Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

Posts made in: October, 2012 (38) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 38

October 5, 2012 at 6:51am

Course offers leaders new perspective

Sgt. Christopher M. Gaylord Guided by teammates, Staff Sgt. Kenneth Anderson works to open a combination lock during a Comprehensive Soldier Fitness-Performance and Resilience Enhancement Program course.

As a platoon sergeant in charge of and involved in the lives of nearly 40 Soldiers, Staff Sgt. Kenneth Anderson knows that self-confidence comes easier for some than it does for others.

But after a five-day course offered by the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness-Performance and Resilience Enhancement Program on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, he also knows that improving confidence can sometimes be as easy as simply setting a goal.

It's one of myriad lessons Anderson and 13 other Soldiers from across JBLM learned Sept. 10 to 14 during the class, a new curriculum the program refers to as its Leadership Development Course.

The course, an initiative by CSF-PREP that Anderson's group was the first at JBLM to take advantage of, seeks to enrich the effectiveness of Army leaders by teaching them to understand and harness a variety of mental skills.

The leaders are given examples of how they can apply the skills both in their careers and at home - tools such as preserving one's physical and mental energy by letting go of worry and stress wasted on situations beyond their control.

The instructors, called performance enhancement specialists, intend for the sergeants and officers - some are platoon leaders, some platoon sergeants - to identify how they can use the skills to improve their own lives and, in turn, their Soldiers' as well.

"We're really giving them a lot of skills to address common performance issues for any person," said Steve Dewiggins, a performance enhancement specialist with CSF-PREP who served as the lead instructor of Anderson's class.

"It may be a physical problem, or a family issue, or it may be some other issue, but now they (leaders) can start tuning in."

Among several other topics, Dewiggins and his fellow specialists teach their students how to successfully manage their physical and mental energy through techniques like deep breathing for relaxation. They explain to them how to build their confidence by embracing their strong points, focusing on the positives in their lives and using "attitude statements" to give them an optimistic outlook on things. They teach Soldiers how to effectively rehearse their physical performances in their heads with the use of mental imagery. The specialists also show leaders how they can control their attention with the use of cue words and other methods, and how they can turn even their biggest goals into reality through step-by-step plans they create themselves that serve to keep them focused.

"If you have something to achieve, you'll be more confident and committed to fulfill the goal," said Anderson, who most embraced the course's sentiment that having goals can lead to added self-confidence and self-worth. "That would be a driving force to really get those wheels turning to go on to something else and just roll on to the next thing."

Properly setting goals and letting go of the things outside a person's control, Anderson said, are the two lessons he'll definitely make use of back at his unit, the 513th Transportation Company.

"I put a lot of energy into trying to meet the needs of those things that are uncontrollable, when I can put more of my effort, my time, my energy and my focus into those things that I can control," said Anderson, of an epiphany he had during the course that he plans to share with his Soldiers when they face times of adversity.

The leaders in Dewiggins' class started off with a morning obstacle course that tested their physical, mental and emotional resolve against tasks like using a tiny stick to stack small objects on top of one another, performing a set number of pull-ups, and carrying an awkward and heavy assortment of wood planks and other objects as they walked across a wooden balance beam.

Whether pushing the limits of their physical strength or their emotional mettle, the events offered a look at how the Soldiers handled stress before their crash course with mental techniques.

Three and a half days later, after developing their own personal performance plans, they traversed almost the exact same course again, putting to use their newly adapted skills.

And the difference between the group's first and second performances, Dewiggins said, was obvious right away.

"On Monday, we heard the frustration," he said. "We saw the disgust at times - the ‘I don't want to do this' or ‘this sucks.' You could see the anger and all these things."

"(On Thursday) they went through quite a bit faster," he added. "They were able to refocus their thoughts and to be more positive."

Dewiggins watched the Soldiers as they recited cue words to encourage and refocus their teammates working to complete obstacles, and took breaks in times of frustration to mentally regroup.

