Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

Posts made in: January, 2013 (16) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 16

January 9, 2013 at 1:49pm

JBLM to host Defense Centers of Excellence and NFL “The Real Warriors Campaign” Game Day event Saturday

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - JBLM leaders will host the Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) Real Warriors Campaign and three former NFL players for a Real Warriors Campaign Game Day event Saturday. The Game Day event will be held at the Nelson Recreation Center and is scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m., before the Baltimore Ravens - Denver Broncos NFL playoff game.

Reintegration challenges facing Service members

During the Game Day event former NFL players Orlando Huff, Joe Tafoya and Chris Sanders will join Soldiers, Airmen and their families to socialize and discuss common reintegration challenges facing service members as well as the resources available to address them, and watch the Ravens vs. Broncos.

The NFL Players Association (NFLPA) has partnered with the DCoE Real Warriors Campaign to show service members and veterans that its members appreciate warriors' service to our country and care about their psychological health and wellness.

The Real Warriors Campaign and the NFL Players Association encourage all warriors who are experiencing psychological health concerns to reach out for care and support and to access available resources.

Real Warrior Campaign History

The Real Warriors Campaign, launched in 2009, is a multimedia public awareness campaign designed to encourage help-seeking behavior among service members and veterans coping with invisible wounds.

The campaign is an integral part of the Defense Department's overall effort to eliminate the stigma that was identified in the 2007 Mental Health Task Force Report and encourage help-seeking behavior for invisible wounds.

The Real Warriors Campaign is sponsored by the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.

January 10, 2013 at 1:13pm



NEW YORK - The Marine Corps has advised its legal staff that spouses clubs operating on its installations must admit same-sex spouses if they wish to remain on the bases.

It's a step that the other service branches have not yet announced as they grapple with how to accommodate same-sex couples following repeal of the don't ask, don't tell policy that barred gays and lesbians from serving openly.

Underscoring the challenges, the Marines' legal advisory - obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press - refers to an ongoing controversy at the Army's Fort Bragg in North Carolina where the officers' spouses club has denied admission to a same-sex spouse.


January 10, 2013 at 1:57pm

Former Madigan CSM to head state's veteran affairs

Today, Governor-Elect Inslee appointed Lourdes E. Alvarado-Ramos, or Alfie as we know her, as the first woman to serve as director of Your Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.

"Words cannot describe how honored I am to serve you as Director of this great agency," said Alvarado-Ramos.  "Together we have worked to improve the lives of veterans and their families and my goal is to continue empowering you to make a difference for veterans each and every day."

Alfie Alvarado-Ramos joined WDVA in 1993 and was appointed Deputy Director in 2005.  She has a unique understanding of the agency, having led the Veterans Services Division and each of the State Veterans Homes as Superintendent.  Alfie served 22 years on active duty, retiring in August 1993 as Command Sergeant Major and Troop Command Sergeant Major of Madigan Army Medical Center in Fort Lewis, Washington. During her military career, she was the recipient of numerous awards and decorations to include the Legion of Merit, Order of Military Medical Merit, Expert Field Medical Badge and Meritorious Service Medals.

"Today is a great day for veterans and their families in Washington State," said retiring WDVA Director John Lee.  "Alfie is clearly the right person to provide a new vision and focus leading this agency into its next chapter of Serving Those Who Served." 

The Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs serves as an advocate for our state's military veterans and their families, in recognition of their service and sacrifice to our country. WDVA operates three State Veterans Homes which provide long-term nursing care and offers a number of programs ranging from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Counseling to services for homeless veterans.

January 14, 2013 at 11:06am

Joseph to be inducted in JBLM Hall of Fame tomorrow

If you've attended any fundraiser in the area or an event on base that will benefit Soldiers, Airmen and their families, then chances are you've met Carlene Joseph. Words like compassionate, driven, jubilant and sincere are frequently used to describe Joseph, who holds the position of Vice President of Community Development at Harborstone Credit Union and serves as the president of the Captain Meriwether Lewis chapter of the Association of the United States Army.

