Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

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

April 1, 2016 at 11:14am

JBLM unit delivers

An Iraqi soldier guides a U.S. soldier as he backs up a truck loaded with Iraq Train and Equip Fund supplies March 12, 2016, in Iraq. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Victor Joecks

In the last several months, soldiers from the 24th Composite Supply Company based out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord have helped oversee the delivery of hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of equipment and supplies through the Iraq Train and Equip Fund, or ITEF.

"We're the sustainers, so we provide all the logistical support to people who are training and assisting the Iraqis," said 1st Lt. Natalie Edwards, ITEF manager with the 24th CSC.

Edwards oversees ITEF Responsible Officers, who work at various Forward Logistical Elements, or FLEs, throughout Iraq. ITEF responsible officers, like 24th CSC 1st Lt. Neshia Robertson, are responsible to receive, store, account for, and distribute equipment that the Army divests to the Iraqi military.

Robertson said that her team has divested vehicles, body armor, weapons and a lot of ammunition during her time working with ITEF.

The total value of the equipment divested in the last several months throughout Iraq is several hundred million dollars, according to 1st Lt. Jonathan Shannon with the 271st Movement Control Team out of Joint Base Langley-Eustis, who serves as another ITEF responsible officer.

These supplies have a two-fold purpose. First, coalition forces use the supplies to train different branches of the Iraqi military. The trainers include forces from around the globe, including servicemembers from Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Italy and England.

"I work with a lot of (coalition partners)," said Robertson. "I provide a lot of equipment for them to train Iraqis with. Whenever they need something, my door is always open."

The equipment supplied by the 24th CSC and other units is not just used for training. The second purpose for those supplies is that they serve as a necessary ingredient to recent Iraqi military gains against Daesh, including the liberation of Ramadi. Daesh is another name for the Islamic State.

"Those are the guys (the Iraqi military) who are kicking (butt)," said Staff Sgt. Melvin Correalopez, ITEF noncommissioned officer in charge at an Iraqi FLE, who is also with the 24th CSC. "They took Ramadi. Their vehicles, equipment - we are supplying them."

"Anything that is needed for them to get to the next level, we have issued it to them."

The movement of the ITEF goods is the responsibility of soldiers like Spc. Neil Bernard, an automated logistics specialist with the 24th CSC. Bernard loads and transports the equipment during transfers with the Iraqi military.

"We show up to the location and start moving," said Bernard. "Staff Sergeant (Correalopez) handles the paperwork. I start moving equipment."

Using a mixture of Arabic and English, interpreters and hand signals, U.S. and Iraqi servicemembers work together to unstrap and unload equipment during the exchanges. It's obvious that soldiers from both countries enjoy the chance to interact, and these brief interactions are filled with moments of camaraderie, like exchanging patches and taking selfies with each other. Both sides even share the interest most soldiers have when getting a chance to examine different kinds of weaponry.

"It's a good experience," said Bernard. "I get to work with the Iraqis. They're friendly. It's been good. They like to take pictures and hug. They ask a lot of questions - wife, family, kids?"

"Last time we had an issuance, we sat down and ate lunch," said Robertson. "They're very helpful and thankful that we're helping out as much as we can for them."

According to Correalopez, that help is having an impact seen throughout the world.

"If they don't have the equipment to train on, there's no (operation). We're making a difference."

April 1, 2016 at 11:29am

New child care site

The Army is transitioning to a new single portal Department of Defense website designed to make it easier for soldiers to find the childcare they need.

In March 2016, select Army garrison families will begin to use as their website to search for and request child care services where they are or where they are planning to move.

"The vital function of this website is to simplify the child care search process, helping patrons make better informed decisions about their child care needs," said Theresa Sanders, the Installation Management Command Child, Youth and School Services Outreach Services Program Manager. "The DoD has worked hard to develop a system which allows patrons to create their own account, search and request care, manage requests, and update their profile from the convenience of their home," she said.

Using, parents can find comprehensive information on child care programs worldwide, conduct a customized search for the care they need, and submit a request for care at any time from any location, Sanders explained.

Web services were first tested in pilot programs throughout the military branches, including U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii.

Soldiers and families at Aberdeen Proving Ground, forts Belvoir, Campbell, Detrick (Forest Glen and Frederick), Drum, Knox, Lee and Meade, Watervliet Arsenal and Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall will gain access to the site in March.

