Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

Posts made in: July, 2015 (10) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 10

July 2, 2015 at 2:40pm

New shuttle routes for Joint Base Lewis-McChord

It's soon going to be easier than ever to get around Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Starting July 27, the JBLM Shuttle will become part of an expansive transit system known as Go Lewis-McChord. New transit vans, more shuttle stops and varied transit options will help servicemembers and families living and working on JBLM travel around the installation.

"A bunch of different organizations have come together and decided to make this happen," said Miriam Villacian, sustainability outreach coordinator, AGEISS, Inc. with Joint Base Lewis-McChord Public Works. "Pierce County was the lead and the main impetus for it, and they came with a grant to help boost our commute options on JBLM. The Washington Department of Transportation came in with some grant funds to help us purchase vans to use on base to provide more vanpool options. It kind of grew from there, with other organizations like Pierce Transit, Inter-city Transit and the Thurston Regional Planning Council. Internally on JBLM, we have the Directorate of Logistics, the Directorate of Public Works and the Directorate of Morale, Welfare and Recreation. It's a whole group of people."

The program, originally known as JBLM Commutes, began about three years ago. With just two vans, the number of stops was limited, and wait times between shuttles were upwards of an hour. Now, with five new transit vans, the program will expand from nine to 28 stops around the installation and offer riders shorter wait times between shuttles.

"We are essentially building a transit system is what we're doing," Villacian said. "We're getting new vans that will be a little more transit-friendly and more well marked. They will look more like civilian transit vans. We are getting bus shelters and bus signs, and vans will go from coming around every 70 minutes to every 20 minutes. They will also go to a lot more places, like McChord Field, which we weren't doing."

The current shuttle transports between 500 and 700 riders each month, said Michael Lockwood, transportation planner with Pierce County Public Works.

"We're hoping to have 2,500 per month, but based on the reactions that we've received, we're hoping to exceed that," he said.

Anyone with base access can ride the shuttle, such as service-members, families and DoD civilians. Though the program is mainly for transportation around the installations, riders will be able to connect with Pierce County bus routes 206 (Madigan Army Medical Center) and 300 (McChord Field Exchange), both of which go to the Lakewood terminal.

In addition to the new shuttle program, GoLewisMcChord will also include a comprehensive pilot program for five units on JBLM.

"They will have access to these shuttles and will get vans from (the Washington Department of Transportation) to provide more vanpool options," Villacian explained. "They will need to be used for home to work, and after that they will be used as an internal shuttle for that unit."

A bike share program is also in the works. "You don't have to pick just one," Villacian said. "You can ride your bike to the van pool and then use the shuttle to get around the installation."

The new shuttle service officially launches July 27. Hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, visit the GoLewisMcChord Facebook page or

July 9, 2015 at 4:24pm

JBLM keeps golfers on the tee

Plenty of ways to enjoy the game on base this season. File photo

This year is by far the most exciting year to be a golfer in western Washington. A record-breaking summer, coupled with the crowning of a new U.S. Open Champion in University Place, has strengthened the love of the game and sparked new interest in the sport. Though there are many courses in the area to choose from, the two courses that call Joint Base Lewis-McChord home have made concerted efforts not only to help seasoned golfers advance, but also to give newcomers a great place to learn.

For military personnel and Department of Defense civilians, Whispering Firs on JBLM McChord Field has much to offer. Currently, Whispering Firs gives those in the ranks of E-1 to E-5 a $35 special, which covers greens fees and includes a $7 food voucher; for those outside the pay grade, the offer is much the same except the fee is $39. This special pricing will run until Sept. 30.  

For more advanced players, there are also both men's and ladies' clubs at Whispering Firs. Each of these clubs has a $35 membership fee, but gives members access to club tournaments and a chance at the club championship. The men's club meets each Tuesday with established tee times; the ladies have a few more options, as they meet on Wednesdays and have five tee times for 18 holes and two for nine holes. Though there are tournaments available if you are not a member of either club, all scheduled tournaments for the rest of summer are full at this location.

