Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

Posts made in: June, 2016 (17) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 17

June 2, 2016 at 10:58am

Best of the best

Noncommissioned officers and soldiers stand together after completing warrior task and drills during the 2016 I Corps Best Warrior Competition at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, May 24. Photo credit: Sgt. Sinthia Rosario

The competition was divided into two categories, NCO and enlisted. It was designed to test each individual on a variety of warrior skills, promote esprit de corps, and select the best to compete in the U.S. Army Forces Command Best Warrior Competition.

Soldiers challenged themselves with the Army Physical Fitness Test, weapons qualification, a road march, an obstacle course, day and night land navigation, warrior task and drills, a board and more.

"It's extremely important that we get after the basics even for the soldiers and the sergeants who've been doing this for a long time," said Command Sgt. Maj. Michael A. Grinston, I Corps senior enlisted leader. "They'll learn something out here. They'll learn something about themselves. They'll learn a little bit about their body, but they're going to really come out a better soldier."

Spc. Joshua Diaz, a military police officer with 571st Military Police Company, 42nd Military Police Brigade, previously competed and won the Soldier of the Year for his brigade and competed in this event and building his way up for the next competition.

"I like to push myself and strive to be the best that I can be," said Diaz. "I want to be able to lead and be the type of leader others can look up to."

Diaz said he did well on the APFT, weapons qualification, and "the ruck march was a little trying, but I pushed through it. Now, I just got to work through the obstacle course."

Senior leaders observed the NCO and Soldiers as they went through the different challenges.

"We have excellent soldiers," said Sgt. Maj. Jose R. Otero, I Corps provost marshal sergeant major. "They come out here all walks of life and they come out here and compete and they're competitors, which is awesome. They go out here and give their best. I know it's a cliché to say ‘Army Strong,' but we have some strong soldiers competing today, and they're kicking butt today."

The event helped competitors enhance their skill sets and build camaraderie.

"I think competitions like this are great," Diaz said. "I think it's the best way to show physical and mental resiliency. It's motivating. This is fun to do, and this is what the Army is like."

June 2, 2016 at 11:03am

'Ghost Brigade' soldiers prepare for future conflicts

A soldier assigned to 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, prepares to fire back at enemy soldiers during Decisive Action Training Rotation 16-06 at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California, May 16. Photo credit: Maj. Kelly Haux

Since 1981, military personnel have come and gone through the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, to prepare for missions around the world.

These month-long rotations are usually geared to prepare a unit for an upcoming mission. For the 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, their May 2016 rotation to NTC was a way to hone in on those key fighting skills as a brigade.

"We jumped on the opportunity to try to build upon what we learned at the last NTC rotation and what we learned during the missions we executed in the Pacific," said Maj. Keith Benedict, the operations officer for 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team. "We are trying to combine lessons learned both from the National Training Center and Pacific Pathways and bring them together during this rotation to experiment further and make our selves better as a unit."

In January 2016, the "Ghost Brigade" participated in Pacific Pathways, an operation in which units from the brigade were sent to multiple countries in the Pacific, Benedict said. There, the soldiers worked and trained with their counterparts to build upon each nation's capabilities and to work through interoperability challenges. Pacific Pathways also helped leaders become accustomed to working in different environments around the world.

"While in Thailand, Korea and the Philippines, our soldiers trained and interacted at the individual, company, and staff level in order to learn how to deploy into that theater with which our brigade is aligned," Benedict said. "This helped build the capabilities and partnerships with those countries and will yield dividends in the event of a humanitarian crisis or any other time our soldiers may be called upon.

"We have got to make everything a learning environment," he said. "We serve no purpose if we don't understand our operating environment. We must seek every opportunity to challenge our ability to operate in a humanitarian aid, decisive action or combined arms maneuver capacity - while fighting an adversary, if need be."

NTC is the only place where the unit gets to operate as a brigade in an environment that trains and facilitates all aspects related to that, said Maj. Garrett Shannon, the intelligence officer for 1-2 SBCT. Even at home station, it is very difficult to replicate all the moving pieces, speed and complicated measures that come into brigade operations.

"Back at home station, we don't have the same training effectiveness of a thinking enemy with a chain of command that is planning and operating against us," said Shannon. "It is just really not possible to replicate the large mass of enemy soldiers and be given sufficient time to interact with each other back at home."

According to Benedict, the U.S. Army has been operating and training in the last decade with counterinsurgency (COIN) in mind. Many of today's leaders have COIN experience, but many of our most senior leaders were in the Army before the COIN era and understood how to execute decisive action (the continuous, simultaneous combinations of offensive, defensive, and stability or defense support of civil authorities tasks).