Her ties to the military are numerous; she was raised as a military brat, her husband retired from the Air Force and their son is a Marine. Yet is her tireless, continual devotion to serving those who serve in uniform that truly sets her apart. This month, Joseph will become the newest member of the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Civilian Hall of Fame and be recognized for her continued work to support the men and women of JBLM.

Established in 2003, the JBLM Civilian Hall of Fame program recognizes a community member that has, through his or her efforts, made an exceptional impact on the lives of Servicemembers, their families and the JBLM community. Presently, there are 19 inductees and Joseph is the only addition slated for this year.

"If Carlene says she is going to do something, you can consider it done. Her word is her bond," said retired CSM Herb Schmeling, an active AUSA member, longtime friend of Joseph's and a fellow Civilian Hall of Fame honoree. ""It is hard to say no to Carlene because she makes good things happen. She leads from the front, rolls up her sleeves, and dives head first into everything we do! So how can you say no to her?" 

It is because of that perseverance and leadership that she has accomplished so much. In 2011 alone, the Captain Meriwether Lewis Chapter gave almost $95,000 in monetary support to Joint Base Lewis McChord and Camp Murray Servicemembers, families, retiree, veteran, and military community programs in the South Sound area and won the AUSA National "Best Chapter Award".

"To the world Carlene may be one person, but to one person Carlene may be the world," offered Vicky Mohler, a past Civilian Hall of Fame inductee and the founder of Support America's Armed Forces (SAAF). "There has never been another person in my lifetime that is so admired, adored and appreciated. This honor is long overdue and I am very excited for her."

Joseph will be publicly recognized by the I Corps Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Robert Brown, at the annual JBLM Civilian Hall of Fame luncheon and her photo will be added to the JBLM Civilian Hall of Fame display case inside the I Corps headquarters. The luncheon ceremony will take place at 11:30 a.m. on Jan. 15 at the Co-located Club on McChord Field.

"Carlene has few peers when it comes to what she accomplishes. Like any good leader, she surrounds herself with quality people and they accomplish their missions to a high level of success," Schmeling added. "Our AUSA chapter, SAAF, Pierce Military Business Alliance and the Washington State Army Advisory Board are living proof of Carlene's legacy as a true friend of our military neighbors."

January 15, 2013 at 1:25pm

Memorial Ceremony for 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division Soldier Wednesday

Family, friends, Service members and the Joint Base community will remember a 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division Soldier who died while deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in a ceremony to be conducted Wednesday at 3 p.m. in the JBLM Lewis Main Evergreen Chapel.

Staff Sgt. Wesley R. Williams, 25, of New Carlisle, Ohio, died Dec. 10 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

January 17, 2013 at 2:03pm

BOSS program re-energizes as troops return home from deployment

Julie Smith/JBLM PAO From left, BOSS president Spc. Sable Myers, 62nd Airlift Wing command chief Chief Master Sgt. Gordon Drake, Joint Base senior enlisted adviser Chief Master Sgt. Dedra Lewis and I Corps HHB Command Sgt. Major Woodrow Ishman look on

Joint Base Lewis-McChord Command Sgt. Major Ronald Johnson signed a new set of standard operating procedures that outline command and unit responsibilities for Better Opportunities for Single Service members at a ceremony Jan. 8 at Nelson Recreation Center.

Johnson, who is also the senior military adviser to the BOSS program, said joint base leaders are examining ways to strengthen the program after a lull in participation, partly related to training and deployments.

"Participation is low because as units are focused on deployment or getting ready to deploy, participation in BOSS drops. But we're at a point now where we've got one combat brigade and one combat support brigade that are deployed; otherwise all the brigades are here," Johnson said. "So if we can get the program energized now as those other two units come home, we're in good shape."

The BOSS program began in the early 1990s as an answer to the growing concerns about the welfare of single service members. At the time, there was a strong emphasis on family programs, but there were not many programs in place to help the single service member.