Eagle's Pride, however, does have two remaining tournaments with openings: both the July 31 and Aug. 28 Pay Day Scramble tournaments have 1 p.m. shotgun start times and are open to the public. Cost is $35 for military and $39 for civilians, and interested golfers must sign up no later than the Wednesday prior to the tournament.  

Located just off I-5 exit 116, Eagle's Pride also maintains its own men's club. In addition to a $35 membership fee, the club requires that members have an established handicap. The Eagle's Pride course also offers the summer special for military ($35) and civilian ($39) players.

Since both courses understand what makes golf great, they joined together to offer a final summer special that allows access to both courses as well as 50 percent off greens fees and 25 percent off pro shop purchases. To access maximum benefits of both courses, there is a $119 fee, or $79 gets the same deal at just one course. Both options are only available until the last day of September.

While some golfers may notice a slight increase in greens fees at their favorite courses, both Whispering Firs on McChord and Eagle's Pride have chosen to make the game more accessible by offering summer specials.

For more information, visit

July 16, 2015 at 5:02pm

Local soldiers save hikers

A rescued family hugs near an ambulance with the Blackhawk helicopter in the background. Photo credit: Sgt. William Hust

It is the staple mission of the Washington Military Department - to safeguard the lives and property of Washington state. On July 10, a Blackhawk crew from the 66th Theater Aviation Command, Washington National Guard, met that mission in its first aviation search and rescue operation.  

At 7 a.m. on Friday, July 10,  the Yakima Sheriff's Office called the State Emergency Operations Center on Camp Murray. Three isolated teenaged hikers had been missing since Thursday afternoon in the area of Rimrock Lake near Yakima.

"Once we received the call from the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC), our flight crew got their Blackhawk prepared and ready to go," said LTC Rueben Hokanson, Commander, Army Aviation Support Facility.

Within two hours, the Blackhawk crew had taken off from Joint Base Lewis-McChord and were circling above the last known area of the missing hikers. Minutes later, one of the crew members spotted the trio.

"We saw the kids, took a safe approach to them, and then had our rescue crew start their decent down to them," said CW3 Eric Swenson, Pilot, 1-140th Co.  Aviation. "Once we got them in the helicopter, we flew them back to Tieton to get treated for their injuries."

The three teenagers were treated for hypothermia and other injuries, and reunited with their parents.

"It was just a special moment for us to be there to see that reunion between the kids and the families," said Swenson.

This was a first time the AFRCC has called the Washington National Guard on a search and rescue mission.

After last year's devastating State Route 530 Landslide in Oso, the Washington National Guard started a Search and Rescue-focused training in collaboration with Snohomish County. Through a relationship with Snohomish County Helicopter Search and Rescue, the pilots and crews trained on live hoists with and without baskets.

"The training we conducted with Snohomish County after Oso was monumental in getting our flight crews better prepared to conduct search and rescue," said Swenson. "It felt great to help out today."

July 16, 2015 at 5:25pm

Army looks for new pistol

Sgt. Dave Salvador, of 75th Medical Company Area Support, South Korea, shoots his M9 during the Stress Shoot Qualification Lane of the Pacific Regional Medical Command Best Medic Competition. Photo credit: Spc. Paxton Busch

The Army moved closer to releasing its long-awaited solicitation for a new, modern handgun system when it hosted a fourth industry day for interested vendors at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey, July 8.

The Army named the new weapon the "XM17" Modular Handgun System. It will replace the current M9 standard Army handgun with a more state-of-the-art weapon system.

The government presented changes to its latest draft solicitation for the XM17, which were posted to the Federal Business Opportunities website, June 8.

Among changes discussed at the industry day was policy that now opens up the competition to rounds other than ball (full metal jacket) ammunition.

A representative from the Army Judge Advocate General's Office discussed the decision in detail during the event.

Richard Jackson, special assistant to the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General for Law of War, told attendees that federal, state, local, and military law enforcement elements routinely use expanding and fragmenting ammunition in their handguns due to the increased capability it provides against threats.