Each garrison is working directly to notify the families affected and assist in the implementation of the DoD website rollout.

"We expect the implementation of this new website to be seamless," said Sanders. "Those families already receiving child care services will continue to receive those services without interruption. Those whose name is already on a waiting list will be entered on the new website."

More details will be available at Parent Central Services at each garrison.

According to officials at the U.S. Army Installation Management Command, the Army will continue its rollout in June with 28 new garrisons, including: forts Benning, Bliss, Buchanan, Bragg, Carson, Gordon, Hamilton, Hood, Jackson, Leavenworth, Leonard Wood, McAlester, McCoy, Polk, Riley, Rucker, Sill, Stewart; Detroit, Picatinny, Pine Bluff, Redstone and Rock Island Arsenals; Anniston and Tobyhanna Army Depots; Carlisle Barracks; West Point; and U.S. Army Garrison Miami. Specific dates of access will be announced locally so that all soldiers and care-givers will be aware of the timing of the change and how it will impact their family. 

April 7, 2016 at 11:12am

3-D soldier avatars

Since 2010, researchers at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine have had a goal to create a 3-D full-anatomy avatar for any soldier regardless of gender, shape or size. Photo illustration by Mallory Roussel, USARIEM Public Affairs

Since 2010, researchers at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM) have taken on the mission to develop a computer program to create the full-body, complete-anatomy avatar of individual warfighters. Their goal is to create a 3-D full-anatomy avatar for any soldier regardless of gender, shape or size.

Dr. Gary Zientara, a mathematical modeler, and Dr. Reed Hoyt, chief of the Biophysics and Biomedical Modeling division at USARIEM, designed this project to morph human internal anatomy to fit into a 3-D body scan of soldiers. When Zientara and Hoyt looked at the range of research and activities occurring at Natick Soldier Systems Center, it was apparent to them that avatars could make an impact on the design of military gear, protective equipment and vehicles, and other applications across military medicine.

"This strategy has the possibility to create a large library of avatars, indeed, an online avatar ‘Army' available for research use, and, as importantly, can provide individualized avatars representing uniquely specialized members of special units," Zientara said. "Creating avatar models with this software enables individualized physiological modeling where an individual soldier's avatar can be clothed and moved through different postures and positions in order to be able to test angles of vulnerability and eventually even exercise and test physiological responses in any climatic environment."

In 2015, as part of their first-generation avatar effort, Zientara and Hoyt formed a partnership with Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center's Anthropometry Team, which provided 500 3-D body scans to USARIEM researchers. Currently, 250 male avatars have been successfully created as a means of testing, demonstrating, and constantly improving the USARIEM computer program.

According to Zientara, the one key initial ingredient in the creation of the USARIEM avatars is the 3-D body surface scanning technology provided by NSRDEC. This technology can acquire a representation of the soldier's external surface.

"Human-like computer graphics figures shown in Hollywood movies or in online games are hollow, lacking internal anatomy," Zientara said. "These movie or game avatars do not differ much from the body scan input used in our computation of full-anatomy avatars. Hollywood graphics figures or gaming avatars are simplified, compared to the full-anatomy USARIEM avatars, and are usually decorated to model superficial physical characteristics and clothing textiles. The simplicity of the Hollywood representation makes those cartoon avatars much easier to animate than the USARIEM avatars."

Dr. Zientara explained that the software USARIEM uses analyzes the structure of the soldier's 3-D body scan to identify external appendages, surface anatomical landmarks, and a simple skeleton that the computer uses to understand body positioning. The software can then bend and size the standard anatomy figure into the posture representing the soldier's body scan, and finally expand or contract individual body components to best fit the soldier's scan.

This technology could lessen the costs of physical testing and reduce the man-hours of the subject devoted to actual testing. Since simulation and testing software can be operated as desired, new applications can be tried, high-risk simulations can be easily and safely performed, and results can be compiled from as many avatars as one has available.

"These future applications, coupling avatars with other technologies, present the most sophisticated case of simulation tools to the 21st century Army," Zientara said. "Advanced training tools developed from this technology and coupled with USARIEM avatars can significantly increase soldiers' knowledge and experience, concretely benefiting effectiveness, efficiency and safety." 