"As an infantry officer, I have deployed in a counterinsurgency environment," Benedict said. "I have learned to operate within that capacity, but I have not deployed in a decisive action environment. So the opportunity to understand how to maneuver, how to execute security tasks, while facing a capable adversary, is something that used to be the Army's bread and butter.

"We had gotten away from for a bit out of necessity because of the mission set we were presented," he said. "But we recognize that in the future we may be called upon to do any number of missions, and the decisive action training methodology is ultimately what is going to allow us to operate in any environment."

"Escalations of conflict or a disaster could happen at any time, and that could put us into a humanitarian situation where we have to be ready to take on any one of those tasks," said Shannon. "If we were not able to use a training environment such as NTC on an annual basis, it would really be a deficit, regardless if there is an upcoming deployment or not."

"... I have found this experience to be truly humbling and eye opening," said Benedict. "As a field grade officer responsible for the operations of this brigade, there has been no limit to the amount of pressure and challenge presented to me during this rotation. I know that we will emerge from it stronger and be more capable of operating in any environment." 

June 2, 2016 at 11:05am

Madigan earns environmental award

Madigan's efforts to stay green earned it the honor of being named as a part of the Practice Greenhealth Circle of Excellence on May 19.

This award is given to healthcare organizations for outstanding performance in reducing their environmental footprints; Madigan was specifically recognized for its waste reduction efforts.

"It's no surprise that Madigan is definitely a leader in that category," said Michael Kyser, the supervisor of Madigan's Environmental Health Service.  He attributed the award to Madigan's strong green culture, to being a part of the environmentally-conscious Pacific Northwest and to joining in with Joint Base Lewis-McChord initiatives like their recent waste diversion contract.

Madigan's Green Team boasts a trail of other environmental awards in the past few years, to include Practice Greenhealth's Environmental Excellence Award in 2015, their Top 25 Environmental Excellence Award in 2014, and their Environmental Leadership Circle in 2013.

Thanks to a collaboration between Madigan's Environmental Health Service, Property Management Section and JBLM, 2015 saw Madigan for the first time recycling and repurposing old furniture by recycling its plastic and metal components, and repurposing its pressed wood.  The contract also lets Madigan recycle 100 percent of pallets and boxes used to deliver new furniture.  Altogether, the effort to recycle and reuse old furniture reduced Madigan's trash by 10 tons last year.

In addition, the ongoing recycling efforts of Madigan resulted in 48 percent of waste being recycled in 2015, said Kyser.  Madigan recycles everything from shredded paper to mixed metals to batteries.  The efforts to cut back on waste go beyond recycling to areas like composting leftover food and encouraging dining facility patrons to use china instead of disposable containers when eating in.

Kyser is quick to give credit to everyone who has a part in making environmentally-friendly decisions.

"Without Team Madigan, none of this would actually happen," said Kyser, who noted that the key to getting engagement from all levels of the hospital is the decentralization of Madigan's environmental program.  Environmental coordinators throughout the hospital help make recycling efforts more successful, as do all of the efforts of staff and patients to recycle and segregate waste appropriately on a daily basis.

Kyser especially thanked housekeeping staff for their role in these efforts.

June 3, 2016 at 10:32am

Testing senior NCOs

As an Army leader, they lead by example and lead from the front, ensuring the troops are mentally and physically ready for combat at all times.

The first not only has to ensure he or she is combat-ready, but is responsible for the readiness of all the company's soldiers. To see who is the best of the best, I Corps has brought forth the first sergeant of the year competition.

"We wanted to have some type of competition in where we name the best first sergeant of the year for the corps," said Command Sgt. Maj. Michael A. Grinston, I Corps senior enlisted advisor. "This is kind of getting back at what the Forces Command commander would call the basics. If we're going to go back to the basics, sometimes it's having the first sergeants check their knowledge and check their skills, and it also sets a good example for the soldiers."

The first sergeants began their competition alongside troops who were competing for Noncommissioned officer and soldier of the year. They participated in an Army Physical Fitness Test, weapons qualification, road march, an obstacle course and other warrior tasks.

"Command Sgt. Maj. Grinston is trying to establish a competition; which I believe, it breed's excellence," said 1st Sgt. Carl Moranski, first sergeant of the 66th Military Police Company, 42nd Military Police Brigade. "This competition gives me the opportunity to identify what I need to work on as a leader. It's also important for my soldiers to see that I'm out here still doing it. I think that motivates them to continue to push themselves physically and mentally."