"Attitude is in the mind, but it definitely is infectious, and we saw that spread throughout all these units," he said. "We applied everything we learned as far as having that confidence, having that drive to really push each other and motivate each other to say, ‘hey, you can do it. You've got this,' and just being that positive influence for one another," Anderson said.

Comprehensive Soldier Fitness will host the class every six weeks to a new group of sergeants, officers, and even enlisted Soldiers who haven't yet earned their stripes but have leadership roles in their sights.

The course is new and only beginning to find its way in a community Dewiggins said is still largely skeptical to the techniques it teaches. But he hopes to see that change.

"I think there's sometimes a misperception about our program as far as performance and resilience enhancement being soft or making Soldiers soft," he said.

"I think those who are invested in coming and getting our training realize this is actually about making them tougher."

October 5, 2012 at 6:53am

Army’s top medics put their skills to the test

Sgt. Mark Miranda Staff Sgt. Andrew Balha, Evans Army Community Hospital, Fort Carson, Colo., demonstrates his skill with combat medic field craft as Staff Sgt. Danyiel Taylor (right) evaluates during the 2012 Top Medic Team Competition. Balha earned a

The smoke at the end of the tunnel was starting to clear as Spc. Michael Blewett pushed his weapon ahead of him and fought against his physical and mental exhaustion to crawl the final yards to the exit. The 33-year-old medical lab technician from Fort Riley, Kan., ignored the battle noise pounding his ears and quickly scanned the area.

Blewett spotted his objective 20 yards away next to a destroyed vehicle; two casualties in need of immediate attention. Closing the distance quickly, he moved to check on the first. Shrugging the aid bag off his shoulders, Blewett scrambled to apply tourniquets to both legs. He almost didn't bother checking for responsiveness, but did so for evaluation purposes and went through the motions with the simulation dummy.

Thirty-four medic Soldiers from Western Regional Medical Command put their skills to the test Sept. 17 to 20 during the Top Medic Competition, hosted by Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Madigan Healthcare System. Over the course of 72 hours, medic teams endured physical and mental challenges including miles of road marching, confidence and obstacle courses, land navigation, weapons marksmanship, medic field craft, a physical fitness test and a written medical exam.

Each medic competed for three titles. Individual competitors were vying for the "Top Medic" title or trying to earn a spot on the two-man "Top Medic Team" that will compete at the Army Medical Department level. Another recognized the best team representing their home station's medical treatment facility.

The events were designed to challenge the competitors based on battlefield situations, to see what these Soldiers are capable of as professional Army medics.

Not just any Army medic was eligible to compete in the event. Most participants had earned either the Expert Field Medical Badge or the Combat Medic Badge. The EFMB is awarded to Soldiers who successfully complete a set of qualification tests including written and performance exams. Soldiers who provided medical support to a unit engaged in active ground combat can earn the CMB.

"The EFMB is a grueling two-week competition; it has a low pass rate; it's very difficult to earn that," Command Sgt. Maj. Matthew Brady, Madigan Healthcare System, said. "The Combat Medic Badge is awarded to medics for performing their job under enemy fire in a combat situation."

Many of the Soldiers in the competition also had to endure a vetting process and compete at their home station medical treatment facilities.

The home station competition winners came from medical treatment facilities as far away as General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and Bassett Army Community Hospital, Fort Wainwright, Alaska.

The first two days of the competition tested the medics physically and mentally, and competitors endured a realistic culminating exercise on the third day. Wearing full battle gear and carrying a medical aid bag, each competitor moved through an obstacle course and administered tactical combat casualty care to simulation casualties.

The winner of the individual "Top Medic" competition was Sgt. Bryan Ritchie, Evans Army Community Hospital, Fort Carson, Colo.

"In the past, I've taught the Tactical Combat Casualty Care to others in my unit, so I was confident on the field craft testing, the situational training exercise lanes," Ritchie said.

"The toughest thing, what I was dreading the most, was the ruck march," Ritchie said. "Everything else was fun. I didn't come out here trying to win the whole thing, I just came out to put forth my best effort and help out my team wherever I could, so definitely winning it is a big surprise to me."