BOSS was formed to provide support for single service members by increasing morale, fostering personal growth and providing opportunities for recreation and leisure activities. Program members get involved in local volunteer work and can socialize with other single service members in safe and healthy ways through the many events and trips that BOSS offers each month, Johnson said.

Volunteer service through BOSS also counts toward promotion points. After 200 volunteer hours through BOSS, single service members are awarded Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medals, worth 10 promotion points in the Army and one promotion point in the Air Force.

Last year, BOSS members participated in "Paint Tacoma Beautiful," a local community service program that organizes volunteers to paint the homes of low-income seniors or low-income people with disabilities. The JBLM BOSS crew earned 160 volunteer hours painting the house of a deceased retiree's widow who was battling cancer.

"We did it with fellow single service members, building that camaraderie," Johnson said.

Plans for the BOSS program this year include a three-day training seminar for all BOSS unit representatives at the company, battalion and brigade level. Johnson said the training is key, since unit representatives are an integral part of the program.

"By submerging them in training for three days, they get excited about (BOSS) and go back to their units and talk to their fellow single service members about the program. That will boost participation as well," Johnson said.

In March, the BOSS program will conduct a conference modeled after Army Family Action Plan focus groups to allow single service members to elevate their concerns to their chain of command. BOSS members will then get the opportunity to suggest solutions to those issues during the conference.

"There's a lot of senior leadership intellect going into problems like sexual assault awareness, substance abuse, separation and transition assistance. We've got a bunch of leaders trying to figure out how to fix these problems," Johnson said. "But we're going to give these problems to these young, single service members and ask them, ‘What would you do to fix these problems?'"

January 17, 2013 at 2:05pm

Beachwood wins academic recognition again

Scott Hansen/JBLM PAO Teacher Angela Hilton leads a discussion on the history of civil rights in her fifth-grade classroom at Beachwood Elementary School.

The Center for Educational Effectiveness named Joint Base Lewis-McChord's Beachwood Elementary School a 2012 School of Distinction for consistent progress in math and reading among third, fourth and fifth graders during the last five years. This is the second consecutive year Beachwood has won the distinction.

Each year, CEE recognizes the achievement of the top 5 percent of schools in the state who show academic improvement over a sustained period of time. The recognition is designed to encourage and celebrate school staff, students and school district leadership.

"We earned this award because teachers have really pulled together to collaborate and they really know their individual students," Beachwood principal Meghan Eakin said. "It's a team effort, from everyone out on the playground to the health room to the kitchen. We really look at it as not just a teaching effort, because it takes everyone in this building working together to make it happen."

Even though the recognition is based on summative assessments in the spring, Eakin said some testing is done in fall to determine how students are projected to perform on the spring assessments.

"If students fall behind in the fall, we work harder to get those students up to standard," Eakin said. "We also have students who score very high in the fall, and it's equally hard not to have those students' achievements drop. So we work on that projection as well."

Eakin said Beachwood has experienced high turnover among students in the last few months because of military transitions, which presents challenges to teaching staff.

"We have students coming in at all points during the year, but we still have the same expectation to get them to standard and just a shorter amount of time to do it. We do a nice job of assessing them when they come in and figuring out where they are and where they need to be," Eakin said.

As one of six Clover Park School District schools to earn the annual award and the only elementary school on Lewis North, Beachwood gained about 80 students this year from the new Meriwether Landing housing area on Lewis North. Beachwood also has six new classroom teachers.

CPSD district representatives will attend a statewide ceremony in late January to accept the honor on behalf of Beachwood. CPSD superintendent Debbie LeBeau will personally thank the staff at the school later during a small recognition ceremony.

"We get tremendous support from Clover Park School District through professional development and we feel very supported," Eakin said. "We definitely need to take time to celebrate, but we also need to take some time to look at our work, reflect and figure out how we're going to continue the momentum."

