Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

Posts made in: February, 2013 (19) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 19

February 4, 2013 at 11:18am

New and Unique Special Event Company Utilizes the Talents of Military Spouses

There is new party planning team in town that makes throwing a party fun, easy, affordable, and extra special.  Trunks, a special event planning company launched late last year, promises an unforgettable event. The organization specializes in all kinds of occasions such as baby showers, beer and diaper parties, birthdays, anniversary celebrations, homecoming and welcome home parties. The team at Trunk takes great pride in a providing a creative, decorative, and festive flair coupled with delicious food and desserts.

And it only gets better.

Trunk utilizes the talents of military spouses, on and off base.

Trunk founder and Lakewood resident Autumn Samen, said the idea came to her from her own personal experiences and those of other mothers on base. Samen herself is a military spouse (her husband is on active duty in the Army) and is a mother of three children.

"It's hard being military and to try to have a shower," explains Samen. "Military life can be unpredictable."

She also wanted to find a creative way help other women, also military spouses, get out of the house and meet people.

Samen found the solution through celebration and bringing smiles to people's faces.

"We have some really talented and amazing women on board," beams Samen. "We have photographers, caterers, bakers, and decorators."

Trunk currently has a Facebook page available that showcases their work. There are no set prices for using their services. Clients can call or email the company and discuss their budget range and what they are looking for. Trunk is also happy to work with customers on customized themes.

"Our women can really work some magic when it comes to themes and creativity, "says Samen. "For example, one of our decorators can craft some really special baby shower decorations using interesting and affordable materials that can actually be used as décor or a keepsake for baby's nursery after the party."

Currently, there are twelve military spouses involved at Trunk in various roles. Samen is always happy to talk to more interested people.

"For example, a homecoming celebration can be unpredictable and the date can change at the last minute. It's especially good to be flexible and have back-ups to help out if party schedules change."

For military spouses interested in learning more about Trunk, please contact Autumn Samen by phone at (253)442-7285 or by email at

Interested in getting some terrific help for an upcoming event? Please check out Trunk's Facebook page at

Filed under: Your Biz ... A Blog,

February 5, 2013 at 11:19am

How to Get Banned Pups on Base (Without Breaking the Rules)

It was puppy-love at first sight.

My pre-teen friendship with my Gordon Setter, Taffy (full name: Salt Water Taffy Brite Star), was the kind you read about in books like Where the Red Fern Grows and Lad, a Dog. Military life notwithstanding, I knew that my son should, nay MUST, grow-up with a dog. And so off to the on-post animal shelter we trotted, determined to bring home a loveable mutt.

What we ended up with was Chloe, the most docile towards children, defensive towards strangers and down right vicious to wild bunnies pup you'll ever meet. She was found wandering around post. They guessed that she was just about a year old and proclaimed her a "terrier mix."


February 6, 2013 at 2:36pm

Arrowhead soldiers pay tribute at Fallen Heroes Memorial re-dedication

U.S. Army Lt. Col. David Polizzotti, right, the executive officer of 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division and members of the brigade color guard, stand in front of the brigade's Fallen Heroes Memorial, during a re-dedication ceremony at

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. - Soldiers from 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, gathered together Tuesday at the brigade's Fallen Heroes Memorial to honor its fallen warriors in a re-dedication ceremony.

It was just 15 months ago that many of these same soldiers were gathered here in advance of their deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The gathering this time, however, was a much more solemn occasion.

Tuesday's re-dedication of the Arrowhead memorial brought to JBLM several of its wounded warriors, as well as the sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, wives, sisters, brothers and friends of those Arrowhead Brigade soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice while in Afghanistan.

The six-foot bronze memorial statue, erected in 2007, stands atop a base of granite into which the names of 129 3rd SBCT soldiers are now etched.

"We dedicate this monument to the memory of our friends, our battle buddies and our heroes," said Webster. "May they always hold the high ground, always be on point and always lead from the front."

At the onset of the ceremony, special guests were introduced and welcomed, and the brigade command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Samuel Murphy, took the opportunity to thank those in attendance.

The brigade commander, Col. Charles Webster, and Murphy laid a memorial wreath, a firing battery from 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment rendered a 21-gun salute, and the brigade chaplain called off the names of all 25 fallen soldiers who died during the brigade's deployment to Afghanistan.