April 7, 2016 at 12:06pm

Innovation and collaboration

In the spirit of collaboration, a communications exercise started March 30 and ended April 3 at Camp Murray that brought together more than 150 people nationwide to test communications interoperability across military and civilian agencies. The Vital Connections-Cascadia COMEX focused on preparing for June's Cascadia Subduction Zone exercise, but ended up with a natural opportunity for innovation.

WA Vital Connection - Cascadia 2016 was sponsored by the U.S. Northern command in conjunction with the Washington Military Department and State Emergency Operations Center. Col. Larry Hager, the director of command and control communication systems for the Washington National Guard, led the five-day exercise, bringing radio experts together.

Hager described the most innovative aspects of the conference including both a first-time use of the 60-meter (five megahertz frequency) band for radio communications with both military and civilian participants successfully communicated by voice on an HF radio network, and also able to send email across an HF radio network.

"We were able to send an email from Camp Murray to National Guard Bureau and a few other states over HF radio," said Hager. He highlighted that this helped the participants to practice sending data over nontraditional networks.

The exercise brought together agencies across the spectrum of emergency response to test communications systems such as radio, satellite and video along with providing training on interoperability. More than 50 servicemembers received training in the Raytheon ACU cross-banding system over the course of the exercise.

The Vital Connection program, sponsored by NORAD/NORTHCOM, provided the support necessary to make the COMEX a reality.

"Without their help we wouldn't have been successful," said Hager. "Their (Vital Connection) sponsorship, expertise, participation and help really made this exercise possible."

Participants included the Joint Incident Site Communications Capability (JISCC) from the Washington National Guard along with key civilian agencies. Snohomish and Pierce County's Emergency Operations Centers participated from their home locations in addition to FEMA's Region 10, Army Northern Command, Army North, and the military service components on the west side of Washington, according to Maj. Yeng Lacanlale, who is a part of the Joint Forces Headquarters J6 office and participated in planning. Additionally, the cities of Maple Valley and Seattle, and Clallam, Clark, Cowlitz, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, King, Kitsap, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, Skamania, Spokane, Thurston and Whatcom counties took part in along with the Kansas and Idaho National Guard, Air Force and Army MARS. The North West Regional Aviation, Washington State Patrol, WA ARES/RACES and Harris Corporation also joined.

The exercise was designed to practice the first step in emergency response efforts - communication.

"The first thing in a major event that people need to know is information," said Lacanlalae. "They need to know where to go and what to do. It's a lifesaving medium for folks and that's the purpose of the event."

The Pierce County Emergency Operations Center's Mobile Operations Command came to Camp Murray as a part of the communications testing. Staffed by both paid and volunteer staff, the MOC provides a place to hold EOC operations including power sources, communications and planning space.

"Really, it's a mini-office on wheels. It has wi-fi, satellite, TV, radio and data connections to ensure we can talk with our partners. It also has the basic things you would need in an office including a printer, computers and desk space," said Tom Sharpe, alert and warning specialist for the Pierce County EOC.

"When you're in the middle of disaster and need a friend, it's too late to go looking for one," said Hager. "This exercise was key in being able to network and interface with the people you need to work with during a major disaster. You don't want to be exchanging business cards for the first time in the middle of an event."

April 8, 2016 at 2:00pm

Kevlar or plastic?

The new Torso and Extremities Protection system, which is slated to roll out in 2019 and has been undergoing field tests at bases across the U.S., weighs about 23 pounds ??" 26 percent lighter than gear worn today. Photo courtesy of PEO Soldier

Lightweight plastic body armor will replace Kevlar-based protective equipment used by U.S. troops in 2019.

The new Torso and Extremities Protection system, which has been undergoing field testing at bases across the U.S., weighs about 23 pounds - 25 percent lighter than gear worn today, said Lt. Col. Kathy Brown, a program manager for Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment at Program Executive Office Soldier.

"We are looking at further developing the system," she said. "We think we can lose more weight."

It's unclear exactly how much the new gear will cost, however, Brown said it will be cheaper than the current equipment and offer the same level of protection.

The new armor is designed to offer maximum flexibility and mobility, she said. It can be scaled up or down depending on the mission so troops working in less-risky environments can wear less cumbersome gear, said Doug Graham, PEO Soldier spokesman.

"You can look at your mission and wear as much as you need," he said. "That will allow you to adjust the weight you are carrying to fit what you will be doing."