The winners go on to compete at the Army Medical Department's Command Sgt. Maj. Jack L. Clark Jr. Best Medic Competition in November at Camp Bullis, Texas.

October 5, 2012 at 7:01am

Now real adventure begins for language, culture class

Pfc. Reese Von Rogatsz Spc. Daniel Johan Mackie, infantryman from 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 4th Bde., 2nd Inf. Div. and the program's honor graduate, shakes the hand of brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Oscar Vinson after receiving his certificate

The first class of 113 Language Enabled Soldiers from 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, graduated in a ceremony held at the Henry H. Lind Non-Commissioned Officer Academy at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Sept. 28.

The graduating Soldiers received 10 weeks of intense Pashto language instruction and Middle Eastern culture training to prepare them for serving as subject matter experts in the brigade's upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.

"I want to congratulate all of you on your accomplishment today," guest speaker Lt. Col. Jody Miller, 4th Bde., 2nd Inf. Div. deputy commander, said. "But this is not the end of your journey."

Miller said the ceremony does not mean 4th Bde., 2nd Inf. Div. Soldiers have stopped the learning process. The LES Raiders will be combat multipliers for their units, adding deeper cultural knowledge to every operation. By participating in the intensive training program, Miller said they acquired an invaluable skill set and are empowered to bridge the gap with Afghan counterparts and civilians for successful engagements.

"This is just the start of your adventure," Miller said.

According to Pieter DeVisser, Defense Language Institute liaison to JBLM, the Foreign Language and Culture Center uses DLI materials and native-speaking instructors to accomplish its mission. The classroom is a mixed learning environment where the instructor acts as a facilitator with the goal of the training being familiarization, not full-fledged conversation.

Yvonne M. Pawelek, director of the JBLM Foreign Language and Culture Center, said the center has two functions: first to provide refresher training for all military intelligence linguists who must demonstrate their proficiency annually through standardized testing and second, to deliver, at a commander's request, training for any unit deploying to a foreign country.

In 2005, Pawelek started the LES program in response to an initiative by a brigade commander who determined a need for additional linguistic assets downrange.

"This type of training had never been done before," Pawelek said.

For the first time, general-purpose Soldiers, not military linguists, learned mission-oriented language and culture corresponding to the type of work they would be doing while deployed.

‘Pashto in action' exercises allowed Soldiers to practice encounters with village elders and religious leaders, situations they will likely experience downrange. The training included scenarios in doctor's offices, police stations and bartering with merchants, stressing the reasons behind behaviors. Discussions covered concepts of honor and politeness.

"The brigade commander (Col. Michael Getchell) very specifically requested additional cultural training for this class," DeVisser said.

The tactical proficiency brigade Soldiers acquired during two training exercises at Yakima Training Center and a rotation at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif. complemented cultural proficiency in a comprehensive approach to the deployment.

"I love to learn languages and I love different cultures. I'm around a lot of languages all the time," said Spc. Daniel Johan Mackie, an infantryman from 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment and honor graduate of the program.

Born and raised in Sweden, fluent in Swedish and Norwegian and with a Russian spouse, he described Pashto as an extremely difficult language.

"I put in 100 percent effort, and I do that with everything I do," Mackie said.

October 8, 2012 at 4:07pm

Defaced mural of fallen Soldier brings hurt to community

HERO: Gary and Chris Warnock hold a photo of their son, Sgt. Justin Norton, in their Rainier home. The same photo was used in the creation of the memorial mural in Rainier. Heather Short

The pain was still evident as tears welled up in both Chris and Gary Warnock's eyes as they discussed their son, Sgt. Justin Dean Norton. Their voices were full of pride as they reflected back on Norton's life while looking through baby pictures recently and discussing Justin's dream of being in the military. Their strong voices often cracked with overwhelming emotion. The day that their life stood still - June 24, 2006 - is a day that is still fresh in their memories. That was when they learned that their son, who graduated with honors from Rainier High School and who had a lifelong dream of joining the military, was killed by an improvised explosive device (IED) blast while on patrol in Iraq. He was just 21 years old.