January 18, 2013 at 9:16am

4th Stryker killed in Afghanistan

According to the Department of Defense, Sgt. David J. Chambers, 25, of Hampton, Va., died Jan. 16, in Panjwai district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. His unit is assigned to Headquarters, 7th Infantry Division when at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

According to unit records, Sgt. Chambers entered the Army in May 2009 and reported to Fort Benning, Ga. for Army Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training MOS 11B (Infantryman). Upon graduation from AIT, he was assigned to 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, Rose Barracks, Vilseck, Germany and was deployed to Afghanistan with that unit from June 2010 to May 2011. He arrived at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., in Oct. 2011 and was assigned to 1-38 Inf. He deployed to Afghanistan in November 2012.

Sgt. Chambers' civilian and military education includes completion of 2 years of college credit (2008), Military Occupational Specialty: 11B - Infantryman (2009), and the Warrior Leader Course (2012).

His awards and decorations include the Purple Heart, Army Achievement Medal with 3rd oak leaf cluster, Meritorious Unit Commendation, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with 1 campaign star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, NCO Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, NATO medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, and Driver's Badge.

On behalf of the 7th Infantry Division and the entire Joint Base Lewis-McChord military and civilian community, we extend our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Sgt. Chambers.

The 7th Infantry Division provides mission command and training oversight for 2nd, 3rd and 4th Stryker Brigades of the 2nd Infantry Division, the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, and the 17th Fires Brigade, when these units are not deployed in support of overseas contingency operations. The mission of the 7th ID is to provide trained, ready, and disciplined brigades prepared for deployment in support of combatant commanders.

January 22, 2013 at 10:29am

Thurston County organizations partner with community, promote hiring veterans and military spouses

The Thurston Economic Development Council and the Thurston Chamber of Commerce have found a tool to connect with local businesses regarding the many benefits of hiring transitioning Servicemembers and their spouses.

The team has prepared an easy and quick survey for local employers to complete that will help them identify their human resource needs. In turn, the council and the chamber will follow up with those employers so they can partner with local businesses that are ready to hire by matching job-ready and qualified candidates. These matches prove to be win-win solutions all around for the employer, the employee and the local community.

According to research conducted by the council and the chamber, veterans and military spouses are a highly skilled but underutilized workforce.  

"There is a great deal of value in hiring a military spouse or veteran," said Sytease Geib, a military employment specialist. "Military spouses and veterans bring a unique set of skills to the job market including higher education; the ability to operate under high stress; extensive organization and time management skills; ability to adapt to a changing environment;  multi-tasking; problem solving and diverse backgrounds." 

In addition, "veterans leave military service with leadership/management skills and years of specialized experience in their MOS (Military Occupation Specialty).  Most, if not all, MOS skills translate directly into the civilian workforce. Therefore employers can utilize a veteran who has already had years of experience in the field."  

There is also the numbers factor. Thurston and Pierce Counties will soon be seeing an influx in the number of veterans and military spouses coming into the area. According to the data, the U.S. Department of Defense will carry out base closures and reassignments, and military and civilians reassigned to JBLM will increase the overall population in the region. Furthermore, 100 to 200 JBLM Servicemembers are expected to exit the military each month over the next year or two - and many of those veterans would like to find work and stay in the area.

More military families choose to remain in our area following military service than any other base.

"I believe this survey is vital in finding out what our local businesses' hiring needs will be in 2013," Geib said.  "(It) will create a stronger relationship between our program and the business."

"The goal is for the businesses to contact us when they have a hiring need, and to let us pre-screen interested spouses or veteran candidates," Geib said. "One of the frustrations in trying to hire a new employee is searching through the thousands of applicants trying to find who is most qualified. It is time consuming and depletes businesses of precious time and resources, and we are more than happy to help in any way we can."

The federally funded BRAC grant has provided tuition assistance for active duty military spouses to further their education through the Heroes at Home 2 program. Locally, nearly 90 military spouses will be graduating from higher education programs by June in the fields of medical office and administration; business and human resources; and nursing and education.

Ninety-seven percent of military spouses have a high school degree, and more than half have attended college or received specialized training.

Common fields of occupation for transitioning military include manufacturing and maintenance; business management; engineering; healthcare and law enforcement.