For lower-risk missions, troops can wear a ballistic combat shirt, which protects the upper back, chest, neck and arms under their jackets, he said. If a threat increases, they can add more protection, such as ceramic plates and a tactical carrier.

Over the past two years, hundreds of troops from U.S.-based Army and Marine Corps units have been giving their feedback after field-testing the new gear, Brown said. PEO Soldier did not provide Stars and Stripes access to those who tested the gear, but Brown said feedback has been positive. For example, 95 percent of soldiers who wear the ballistic combat shirt rate it highly, she said.

The key to reducing body armor weight has been changing soft materials from Kevlar to polyethylene - a type of plastic. The Army is also developing polyethylene helmets to replace the Kevlar versions, Brown said. Vendors have also dropped the weight of ceramic plates in the body armor by altering their manufacturing technique.

Lighter body armor will help troops avoid injuries caused by heavy loads, although it's unclear how much more gear troops will carry in the future, Brown said.

"The Army is constantly trying to make soldiers' loads lighter," she said.

The Army is assessing exactly what type of equipment troops need for particular missions with a view of minimizing the weight they have to carry, she said.

The unisex body armor's design also takes into account earlier efforts to make items comfortable to the female form, Brown said.

"We tried to make sure our equipment was all-encompassing," she said. "Now we have a system that encompasses both male and female soldiers." ©2016

April 14, 2016 at 11:09am

Best squad in 7th ID

Members of the 52nd LRS received awards last week after being named “Best Squad” in the 7th Division at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo credit: 7th ID

A squad from the 52nd Long Range Surveillance, 109th Expeditionary Military Intelligence Battalion, 201st Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade, was selected as the 7th Infantry Division's "Best Squad," during a ceremony at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, April 8. The seven competing squads braved both rain and hail during the day-long competition. In order to emerge victorious, the squads tried to out-perform one another in events including marksmanship, basic combatives and physical endurance, as well as a written exam covering basic soldier knowledge.

"It feels pretty good to go out and compete with the guys," said Spc. Caleb J. Fassler, 52nd LRS squad member and "Best Squad" member. "It was definitely a great challenge for everyone."

Fassler and the rest of his squad received a ceremonial bayonet, congratulatory plaque, and an Army Achievement Medal from the 7th ID commanding general, Maj. Gen. Thomas S. James. During his speech, James talked about the importance of competition and the grit needed to come out on top.

"We are a team of Army professionals who are combat ready to fight and win in a complex world," he said. "A whole lot of dedicated hard work, blood and sweat goes into being the best Army in the world and the best division in the Army."

The competition, which took place on March 24, started with the squads escorted via Black Hawk helicopter to the start point, beginning a 10-mile ruck march immediately followed by a demonstration of first aid knowledge.

After the ruck march and a brief moment to recover, the squads exchanged their combat boots for running shoes and completed a modified physical fitness test, which included a five-mile run. The squads then moved to the obstacle course where they worked as a team in order to complete the 15 stations in the shortest time possible.

The goal, according to Master Sgt. Michael Robinson, non-commissioned officer in charge of the competition, was to give every squad a fair chance to win.

"The guidance given to me by Command Sgt. Maj. (Jackie) Love, (7th Inf. Div. command sergeant major) was he didn't want the infantry guys to have an advantage over the artillery guys, or the artillery guys to have an advantage over the aviator guys," he said. "We had to build something where nobody had an advantage, and everybody had an equal opportunity to succeed or fail."

Next, the squads moved to the Engagement Skills Trainer to compete in the marksmanship event, where they zeroed weapons and engaged virtual targets.

"The EST was a huge help to us because it gives the latitude to do whatever scenario we wanted in the time that we wanted, and we didn't have to go through the whole support requirements and pull people out to the range," said Robinson.

The competition's evaluators also measured the effectiveness of each squad's leadership. Squad leaders were given the freedom to choose an appropriate uniform for each event, as well as logistics and overall tactical strategy, according to Robinson.

"I gave as much leeway to the squad leaders as possible, so unless it was a safety requirement, I left the uniform up to the squads. I also left the chow plans up to the squads," he said. "I was surprised by their ingenuity."

In preparation for the numerous events, several squad leaders said they trained over several weeks to improve their squad's chances at winning the competition.