At the conclusion, Gold Star family members took the time to visit the memorial wall upon which the names of their loved ones are permanently etched and create a charcoal rubbing of their soldier's name.

The memorial itself is important for the soldiers of the unit as well as the families, Murphy explained. That is, perhaps, why ceremonies such as this, are not only for the soldiers, friends and family of the deceased to mourn their loss, but it's also to show that their loved one's death wasn't in vain.

February 6, 2013 at 5:04pm

JBLM Soldier arrested in murder probe


The Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. - Authorities in Wisconsin say a military police officer stationed in Washington state helped her husband hide the body of his half-brother.

Dane County, Wis. sheriff's officials say Shannon Remus was arrested at Joint Base Lewis-McChord on Tuesday. Remus is a U.S. Army police officer who's being held in the Pierce County Jail in Tacoma. She faces an extradition hearing Wednesday.


February 7, 2013 at 2:12pm

Nurses initiative at Madigan helps improve patient safety, customer service

Patients visiting the Madigan Army Medical Center Emergency Department can expect a more streamlined check-in process the next time they experience an emergency.

In the past, a patient entering the ED was checked in by a medical assistant before being sent to a nurse for triage. With the new Nurses First initiative, patients are met at the front desk by a nurse who can immediately assess their medical conditions and come up with quick plans of action.

"The triage area was previously the most vulnerable area in the ED because the patient hadn't been officially screened or seen by medical professional," said Jaclyn Castano, Madigan ED nursing supervisor. "Nurses First ensures the patient's safety from the second they walk into the ED, and safety is our primary concern here at Madigan."

The Nurses First initiative also increases communication between the patient and the ED staff.

"If they have questions, if they have more pain, then a nurse and a medic are present to reassess the patient's needs. It's made it so there is always a point of contact that is up to speed on the patient's treatment," Castano said.

The new program was put into place just last month and the staff in the ED is already seeing a difference. "It has definitely helped with the communication and overall flow of the ED and that in turn has improved customer service," Castano said. "We want patients to know that Nurses First helps us guarantee they are receiving the best medical care possible in the event of an emergency."

February 7, 2013 at 2:23pm

Madigan clinic earns national award

Photo by Wanda Williams A nurse checks a patient's temperature during a visit to the Madigan-Puyallup Medical Home.

The Madigan-Puyallup Community Medical Home recently received the National Committee for Quality Assurance's highest level of recognition for superior performance in implementing the patient-centered medical home model of care. Fewer that 50 percent of U.S. medical homes (clinics) applying to the NCQA meet the stringent requirements for Level 3 Recognition.

"Clinics that demonstrate this level of quality health care delivery are models of 21st century access, teamwork and technology for improving health," said NCQA President Margaret E. O'Kane. "This recognition shows that they have the tools, systems and resources to provide their patients with the right care at the right time."

The national recognition was officially awarded to the Puyallup medical home on Dec. 17, 2012, after months of additional duty hours for staff research, planning and implementation of procedures ensuring patient-centered priorities met the highest standards of the NCQA.

"This was a challenging endeavor but ultimately rewarding for both the staff and our patients, who recognize our delivery of top-quality health care," said Frank Bannister, group practice manager, Madigan-Puyallup Community Medical Home. "It's been worth every minute of critical self-assessment to comprehensively improve processes for a greater patient experience."

While countless work hours have been invested behind the scenes, front-line improvements such as increased access to services, improved provider continuity and a cohesive team-based approach to care are making a positive impression on the medical home's patients.

"This clinic is the best thing to happen since someone sewed a pocket on a shirt," said Mike Merlino, a retiree enrolled in the medical home. "We've been really happy receiving our health care here and wouldn't want to go anywhere else."

The improved experience and refinements enjoyed by satisfied patients like Merlino extend well beyond the walls of the medical home to other parts of Madigan. Tracking a patient's care from first contact completely back to a healthy resolution is a crucial piece of the process made possible by interdepartmental cooperation throughout Madigan Army Medical Center.

"We've definitely streamlined our processes from reception all the way through follow-up care," said Cynthia Sadak, access management registered nurse. "We even developed some routines from the ground up to make sure we had everything in place for a fully patient-centered process."

The Puyallup medical home is the most recent of Madigan's primary care clinics to obtain the NCQA recognition joining the family medicine, pediatric, Okubo and Winder clinics but it will not be the last. Madigan leaders and staff members are already working to develop more NCQA recognized medical homes throughout the organization. According to an NCQA statement only 152 of the 435 primary care clinics throughout the military are currently recognized.