The soldiers observed senior leaders push their limits during the competition.

"I think it's great seeing the first sergeants go through the same stuff we're going through, knowing that they're also pushing themselves," said Spc. Joshua Diaz, a military police officer with the 571st Military Police Company, 42nd Military Police Brigade. "It's motivating."

June 13, 2016 at 3:49pm

SMA's new book club kicks off

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey plans to discuss the first of three recommended titles with soldiers during his regularly-scheduled visits to Army installations, beginning in July. Photo credit: C Todd Lopez

Put on a pot of Earl Grey, because the next time the sergeant major of the Army comes to your installation, he just may be hosting a book club where he and soldiers will discuss titles with subject matter relevant to the profession of soldiering.

While as part of his book club, the SMA aims to visit with and talk with some soldiers, the real goal is to provide junior leadership with an opportunity to discuss with their soldiers, outside of normal training, the Army-relevant themes and topics present in the books selected.

"We already ask soldiers to read and understand regulations and policies - this is an opportunity to start a new initiative that's fun, while also helping our squad leaders guide discussions on topics that relate to our profession," said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey of the book club. "It shouldn't feel like another task. I don't want to force soldiers to do this. I want them to want to read with me."

The three books Dailey proposes be on soldiers' reading list include one science fiction novel, and two non-fiction titles. They are:

  • Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, a science fiction novel that focuses on futuristic military space conflict and the leadership and ethics of the titular military recruit, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin. Discussion on this book should happen between July and October of 2016
  • Simon Sinek's Leaders Eat Last, a non-fiction title that discusses how good leadership puts the needs of their team before their own needs. Discussion on this book should happen between November 2016 and February 2017
  • Simon Sinek's Start With Why, a non-fiction tile that discusses why leaders do what they do, rather than how. Discussion on this book should happen between March and June of 2017

Right now, the SMA is reading Ender's Game in preparation for discussions he plans to have with soldiers about the book, beginning in July. By then, the SMA's office will have also provided a discussion guide for that book to help junior leaders discuss it with their own troops.

Master Sgt. Michelle Johnson, a spokesperson for the SMA's office, said that soldiers who want to read along with the SMA should not be focusing now on getting all three books, but should instead focus on locating a copy of Ender's Game and work on that title alone.

While all three titles can be purchased online or in book stores, soldiers who want to participate should not be required to purchase any of them. Instead, soldiers should check with their local public or post Morale, Welfare, and Recreation library to see if the title is available in a hard copy, or online for digital checkout, said Karen Cole, director of the Army's MWR Library Program.

"There should be print copies of Ender's Game at your local MWR library, and there are copies available on the Army's virtual library through Overdrive," Cole said. "All you need is a library account."

Cole said she is working to increase availability of all three titles in either hard copy at MWR libraries or online at OverDrive.

None of the three books that have been suggested by the SMA involve the U.S. Army directly, though one does involve a futuristic, science-fiction-based military. But all three books provide opportunity to discuss themes and topics germane to professional development, as practiced by those outside the Army.

According to Dailey, one of the reasons for standing up a book club was to generate discussion of leadership concepts outside of the military world. He's asked NCOs to "take our blinders off" and learn how the business world, academia, social scientists, for instance, are doing business or explaining the world.

While participation in the SMA's Book Club is voluntary, soldiers who want to participate can expect that the next time the SMA visits their installation he'll have also scheduled time with soldiers in squads who volunteer to participate, to lead discussion on one of the titles he's recommended.

In the future, selections for the book club will come from a list generated by soldiers themselves. It's expected there will be an SMA Book Club-related website available in July.

June 13, 2016 at 3:57pm

Special Olympics athletes compete in the heat

An athlete participates in the wheelchair race during the Special Olympics Washington summer games on JBLM, June 4. The 3-day event involved soccer, track and field events, and a power-lifting competition. Photo credit: Spc. Adeline Witherspoon

Under the glaring sun, the athletes took their places on the track, cheeks shiny with sunblock. Their muscles tensed as they readied themselves for the sound of the starting pistol. With a bang, the athletes were off, competing in the 100-meter dash during the 2016 Special Olympics Washington summer games.

Despite the brutal heat, nearly 2,000 athletes competed in the 3-day event on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, which began June 3 with the lighting of the ceremonial flame, followed by two days of competition.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord has played host for the statewide competition for over 40 years, five of which Genia Stewart, Special Olympics head coach and coordinator for the JBLM Tigers team, has participated in.

"I love coaching because the athletes really come out of their shells," said Stewart, "They realize that they can do anything, and it's like they're different people. They gain so much confidence."

