Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

Posts made in: May, 2013 (65) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 65

May 1, 2013 at 5:03am

17th Fires Brigade soldier named best artilleryman of 2012

From right, Sgt. 1st Class Thomas A. Robinson, a Newport News, Va., native, and the fire control chief and digital master gunner with 1st Battalion, 377th Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Fires Brigade, with his wife Jennifer and two of their daughters afte

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. - Sgt. 1st Class Thomas A. Robinson, a Newport News, Va., native, and the fire control chief and digital master gunner with 1st Battalion, 377th Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Fires Brigade, was presented with the Edmund L. Gruber Award during a ceremony outside 17th Fires Bde. Headquarters, April 30.

The Gruber award is named after Brig. Gen. Edmund L. Gruber, who composed the official Army song, and is awarded to an individual soldier each year for significant contributions and innovative enhancements to the field artillery corps.

When Robinson returned to JBLM in September 2012 after a deployment to Afghanistan, he was informed by his battalion commander that he was going to be nominated for the Gruber award - which Robinson instantly shrugged off, expecting not to win.

His initial reaction was replaced with surprise when he found out he had actually won the award for his efforts during deployment. While Robinson already had three deployments to Iraq under his belt, his duties in Afghanistan were unlike anything he had done before.

"My job traditionally, at the battalion level, is to ensure the battery level [fire directions control] sections are trained up to standard, they're able to put rounds downrange effectively, and they're following the regulations accordingly to make sure all their procedures are correct," Robinson explained.

Read Spc. Nathan Goodall's full feature on Sgt. 1st Class Thomas A. Robinson and his awesome award in Northwest Militarty's News Front section.

May 2, 2013 at 6:34am

New gear brings enhanced precision to field artillery in Afghanistan

Newly-fielded in Afghanistan, the XM1156 "Precision Guidance Kit" provides add-on precision guidance capability to the projectiles used in the M109A6 Paladin and M777A2 Lightweight 155mm Howitzer weapons systems.

Artillerymen with Battery's A and B, 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment recently became the first unit in Regional Command East to use the Precision Guidance Kit, or PGK, when they test-fired rounds equipped with the system, April 21.

Prior to that first firing, a fielding team from Fort Sill, Okla., provided instruction to the gun line, fire direction center, and fire supporters. The fires teams trained for four days on the PGK. The training included classroom lessons as well as practical exercises.

"It was great having our battle buddies from our sister units come to join us with this training," said Staff Sgt. Christian Stephenson, section chief for 1st Section, 1st Platoon, Battery B. "I feel fortunate that my section gets to go through this training and experience this here."

The units fired a total of five rounds, all of which landed within five meters of each other and within 25 meters of the target. The effects on target were achieved, and the training proved very successful.

"By using the PGK, fire supporters can support the maneuver commander with a more lethal and accurate form of fires," said Sgt. 1st Class Cameron Neal, the battalion fire support noncommissioned officer for 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment. "By being more accurate, we can reinforce the maneuver commander's confidence in his fires, allowing us to be relevant in the current fight."

The PGK allows field artillerymen to get back into the fight and continue to support and protect ground forces. Additionally, Army documents say the "near-precision" capability the PGK provides "allows operational commanders to engage assigned targets and rapidly achieve desired effects while minimizing collateral damage."

The PGK is a fuze set on conventional artillery ammunition that allows for more accurate fires. The system is compatible with two standard artillery rounds, including the M795 High Explosive and M549/A1 Rocket Assisted Projectile. It is designed to utilize the basic characteristics of more advanced "smart" munitions and put them to use with conventional rounds.

The PGK system uses built-in software, a Global Positioning System receiver, and small "canards," or aerodynamic fins, to provide more accuracy to the round's trajectory. As the round follows its ballistic trajectory, the GPS receiver provides the round's current location and flight pattern. The system compares that data to the target's coordinates. With this "should hit" vs. "will hit" data, the fins rotate to make small corrections to the ballistic trajectory that ultimately guide the projectile on a more accurate path.

Spc. Evan Clayton, an advanced field artillery tactical data system operator with 1st Platoon, Battery B, said the difference in accuracy between rounds fired with conventional fuzes and those fired with PGK were noticed immediately.