"We've done rucking, as much as we can get in on our personal time, as well as working on some marksmanship techniques and other common tasks for us as soldiers," said Sgt. Alexander Lorati, a squad leader with 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. "This competition (brought) us together as a squad and just tightened the bond (and skills) we already have ... working as a team and making us a cohesive unit."

In order to claim the title of "Best Squad," the groups not only had to prove themselves as soldiers but also as dedicated members of a team. On this particular day, the 201st EMIB had the best squad, but Robinson said that every soldier in the competition should be happy with the results.

"No one gave up on themselves," he said. "They just kept driving on all the way to the end, and I'm really proud because that's something we look for in the infantry, but I saw it in all seven brigade's teams. They still pushed through and had smiles on their faces."

April 14, 2016 at 11:20am

412th, 416th TECs name Best Warrior winners

U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Ramer will represent the 412th TEC at the U.S. Army Reserve Command Best Warrior Competition in the noncommissioned officer category. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Debralee Best

U.S. Army Reserve soldiers with the 412th and 416th Theater Engineer Commands competed in a combined Best Warrior Competition, April 3-8 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, to identify the noncommissioned officer and enlisted soldier to represent each TEC at the U.S. Army Reserve Command Best Warrior Competition.

In the enlisted category, Spc. Brandon Dunham, 94th Military Police Company, 302nd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, and Saco, Maine resident, will represent the 412th TEC while Spc. Michael Orozco, 387th Engineer Co., 301st MEB, from Goodyear, Arizona, will represent the 416th TEC.

Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Ramer, 474th Eng. Platoon, 926th Eng. Brigade, from Tampa, Florida, will represent the 412th TEC, and Staff Sgt. Travis McCorkendale, 374th Eng. Co., 301st MEB, a San Francisco native, will represent the 416th TEC in the noncommissioned officer category.

The competition included a variety of soldier tasks including the Army Physical Fitness Test, combat water survival, various weapon qualifications, Army Warrior Tasks, land navigation, combatives, a flight and battle lane, and a sergeants major board.

"(It was) challenging, just the overall knowledge you have to know and pass on," said McCorkendale. "I think we did thirty-two events, so knowing all that information and then for the board there was ten categories and twenty different questions on the board. It was just memorizing and knowing how to do it all."

While all four soldiers are moving on to the USARC level, which will be held at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, May 1-7, their motivation comes from different sources.

Orozco said he wanted to represent himself, his unit, mentors, wife and family. McCorkendale and Ramer want to motivate their soldiers. Dunham said he was told to compete at a lower level and did so well he kept moving on.

"I was kind of volunten-told at first," said Dunham. "We did a platoon (competition) and I won it, and they told me, ‘You're definitely going (to company level).' Once I got there, the competitive side kicked in and I started loving it - it was fun."

The competitors each struggled in a different area during the competition.

For Ramer, it was the balance between his civilian responsibilities and training for the competition.

"It was hard juggling everything with my civilian life," he said. "I'm a graduate student and I work and have a fiancée, so it's tough. There are only so many hours in a day, so prepping for it is definitely the hardest part of it. Once you get out here it's easy; you just do it and go home. It's everything else you have to do to get out here."

Orozco also found the hardest part to be training up, but in a specific area.

"I think for me the hardest part was the battle lanes, just because they're difficult to train for unless you have the opportunities and resources," he said. "For a lot of this stuff: the boards and weapons jumbles, if you're at the unit you can do a lot of the stuff on your own and outside the company, but you can't really run lanes at your house with incoming fire and artillery and injured soldiers unless you have people that are willing to do it."

McCorkendale said he just had an off day as far as firing his weapons, while for Dunham it was focusing on preparing more for the mental tasks rather than the physical.

"The physical part (was the hardest)," he said. "Mentally, when I did brigade, it was a lot, so I focused more on training mentally, but at the TEC level by the end of it, it took a lot to just get out of bed. I was pretty tired physically."

The winners had words of advice for future competitors. Dunham urges them to never underestimate themselves, while Orozco encourages them to work hard. McCorkendale said studying is important, but fitness is the key.

"Study more and be more physically fit," he said. "If you think you're physically fit enough, you're probably not."

As the competitors prepare the move on to USARC, they all have different ideas of how they will do, but they all said they will put forth maximum effort to succeed.