Stewart, an army spouse and mother of two, has a lifetime of experience with special needs children.

"We noticed our son was developing a little differently around age 8," said Stewart. "He didn't look you in the eyes when he talked to you. Things that kids could do at an early age took him a little longer to learn. I have to come up with new ways to teach him things that I learned the normal way."

Stewart's husband was deployed often, so Stewart decided to homeschool her children in order to provide a more stable learning environment.

"It's the army life, you get used to it, you make friends who are here," Stewart said. "Homeschooling helped a lot especially with the moving around. It was easier to keep up with school work."

Stewart and her husband, who retired last fall, have been stationed at JBLM for the past nine years. She continues to work at the sports office on base where she helps coordinate the youth leagues as well as coaching the Special Olympics.

"I wanted my son to experience things that other people do, so he knew he could still do sports as well," said Stewart. "It's brought him out of his shell and in the last six years he has participated, he's been much more personable, and he even talks to adults more than kids."

Donovan Gerg, 25, a participant in this year's summer games, has been on the JBLM Tigers team for the past three years.

"I swam a relay with my friends and then I swam a breast stroke and butterfly and freestyle," said Gerg.

Stewart, and the other coaches of the Tigers team have worked with the special needs children of military families on JBLM to help train them for the games.

"My mom and coach Genia have helped me reach my goals," said Gerg. "All the coaches are great and I'm very proud to be here."

June 13, 2016 at 4:05pm

Earn your cake

The Army's 241st birthday is but a week away now, and Army leaders are saying of soldiers "let them eat cake" ... but only if they're going to burn off the calories with some robust physical training.

Under Secretary of the Army Patrick J. Murphy, a soldier for Life, and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey will both earn their cake and eat it too. And they will both burn off those calories during Army birthday week as part of the "Earn Your Cake" campaign, which involves soldiers recording 15-30 seconds of their own workouts - a demonstration of how they will "earn" the cake they eat during Army birthday week - and then sharing those videos with Army social media

"Everybody loves cake," Murphy said. "But you have to get after it physically, so you aren't packing on the pounds. ‘Earn Your Cake' is something we are pushing out there to make sure people know that while we are going to take time to celebrate on our Army birthday, that doesn't preclude the fact you have to earn it.

Soldiers can share their workout clips via social media at Twitter #EarnYourCake and #USArmy, and also on Facebook at They can learn more about the campaign at

June 16, 2016 at 9:09am

Hitting the beach

Soldiers assigned to 331st Modular Causeway Company, 11th Transportation Battalion, 7th Sustainment Brigade, from Fort Eustis, Va., brace for landing during Joint Logistics Over the Shore, June 6. Photo credit: Spc. Adeline Witherspoon

Soldiers assigned to 11th Transportation Battalion, 7th Transportation Brigade, in conjunction with the Washington National Guard, Army Reserve, Navy and Coast Guard, kicked off Joint Logistics Over the Shore in Tacoma, last week.

The exercise was designed to establish port operations on a bare beach in order to supply emergency resources to neighboring communities in the event that the Port of Tacoma is damaged by a natural disaster, such as an earthquake.

JLOTS vessels can be deployed in order to temporarily establish facilities at Jenson Point on Vashon Island.

"In this particular case, it's a very extreme set of problems that allows us to plan and to learn in the event of a disaster," said Rick Wallace, the volunteer president of Vashon Be Prepared and logistics controller for the JLOTS exercise.

The participating soldiers have spent months preparing for the JLOTS exercise. "Providing disaster relief is such a vital mission," said Spc. Christopher Barrientos-Bland, 331st Modular Causeway Company, 11th Transportation Battalion, 7th Transportation Brigade, a seaman aboard the floating modular causeway. "If an earthquake hits or a tsunami, we're going to be the ones who get the call, and we can deliver these supplies in the blink of an eye."

The floating causeways are flat and light enough to be maneuvered by a small crew to create a makeshift pier in the shallow waters.

"All these different pieces you see, we had to perform Preventative Maintenance Checks and Services on them," said Spc. Sheri Fernando, a watercraft engineer assigned to 331st MCS. "Along with the boats, we needed to make sure all of them were good to go and make sure the engine and electrical equipment are up to standard."

One of the benefits of the floating modular causeway is the relatively low manpower necessary to assemble and transport the equipment.

"We can break it down into parts, put it on trains, and even on planes if we need to," said Barrientos-Bland. "We can move it anywhere. Ten of us brought this to Washington. We all loaded it up onto the train and built it in under six days before the other units arrived."