"Our rounds are always on target, that's something we pride ourselves on as a platoon," he said. "But watching the PGK's impact on top of each other, round after round, was definitely impressive. The accuracy was definitely noticeable."

The accuracy of area fire weapons is based on "circular error probability," or CEP. This means for any given target a circle can be drawn around it. Based on the characteristics and nature of the weapon system, the round may impact anywhere inside of that circle. The CEP for conventional rounds increases with the range to the target, while the PGK's CEP remains constant at any range.

PGK allows for more precise artillery and for fewer civilian casualties on the battlefield. The field artillery has already proven the effectiveness of expensive "smart" munitions. Now they have a cheaper alternative, which still provides the same effective results.

The 15th Field Artillery Regiment is not the first unit to receive the PGK. Training on the equipment actually began in Afghanistan in March. The first successful firing during training happened, April 2. Initial fielding of the system will be complete by the end of June.

May 3, 2013 at 6:25am

Gunga Din inspires teamwork at JBLM

Photo by Sgt. Justin Naylor Soldiers of Team 102 jump over an obstacle April 18 during the Gunga Din competition hosted by 308th BSB, 17th Fires Bde. The Gunga Din tested Soldiers physically and mentally with a 12-mile ruck march, an obstacle course, a

"Oh, snap," was Pfc. Devandra Love's first thought when she learned she would compete in the Gunga Din competition. Soldiers who participated the year before shared nothing but horror stories. At 107 pounds, she doubted she could meet the physical challenges ahead. She only knew one thing: Four of her fellow Soldiers would suffer with her.

With 12 miles of ruck marching, an obstacle course, a stress fire shoot and more, the Gunga Din, hosted April 18 by 308th Brigade Support Battalion, 17th Fires Brigade, challenged Soldiers physically and mentally while encouraging teamwork.

For Love and fellow members of Team 102, the day was hard, but rewarding.

"Working with them today, I know the people on my team's limits now, so I feel a little bit closer to them," said Love, a retransmission operator with 308th BSB.

Teammates helped one another over obstacles, encouraged each other during the ruck march and shared advice before the stress shoot.

"Being out here with them, I was surprised by how well they did," said Spc. Cory Cape, also a retransmission operator with 308th BSB.

Eighteen, five-person teams and 22 individual participants competed.

The goal of the competition is to develop resiliency in junior Soldiers and leaders, while providing a sense of accomplishment through teamwork, said Lt. Col. Gary Spearow, 308th BSB commander.

The name of the competition originates from an 1892 poem by Rudyard Kipling where a mistreated servant, known as Gunga Din, sacrifices his life to save his master.

Spearow said the competition honors Gunga Din's selfless service and reflects the spirit of his battalion whose mission is to provide support services to other units in 17th Fires Bde.

Of all the events in the competition, Team 102 agreed they dreaded the ruck march most, but they used it as a chance to overcome individual weaknesses as a team.

"When I saw someone falling back or struggling, I did try to motivate them, and that in turn motivated me," Love said. "Telling them ‘Hey, we only have this much to go,' that helped me a lot."

For Spc. Anita Bazan, who gave birth eight months before Gunga Din, teamwork was the difference between success and failure during the ruck march.

"When I thought about stopping or slowing down they were like ‘No, you have to keep going," said Bazan, a 308th BSB training room clerk. Leading up to the competition, she doubted she would finish. She said her teammates kept her going.

"I knew they were going to stick with me," she said.

Although grueling, Gunga Din provided Soldiers insight into their coworkers.

"I learned that the people on my team can keep going," Cape said. "I feel like I can rely on them more, knowing that they can keep up." Team 102 placed 17th, but win or not, they finished the competition together.

May 3, 2013 at 6:28am

What those wind chimes at Madigan mean

Rayna Holley/Madigan Public Affairs Care Provider Support Program's therapy dog Stryker makes the rounds to bring smiles and lift spirits of Madigan patients and staff.