Gary was in the Navy during Norton's childhood, and he recalled Norton's interest in the military beginning at an early age.

"He was always pretending and wearing camouflage outdoors to do chores," he said. "As he got older, he really researched being a Navy SEAL and being in the Army."

During spring break of Norton's senior year, he made the choice to enlist in the Army. "He knew which direction he wanted to go, and there was no stopping him," Gary said.

Norton's unit, the 1-10 Calvary, 4th Infantry Division from Fort Hood, Texas, deployed to Iraq the day after Thanksgiving, 2005.

In June 2006, Gary returned home from work and heard a knock at the door. Two Soldiers standing on his porch told him that Justin had been killed by an IED. Gary had to call Chris and get her home from work without telling her what had happened. He met her outside to tell her that Justin had been killed.

"She let out this blood curdling scream and fell to the ground," he said. "It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life."

The city of Rainier mourned along with the Warnock family. Norton's memorial service was held at the Rainier High School gymnasium, and a memorial scholarship has been created in his name at the school.

June 2011 marked the fifth anniversary of Norton's death. For some time, his brother Josh had discussed wanting to do something to memorialize his brother.

Residents of Rainier are familiar with the train trestle on Highway 507 that is often painted with advertisements for events in the community.

Josh was attending the Art Institute of Seattle at the time, and, together with friend Zack Keogh, created a memorial mural of Justin on the trestle as a tribute.

"I cried my eyes out seeing Justin's picture come to life," Chris said. "Even though at times it was hard to pass his picture every day, it was nice to see that he wasn't forgotten."

A little over a week ago, the family was notified that the memorial mural of their son had been horrifically defaced. Former Rainier mayor Nancy Decker was one of the first to see the vandalism and immediately painted over it in an effort to keep the rest of the town, and the family, from seeing it.

"They painted glasses on Justin's face along with a beard or a scarf and the words YHS and RHS Sucks," explained Gary. "It is just such a disgrace."

The Warnocks are hoping that a local artist will come forward and volunteer his or her time and talent to restore the mural.

"It isn't just for us, it is for the town, too," Chris said. "Many people had their rituals of saluting Justin every time they drove into town."

The family would like the people responsible for defacing the mural to know that it has had an impact on the entire community.

"The community may not know us personally, but they know Justin and his story," Gary said. "It was like the grieving process started all over again," Chris added. 

There is a $1,000 reward being offered for information leading to an arrest. Those with information are encouraged to call Crimestoppers at (360) 493-2222.

If you or anyone you know would be interested in volunteering to restore the mural, contact Gary and Chris Warnock at

October 9, 2012 at 8:47pm

Army developing new Fixed-Wing Aircraft

The U.S. Army is refining an initial capabilities
document for a new Fixed Wing Utility aircraft designed to replace more than
112 airframes with a common platform able to perform a range of key mission
sets and service, officials said.

"We manage 73 different series of aircraft and more than 40 different
designs. A common cockpit and platform will reduce the amount of resources
needed to train pilots and sustain the aircraft. Moving to one common fleet
will reduce the manpower needed and allow us to gain efficiencies by
reducing the number of contracts," said Col. Brian Tachias, Project Manager,
Fixed Wing, Program Executive Office Aviation.

PM Fixed Wing, established in October of last year, was stood up to create a
central hub to manage the Army's fleet of fixed-wing aircraft. As many as 37
different fixed-wing aircraft programs are now consolidated and centrally
managed under the purview of the Project Office.

" Centrally managing Army Fixed Wing aircrafts will help to achieve
improvements in safety, airworthiness certification, configuration
management and aircraft maintenance. We will also gain efficiencies by
reducing the number of contracts where it makes sense," Tachias said.

