Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

Posts made in: September, 2012 (27) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 27

September 4, 2012 at 6:29am

Event pairs veterans with resources

Patriots Landing: Rachel McLain, director of Marketing and Development at Patriots Landing & Careage, invites the community to attend the “Facing the Financial and Physical Obstacles of Aging” symposium. J.M. Simpson

Patriots Landing in DuPont will host its first "Facing the Financial and Physical Obstacles of Aging" symposium next month.

"This event is one that reaches outside of our constituency," Rachel McLain, the director of Marketing Development, explained. "Not only will the symposium help those who live in our community, but it also welcomes those who live outside our community."

Opened in 2005, Patriots Landing is the Northwest's only retirement community dedicated to serving former military personnel. The center offers luxury living and exceptional care for people from all walks of life.

"One of the questions we hear a lot is what to do with a home or whether or not to sell a home," McLain continued. "What we're doing here is making the options visible that help people in their decision-making process."

The symposium will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Sept. 12at Patriots Landing, 1600 Marshall Circle in DuPont.  Refreshments will be served.

Subject matter experts representing close to 25 organizations ranging from financial services, realtors and health care services to home modification experts, veterans' affairs representatives and banking institutions will be on hand.

Here is what guests can expect: After being seated, guests, residents and their family members will listen to short explanations for each subject area. After that orientation, guests will be able to visit tables, talk to representatives and pick up materials from each vendor.

"The opportunity to talk to someone about specific concerns is being offered," McLain said. "We want to give back to the community both here at Patriots Landing and outside of it."

Private areas will be available for those who wish to discuss confidential information.

"Our goal is to allow our guests to have their personal issues addressed and to gain contacts for resolution to any obstacles they may be facing," McLain added.

For more information, call (253) 964-4900 or email McLain at

September 6, 2012 at 4:43am

New DOD policy for TDY and PCS cancellations

Beginning October 1, 2012, any travel authorization that includes air travel must be approved and ticketed at least 72 hours in advance of the scheduled flight departure to avoid airline reservations from being cancelled. This is due to a new policy being instituted by the airlines under the FY13 GSA City Pair contract.

Under the new policy, if an Authorizing Official (AO) does not approve an authorization within 72 hours of departure, the airline reservation will be cancelled and the traveler will arrive at the airport without a ticket or a reservation in the airline's system. This applies to all City Pair and non-contract government flights that are either booked through DTS or through a Commercial Travel Office (CTO).

Those travelers making travel plans within 72 hours of departure must have their authorization approved and tickets issued within 24 hours of creation to avoid cancellation. If making plans within 24 hours of departure, authorizations must be approved and ticketed at least six hours prior to flight departure time to avoid cancellation.

If airline reservations are cancelled, a traveler will be notified via email or phone by their Commercial Travel Office.

Arriving at the airport without a ticket can impact mission, travel funds, and put unnecessary stress on the traveler. If this occurs, travelers are not advised to re-book at the airline counter. Often, counter agents are not familiar with GSA's City Pair Program and may book the traveler on a full priced fare at a much higher cost. To re-book a flight, travelers should follow their normal ticketing process. Travelers should take their travel itinerary with them to the airport. If your reservation has been cancelled, the itinerary will provide contact information for your Commercial Travel Office (CTO), as well as, reservation details to help you re-book.

In the current fiscal environment where it is necessary to be conservative with travel budgets, monitoring the status of travel documents and ensuring travel authorizations are approved, is the best way to avoid unnecessary costs and stress associated with re-booking travel.

Tips for Travelers

· Monitor the status of your travel authorization. If your trip is approaching and your authorization has not been approved, contract your Authorizing Official (AO) immediately. If your AO is unavailable, contact your Defense Travel Administrator (DTA).

· Ensure your DTS profile is current. Often, travelers forget to update their profile with the Government Travel Charge Card expiration date if they received a new card. Without a current card in your profile, a reservation cannot be purchased.

· Take your travel itinerary with your to the airport. If your reservation has been cancelled, the itinerary will provide contact information for your CTO as well as reservation details to help you re-book.

Tips for Authorizing Officials (AO):

· Monitor documents awaiting your approval.

· Ensure a back-up AO is designated if you will be on leave or deployed.
Tips for Defense Travel Administrators (DTA):

· Run the new "Pending Airline Cancellation" report to identify those authorizations at risk for cancellation.

· Run Traveler Status Reports to notify Agency Program Coordinators which travelers are scheduled for travel to ensure Government Travel Charge Cards are activated.

Tips for Agency Program Coordinators (APC):

· Review the Accounts Information Reports and advise DTAs regarding invalid and expired GTCCs.

· Review the Approved Status Reports and assist with activating GTCCs for travelers with upcoming trips.

