exchange without rendering proper payment. AAFES Loss Prevention detained the Soldier and his wife and JBLM Police apprehended them and transported them to the station where they were advised of their rights. The Soldier waived his rights and rendered a sworn written statement admitting to the offense, the wife invoked her rights. They were both issued Exchange Revocation Letters and the wife was issued two District Court Violation Notices. The Soldier was released to his unit.

July 6, 2012 at 2:19am

JBLM Mud Run: More than 500 participants test their tolerance for ‘dirty water’

Stephanie Schildt makes her way through a mud pit Saturday during the annual Down and Dirty Mud Run series opener behind Soldiers Field House on JBLM Lewis Main. By Scott Hansen/JBLM PAO

Jordan Sonora spent more than an hour getting ready for the first race of the Down and Dirty Mud Run Series Saturday. With a superhero theme, the Navy corpsman painted his entire body green and donned purple shorts to run the annual Joint Base Lewis-McChord fun run dressed as The Incredible Hulk.

"I CrossFit a lot and people always say I get angry when I don't get a lift," Sonora said. "I decided to go green." It took less than 20 minutes for his paint to come off as he progressed through various obstacles, sprinkler sprays and mud pits behind Soldiers Field House on Lewis Main before crossing the finish line in just under 26 minutes.

More than 500 runners competed in the first of two annual mud runs held each summer. With about 475 pre-registered runners, the check-in line delayed the start time by about 15 minutes. But time wasn't a concern for the majority of the participants who dressed in creative costumes just so they could ruin them.

Jen Shellard and Katie Brown pulled together matching outfits at the last minute and wore "Team Awesome" Angry Birds T-shirts. While the duo were soaked and dirty, Brown was expecting a little more.

"More mud!" she demanded afterward.

Seventeen-year-old Cameron Freshwaters repeated as Mud Run overall champ, finishing the race about five minutes ahead of second-place finisher, his father Brett Freshwaters. Freshwaters, a cross-country and track athlete at Stadium High School, breezed through the 3.3-mile course in just under 19 minutes and was just about spotless.

"It was more like dirty water," Freshwaters said. "It really tests you because you're not just running, you're doing obstacles as well. It tests your endurance."

While some participants complained that there wasn't enough mud, Matt Freeth might disagree. Dressed in nothing but swim trunks and running shoes, Freeth finished the run with mud in his mouth, up his nose and he guessed more than likely he had some in his shorts. Freeth had the idea to run as superhero Silver Surfer, but he didn't have time to find silver paint for himself and his inflatable raft. He settled for just being a surfer.

"I liked the idea of the beach and since it's Washington, it's not really much of a summer," Freeth said.

Freeth not only had to maneuver through the low-crawl pits, mud pits and tires like everyone else, but he had to do so while carrying his raft. It proved to be the biggest challenge when running uphill against the wind.

Freeth finished 82nd overall, but the fun run did not award prizes to the top finishers in each age category. All finishers received a Down and Dirty Mud Run coin and were welcomed with a warm outdoor shower afterward.

July 6, 2012 at 2:27am

New I Corps CG reaches out to neighbors, allies

Gen. David M. Rodriguez, Commanding General U.S. Army Forces Command, left, passes the I Corps colors to Lt. Gen. Robert B. Brown, right, after receiving them from former I Corps commander Lt. Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti July 3 during an I Corps change of

Three weeks after their redeployment from Kabul, I Corps Soldiers turn their attention east of Afghanistan. Lieutenant General Robert B. Brown took command of America's Corps Tuesday at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in a ceremony that included more than 2,000 Soldiers in 22 unit formations and a 75mm Pack Howitzer salute, but his focus was on neighbors far and near.

Brown's remarks signaled a shift that reflected a new national defense focus, returning the corps to its traditional missions in the Pacific Rim. He spoke of his intent to renew old aquaintances there while expressing joy in returning home.

"I tell you, the Browns are thrilled, absolutely thrilled, to be back in the Pacific Northwest," he said at the ceremony on Watkins Field.

Brown commanded 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis in 2002, and led it to Iraq two years later as only the second Stryker brigade combat team to deploy in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Brown replaced Lt. Gen. Mike Scaparrotti at I Corps, who took command in October 2010. Scaparrotti returned to JBLM June 13 after a yearlong deployment serving as the commander of the International Security Assistance Forces Joint Command and deputy commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. All the while, he supported the Families and Soldiers of the corps.

His next assignment will be as the director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon.

"General Scaparrotti has followed through on his commitment to make this installation better," Gen. David M. Rodriguez said. Rodriguez commands U.S. Army Forces Command and served Tuesday as reviewing officer for the ceremony.

The future will change for I Corps, but its challenges won't diminish. While Brown and his wife, Patti, brace for cooler Pacific Northwest temperatures after leaving The Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Ga., the CG prepares for the arrival at JBLM of 7th Infantry Division Headquarters in the fall.

"We are a huge part of that," Brown said.

I Corps will remain deployable, still eligible for rotations in Afghanistan, but there will be a resumption of exercises in Japan, Thailand, the Philippines, partnering again with U.S. allies in the Pacific. Underscoring those relationships, officials from Japan, South Korea and the CG of U.S. Army Pacific, Lt. Gen. Francis J. Wiercinski, were present Tuesday.

As for the new division headquarters, its arrival reflects major changes in the installation since Brown left in 2005.

"I don't believe how the base has grown ... We definitely need a division," he said.

While Brown attends to his operational responsibilities, he also plans to direct energies toward community outreach. He hopes to build relationships not only with local neighbors, but others as far away as Portland, Ore., to demonstrate that negative news is not all Soldiers have to offer communities in the JBLM region.

"Folks here want to support the military," he said. "We need to show them how."

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