Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

Posts made in: January, 2016 (14) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 14

January 7, 2016 at 12:01pm

New CSM for I Corps

CSM Michael A. Grinston arrives from Fort Riley. U.S. Army photo

America's Corps will conduct a change of responsibility for the I Corps Command Sergeant Major, 10 a.m., Tuesday, Jan. 12, at the Errol H. VanEaton Reserve Center here.

Command Sgt. Maj. James P. Norman took responsibility of I Corps as the senior enlisted advisor in September 2013.

Command Sgt. Maj. Michael A. Grinston, the incoming I Corps Command Sergeant Major, previously served as the 1st Infantry Division Command Sergeant Major at Fort Riley, Kansas.

A retirement ceremony for Norman will also take place in conjunction with the change of responsibility at the Reserve center. Norman began his military career on Fort Lewis in 1981 where he served with the 109th Military Intelligence Battalion.

January 14, 2016 at 10:48am

Guardsmen test joint fires teamwork model

A tactical air control party specialist from the 116th Air Support Operations Squadron assesses the exercise battlefield during Exercise Cascade Warrior on Nov. 8 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo credit: Tech. Sgt. Paul Rider

Members of the Army and Air National Guard from Washington state, California and Oregon joined in a test of battle communications and force integration here over a few days in November. It was the first ever squadron-level joint live, virtual and constructive joint fires training event that tied digital simulations involving air support operations squadrons, an air support operations center and tactical operations centers into live field training. Led by the Washington Air National Guard's 116th Air Support Operations Squadron and 111th Air Support Operations Squadron, Exercise Cascade Warrior 2015 drew participation from the California Army National Guard's 40th Infantry Division, the Oregon Army National Guard's 41st Brigade Combat Team, and Washington's 81st Brigade Combat Team.

Cascade Warrior included core joint terminal attack controller (JTAC) teams operating in a close air support simulator alongside two brigade tactical operations centers (TOCs) at the 116th ASOS, a new prototype simulator system running at the 111th Air Support Operations Center with 40th Infantry fires staff integration - all connected digitally and via radios and satellite to 116th ASOS JTACs in the field.

The ASOC simulator is a "prototype for a system of record" for Air Combat Command, said Senior Master Sgt. Greg Kassa, simulations operations chief for the 111th ASOC. A separate simulator at the 116th is a pre-cursor for a large-scale 270-degree dome simulator that is set to be built in 2016 as part of larger Washington Air National Guard Close Air Support Simulations Center of Excellence at Camp Murray.

The exercise was the culmination of "several years of hard work and progressive steps that started, very simply, on a bar napkin, and (it) has grown in scope each year," said Lt. Col. Raed Gyekis, commander of the 116th ASOS. "It has now successfully expanded to include amazing out-of-state support by the entire joint team from Washington, California, Oregon and agencies in the DoD."

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory provided support and equipment for the simulation. It was "the first time ever for an ASOC to be using AFRL equipment in a real-world exercise," said Dr. Leah Rowe, a senior research psychologist at AFRL, headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

"From a research perspective, allowing operators to use the system we designed in a real-world scenario allows for better operational alignment for R&D," said Rowe. "It allows us to design training like we would use in the real world, to train like we go to war. We're able to harvest data from the system to make it more applicable to warfighting. Partnering with the Washington Air National Guard here has been a tremendous win for us. It's a win-win. They get training. I get research."

The AFRL simulator at the ASOC, with the help of several Washington Air National Guard communications experts and a lot of troubleshooting, vastly improved communications with participants throughout the simulation, said Gyekis. "This is a huge step forward, connecting our entire joint fires team in a Washington Air Guard exercise. Like we have in the past, we will continue to build on this year's success, as we link the new CAS Dome Simulator with the improved ASOC Sim and an even more robust training presence from our partners at the 40th Infantry Division, 81st BCT and 41st BCT," said Gyekis.

At both of the Tactical Operations Center tents set up in the 116th ASOS compound during the exercise, a team worked to integrate the ASOC system. "We try to mimic the machine at the ASOC," said Staff Sgt. Justin Fajardo, of the 111th. "We want to make sure the players have the same setup as we do. All systems need to be talking with no errors on it. When things are not connecting, we put our brains together to keep the systems up."

"We're getting our handshake down," said Sgt. Ben Wiley, of the 41st Infantry Brigade, out of Oregon, as he worked in the TOC alongside TACPs from the 116th ASOS. "The Air Force and Army are putting our ducks in a row for real-world situations."

"We have to work together, support each other with assets, and make ourselves more relevant for the fight," added Capt. Dean Blachly, of the 41st Infantry. "We get to come up and see what (the airmen) do and share our perspective from the ground."