If you are reading this, chances are you're one of the thousands of patients being seen at Madigan Army Medical Center. If you're a patient at Madigan, you've probably heard the faint sound of wind chimes at random times throughout the day, but how many of you know what they mean? The wind chimes serve as a reminder for care providers to stop, take a breath, and relax for just a few minutes out of the day. The wind chimes are the brainchild of Jeanne Morrow and Christine LeCain, the dynamic duo that makes up the Care Provider Support Program.

The CPSP is a provider resiliency program designed to assist Madigan staff in preventing and recognizing burnout, compassion fatigue and provider fatigue. All of which can negatively affect the workplace.

"People aren't taking care of themselves because they care so much for patients. They put so much energy and effort into patient-centered care, so we remind them they need to take care of themselves and get along with each other," LeCain said.

"We provide care for the caregiver. We do pretty much whatever the staff needs. Everyone in the hospital is a care provider, regardless of indirect care or direct patient care," Morrow said.

"You have to take care of yourself or you're not going to be a good caregiver," adds LeCain.

Care Provider Support offers fun and educational classes dealing with such topics as resiliency in the workplace, how to communicate with your coworkers and relaxation techniques. The classes can be scheduled for an individual or for an entire department.

A few times a month the third member of the Care Provider Support Program joins the team. LeCain's personal pet, a two-year-old mini-husky named Stryker, is a certified therapy dog that is available for visits throughout the hospital.

LeCain and Morrow have also turned their seventh floor office into an oasis for Madigan staff needing to take a break from the day-to-day grind. No appointment is necessary and no documentation is taken. The pair is there to assist staff when the stress gets to be too much.

"We do a lot of listening and letting people just say what they need to say in a nonthreatening, nonjudgmental, open-minded environment where they're not telling it to their supervisor, they're not telling it to a coworker, it's not going to go any further than this and that's very liberating for people; they need to have a place to say I'm having a heck of a week," said Morrow.

The Care Provider Support sanctuary has a seating area where staff members can throw on some headphones and listen to relaxing music while sipping a cup of tea. Two shoulder massagers and four back massagers are available to help relax tired muscles. There's a mini sandbox to play in, hand lotions and body sprays, charms to remind people to stay centered and always a basket of candy on hand to cheer up wary staff. If you don't have time to stay awhile, there's a shelf full of self-care books available for checkout.

The team regularly puts their heads together to come up with new ways to help rejuvenate the Madigan team. When the staff can't come to Care Provider Support, Care Provider Support comes to them even adjusting their schedules to accommodate night and weekend shift employees.

"When it's not a busy time we go out to the clinics, and literally walk around talk to people, check in. We like to bring little aromatherapy scents around and we tell nurses, ‘keep it in your pocket and then pull it out and smell every once in a while when you need a nice scent.'"

"We are constantly getting out there. We're talking to people in the office or we're out in the departments asking, ‘what do you guys need? How's it going?'" said LeCain.

Morrow and LeCain said with the recent budget cuts, stress is at an all-time high in the hospital. They want to remind care providers that the CPSP staff is here to help, and now more than ever employees need to take care of themselves so that they can take better care of their patients.

"It's a sign of strength to go talk to somebody when you feel you're not coping well. We are care providers, we should know that. But we're sometimes the worst about seeking out help for ourselves. We are really proud and we don't do it. But it is a sign of strength to go rejuvenate yourself. This is a difficult time for all of us. Ask us what we can do for you or tell us what you need," Morrow said.

May 3, 2013 at 6:30am

JBLM Cross-Country Series Finale: New recruit lifts Madigan

Photo by Christopher Gaylord/JBLM PAO George Mount raises the trophy presented to the Madigan Army Medical Center team following the JBLM Intramural Cross-Country Series finale on Lewis Main April 24.

Ashley Urick is not used to Soldiers running past her during a physical training test.

The JBLM Army Ten-Miler standout, as well as All-Army cross-country runner, typically finishes ahead of the pack. But then Urick, a resident in training at Madigan Army Medical Center, ran the test with Stephen Stacey.

"She's not used to having people end before her, and I did," Stacey said.

After the run Urick recruited Stacey to represent MAMC in the JBLM intramural cross-country series finale just two days after that PT test. Stacey ran the 4-mile trail course behind Soldiers Field House on Lewis Main and finished second overall in his first intramural cross-country race April 24.