The Army has a current fleet of approximately 377 fixed-wing aircraft
spanning a range of functions. Plans to develop a new Fixed Wing Utility
Aircraft emerged out of a fleet wide Army assessment of fixed-wing aircraft
conducted by PM Fixed Wing and the TRADOC Capability Manager - Lift, Tachias

"The Fixed Wing Utility Aircraft Initial Capabilities Document is now in
staffing at the Pentagon. Once this is finalized, we will start an Analysis
of Alternatives. We are teaming with the Army's Aviation school house and
Military Intelligence school house to build one common aircraft able to
perform a range of functions such as ISR, utility and transport missions,"
he said.

The Analysis of Alternatives will, among other things, examine the costs
associated with sustaining older aircraft compared with buying new ones.
The new utility aircraft program is designed to address obsolescence issues
within the fleet and engineer a common platform for the future.

While specifics related to the acquisition of the new aircraft are still
being evaluated, the initial notional plan is to begin procurement in the
next POM cycle. Tachias explained. With this in mind, the Army has stood up
a special Fixed Wing contracting division at Army Contracting Command,
Redstone Arsenal,
Ala., in order to consolidate contracts for fixed-wing programs.

Alongside the effort to build a new Fixed Wing Utility Aircraft, PM Fixed
Wing will also manage a wide range of Army aircrafts, such as the
now-in-development Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance
Systems (EMARSS); which are King Air 350 planes engineered with high-tech
cameras, sensors, data link and surveillance equipment able to gather and
distribute key, combat-relevant information. Four EMARSS aircrafts are
slated to deploy to Afghanistan as part of a forward operational assessment.

In addition, PM Fixed Wing is making progress to procure new UV-18C Twin
Otter Short Take Off and Landing utility aircraft for the Army's prestigious
Golden Knights Parachute team.

PM Fixed Wing is also teaming up with the Air Force in an effort to acquire
four new T-6B Texan II aircraft designed for use in testing with the Army's
Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC). The aircraft will be T6 Hawker
Beechcraft two-seater planes configured with mounted cameras and sensing
devices designed to measure testing events.

"The Air Force has allowed us to participate in their ACAT 1C program. This
is saving the Army money because a lot of their sustainment is already in
place" Tachias explained.

October 9, 2012 at 8:49pm

Realistic training tests new engineer platoon leadership

Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Antwaun Parrish (FORSCOM) ORCHARD COMBAT TRAINING CENTER " Staff Sgt. Luke Tapansa (left), a horizontal construction engineer, has a discussion with 2nd Lt. Gian Agni, an engineer platoon leader, both assigned to 557th Engineer C

ORCHARD COMBAT TRAINING CENTER, Idaho -- As the loader lifted the moon dust into the back of the dump truck, the lightweight sand caused a cloud to form over the construction site. Before the loader fully lowered to pick up more dust, indirect fire shots resonated throughout the area. The already engaged Soldiers were forced to switch into reaction mode as they frantically secured the perimeter of their construction zone.

"A lot of the Soldiers never deployed so it's a shock for them to react and then jump back on the equipment," said Staff Sgt. Luke Topansa, a horizontal construction engineer.

Soldiers assigned to 557th Engineer Company (Animals), 864th Engineer Battalion, are in charge of constructing horizontal projects during training at the Orchard Combat Training Center, Idaho. The battalion is currently conducting a month-long exercise in preparation for an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.

Horizontal construction engineers use bulldozers, cranes, graders and other heavy equipment to move tons of earth and material to complete construction projects. The company is tasked with building a north and south taxiway for the airfield during their pre-deployment training.

The experience is greatly appreciated by 2nd Lt. Gian Agni, a platoon leader who has only been in the Army for one year after graduating from the United States Military Academy, he strives to absorb all the experience and training he's receiving at OCTC.

"It's a good preparation for deployment," said Agni, a native of Ewa Beach, Hawaii. "It gives me the basic understanding and foundation in horizontal construction work."

Agni is appreciative to have Topansa as his platoon sergeant because he has been deployed three times and has a lot of combat experience.