The Army is encouraging industry to optimize commercially available gun, ammunition and magazine components to provide a system for maximum performance.

July 23, 2015 at 9:28am

Veterans guard Spanaway Recruiters

Veterans and armed citizen volunteers guard the Spanaway Army Career Center. Photo credit: Kevin Knodell

Since Tuesday, armed citizens have been standing watch outside the Army recruiting office in Spanaway. They've come out as a response to the recent killings of four servicemembers in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Bill, a young veteran standing guard armed with a shotgun, said he showed up at 9 a.m.  Wednesday after wrapping up a graveyard shift at work.

He said that as a veteran, the killings in Tennessee hit him hard, and that it sent waves through the military community.

"With the base here, this is a very military part of the state," he explained. "I know a lot of military veterans and family members who were just scared and heartbroken that something like this could happen at home."

By law, most military personnel are not supposed to carry weapons domestically unless engaged in training or specialized guard duty. Recruiters have historically been unarmed. Since the shooting, armed citizens around the country have posted themselves at guard posts around the country.  Washington is an open-carry state - these armed guards are not breaking any laws.

The armed men standing guard in Spanaway are overwhelmingly former military themselves.

They come and go as work and other obligations take them away.

Mike, a disabled Air Force veteran with a pistol tucked in his waistband is another one of the volunteers. "These guys put their lives on the line and gave Uncle Sam a blank check," he said. "It's a shame that they can't protect themselves here."

Several Army officials have stated that citizen guards aren't necessary, but troops at the station put out chairs for the volunteers. Most of the volunteers admitted that an attack is unlikely, but they said that's not the point.

"We're here mostly as a deterrent and to show moral support," Mike said. "I certainly don't expect a van full of jihadist to roll up and attack."

As time passes, another group of armed citizens arrived to stand sentry. One, an 18-year Army veteran named Leonard carried a slung P-90 submachinegun. He said that he'd seen the group of veterans the first day when he'd come out to see the response. So he decided he'd join the next day.

Leonard wore a "peace by popular demand" T-shirt along with a pair of desert fatigues. When asked about the seeming contradiction, he replied, "it's what everyone wants at the end of the day, isn't it?"

July 23, 2015 at 3:36pm

AFA golf tournament raises more than $10,000

Jason Heffner, left, and Captain Cohan Lammerding, both of the 62nd Operations Group 4th Airlift Squadron, on the Eagles Pride Golf Course during the Air Force Association’s annual Airman Support Golf Tournament fundraiser. Photo credit: Andrew Fickes

Seventy-two participants making up 18 teams enjoyed warm weather at the Eagles Pride Golf Course on Friday, July 17, during the Air Force Association McChord Field Chapter 334's annual Airman Support Golf Tournament fundraiser.

The four-person team scramble format tournament had a shotgun start at 1 p.m. The top three teams in each division - handicap and non-handicap - received cash payouts during a dinner ceremony that followed the tournament at the Caddy Shack Bar & Grill, which also included more than $1,000 worth of prize drawings.

Amy Tiemeyer, McChord Field Chapter 334 president and military liaison at America's Credit Union, said between $10,000 and $12,000 was raised in net proceeds to benefit the Airman Support Fund; the Pilot for a Day program benefiting children with life threatening illnesses; Air Force Association scholarships to area youth attending college or enlisting in the Armed Forces; and the Daedalian Foundation's scholarship program, benefiting young men and women aspiring to become military pilots.

"The more money we raise, the more airmen we get to support," Tiemeyer said.

Adam Jennings, a retired sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps with the light armored reconnaissance battalions and now the program coordinator for the Pacific Northwest chapter of Operation Homefront, was part of a team representing wounded warriors that his financial advisor sponsored.

Jennings served eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He was injured in 2010 while serving in Afghanistan. Jennings fully retired in 2012.

Tiemeyer said about 18 businesses sponsored the afternoon tournament, several of which hosted various holes on the course with alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and snacks.

Tiemeyer and ACU sponsored hole No. 1 and served up margaritas, Santa Fe mix and mixed nuts.