"It's different at every level. I've been going at this since December at company level. It definitely progresses and gets harder," said Ramer. "I'll put everything I've got into it and see what happens. It's going to be tough. I've been an (observer controller/trainer) at the USARC competition so I know what they do up there. It's just taking one event at a time."

Dunham is just thankful to have succeeded at the TEC level.

"Like with every competition, I don't have a ton of confidence in myself when I go into it, but I'm going to do my best," he said. "I didn't think I was going to make it anywhere near as far as I did already. I'm just going to give it my all."

Orozco, on the other hand, is filled with confidence.

"I'm going to win at USARC," he said. "It will be a lot of work and I've got to get my shoulder healed up a little bit, but I think I'll do alright. I'll close up a couple shot groups and get rid of the injured shoulder and I should be alright."

McCorkendale, who is a Sapper, is competing in another "Best" before taking part in USARC's Best Warrior Competition.

"I think I'll do good. I don't know what the competition will be like there, but I've got to go to the Best Sapper against the active-duty week after next and then I'll have a week off, then I'll go to USARC," he said. "The competition will be tough but I'll just give it one hundred percent and hope for the best."

During this combined competition, the soldiers of the two TECs competed side-by-side. In a few weeks, they will face each other and the rest of the Army Reserve for the title of USARC Best Warrior.

April 15, 2016 at 11:10am

New Urgent Care Pilot Program for Prime beneficiaries

To increase access to care, the Department of Defense is launching an Urgent Care Pilot Program for TRICARE Prime beneficiaries. This program allows Prime enrollees two visits to a network or TRICARE authorized provider without a referral or prior authorization.

The Urgent Care Pilot Program, scheduled to begin spring 2016, is for:

  • Active Duty Family Members (ADFMs) enrolled in TRICARE Prime or TRICARE Prime Remote
  • Retirees and their family members who are enrolled in Prime within the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
  • ADSMs enrolled in TRICARE Prime Remote and stationed overseas but traveling stateside

Active Duty Servicemembers (ADSMs) enrolled in TRICARE Prime are not eligible for this program as their care is managed by their service. This pilot also excludes Uniformed Services Family Health Plan (USFHP) enrollees. TRICARE Overseas Program (TOP) enrollees can receive an unlimited number of urgent care visits, but only when they are traveling stateside and seeking care.

There are no Point of Service (POS) deductibles or cost shares for these two urgent care visits, but network copayments still apply.

Once you receive urgent care, you must notify your PCM about that care within 24 hours or the first business day after the urgent care visit. Authorization requirements have not changed for follow-up care, specialty care or inpatient care.

When you are not sure of the type of care you need, or you require care outside of standard business hours, call the Nurse Advice Line (NAL). If the NAL recommends an urgent care visit, and a referral is submitted, that visit will not count against the two pre-authorized visits allowed under the Urgent Care Pilot. However, if you call the NAL and get a referral to a military hospital or clinic and you go elsewhere for care, that visit will count against your two pre-authorized visits.

If you need more information, please visit the Urgent Care Pilot Program web page on the TRICARE website.

April 15, 2016 at 11:17am

Self-defense course teaches more than fighting techniques

Spc. Helene Buckley, a soldier with 62nd Medical Brigade, 593rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command, uses techniques taught during the 18-hour Rape Aggression Defense course at McVeigh Gym on JBLM, April 8. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Patricia McMurphy

He came up behind her - you could tell by her body language, the tensing of her neck and the look on her face, that she did not like it. "Hey baby, what's your name? You got a boyfriend?" he asked, as he moved inches from her ear. "Go away," she shouted. "Leave me alone." Instead, he grabbed her from behind and forcefully pushed her face forward into a wall.

Today, she would not be his victim, nor was this an actual attack. This was part of an aggression scenario in an 18-hour Rape Aggression Defense course taught to female soldiers assigned to 62nd Medical Brigade, 593rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command on Joint Base Lewis-McChord as part of April's Sexual Assault Awareness Prevention Month, April 8, 2016.

The course includes lecture, discussion and self-defense techniques suitable for women of all ages and abilities.

"We cover what is legally approved for self-defense," said Sgt. 1st Class Scott Acosta, a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, assigned to the JBLM Sexual Harassment Assault / Response and Prevention Resource Center. "If someone attacks you in an elevator, and you beat them down to the ground then the doors open and you can get out - you can't continue to beat on them - you have to leave them alone and go away or you are going to get in trouble yourself."