For local businesses wishing to learn more about the survey and the benefits of hiring a veteran or military spouse, contact the chamber at (360) 357-3362 or email Geib at

For those interested in participating in the survey right away, here is the link:

The council and the chamber ask that all surveys be completed by Jan. 25.

January 22, 2013 at 1:28pm

Small exercise yields big results

Spc. Gerald Rosinski, a fire control sergeant, and Pfc. Gabriel Santiago, a forward observer, both with Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 17th Fires Brigade, fill a generator powering a tactical operating center during digital systems sustainment tra

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. - On a parade field outside of brigade headquarters is a fully functional tactical operating center. TOCs are usually set up in field or deployment environments, but this one was set up close to home for a very specific mission.

Soldiers with 17th Fires Brigade conducted digital systems sustainment training, Jan. 14 through Jan. 17, to refine their standard operating procedures and define how they operate in the future.

A complete set of standard operating procedures, or SOP, was developed by soldiers with 17th Fires Bde. for use in field training exercises and deployments. A good SOP will have a course of action for almost every situation that can occur during a mission, whether it be something as routine as setting up communications, or something potentially unexpected like responding to enemy fire, said Sgt. Juan Carrion, an electronic warfare noncommissioned officer with Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 17th Fires Bde.

In order to find out how effective the new SOP is, leaders with 17th Fires Bde. created a test mission using a pre-existing training scenario and TOC that could be set up quickly within the brigade footprint, Carrion said.

The key factor in producing results from the exercise was due to a tremendous amount of unit cohesion that developed teamwork between all ranks, Carrion said.

"[This mission] requires a good amount of manpower, requires the coordination of all the leaders, requires the direct input of all the subordinates," Carrion said. "It's all the peers coming together at once, and then taking a step back to get a good look at it and seeing how we can better configure this thing in the future to optimize our operation."

Inside the TOC, each section had their own systems and their own piece of the puzzle that produced something bigger, Carrion said.

"Everything is interconnected via the network. One shop has to talk to the other, and on the operations floor is where it all comes together," Carrion said. "That's where all the shops, all the individual sections, all the very small teams come together as they continue to work operations in one confined space."

In addition to local operations, communications systems were stressed and tested through long distance contact with soldiers from 1st Battalion, 94th Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Fires Bde., that were conducting operations at the Umatilla Army Depot in Oregon as part of the scenario.

"This allows us to establish communications with partners that are close by and those that are out far," Carrion said.

By doing so, the brigade can fully test the effective use of their SOP and work as a team on a larger scale.

"That's the same every time we do this. Every time we come together it's always a large team building exercise," Carrion said.

Just as with every mission, the unit was fighting toward a successful outcome. What made this mission odd is that its intended purpose was to encounter as many problems as possible so that each section could tweak part of the SOP in order to fix it for future operations.

According to Spc. Matthew Kiepert, a brigade helpdesk operator with HHB, 17th Fires Bde., having those problems now and annotating how to fix them in the SOP will create a stronger and smarter unit.

"Just in case you are out in the field or deployed and something does go wrong, you've already dealt with how to fix it in the past, so getting over those issues is a whole lot easier and not as time consuming and stressful as they would be if you'd never encountered them," Kiepert said.

Kiepert belongs to the battery's communications section, which is responsible for establishing all communication devices the brigade uses to talk to each other and other units.

"Without [our section, the brigade] has no internet, no communication. So, without us they're not able to do anything except sit there and look at [monitors]," Kiepert said.

His section is an example of how one piece of the puzzle is necessary to form the entire picture of an effective team. Because of that, Kiepert understood the need to write down every problem he encountered that the SOP didn't currently cover.

"In the long run, it's going to teach us quite a bit, it's going to tell us what to do better next time," Kiepert said.

Kiepert's mindset to work as part of a team was a common theme among the "Thunderbolt" soldiers. With a team-based mindset like that, the unit was able to come together and refine their SOP for use in future situations, Carrion said.

"In future missions we can have this [SOP] completely done, corrected and tried-and-true for every time we do operations," he said. "If it's successful, and if we do it this way every time, it's always going to be successful."

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