January 14, 2016 at 10:55am

The last formation

Command Sgt. Maj. James Norman, III accepts his final artillery shell during the I Corps change of responsibility ceremony, Jan. 12. Photo credit: Sgt. Daniel Schroeder

I Corps soldiers, civilians and families bid farewell to Command Sgt. Maj. James Norman, III as he transferred his duties as I Corps command sergeant major during a change of responsibility ceremony here, Jan. 12.

As Norman passed the Corps colors to the incoming command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Grinston, he also said goodbye to the Army after 35 years of service.

During his speech, Norman reflected on a career that started at the same place it ended - Joint Base Lewis-McChord - coming full circle from a private in the 109th Military Intelligence Battalion witnessing the activation of I Corps in 1981.

"Not only am I changing out as I Corps command sergeant major, but this is my last formation," said Norman. "It is a bittersweet day, but one that comes for everyone. I can rest assured and be proud knowing the troopers I leave ‘saddled up' are the best I could have hoped for, because missions never stop."

Norman is the fourth generation of his family to serve in the military with his nephew assigned to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, beginning the fifth generation of Army service.

Norman's career included positions in 16 different units spanning the continental United States, three countries and numerous deployments.

Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza, I Corps commanding general, said Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel Dailey was one of the many senior Army leaders from around the world to reach out to Norman, as well as the vice chief of staff of the Army.

Gen. Daniel Allyn attributed his success to Norman's vision. He offered these words for Norman: "Few (noncommissioned officers) I've worked with personify that no one is more professional than I. He is a true professional whose actions match his deeds."

Lanza said Norman was instrumental at operationalizing I Corps and rebalancing in the Pacific. His contributions made a significant impact allowing his legacy of leadership and dedication to the profession of arms to grow in future generations.

"Today is a day everyone dreads; transfer of authority from us to another," Norman said. "In this institution that I love, transitions are necessary for an organization to progress."

I Corps will build upon Norman's accomplishments as Grinston accepts responsibility as the 16th I Corps command sergeant major.

"I am very pleased and happy when Command Sgt. Maj. Grinston was selected to replace me," said Norman. "He is the right person to move the Corps forward."

Like Norman, Grinston is returning to his first duty station where he served as a cannon crew member with 1st Battalion, 84th Field Artillery Regiment in 1987.

"It is truly an honor to return to my first duty station," Grinston said. "I will maintain the standards already in place and do everything I can to provide commanders with ready soldiers."

Grinston arrived at JBLM from Fort Riley, Kansas, where he was the 1st Infantry Division command sergeant major.

January 15, 2016 at 11:20am

Apaches arrive

An aircrew from 16th Combat Aviation Brigade and their AH-64E Apache Guardian hover at Wheeler Army Airfield before landing to train with 2-6 Cavalry, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, Jan. 6. Photo credit: Sgt. Daniel K. Johnson, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade

Soldiers of 25th Combat Aviation Brigade welcomed the soldiers of 16th CAB, from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and their four AH-64E Apache Guardians Jan. 6 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

The arrival of the aircrews and airframes marks the start of a six-month training partnership between the 25th Infantry Division's and 7th Infantry Division's CABs.

"There will be sixty-one total personnel associated with the 1-229th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion's Bravo and Delta companies," said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Kennamer Yates, tactical operations officer, 2-6 Cavalry. "The Killer Spades will be here for six months total, with a personnel rotation expected in March. The Killer Spades are going to fill the void of Attack/Reconnaissance coverage for the 25th Infantry Division following the divestment of the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior."

"With 2-6 CAV's retirement of the Kiowas, the Apaches will become a vital asset not only to 2-6 CAV, but also to 25th Combat Aviation Brigade and 25th Infantry Division," said Capt. Franklin Worsham, fire support officer, 2-6 CAV. "The AH-64 will be the only organic aerial attack platform to 25ID. The capabilities the AH-64 will give the Division are virtually endless."

The team from 16th CAB will be providing support to not only help train the battalion on the use of the Apache, but also to participate in multiple exercises across the Pacific.

"Their role is to support the 25th Infantry Division as the attack aviation platform through multiple upcoming training events such as Lightning Forge, 2-35IN Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise, and the Rim of the Pacific Exercise with the Navy," said Worsham. "The AH-64Es are a force multiplier for 25th Combat Aviation Brigade and the 25th Infantry Division."

Inter-unit cooperation is imperative in today's military. Being able to integrate with a new unit quickly and effectively allows the Army to be more agile in executing rotational missions.