September 6, 2012 at 5:15am

Lacey’s Military Family Day set for Sept. 8

Military members and their families can enjoy free food, entertainment and community support at the 10th Annual Military Family Day in Lacey.

Sponsored by the Hawks Prairie Rotary, the Military Family Day is Sept. 8 from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Cabela's in Lacey. Last year, about 3,500 people attended this community event, intended to help out military families in Joint Base Lewis-McChord's surrounding communities.

"We wanted to help raise money for families who are left behind to handle all of the family matters as their loved ones went to fight for all of us," said David Newkirk, Military Family Day chair.

The event is sponsored by local businesses throughout the Puget Sound area and all funds are given to military-affiliated organizations to help support military families.

"The Military Family Day started as an actual march to raise awareness, but has become a stationary celebration with free food, activities, and entertainment for the entire family and local community to enjoy," Newkirk said.

This community-supported event celebrating our military families offers free food and games, and displays from Air Force and Army units. Entertainment will be provided by local country singer Jonathan Harris and the I Corps JBLM Band. Rain is in the forecast a rain of candy that is with a helicopter candy drop scheduled for noon.

Cabela's is off I-5 exit 111 in Lacey.

Learn more about this celebration and support of military families at

September 7, 2012 at 4:32am

7th I.D. bolsters team on growing joint base

At an Aug. 30 ceremony at I Corps headquarters, Joint Base Lewis-McChord welcomed Maj. Gen. Stephen Lanza, the new commander of the soon reactivated 7th Infantry Division.

The division will be activated Oct. 4, when command and control become official. Meanwhile, Lanza and his staff members are already at work at division headquarters on JBLM Lewis North, coordinating with commanders and agencies at all levels, and making preparations and cultivating relationships important to accomplishing the division's missions and goals.

The incoming division commander considers training, readiness and health of the force his chief priorities. Lanza said he is developing a plan to institute standards and discipline - while caring for the almost 17,000 Soldiers assigned to the 7th Inf. Div. and their Family members.

"We're committed to being good teammates not only with (I) Corps, but to also act as great enablers here to help our brigades be successful," Lanza said.

Division headquarters generally maintain accountability on large installations like Fort Bragg, N.C. and Fort Hood, Texas, along with materiel readiness and systems to build a trained, ready force. I Corps Commanding General Lt. Gen. Robert Brown said adding the division element to the JBLM command structure just makes sense.

"I don't think any installation in the Army needs a division more than JBLM, and that's because the installation has doubled in size over the last six years" Brown said. "We found the right leader at the right time."

In the past, the management of JBLM brigades fell to I Corps, but Lanza asserted that a division headquarters becomes critical when the corps deploys.

"Having this division here allows that consistent command and control," Lanza said.

Lanza will focus during the next few weeks on welcoming the rest of his division staff while preparing to achieve initial operating capability by Oct.1. He said he has started meeting with brigade commanders, Families, and rear detachments to assess their priorities.

Lanza's said his major goals include building resiliency and enhancing personal and medical readiness. He is looking for ways to expand the program of embedding behavioral health and medical professionals in Army units at JBLM. The 17th Fires and the 555th Engineer brigades are already taking part in this initiative. Lanza said the idea is critical to easing the military stigma associated with seeking help.

"When you have medical professionals right there in formation standing next to you, it really helps break down that stigma for our soldiers to seek help. We're working hard on breaking down that stigma so our soldiers feel comfortable," Lanza said. "Coming forward as the division commander saying that I want to do this sets the tone. I want our Soldiers coming forward to seek help because we have the best programs and the best systems available for them. It's a wellness issue, and if you get good wellness procedures up front, then you get great readiness issues on the other side."

A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Lanza holds a bachelor's degree from the United States Military Academy and a master's degree in public administration from Central Michigan University. He is a field artillery officer who most recently served as the Army's chief of public affairs. Lanza has deployed in support of Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Operation Joint Guard and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

September 7, 2012 at 4:36am

NCO wins I Corps ‘career counselor of the year’ honors

Sgt. 1st Class Teresa L. Adams Career counselors, Staff Sgt. Joseph Payne II, left, and Staff Sgt. Jesse Ryan complete a two-mile run during the Army Physical Fitness Test.

Today's Army is looking to retain only the best and brightest Soldiers. Career counselors, Armywide, must not only maintain their own physical fitness and job skills but have the added responsibility of identifying Soldiers who meet the Army's standard for retention as well as relaying that message to Army leaders.

There are several active duty career counselors in I Corps, but only one career counselor of the year. Staff Sergeant Jesse Ryan earned the I Corps title Aug. 23 during the annual competition at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Ryan, a career counselor assigned to the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, started his career as a chemical operations specialist. He worked as a retention NCO in his company and made the decision to become a career counselor.