"(This event) helps the military to learn who is supporting them in the community," Tiemeyer said. "It's a fun day, out-of-work-for-a-good-cause event."

July 30, 2015 at 4:26pm

New I Corps Deputy

I Corps bids farewell to Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl, I Corps deputy commanding general, and welcomes the newest member of the team, Brig. Gen. Dany Fortin, Royal Canadian Army, tomorrow at 1030.

The ceremony will take place in front of the I Corps Headquarters Building, 2025.

Dahl is heading to Joint Base San Antonio, TX, where he will be the special assistant to the commanding general at U.S. Army North.

Fortin is from Montmagny, Quebec. He was admitted to the Royal Military College (RMC) Saint Jean in 1985. After commissioning, he was posted to 5e Régiment d'artillerie légère du Canada (5 RALC) in Valcartier, Quebec, where he commanded at all levels, becoming its 20th Commanding Officer in 2007.

July 31, 2015 at 12:04pm

AUSA Chapter wins top slot in awards

The Captain Meriwether Lewis Chapter of Association of the U.S. Army is claiming a wide range of awards for its work over the course of the 2014-15 year, including the Best Chapter Award for Group 2 - chapters with membership between 900-1500. At 1,150 members, the Meriwether Lewis Chapter is a sizable force in local military support and advocacy.

The AUSA was founded in 1950. It has 125 chapters worldwide and membership is open to everyone - not just military personnel and veterans. It serves as a nonprofit that advocates for the United States Army and its members. The organization publishes ARMY Magazine and Green Book, and runs the Institute for Land Warfare. Retired Army General Gordon R. Sullivan currently serves as the organization's president.

"We're trying to build a relevancy for a younger demographic," explained Meriwether Lewis Chapter President Amy Tiemeyer, with America's Credit Union.

She explained that the chapter has tried to appeal to younger members with events like the recent Zombie Run at Steilacoom Park, as well as other events throughout the South Sound - including Gig Harbor, Puyallup, Lacey and Tacoma. The annual Turkey Shoot - an annual November golf tournament - raised $36,000 last year. The proceeds went to support such causes as Fisher House and Santa's Castle.

The high visibility and drive to bring in new blood seems to be working. The chapter is growing with a large number of active-duty, veterans, Department of Defense civilians, military supporters and several corporate memberships. The chapter is a massive operation with an executive committee and sub-chapters spread across the South Sound. Each chapter is linked to a particular Army unit on JBLM.  

This growth didn't happen overnight, though. "This is a team effort," Tiemeyer explained. "It's not about just one person." She said that it's a lot of work, but ultimately important work for everyone involved.

With looming sequestration and budget cuts, AUSA's lobbying and advocacy is likely to keep them busy. As the Federal government makes spending cuts, the military is bracing for huge cutbacks in terms of personnel. As a result, AUSA has a packed legislative agenda.

Among its key fights are including fighting to maintain the TRICARE system and reducing fees, expanding spousal and family member education and employment opportunities, and eliminating servicemember out-of-pocket expenses for BAH. The AUSA also wants to keep defense spending at least 4% of the US GDP, with the Army getting at least two percent of that.

In total, the Meriwether Lewis Chapter won 18 awards this year. Besides Best Chapter, the awards the Meriwether Lewis Chapter received included the Chapter of Excellence Award, Presidents Club (Gold), Best Pursuit of AUSA Objectives, Greatest % Increase in Government Civilian Membership, Best Family Programs, Support to Recruiting Command, Best General Membership Meeting, Member Communications, Best Chapter Newsletter, Army Birthday, and the Institute of Land Warfare award.

July 31, 2015 at 12:17pm

Lewis-McChord Communities hosts upcoming events

Lewis-McChord Communities welcomes families living on base to come out and enjoy the weather and tasty picnic fare at the annual Resident Summer Picnic, from 1-4 p.m. at the Greenwood Community Center on Lewis Main, Saturday, Aug. 8.

Marcia McDowell, outreach manager for Lewis-McChord Communities, said families coming to this free event can expect hot dogs, lemonade, fresh fruit, cookies, and fun activities like watermelon eating contests and tug-of-war contests.