"With the Army moving toward a more rotational force, the cooperation between 25th and 16th CAB is instrumental in developing the processes for integrating forces with many different policies and operating procedures," said Yates.

"Inter-unit cooperation is always a vital part to the success of the Army, particularly here in PACOM," said Worsham. "With 16th CAB being the closest Combat Aviation Brigade to 25th ID, their role as a supplementary force would be vital to any military operation if one were to take place here in the Pacific area of responsibility.

January 15, 2016 at 12:21pm

Army goes to Mars

Michelle Richardson, left, and Ann Barrett, researchers in the Combat Feeding Directorate at NSRDEC, are working on meeting the nutritional needs of astronauts at a space station and astronauts traveling to Mars. Photo credit: David Kamm, NSRDEC

Traveling to the second smallest planet in the solar system can give you a big appetite, not to mention special nutritional needs.

Researchers in the Combat Feeding Directorate - or CFD - at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center - or NSRDEC - are working on two projects for NASA to help meet the nutritional needs of astronauts at a space station and astronauts traveling to Mars.

NASA contacted CFD researchers for their expertise and provided a grant for a vitamin stabilization project to help ensure the nutritional needs of astronauts are met during potential missions to Mars.

In a separate project, CFD is also working to improve and reduce the weight and volume of a breakfast meal replacement bar, originally developed by NASA, which would also be used during Mars missions and at a space station.

"The work we have done on the vitamin stabilization project then generated NASA's interest in us working on a meal replacement bar for the breakfast meal," said Michelle Richardson, a senior food technologist at CFD.

CFD is uniquely qualified to develop and improve rations for NASA due to its extensive work on military rations, Richardson said.

"The work we do in CFD involves meeting the long storage requirements combined with the nutritional demands for Army rations," said Ann Barrett, a CFD chemical engineer.

"The astronaut and the warfighter are both in austere environments, and they both need to be sustained," Richardson said. "They both need food that has to last for several years."

"They both have stressful, as well as physically and cognitively challenging jobs," Barrett said. "So there are a lot of congruencies between CFD and NASA in terms of the objectives for the foods."

The mission to Mars provides many challenges in vitamin stabilization.

"You can make food that is stable, but vitamins are biological materials that degrade over time," Barrett said. "Especially if there is cosmic radiation; then they are even more susceptible to degradation. Cosmic radiation can damage vitamins and create more of a need for antioxidant vitamins for the astronauts. This could result in malnutrition."

The vitamins need to remain effective and intact during the astronauts' time on Mars, and they also need to remain stable during travel to and from Mars.

"NASA is also interested in stockpiling food there for subsequent missions, which is why they want a five-year shelf life," Barrett said.

CFD has developed a blueberry granola bar and a chocolate hazelnut drink mix to meet these requirements.

"We are looking at different chemical environments in the food to possibly help the vitamins last longer," Barrett said. "So for each item - the bar and the drink - we have a low-fat version and a higher fat version. The vitamins that NASA is interested in are A, B1 (Thiamine), B9 (Folic Acid), Vitamin C and Vitamin E.

"The vitamins are encapsulated. We are also looking at the fat level. We have a lipid-based encapsulate and a starch-based encapsulate."

Both the starch-coated vitamins and the lipid-coated vitamins were placed into low- and high-fat versions of the bar and the drink to see which combination results in the best vitamin preservation.

"We did preliminary testing and decided which versions were to be used in a five-year storage study," Barrett said. "We settled on the fat-encapsulated vitamins to be placed in the lower fat foods. And the starch-encapsulated vitamins were placed in the higher fat foods."

January 21, 2016 at 10:15am

Ballroom in Kuwait

Washington Army National Guard Spc. Megan O’Malley teaches a ballroom dance class to her fellow soldiers at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Jan. 6. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Ian M. Kummer

Spc. Megan O'Malley, a small-framed woman with an unobtrusive demeanor, might not immediately stand out from a crowd. Once she warms up to a new person, it does not take long to see a no-nonsense attitude for her work and a dry sense of humor.

After the day's tasks are done, just about any conversation with her will lead to one topic. She loves ballroom dancing.

O'Malley is a Washington Army National Guard automated logistics specialist deployed with Company E, 1st Battalion, 168th Aviation Regiment, 40th Combat Aviation Brigade, in Camp Buehring, Kuwait. Buehring is a military compound of faded wood and damp concrete jutting from the mud of the winter desert - not the first place that comes to mind when the word "ballroom" is mentioned. But according to O'Malley, all one really needs to ballroom dance is an empty motor pool bay and a nice shirt.

O'Malley grew up on a farm in Port Angeles, Washington. O'Malley and her older brother were first introduced to dancing in their living room by their mother, who used to be a professional dance roller-skater.