As Topansa, a native of Guam, walked back and forth leading the scraper through the dusty uneven terrain, it seemed to be just another productive day at the construction site. But, as they reached the end of the early signs of a taxiway, the indirect fire of opposition forces halted their momentum.

The loud booms of mortars quickly placed him into a mode he'd experienced many times during his past deployments. But as a leader he couldn't just think about himself. He quickly began to gain accountability of his Soldiers so he could report the platoon's status to Agni.

"Accountability, accountability, accountability," Topansa repeated as he explained his reaction to the indirect fire. "I needed to ensure my platoon leader received the accountability (report) and the number of casualties."

The training came with more that just a reaction to attacks. Many Soldiers were designated as casualties, causing the platoon to not only fight back, but take care of the wounded and get them away from the site.

The Animal company eventually secured the area and defeated opposition forces.

"It's very challenging when you're getting attacked," Agni said. "My first priorities are to send up status reports, maintain communication with my platoon sergeant and call up a medical evacuation when needed."

Topansa feels that the Soldiers are getting more adapted to the attacks. He also believes that the training will benefit the Soldiers downrange, as it prepares them mentally and physically for possible attacks from the enemy.

"Equipment we can always replace, but my Soldiers are my main priority," Topansa said. "You can only prepare for so much. Sometimes you have to adjust fire on the go."

Regardless of the attacks and other expectations, the construction job has a deadline, and it is prior to the end of the training exercise.

Topansa expressed that he has one main goal for his platoon.

"Accomplish the mission and bring everyone home."

October 9, 2012 at 8:54pm

Strykers, NFL tackle traumatic brain injury

Photo Credit: Sgt. Ashley Curtis Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, listens to military leadership at Forward Operating Base Zangabad, located in Panjwa'i district, Sept. 18, 2012. Odierno visited Panjwa'i as part of a visit to talk with Soldi

"I was talking on the headset, and next thing you know, the [improvised explosive device] hit," said Pfc. Jose Ojeda from Comanche Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, recalling the blast that hit his Stryker while he served as a gunner during a mounted patrol in southern Afghanistan. "I blacked out for like 4-5 seconds and when I came to, I was in the back hatch. I was hit on the head, fell down, and my knee buckled up."

Ojeda and his two comrades managed to make it out of the vehicle, but he wasn't as perfectly healthy as his appearance would lead one to believe.

You'd need an MRI machine to see the injuries he sustained through that blast, because Ojeda has suffered a traumatic brain injury.

A traumatic brain injury can result from a blow to the head, a fall or an event that shakes the brain. Lt. Cmdr. Craig Carroll, a U.S. Navy neurologist at Role 3 Multinational Hospital in Kandahar, Afghanistan, said the most important thing to do when a traumatic brain injury is suspected is to confirm it as quickly as possible.

Education about traumatic brain injury and the capability to treat it has increased after the opening of the Warrior Recovery Center in Kandahar, Afghanistan in early 2010. As a result, confirmation of the injury can now begin in the field.

"One of the ways we've tried to improve [identification] is to standardized the way that we have a medic or a primary-care provider on the front line assess an individual after they've been exposed to a circumstance," said Carroll.

Once it was determined Ojeda had sustained a traumatic brain injury, he came to the WRC, which takes an uncommon approach to care.

"One of the things unique about our care here in the WRC is the fact that we are able to approach any service member that has had a traumatic brain injury in a very multi-disciplinary manner," said Carroll. "Meaning we have occupational therapists, we have physical therapists, we have psychologists and we have neurologists."

The WRC houses all of these specialties in one relaxed environment, surreally located inside a war zone.

"I think that this is certainly the model of what needs to happen to take care of traumatic brain injury," he said. "That is the most successful way to approach these patients."

Instead of being sent stateside for care, injured service members in Afghanistan are now able to receive care in theater, rehabilitate and return to duty 90 percent of the time.

"Their motivation to get back to their unit is very strong," said Carroll. "One of our jobs it to make sure we don't get them back before they're ready."