"I love it when I can help out a Soldier," Ryan said. "It affects their jobs, their lives and their Families. I have the greatest job in the Army."

Ryan's wife, Erin, takes great pride in what her husband does for the Army.

"I am extremely proud of Ryan," Erin said. "I love the fact that his career helps Soldiers to further their careers and provides their Families with long-term stability in the Army."

Three NCOs started the Aug. 23 competition early with the Army Physical Fitness Test, followed by a written exam.

"I am continually amazed by just how much, we, as counselors, really have to know from the regulations," said Staff Sgt. Joseph Payne II, a career counselor assigned to the 56th Multifunctional Medical Battalion, 62nd Medical Brigade. "When I walked out of there, I felt like my brain was on fire."

That afternoon, the Soldiers appeared before Sgt. Maj. Daniel R. Blashill, I Corps' command career counselor, and a selection board made up of senior I Corps career counselors.

"When noncommissioned officers become career counselors, they are already the cream of the crop," Blashill said. "This board helps them to distinguish themselves amongst their peers and gives them a well-deserved opportunity to shine."

The runner up in the competition traveled more than 1,900 miles from Fort Sill, Okla. to compete this year.

"You have to always be able to determine the needs of the Soldiers," said Staff Sgt. Jason McDonald, a career counselor assigned the 75th Fires Brigade, 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kan., with duty at Fort Sill, Okla. "It's a job you have to be 100 percent engaged in at all times."

"We as career counselors are the Army's honest brokers," said Sgt. 1st Class Brian K. Williams, senior career counselor at 4th Bde. 2nd Inf. Div., Ryan's sponsor at the competition. "It's great to see a smart, honest, educated, well-spoken young man like Staff Sgt. Ryan take the board."

The Secretary of the Army presides over the DA board held annually in Washington, D.C., during which NCOs from the active and reserve components are selected as the Career Counselors of the Year.

Ryan is scheduled to compete next at U.S. Army Forces Command's Career Counselor of the Year competition held in September at Fort Bragg, N.C.

If he wins at Bragg, Ryan will represent FORSCOM in competition for the Secretary of the Army's Career Counselor of the Year.

September 7, 2012 at 4:38am

Improvements apparent at NCO Academy

In 2011 more than 2,900 Soldiers graduated the Warrior Leadership Course at the Henry H. Lind Noncommissioned Officer Academy, armed with the basic skills to lead and train Soldiers in a wide spectrum of operational environments. In addition to the individual and team effort of the Soldiers and cadre at the academy, a variety of behind-the-scenes upgrades to both the facility and the training program contributed to their success.

After taking over the reins as the NCO Academy Commandant in January 2010, Command Sgt. Maj. Matthew Shepardson and his team identified areas of improvement to the appearance, efficiency and effectiveness of training at the academy. This was done, Shepardson said, with a focus on the future of the Army and the academy.

"I think any leader worth his salt should always be concerned about the next generation of leaders within the Army. Every leader out there has to ask, every time they make a decision: ‘Is what I'm doing good for the Army?'" Shepardson said. "If you want to train professional noncommissioned officers, you need a professional (learning) environment. What we've done here is try to create that environment."

During his tenure, four classrooms were added to increase the academy's capacity to train Soldiers who require WLC as part of their career progression. In the classrooms, more than 270 new computer systems were installed and improved audio/visual systems were incorporated to increase classroom efficiency.

With these improvements, instructors can now lead students through scenario-based training using interactive multimedia presentations that allow for alternate outcomes depending upon Soldier leadership choices.

"The old systems did not work well with multimedia programs," said Hubert Green, chief of training at the academy and a retired command sergeant major. "Students can now better visualize and understand the intent of the training scenarios, giving them a better feel for the situation - rather than simply reading scenarios from text. This allows them to progress further through scenarios and encounter more situations they must respond to and learn from."

Technical upgrades were also utilized in the conference room, where new video teleconferencing equipment allows senior leadership to interface with important educational commands throughout the Army without having to leave the academy. In the auditorium, renovations improved the quality of ceremonies and briefings.

Additional attention was focused on constructing a new parking lot, installing better quality blinds to improve temperature control in the classrooms and building wooden stands for the instructors to teach their students physical readiness training.

Another important improvement, Green said, are the displays of historical photos, publications and uniforms that now hang in the hallways and classrooms of the academy. These assets, acquired from the Army's Center of Military History, remind students and visitors of the proud history of the NCO Corps.

The displays "allow students to recognize their place in the line of succession of the Army's leaders," Green said.

In keeping with the commitment to create the best possible environment for the Army's future leaders, many more projects are slated for the academy, including the construction of a physical readiness training obstacle course, lights for the PRT field and an arms room for academy and student-owned weapons.