"We started dancing as a family, and branched out with our own interests as individuals," O'Malley said.

Shortly after turning 16, O'Malley found a new energy in her dancing interests when she saw the 1998 film Dance with Me. She fell in love with ballroom dancing.

"As a teenager, I had two passions, dancing and horses," O'Malley said. "In my twenties, every weekend I would drive two hours to meet up with friends and ride all day, then shower and change to go dancing."

In January 2012, O'Malley faced the darkest period of her life, losing her job and home in the same month. That May, O'Malley enlisted in the Washington National Guard and started basic training on her 30th birthday.

"My ex told me I wouldn't even make it through boot camp, yet there I was," O'Malley said.

After completing her training, O'Malley started drilling at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. She had no problem fitting in with her fellow soldiers and becoming a valuable team member.

"She really enjoys helping people," said Pfc. Logan Easton, a generator mechanic and Vancouver, Washington, resident in the company. "She acts like an NCO (noncommissioned officer)."

In October of this year, O'Malley deployed with the 40th CAB to Camp Buehring, Kuwait. Outside of work, O'Malley has turned her eye back to dancing. With the support of her company leaders and the local Family Morale, Welfare and Readiness center, she's started a dancing class for the other soldiers. O'Malley looks forward to growing both as a soldier and as a dancer during her unit's tour in Kuwait.

"With dancing, you have to love it; if you don't love it, you won't really get good at it," O'Malley said.

January 22, 2016 at 9:51am

Licenses from 5 states banned at DoD bases

Defense Department installations will no longer accept driver's licenses from Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico and Washington as proof of identity, DoD officials said.

Federal Policy

The ban, which also includes licenses from American Samoa, is a consequence of the REAL ID Act of 2005.

The REAL ID Act grew out of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks - most of the terrorists involved had driver's licenses from Florida and Virginia. Congress tightened up issuance processes and documentation needed to get a driver's license. Compliant cards must have specific security features to prevent tampering, counterfeiting or duplication of the document. The licenses also must present data in a common, machine-readable format.

The REAL ID Act affects only access control policies where individuals are required to present an identification document for accessing federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants or boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft. The federal REAL ID Act implementation rules allow for exceptions, officials noted. For example, they explained, life or safety issues such as medical emergencies, and situations in which physical access is necessary to apply for benefits are two exceptions.

Those attempting to gain physical access to DoD installations must show an alternate form of identification, such as a passport, officials said. Servicemembers, family members, DoD employees, and federal employees with the DoD common access card, DoD uniformed services identification and privileges cards, federal personal identification verification cards or transportation workers' identification credentials are not affected, officials said, as these cards are authorized in DoD policy to facilitate physical access to installations.

"All federal agencies including DoD must comply with the law regarding the use of REAL IDs for official purposes," an official said. "For most DoD installations, an identification card or an installation pass is required to facilitate access. Hence, where an ID or an installation pass is used for physical access, DoD installations are prohibited from accepting driver's licenses or state identification cards from states deemed non-REAL ID compliant.

"DoD policy allows commanders to waive the DoD access control requirements for special situations, circumstances or emergencies," the official said. "Therefore, installations may authorize other alternatives to facilitate installation access, such as a graduation ceremony guest list, escorts, etc."

January 22, 2016 at 11:40am

Warrants need training, Army over-relies on contractors

Lt. Gen. Robert Brown, commander of the Combined Arms Center, gives feedback during the first-ever Warrant Officer Solarium, held at the Command and General Staff College on Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Jan. 15. Photo credit: David Vergun

Two major problems impact readiness, warrant officers said at the first-ever chief of staff of the Army-sponsored Warrant Officer Solarium, at the Command and General Staff College, Jan. 15.

First, the Army is too dependent on contractors to maintain front-line equipment. Second, warrants are not getting all of the technical training they need to lead in their traditional role.

CONTRACTOR DEPENDENT

In the last 14 years of warfare, a surge of forces and new equipment made it necessary to hire new contractors to maintain forward-based equipment, Chief Warrant Officer 3 James Morris told Lt. Gen. Robert Brown, commander of the Combined Arms Center, and other senior leaders.

Furthermore, there just wasn't the training time available, he added.

"Now the time has come to reclaim our equipment," said Morris, who provided his own example.

"I'm an electronics-maintenance technician," he commented. "I work on communications devices, radios, night-vision, other equipment. A lot of stuff that came out over the last ten years I'm not allowed or capable of working on."

