Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

Posts made in: March, 2013 (34) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 34

March 5, 2013 at 3:28pm

Restrict energy drinks, CENTCOM top doc says

From ARMY TIMES...

The U.S. Central Command surgeon general is calling for a ban on energy drink sales at military bases.

In a March 4 editorial published online in the Defense Department newspaper Stars and Stripes, Army Col. Erin Edgar, who makes recommendations on health care policy to CENCTOM leadership, said installations should restrict sales of dietary supplements to those vetted by DoD and exclude others, including energy drinks, "until legal loopholes are closed."

SEE THE REST HERE

March 6, 2013 at 7:24am

4,295 senior NCOs to move up in March

FROM ARMY TIMES...

Nearly 4,300 Regular Army soldiers will be promoted to the ranks of sergeant through sergeant major in March, according to Human Resources Command projections.

The total of 4,295 is slightly above average for the first six months of fiscal 2013, which began Oct. 1.

Promotions to sergeant major will be made from the 2012 list and will reduce that roster to 50 names.

SEE THE REST HERE

March 6, 2013 at 7:26am

Will Cuts Lead to DoD 'Brain Drain'?

FROM STARS AND STRIPES...

WASHINGTON -- Hundreds of thousands of civilian defense workers are bracing for cuts in work hours and paychecks starting in late April, thanks to lawmakers who found no way to avoid across-the-board sequestration cuts. Defense experts say that could have a lasting impact on employee morale, recruitment and retention, leading to a brain drain of the Pentagon's best and brightest.

About 800,000 civilian defense employees face one-day-a-week furloughs and a 20 percent dent to their paychecks, which are set to start next month.

"Many people who are furloughed will update their resumes," said Todd Harrison, a defense budget expert at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a nonpartisan Washington think tank. "And they'll begin looking for a job with more stability and better prospects for the future."

SEE THE REST HERE

March 6, 2013 at 7:30am

Amtrak to run higher speed trains on Fort Lewis shortcut

FROM KING 5...
For riders aboard Amtrak passenger trains, a new train route along Interstate 5 through Fort Lewis would be a shortcut and would shave minutes off trips between Seattle, Tacoma and Portland.   

For people who live in communities like Tillicum, the trains threaten to add noise and blocked grade crossings.
    
The tracks that are here are old and twisted but are used several times a week by short freight trains, mostly serving the giant military base.  Locomotives marked for Tacoma Rail move along them slowly. 
SEE THE REST HERE

March 6, 2013 at 7:34am

How NOT To Speak To Military Spouses

FROM SPOUSESBUZZ...

Other people dream of falling off a cliff.  Their nightmares feature running away from an attacker, losing all their teeth, or sitting down to take a final at a class they never attended.

My nightmare is standing in front of a crowd of military spouses so bored they all pull out their smart phones the minute they lay eyes on me.

This is fairly terrifying.

SEE THE REST HERE

March 7, 2013 at 3:17pm

610th Engineer Company helping construct PT pits

Photo by Spc. Loren Cook A Soldier with the 14th Engr. Bn.’s 610th ESC digs a hole where a sit-up platform will be emplaced Feb. 27.

If you've driven anywhere on Joint Base Lewis-McChord recently, you've probably noticed the many orange cones and orange-vested construction contractors working next to them. If not, you've certainly noticed the many road closures and corresponding detours due to construction. The construction projects, though they promise a smoother drive in the future, can be a source of many headaches.

If you've traveled along Stryker Avenue in the past week, on the other hand, you may not even have noticed Soldiers working next to the airfield's perimeter fence.

Whereas much of the construction on JBLM requires roads to be closed, the Soldiers of the 14th Engineer Battalion's 610th Engineer Support Company have been diligently working next to an active, busy street since the project began.

"We built three PT pits for the (4th Squadron, 6th Attack Reconnaissance Squadron)," said Sgt. Jose Toledo, the project leader with the 610th ESC.

The completed pits consist of three sit-up platforms, three pull-up bars, and one set of dip bars. The company completed three pits in just over two weeks.

"The 864th Engineer Battalion is the construction unit on post, but they're deployed right now, so 4-6 came to us to see if we could build these pits for them," said 1st Lt. Eleese Nickelson, a platoon leader with the 610th ESC. "We jumped at the opportunity because as combat engineers, we do a lot of route clearance and not much construction."

"I think this mission is going to help me in the future," said Pfc. Weston Tramell, an equipment operator with the 610th ESC. "When I first got to the unit, I went straight to deployment and I never got to practice my MOS since Advanced Individual Training. When we got back and they said we'd start using the equipment and building things, I got excited. This is what I like to do."

"It's a great job for us because we're doing our real job as horizontal construction engineers. Last year when we were deployed to Afghanistan we did route clearance for the most part," Toledo said. "Now that we're here it's good to see Soldiers actually work their military occupational specialties to the fullest and see all the training they have pay off."

Construction projects are more than an opportunity for these engineers to practice their profession. They're also a cost-saving venture as our military winds down from two conflicts and begins tightening its belt.

"(The 4-6 ARS) originally tried to contract out to get this project done, but it was costing them too much money so they came to us to see if we could help them out," Nickelson said.

"I think the Army would have to spend a lot of money just to get a contractor to come look at the site. The Army has a lot of construction occupational specialties and what we're doing is helping the Army save a lot of money," Toledo said. "Our primary job is to construct. We like to do it and I think the Army can save a lot of money if they use us more often. I hope to do more projects like this soon."