September 10, 2012 at 6:42am

Race for a Soldier marathon created out of tragedy

SUPPORT: A Soldier crosses the finish line at last year’s Race For a Soldier marathon in Gig Harbor. The event raised $15,000 for Rainier Therapeutic Riding program at Serenity Farms. This year’s race is set for Sept. 15. Courtesy

"Courage is found in unlikely places," said J.R.R Tolkien.

This quote could not ring more true for Leslie Mayne, event organizer for Race for a Soldier, a nonprofit half marathon scheduled for Sept. 23 in Gig Harbor.

Mayne lost her son, Pfc. Marshall Farr, after a battle with post-traumatic stress, a traumatic brain injury and the hardships of finding proper support and care in the wake of returning home.

Mayne said she went to a very dark place before realizing that "God doesn't waste tragedies."

So digging deep and finding courage, she started Permission To Start Dreaming, an organization under the umbrella of the United Service Organization until its nonprofit status is finalized, and the Race for a Soldier event.

"I realized this new chapter in life allows me to be a catalyst," Mayne said. "The civilian world needed a tangible way to show they care."

Now in its second year, Race for a Soldier has gotten an overwhelming amount of support from the community.

Sponsors have come out of the woodwork, donating tens of thousands of dollars to the worthy cause. More than 1,400 runners participated in last year's event, raising more than $100,000 for organizations that help Soldiers with the transition home.

Mayne said that too many Soldiers have lost their lives and too many families are at risk during that crucial time when Soldiers "shed their warrior clothes and find out the next chapter."

Permission To Start Dreaming, in conjunction with Race For a Soldier, donates money to transition programs such as Rainier Therapeutic Riding (RTR) at Serenity Farms. Last year, Race For A Soldier was able to donate $15,000 to the organization, which doesn't charge the Soldiers that join the program. In 18 months, RTR has helped 200 Soldiers back off their medication by 60 percent, Mayne said.

"We couldn't do this without Leslie's help," said Debbi Fisher, RTR founder. "Hopefully the government will see how this program extremely helps Soldiers that have had no luck with traditional therapies."

The program can now accommodate 48 Soldiers and veterans every week. There are four sessions a year, each lasting nine weeks.

"It's amazing, horses being an animal of prey, and Soldiers being highly vigilant, we actually teach them to get the horses to relax, and in doing so, the Soldiers are able to relax," said Fisher, who is continually collecting internal data on the success rate of her program.

Courage is all around this cause. Courage from Mayne and Fisher, courage from the Soldiers and veterans, and courage from the civilians who choose to participate in the run.

"It's a chance for the community to step up their game and feel accomplished," Mayne said. "Sometimes it's not enough to just say ‘thank you.'"

In addition to the 13.1-mile half marathon run, there is a 2-mile run and a kids' run. A prayer breakfast for the race is scheduled for Sept.  21.

For more information and to register, visit

September 10, 2012 at 8:00pm

JBLM Releases Identity of East Gate Accident Victim

Officials at Joint Base Lewis-McChord have identified the Soldier killed in the one-car vehicle accident on JBLM's East Gate Road at the old guard shack early Thursday morning as Spc. Ryan T. Abbott, 35, of Grand Rapids, Mich. 

Next-of-Kin notifications have been completed.

The accident investigation is still in progress by JBLM law enforcement, and at this time the cause of the accident is unknown.

According to unit records, Spc. Abbott entered the Army in September 2009 and reported to Fort Jackson, S.C. for Army Basic Training and then transferred to Redstone Arsenal, Ala. for Advanced Individual Training, in MOS 94Y (Integrated Family of Test Equipment (IFTE) Operator/Maintainer). He arrived at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in August 2010. He was assigned to the 46th Air Support Battalion, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade. He has not deployed.

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

September 11, 2012 at 7:46am

Girls Say Deployed JBLM Soldier Coerced Nude Photos


A Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier accused of using "fear tactics" to get illegal photos and video from teenage girls was arrested on base Monday after the Washington State Patrol learned he had returned from a deployment to Afghanistan.

The 24-year-old soldier was booked into the Pierce County Jail for investigation of possession of depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct, communication with a minor for immoral purposes, sexual exploitation of a minor and extortion, according to the State Patrol.


September 13, 2012 at 5:38am

Army redraws promotion path toward sgt. major

The Army has redrawn the noncommissioned officer career road map, giving enlisted soldiers standard and predictable promotion waypoints to the ranks of sergeant through sergeant major.

Several policy changes to be fielded over the next two years include a new plan that envisions most soldiers being promoted to sergeant at about 4½ years of service, followed by advancements to the other grades every six years. ...

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