There's often no technical manuals to repair or fix this stuff, "so that essentially turns me into a logistician," he said. For instance, "if a broken radio is brought to me, I have to determine if it's under warranty, who fixes it, when to expect to get it back, and determine whether or not to order a new one - things of that nature.

"It takes my technical abilities away and makes me more generalized as a logistician."

Many of the approximately 85 warrants agreed and had similar experiences.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Heath Stamm had other concerns.

"In a decisive-action fight with a peer-level competitor - when we're taking ground and moving, when bullets start flying - how willing will these civilian contractors be to fix that digital system" as movement into harm's way commences? he asked.

"We haven't fought a frontline fight in a long time," he pointed out. "People say we were in Afghanistan, but we were static. When we start moving and taking ground again, that's going to change the dynamics.

"Everywhere you see a contractor in the field, you should probably look and say ‘where's the warrant officer that needs to replace him?'" he continued.

Stamm summed up his feelings for warrants taking control: "I'm the technical expert on that system. One, I'm cheaper; two, when bullets start flying, I'll continue working on that system."

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Nick Koeppen agreed that the Army is over-reliant on contractors, particularly during deployments.

The Army can send only so many people overseas, he explained. "When we deploy our aviation units, we're not taking our maintainers and our warrant officers with us. So we have contractors fixing our aircraft. Then, what happens when we bring them back and we're expecting our guys (to fix them) who've never had the training and experience? They can't fix it."

WARRANTS LOSING TECHNICAL EDGE

Morris said that not only is the Army over-reliant on contractors, warrant officers themselves are not getting some of the crucial training needed for them to lead in their traditional technical role.

Noncommissioned officers and even privates are getting trained up on new equipment first and the warrant officers are not being formally inserted into the process, he said.

Morris provided a recent personal example.

The new M-1135 nuclear, biological, chemical, reconnaissance Stryker variant came to Fort Carson, Colorado, and a FLMNET, or field-level maintenance new equipment training team, came out. Their trainees were 94F maintainer enlisted soldiers "who worked for me," Morris said.

"So I inserted myself into that two-week class with all the privates and specialists on my own initiative, because I want to know everything technical going on within my sections," he said. "I don't like it when my soldiers know something and I don't, so I try to learn everything I can. That's an issue."

Morris said he'd prefer to be trained first because chiefs are supposed to be the subject-matter experts on systems they're responsible for. The commander should feel confident that his chief warrant officer is trained up on everything.

Also, having that training would better enable the warrants to determine what's needed in the maintenance program and in the training program, he said.

Then, "when the team does come to train, I can assist with the training," Morris said. "That builds confidence in the soldiers that their leaders, the warrant officers, have the competence to teach them and to train them."

The enlisted soldiers can then say, "'My chief already knows this so I'll listen to him.' Not, ‘my chief is asking me the same questions I was going to ask him.' That's a gap in training. My team members have had similar experiences. I suspect it could be a problem across the Army."

One way to alleviate this, Morris said, is to insert a chief into the procurement and acquisition phases of equipment "so we can have that warrant officer making recommendations and getting their point of view."

"Most systems look at lethality, maneuverability and protection, but maintenance is overlooked," he said. "It's an afterthought."

Having noted where improvements can and should be made, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Fatima Nettles said warrant officers are still the best technical experts in the Army, albeit "mostly due to our own initiative and self-training."

THE GENERAL WEIGHS IN

Having junior soldiers learn new equipment maintenance first is not the right way, Brown said. "It needs to be the other way around," with warrant officers leading in that effort. They shouldn't have to insert themselves into the training process on their own initiative.

Warrant officers should be embedded in the process, he said. They will help adapt technology to people, not people to technology.

Brown said he believes that it wasn't intentionally done that way, just overlooked. "But we can push this" change.

The general also said he agreed that warrants should be the frontline, go-to experts when it comes to technical leadership, with less reliance on contractors.

Brown said this is the valuable input senior leaders need, because they don't always get the ground-level view. He promised to follow up on the discussions with other senior leaders.

January 24, 2016 at 6:56pm

DoD looking at spouses with on base businesses

The military is not looking to restrict spouses with businesses they run from thier on base homes, but how to enhance the effort.  Click here for the story.

January 25, 2016 at 2:14pm

Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 94th Field Artillery Regiment casing ceremony

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Approximately 151 Soldiers from 1th
Battalion, 94th Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Field Artillery Brigade, 7th
Infantry Division, will case the unit colors Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2 p.m. at the Wilson
Fitness Center, for their deployment to the Middle East.  

The ceremony is a military tradition officially marking a unit deployment or
relocation.

Once Alpha Battery arrives at its final destination, the colors will be
uncased, marking the completion of the unit relocation.

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