March 7, 2013 at 3:22pm

Shooting for top honors

Photo by Spc. Nathan Goodall Pfc. Casey Tankersley, the primary armorer with A Battery, 1-94 FA, disassembles an M-240B machine gun with his teammate, Pfc. James Jones, during the timed disassembly/reassembly portion of the battalion arms room competit

Armorers with 1st Battalion, 94th Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Fires Brigade, competed in the first battalion arms room competition Feb. 28.

Each unit in the battalion was represented by a primary and alternate armorer. The team named the best in the battalion will earn a streamer for its unit guidon.

But the real reward was the armorers' development, said 1st Lt. Krista Searle, an intelligence officer in the high mobility artillery rocket system battalion.

The competition helped develop armorers' individual skills and boosted camaraderie, which created a more mission-capable team of teams, Searle said.

"It makes them a little more enthusiastic in learning the systems and getting more proficient in their duties," she said.

Sergeant Aaron Pierce, primary armorer with 125th Forward Support Company, said the contest motivated armorers to do their best.

"Competition always causes people to strive to be better," Pierce said. "You're going to try to be better at your job to beat the next guy."

Competitors earned points in three events: an arms room inspection that included paperwork and physical security of weapons and sensitive items; a timed disassembly and reassembly of an M-240B machine gun, an M-16 rifle and a .50 caliber maching gun: and the final event, a written test based on the battalion arms room standard operating procedures.

According to Spc. Timothy Blanchard, the alternate armorer with Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, the competition ratcheted the intensity level.

"It's almost like going to a (promotion) board; you've got to study for it," he said. "As an alternate, I now know things I didn't know before, so it really does help work up your skills and build confidence."

Building those skills and instilling more confidence were only a few of the benefits.

"Really nothing gets accomplished if you don't work together as a team," Searle said. "If the alternate doesn't know what the primary is doing, then it becomes an issue and you can't find things in the arms room. Knowing how to communicate with each other ... is a big part of leadership."

Pierce said pitting armorers from different units against each other helped build camaraderie that would benefit the entire battalion.

"We're all comrades, we're all working together on the same team, ultimately," Pierce said. "Whoever wins this might be a good person to go see for additional guidance and tips and tricks on how to be better at it for next time."

Searle plans this to be the first in a tradition of competitions he hopes to organize every quarter.

"Anything you learn to make your job better, faster and easier is just going to increase productivity," he said. The winner will be announced today.

March 8, 2013 at 7:37am

Army suspends Tuition Assistance program

FROM ARMY TIMES...
The Army's popular Tuition Assistance program is being suspended because of the budget squeeze, although the many thousands of soldiers currently enrolled in courses will be allowed to complete those courses.

The shutdown will begin at 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time today.
SEE THE REST HERE

March 11, 2013 at 7:38am

NCOs in nearly 60 MOSs to face QSP in June

FROM ARMY TIMES...

First sergeants and master sergeants in nearly 60 military occupational specialties will be the focus of board reviews this summer to determine whether they will have to leave the Army.

The Regular Army and Active Guard and Reserve sergeant major boards that convene in early June will do retention reviews.

The Qualitative Service Program involuntary separation screenings apply to Regular Army and AGR (Army Reserve) E-8s in selected MOSs who meet these criteria:

SEE THE REST HERE

March 11, 2013 at 4:07pm

Couples needed: Madigan researchers, scientists conducting Veteran Couple Study

Have you ever wondered how you could improve how the military handles reintegration issues?

The Veteran Couple Study, which began in December 2012, is seeking eligible couples in the western Washington area to help generate information that could benefit military families in the future by strengthening their relationships before, during and after deployments.

"We are looking for military couples, from all services, in which one partner has returned from a deployment within the last decade," said Lt. Col. Kristal C. Melvin, NP, PhD., a nurse scientist who works at the Center for Nursing Science and Clinical Inquiry at the Madigan Healthcare Center. "The couples do not need to be married and can be on active duty, in the Reserves or even have ended their time of service. There is no age requirement."

The appointments will take approximately 30 minutes and will include an online survey in which the individuals must be willing to answer questions about themselves and their relationships, as well as a collection of salvia from each participant's mouth. The saliva sample will be collected simultaneously from the couple and will be used to measure the levels of cortisol, which can indicate stress levels. 

"We will measure self-reported stress, post-traumatic symptoms, couple communication, closeness and satisfaction scores, resilience and previous trauma," Melvin said.

In most cases, participation will only include the one appointment; however, if it is less than 30 days after the deployment's end, there will be a secondary, follow-up session to evaluate how the reintegration is progressing. If the couple is unable to meet on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the appointment can be arranged at a location off base that is convenient for the study participants.

"I've been a family nurse practitioner for years, so I am always looking for ways to help families cope with the stress of deployments as well as reintegration," explained Melvin, who has been in the Army since 1999. "This is my passion."

Other studies have shown that military couples have many effective strategies to cope with deployment separation. However, the scientists running this study are hoping to learn more about the process as a whole and also figure out proven methods to support and assist couples in the face of combat deployments as well as during the timeframe following a deployment.

The study is ongoing and recruitment is underway right now. If you'd like to participate in the study, leave a detailed message at either (253) 968-1067 or (253) 432-0093. For further details, visit the Veteran Couple Study page at www.facebook.com/pages/Veteran-Couples-Study/122144251151338?ref=ts&fref=ts.

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