"I'm not used to running on trails and hills like that," Stacey said. "It was a lot harder than I was expecting." Stacey and Urick helped lead MAMC to an overall first place team finish.

The majority of the racers competed in the previous two races, but some, like Stacey, were present for just the third and final race. Stacey rode his bike to Soldiers Field House from MAMC during a break in his shift, ran the race and then returned back to work.

For Urick, the cross-country series served as a good warm up for her racing season. Two days before her PT test she ran the first Army Ten-Miler timed trial. The cross-country series gave the avid road runner a change of terrain.

"Overall I think our team did very well and it was a pretty good series," Urick said. "It's good to get in the racing mentality."

Aaron Catlin also prefers to run on pavement to lessen the chance of injury. Catlin, who won JBLM's St. Paddy's Day 10K run in March, won all three cross-country races, leading the 508th Military Police Battalion to a runner-up finish. Catlin missed out on competing last year due to deployment, but left his mark on the race this year.

"We had great weather every race," Catlin said. "The course is definitely challenging - a little different than a normal race."

The sergeant was barely winded when he crossed the finish line in 23 minutes, 40 seconds. Three days after the series finale he ran a full marathon. Catlin will head off to Army Officer Candidate School in July, and will likely miss the opportunity to represent JBLM at the Army Ten-Miler in October, but he hopes to run a final race at JBLM with the Salmon Run in June.

May 3, 2013 at 6:32am

JBLM youth spend morning on the run

Dean Siemon/JBLM PAO Hundreds of young participants begin the America’s Armed Forces Kids Run at Cowan Stadium on JBLM Lewis Main Saturday.

While some children watched cartoons Saturday morning, about 400 military family members, ages 5 to 16, ran in the fifth annual Armed Forces Kids Run at Joint Base Lewis McChord's Cowan Stadium.

The family-oriented event featured a half-mile run on the track, and two neighborhood runs - one of two miles and a second of one mile.

Mercedes Case watched her husband, Capt. Ryan Case, of HHC I Corps, run with their 5-year-old son, Ronan, in the half-mile run.

"I wanted to get (Ronan) into racing because he's always asking what we're doing and why we like to run," Case said.

Eight-year-old Brienna Satterfield enjoys running so much that when her school had a half-mile run the day before, she ran the second half to prepare for the annual kids run.

"I think it's a great way to get kids active and motivated, and they have fun doing it," said her mom, Lara Satterfield.

Jensen Blaine, a 6-year-old who has used a wheelchair since birth, participated by using a hand-operated bicycle and raced alongside the half-mile runners in his age group.

"It's all he's been talking about all week," said Staff Sgt. Thomas Blaine of Madigan Army Medical Center's Bravo Company.

While parents and children enjoyed the event, volunteers also participated. JBLM fire prevention officer, Will Silva, a cross-country runner with a prosthetic leg, entered the half-mile and two-mile runs.

After he crossed the finish line, he circled back to the kids at the end to run alongside them.

"I just want to make sure the kids are running and keep them motivated," Silva said. "There are a lot of different capabilities out here, but they're running."

For JBLM's Child, Youth and School Services, sports activities like this event are for the kids and their parents. "We're able to bring families together in a positive way," said CYSS Sports Director Cynthia Williams-Patnoe.

The event originated in 1986 as Junior Bloomsday, the child's answer to the annual Bloomsday race that takes place in Spokane, Wash. About 120,000 youth competed in this race during its 16-year tenure. In 2002, the race's names was changed becoming America Kids Run.

Shortly after 9/11, the race's organizers were approached about setting up an event template for military bases to have kids run as part of Armed Forces Day activities in May.

"It's grown from 82 bases in the first year (2003) to 163 this year," said Dan Petek, director of America's Armed Forces Kids Run.

Military bases in more than eight countries including the United States, Bahrain, Greece, Puerto Rico, Germany, Japan, Iceland, England and Italy participated.

At JBLM the number of participants doubled since 2011 to about 400 total in the three races.

May 4, 2013 at 11:13am

Mangudai Warriors complete grueling three-day event

Five Mangudai participants do log sit-ups during the Command Sergeant Major’s physical fitness time.