"Last year, we saw 1,700 people, and this year we expect to see more," McDowell said.

Tuesday, Aug. 4, Lewis-McChord Communities will partner with Joint Base Lewis-McChord to celebrate National Night Out on McChord Field at the McChord Community Center, starting at 6:30 p.m. The event will follow with an outdoor movie.

Lewis-McChord Communities will hand out back-to-school bags full of essential school supplies - including pencils, rulers, erasers, notebook paper, hand sanitizers - to 1,000 elementary-age students.

Families will have the opportunity to meet with fire and police departments and see fire trucks and other emergency vehicles up close. McDowell said there will also be a trailer onsite called a "smoke shack" that simulates the experience of what it would feel like to have a fire in your home. There will also be safety demonstrations performed, including first aid by EMPs.

McDowell welcomes military spouses to check out the Military Spouses Club, occurring the third Tuesday of each month.

"It's a crafting club," McDowell said. "We provide all the supplies for crafting. We do a different theme each month."

In July, the club crafted safety pin bracelets. On the third Tuesday of August, club members will craft glass marble candle holders. The club is free to attend. Spouses can RSVP on the Lewis-McChord Communities Facebook page.

McDowell encourages families on base to check the Facebook page regularly.

"Sometimes we have activity sheets for kids posted on the Facebook page," she said. "The Facebook page is a hub for all of our families."

Lewis-McChord Communities manages 6,000 family units in more than 20 communities on JBLM.

McDowell said the two annual winners of the Home Pride Contest will be announced on the Facebook page. The winners receive a free home cleaning at move out or a $300 cash prize and a family weekend getaway. The Home Pride Contest recognizes those families nominated by their peers who show exceptional pride in both the interior and exterior appearance of their home.

Events to watch out for coming up are the Halloween treat bags handed out to children in October and the holiday home decorating contest around Christmas time in December.

"The events we host are amazing opportunities for families to meet new people," McDowell said. "JBLM is an amazing installation. The more we can build the connections between families, the better."

July 31, 2015 at 3:09pm

Beer week in Tacoma

"He was a wise man who invented beer," opined Plato, and Tacoma agrees. Beer's been Earth's favorite alcoholic beverage since its invention over 11,000 years ago. The ancient Sumerians wrote prayers to Ninkasi, their goddess of beer. In some Bible translations, Proverbs 31:6 recommends beer as a deathbed medication. We ain't there yet, my friends, but it's been a hot summer. Pour us a tall one!

Good news, Gritty Citizens: it's Beer Week! Tacoma's annual celebration of suds gets underway on Sunday, August 2, when the Red Hot pours fruity brews from Engine House No. 9 at 6 p.m. On Monday at 6p.m., Narrows Brewing stages "Beer of Fortune" and "Giant Jenga" at the Ale House. Edison City Alehouse (no relation) hosts a Brewer's Edition of Hollywood Squares on Tuesday at 6 p.m., while Pacific Brewing plays Pin the Beer on the Brewer. On Wednesday, the Harmon Tap Room will "Randall" a local brew, meaning flavor it at the tap, while the Copper Door pours three local favorites and the ParkWway Tavern pits IPAs against one another in an invitational championship. The next night, ParkWay tosses Washington and Oregon beers into the Octagon. Odd Otter Brewing, Pint Defiance and Wingman Brewers pour Washingtonian offerings on Thursday and Friday, and the Copper Door plays Match Game on Friday at 6 p.m.

Saturday's the main event, the cleverly named Brew Five Three between 9th and 11th on Broadway.  It's a rain-or-shine, 21-and-over block party at which blues musicians, food trucks, ciderists, revelers and the Beer Week Master of Ceremonies come together to appoint one local brewer the People's Choice. Each ticket buys a pint glass and six tasting tokens. Somewhere, Ninkasi is smiling.

BREW FIVE THREE, 1-8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8, Broadway Center, 901 Broadway, Tacoma, $10-$30, 253.591.5894

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