The course not only taught the soldiers defense techniques but also built self-confidence in their ability to fight off an attacker.

"This course is designed to teach (women) self-empowerment and get them to understand that they are not weak. That they are extremely strong," said Acosta. "Until you put somebody that is bigger and stronger in front of them and let them cut loose on them, they really don't get that."

"I think the aggression piece is what ties the program together, and they start to realize that they are strong," he added. "By the end they love the program and want to come back."

Master Sgt. Kimberly Nieves, Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 62nd Medical Brigade, 593rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command, set up the classes with Acosta and although she had some background training, she said she found great value in the course.

"I like to learn different ways to defend myself, and this is unlike any class that I have taken," said Nieves. "I have taken boxing lessons before and I am level two combatives certified, and I don't feel as if those prepared me as far as the aggression part goes. With this class, I think I will be more comfortable if someone comes up behind me."

During the aggression simulation training, the soldiers went through three different scenarios with instructions given at the start of each one. The main focus was not to stay and fight the aggressor, but use force when necessary and to get to safety as quickly as possible.

Nieves says she was glad she took the class and said everyone else said they enjoyed it as well.

"I saw shy soldiers turn into straight warriors during the simulation training," said Nieves. "Soldiers that didn't think they would be able to endure all three iterations, ready for more and ready to tell their friend or family about because no longer did they feel timid.

One soldier who learned a lot about herself during the course and was complimented several times on the strength she didn't know she had was Spc. Kasey Boyd, brigade schools representative for 62nd Medical Brigade, 593rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command.

"I had a lot more instinct than I thought I had," said Boyd. "It is a real confidence booster.

For more information on attending the R.A.D. course, contact the JBLM SHARP Resource Center, Bldg 2027C, Pendleton Avenue, JBLM Main. For questions or to schedule a training event, please call 253.967.2072. 

April 21, 2016 at 10:57am

Soldiers express themselves through a creative short video

To help overcome challenges, servicemembers participated in the "I Was There" film workshop at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, April 11-14. The four-day event provides soldiers the tools needed to effectively communicate with their loved ones through a creative short film.

"It's kind of a filmmaking workshop where we come in and teach the basics of story telling and kind of help people tell their stories about their experiences in the military," said Aileen Sheedy, an "I Was There" instructor.

The workshop is part of the Patton Veterans Project, a nonprofit organization that was started by Benjamin Patton, grandson of World War II General George Patton. "I Was There" is geared toward helping veterans face challenges from post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and other conditions.

Through "I Was There," veterans had the opportunity to share their experiences and relate with other servicemembers who have gone through similar challenges. According to Sheedy, the program lets servicemembers know they are not alone.

During the workshop, soldiers broke down into teams and together planned, shot, and edited short films that helped them express challenges they faced throughout their military career.

Some of these challenges can be simple things such as how soldiers present themselves compared to their civilian family and friends.

"Family members don't always understand the hardships of military life, and it can be a challenge in itself for the families, causing a disconnect between them," said Sgt. Annabelyn Verdeflor, a respiratory specialist with the 47th Combat Support Hospital, 62nd Medical Brigade, and first-time "I Was There" participant.

Her team's story idea was to show the differences between civilians and military. She talked about a time when her mother asked her to drive her to an appointment and how she automatically started making plans to ensure her mother made the appointment on time.

"She (mom) gave me a timeline, and I'm like ‘where's the address?' and I start Googling maps, and I'm thinking in my head, ‘how's the traffic?'" said Verdeflor.

"In the military we live by certain standards, always prompt, doing our (primary maintenance checks and services); if given a timeline, be there ten minutes prior, so there's a difference in our culture. We unconsciously expect others outside of the military to abide by those same principles. We've incorporated this into our lives - the military. When we go home with family and friends, that's where there is a disconnect."

According to the group's mission statement, the videos are designed to help family and friends better understand what a soldier is going through, whether it is challenges of military life, PTSD, TBI or any other issue. At the completion of the videos, veterans have the opportunity to showcase their video and explain the process and meaning behind it.

"This program helps people open up, and being able to film something is sometimes easier then just talking about it," said Sheedy.

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