If you live in the Puyallup area and wish to enroll in the Madigan-Puyallup Community Medical Home, email or for more information call 968-5444.

February 13, 2013 at 3:44pm

Congressman shames colleagues over defense cuts


A Democratic congressman from Tennessee blasted some of his House colleagues Wednesday for failing to take seriously the threat of sweeping defense cuts set to take effect March 1.

Citing the low turnout for a House Armed Services Committee hearing, at which the military's top brass were asked to detail the potential fallout from sequestration, Rep. Jim Cooper said the Defense Department faces an imminent budgetary "emergency" yet it appears his fellow lawmakers are not prepared to address it.

"There's not even very good attendance at this hearing," said Cooper, whose state includes Arnold Air Force Base and McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base. "Our men and women in uniform are doing their jobs - we in Congress are not."


February 14, 2013 at 2:06pm

Triple Nickel arrives in Afghanistan

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan - The 555th Engineer Brigade completed its transfer of authority ceremony with the 411th Eng. Bde. at Bagram Air Field, Feb. 3, officially assuming command of the Theater Joint Engineer Brigade in Afghanistan.

With the arrival of the 555th Engr. Bde. Headquarters and Headquarters Company, totaling more than 120 Soldiers, U.S. engineer forces across the country have transitioned from Joint Task Force Empire to become Joint Task Force Triple Nickel and, under new leadership, will continue a theaterwide mission in support of the International Security Assistance Force.

"Very few units can claim an operational environment that spans the entire country," said Col. Nicholas Katers, commander of JTF Triple Nickel.

American military engineer operations in the country focus principally on training of the Afghan National Army engineer force, providing troop construction for coalition forces, and route clearance - finding and eliminating improvised explosive devices in order to provide safe passage for coalition forces and Afghan civilians.

"Our predecessors in JTF Empire have moved the ball a long way toward our common goal," Katers said.

More than 200 Soldiers and leaders attended the TOA ceremony, including the command teams and headquarters companies of both the 555th and 411th Engineer brigades, as well as the command teams of the subordinate engineer battalions from separate regions of the country.

"We're bending steel out here," said Maj. Gen. William Mayville Jr., commander, Regional Command-East said of ISAF's transition to Afghan-led security operations. "We take a deliberate half-step back every time the Afghans step forward."

Triple Nickel leaders consider ANA engineer development their top priority; the brigade partners with more than 2,300 Afghan engineer soldiers across 34 units, according to Capt. Adam Storck, JTF Triple Nickel's ANA development officer.

To increase focus on Afghans taking the lead, seven of the partnered Afghan engineer units are now fully independent (as are two non-partnered ANA units), 13 are considered effective with advisers, and nine are considered effective with partners, Storck said.

"Almost all the engineer route clearance companies and sapper companies that exist within the ANA brigades will be independent by the end of March," Katers said.

According to mission records about Triple Nickel's other key on-going mission, more than 900 IEDs were found and cleared before they could be used against coalition and Afghan forces or civilians during the nine-month period under JTF Empire leadership, thanks to regular coalition patrols along major roadways.

A third engineer focus in Afghanistan is construction and deconstruction projects, particularly those related to base closures, transfers, and the overall drawdown of ISAF forces as Afghan forces assume the security lead. "We accept the challenge today brings," Katers said. "It is time to roll up our sleeves and get to work."

February 20, 2013 at 8:50am

Army plans $92 million in cuts at West Point

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point will take the biggest hit from planned Army budget cuts in New York.

The military academy has been targeted for $92 million of the $351 million in Pentagon money that will be slashed statewide when across-the-board federal "sequestration" cuts take effect March 1.


February 20, 2013 at 9:02am

Army Planning Cuts on Family Programs


The Pentagon has begun a "deep dive" review of more than 170 military family and recreation programs on bases worldwide to identify redundancies and efficiencies -- all the while insisting that the effort is not aimed at scrapping facilities in the new era of tight budgets.

Pentagon officials said that Army daycare programs, the focus of an ongoing investigation over the hiring of more than 30 workers with criminal backgrounds Fort Meyer, Va., were also included in the 120-day task force review.

"We're going to be peeling these back, looking for redundancies," said Charles Milam, the acting deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy, about the programs targeted for the data-driven review that he leads.


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