According to legend, the "Mangu-Dai" were the elite of Genghis Khan's army.  These warriors were chosen for their ability to endure and win under harsh conditions.

Today, the term "Mangudai" denotes a leadership challenge that would make many Mangu-Dai cry.

Ranger reporter and photojournalist J.M. Simpson spent the last three days completing the Mangudai Challenge at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Soldiers, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen were tested physically, mentally and emotionally during the grueling 58-hour event.

Look for Simpson's complete story in Thursday's Ranger newspaper.

A Mangudai participant takes a moment for a quick shave. Food and sleep were almost nonexistent.

A Mangudai participant has his Swiss Seat checked before rappelling off a 37-foot tower.

After a firefight at Solo Point, Mangudai participants survey the wounded - before having to carry them one-mile uphill.

May 5, 2013 at 11:54am

Batteries of the Steel Battalion vs. M777 Howitzer

Spc. Nicholas Davis, gunner, 2-17 FA, readies the M777 Howitzer on the firing line during a live fire training exercise on Joint Base Lewis-McChord May 2. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. David Chapman

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Gun tubes flamed and the ground rumbled here May 2 as field artillery soldiers dusted off their howitzers that had laid dormant for a year, to sharpen their skills and complete their annual certification.

The artillerymen of the 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment, conducted a live-fire training exercise that tested not only those experienced with the unit's weapon of choice, the M777 Howitzer, but also those who had not fired the gun in a real training environment.

This twice-a-year firing exercise requirement will certify the unit to use the M777.

However, the training began a week earlier with basic artillerymen skills, gunner tasks and the Artillery Skills Proficiency Test.

Read more...

May 6, 2013 at 7:21am

Morning Report: Taliban arrest, weekend in Syria, KC-135 crash, 360-degree evaluations and more ...

Afghanistan: An Afghan and coalition security force arrested a senior Taliban leader and one other insurgent during an operation in Khugyani district, Nangarhar province, today.

Syria: A Syrian activist group says Israel's weekend airstrike on a sprawling military complex near the Syrian capital Damascus has killed at least 42 Syrian soldiers.

Speaking Of Syria: In an interview on Fox News Sunday, Sen. John McCain pointed to Israel’s airstrikes as evidence the United States would have little trouble penetrating Syria’s air defense systems.

Sad: The DoD released the names of the three airmen killed in the crash of a KC-135 aircraft near Chon-Aryk, Kyrgyzstan. The airmen were assigned to the 93rd Air Refueling Squadron at Fairchild Air Force Base.

More Sadness: Seven U.S. servicemembers were killed on Saturday in one of the deadliest days for Americans in Afghanistan in recent months, as the Taliban continued attacks against foreign troops as part of their spring offensive.

G'day Sailors: The Australian Navy frigate HMAS Sydney joined the USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group in Yokosuka’s naval harbor to help keep an eye on nut job North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, who has threatening ballistic missile strikes on Japan, South Korea and the United States.

Review A General: Military Times digs Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey’s proposal to formalize "360-degree evaluations" for all unit commanders.

Do You Care?: Air Force "Top Cop" Brig. Gen. Allen Jameson wants to scrap the traditional Security Forces shield and adopt a more Barney Fife-looking version. Tell him what you think on Facebook.

Old Stuff Rules: 200 letters written by World War II soldiers to their parents discovered in hatbox.

Filed under: Morning Report, Army News, History,

May 6, 2013 at 9:41am

Changes, initiatives underway to benefit local veteran population

Home Depot Foundation has pledged $80 million over the next five years to nonprofits that specifically target veteran homelessness.

"The greatest investment in our history, in our veterans, has happened in the past decade," explained Donald Lachman, who has been with the Washington Department of Veterans Affairs for the past six years. "Companies and community leaders often ask us how they can help veterans and we are working to facilitate that need and maximize what is already available in the community."

That initiative, to treat the veteran population as a special community and provide them with appropriate resources, is actually being furthered by two large, out-of-state entities.

"We recognized early on that the area around Pierce County was in need of assistance," explained Elisha Harig-Blaine, Senior Associate for Housing (veterans and special needs) at the National League of Cities.

Read more...

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