The military is now working with the NFL to study traumatic brain injury and make care as effective as possible. The two have joined forces to study what the impact of multiple concussions can be for service members and players, as well as advocating treatment for the sometimes taboo subject.

"The important piece of this [campaign with the NFL] is to get our Soldiers to understand the importance of coming forward," said Gen. Ray Odierno, U.S. Army Chief of Staff. "If you believe you have a traumatic brain injury, it's important that you come forward to get help. We have the capacity to [help], we have the capability, and it's something that's treatable."

"If we can find a more sensitive way to assess the brain, that would have an impact across not just the military, but also our civilian counterparts as well," said Caroll.

"As we work through this together, we'll find more capabilities to help our Soldiers as well as NFL players." Odierno said. "We have to continue to move forward worrying about TBI."

The NFL understands the benefits of this kind of study for players and service members like Ojeda.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodall said, "Working together we can lead in raising awareness on this issue that affects players in all sports, our men and women in the armed forces, and the broader public."

October 11, 2012 at 6:32am

Dumb Video Stunts Spoil Military Career


The nation's top officer gave a little advice Wednesday to teenagers who might consider the military as a career option -- don't do anything stupid your pals can catch on video.

"YouTube and Facebook are gonna be a problem for us in recruiting" in the future, said Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

All the services have been raising standards as they continue to meet and exceed recruiting goals in the poor economy, and Dempsey said a dumb stunt or illegal act caught on video could influence a recruiter's decision on the character of a potential servicemember.

But Dempsey said he wasn't worried about the recruiting pool drying up. "There will always be enough young men and women who agree to serve," he said at the National Press Club.


October 11, 2012 at 6:52am

JBLM’s rising star named

Sgt. Sarah Enos A crowd filled the room but the 5th platoon, 45th Military Intelligence Company was the loudest and liveliest during the Operation Rising Star finals at the Heroes Lounge on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Oct. 4. The unit received a $300.00

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -Jennifer Peltier, an Army wife and part-time nursing student, won the 2012 Operation Rising Star military singing finale at the Heroes Lounge, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Oct.4.

Modeled after a popular television singing competition, Operation Rising Star is an annual Army Entertainment production for military personnel and their Family members.

Peltier triumphed over three other finalists, winning $500 and a chance to win the 2012 Army-wide finals held in San Antonio, Texas, in early December.

Awarded a check of $250 was runner-up Michaelange Walker, spouse of Cpl. Hassan Walker, finance management technician, 593rd Sustainment Brigade.

Walker, a native of The Democratic Republic of the Congo, said when she was 14 years old, music helped her get through the death of her sister.

"We were supposed to come to America together and I lost her about two months prior to coming here," Walker said.

"Whether happy or sad, music has always been a big part of my family," Walker added. "Singing has definitely got me through both the best and worse of times."

The third-place finisher taking home $100 was Spc. Brian Wachtendorf, unmanned aerial vehicle operator, 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, who dedicated his finale song "A Little More Time on You" to his wife.

While not placing, Tracy Coffey, spouse of Lt. Col. Ross Coffey, Security Force Assistance Team advisor, 2nd Brigade, was honored to make it to the JBLM finale.

"There are some really fabulous singers in this competition," Coffey said. "I am more of a show tune person and competing in something like this is a way of keeping my foot in the door."

When Peltier was 3 years old, her father encouraged her to sing her first solo in church and later she sang in choir. But until recently, when asked by family members what she was doing with her voice, she responded, "Singing in the shower."

"I haven't sung in front of an audience in over a decade," said Peltier, a native of Tucson, Arizona. "Being up on stage feels amazing. I'm very nervous when I'm up there because I want to do my best."

Showing support as she sang the winning song of the night, "There You'll Be" by Faith Hill, were her husband, Spc. Christopher Peltier, military intelligence systems maintainer/integrator, I Corps, and two of her three children.

Peltier's husband said he couldn't be more ecstatic of his wife's first place finish.

"She put a lot of effort into this competition," Christopher said. "She was worried about her voice tonight because she was practicing so much, so she tried not to speak as much as she could today to save her voice."

The roar of the crowd filled the room but the 5th platoon, 45th Military Intelligence Company was the loudest and liveliest during the course of the competition, receiving a $300 spirit award to be added to their unit's morale, welfare and recreation fund.

"I think this whole program is fantastic," Peltier said. "It's an awesome and fun way to get Soldiers out here and show support through esprit de corps."

"When I was about 7 years old, I heard Whitney Houston over the radio and fell in love with music," Peltier said. "I want to sing to make people feel something, because of how it touches my heart."

"Singing in this completion is giving me back confidence I lost in my youth," Peltier said. "This is an opportunity to challenge myself and put the song back into my heart."

A panel of judges will select the top 12 winners based on video performances from installations across the globe.

Peltier will know in mid-November if she was selected to advance to the two-week competition televised on the Pentagon Channel. Regardless of the results, it won't set Peltier back because her ultimate goal is to praise God through song.

The Operation Rising Star grand prize winner and a guest will receive an all expense paid trip to record a three-song demo CD in a professional studio and $1,000 spending cash.

October 12, 2012 at 6:41am

JBLM Housing office recognized for exceptional programs, service

As Greta Powell, Joint Base Lewis-McChord's chief of residential communities division in the Directorate of Public Works, held her 2011 Installation Management Command Housing Executive of the Year award, she insisted the honor was a collaborative effort.

"Serving our nation's warfighters and their families is a team sport, and I'm just blessed to serve on a winning team," Powell said of her housing office staff. "I couldn't ask for a better group of dedicated professionals."

The award was presented to Powell last month for the work of three JBLM housing office branches and was based on a combination of customer satisfaction and successful new initiatives.

One of those initiatives was a joint rental partnership program, devised and implemented by the off-base housing services branch under the direction of Mike Matthews, housing services office chief. The program created a partnership between off-base landlords and property managers, helping service members and their families find discounted housing while also assisting community property managers and landlords with occupancy.

"It saved our service members more than $1 million in reduced rent and fees," Powell said.

The housing services office also examined all business practices that included interactions with customers and redesigned the office's working model from the customer's perspective.

"We did really good work to make the customer feel like the focus instead of the process as the focus," Powell said. "So we put our customers first."

The First Sergeant Barracks Program, headed by branch chief Ron Hernandez, redesigned the entire process of troop appliance maintenance. In the past, Powell said there was confusion about what telephone number service members should call for appliance repairs. Now, there is only one number to call, and repairs are completed within three days.

The FSBP also led a day room initiative, outfitting day rooms and barracks with updated equipment like pool tables and flat screen televisions.

"We want Soldiers and Airmen to relax in their barracks and dorms, but also interact with each other in their living environments," Powell said. "That is so important from a resiliency perspective."

Powell called her barracks and dormitory staff "heroes," since they are at every deployment and redeployment operation on JBLM.

"Folks from FSBP are at the troop holding area to either out process folks from their rooms or issue rooms to them and welcome them back. That happens at 3 a.m., at 7 a.m., at midnight, even after a full day," Powell said.

Powell said a significant weather event earlier this year left several JBLM family homes without power. In response, the Residential Community Branch, led by Nancy Barnes, "operated in overdrive" setting up warming centers and helping families with collapsed roofs and downed trees.

"They literally slept at the office, just taking care of families," Powell said. "And they didn't complain once."

The Residential Community Branch also opened the first two subdivisions of Meriwether Landing on Lewis North. According to Powell, there has been a good response.

"It's the first time we've heard from customers that they would be willing to sell their house off-base to live on base," Powell said.

Even though the award was presented to Powell, she considers it a recognition of the collective efforts of her hard-working joint base team.

"It amazes me every day, no matter what uniform (our employees) wear, whether they're in a civilian uniform or a military one, all of them every day live the Army values," Powell said. "They embody the warrior spirit, and they don't quit until we meet the needs of every one of those men and women who serve our nation."

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