The training exercise allowed the U.S. Transportation Command, the state of Washington and supporting military units to better prepare for future relief operations.

"If you think about the Cascadia earthquake, it happens every four hundred to five hundred years, historically, so the last time was a little over three hundred years ago," said Wallace. "What I saw today was the culmination of years of work, and this is a way for us to learn how to work together. It's a collaboration between the local community and the military."

June 16, 2016 at 9:42am

A JBLM soldier in Poland

U.S. Army Reserve Pfc. James Hale, a Transportation Management Coordinator with the 3882nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, JBLM, is interviewed by a Polish television reporter during Exercise Anakonda 2016. U.S. Army photo

For U.S. Army Reserve Pfc. James Hale, coming to Poland for Exercise Anakonda 2016 was like coming home.

Hale, a Transportation Management Coordinator with the 3882nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, has been serving as a Polish translator for U.S. Army Reserve soldiers participating in the Polish-led, joint multinational exercise. When he found out the unit was coming to Poland, he jumped at the chance to participate in Anakonda.

"I don't have any Polish heritage but my parents, who are missionaries, moved to Poland over twenty years ago," Hale said. "I was born in Lublin, Poland but my parents moved around for their mission work. They still live in Poland - about ten minutes from here."

Hale grew up in Poland, attended and graduated from a Polish high school, then moved to Washington to join the U.S. Army Reserve two years ago. He is currently attending college in Washington, enrolled in ROTC at Saint Martin's University in Lacey, Washington.

Serving as the unit translator has been a rewarding experience for not only Hale but the unit's soldiers. He has taken them to different locations away from the training area and shared the sights, sounds, tastes of Poland with them.

"They've absolutely loved it!" Hale said emphatically. "Poland is over one thousand years old, created in 977. The fact that Poland is four times older than the United States blows their minds. And the food is really good so they get away from field food to get really good, Polish food."

Hale said that being in a country where the soldiers can't read the signs or understand the culture can put them out of their comfort zone. But, he said they have jumped right in to learning as much as they can.

His command of the Polish language has made many locals take notice - trying to figure out how an American is so fluent in their native language.

"It's always fun walking up to somebody in an American uniform and start talking Polish," he said. "It always takes them off guard. Then they want to know the story."

He said that he has enjoyed being back in Poland and sharing his experiences of growing up with fellow soldiers. But, he said the greatest benefit is closer to home.

"I'll get to see my parents this weekend," he said. 

June 23, 2016 at 9:48am

Army tags aliens to sell image

In new Army advertising, a television spot reminds America that Hollywood looks to soldiers for inspiration. Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

The Army is launching the second phase of a new advertising campaign this week in conjunction with a promotional period for the movie Independence Day: Resurgence.

In a television spot called "The U.S. Army: A Source of Inspiration," footage from the new movie shows troops preparing to attack a spaceship. A voice-over says "when the soldiers in the movie rise up ... when they adapt to a new threat facing the world ... when they find a way to win no matter what ... remember where Hollywood gets that from."

As the music climaxes, the screen shows a montage of real Army combat footage.

That's definitely inspirational, said Mark Davis, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for marketing and director of the Army Marketing and Research Group, after previewing the new spot at a recent Army public affairs leadership forum.

The AMRG mission is to support recruiting and retention through aggressive, innovative and cost-effective marketing. The new ad campaign will focus on motivating potential recruits toward science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM careers in the Army, while highlighting the real-life heroes fictional characters are based on: U.S. Army soldiers.

The campaign's television commercial will air on major networks including ESPN, MTV, SyFy, BET, Discovery, the History Channel, USA, TNT and more, beginning Monday. An Army spot will also play in cinemas around the country prior to the release of the new Independence Day film scheduled for June 24.

In addition, there will be a supporting social media campaign, all aimed at improving the public's perception of the Army.

Davis said polls and focus groups have shown the Army is associated with being large, "ordinary," and low-tech.

Many of those questioned, he said, believe the Army is a service that will accept anyone. "They believe the Army is a last-resort place - it's where you go if you can't get a job at McDonalds."

While that may be the perception of those polled, Davis said, the perception is unfounded. The Army actually employs 27,000 scientists, he said, and "the stuff we invent is phenomenal."

"We've got everything from astronauts to deep-sea divers in the United States Army," Davis said, though the force hasn't done a good enough job communicating that.

The futuristic technology and innovation depicted in the new Independence Day film highlights the types of capabilities achievable in today's Army, according to the campaign overview.

The campaign, which launched May 9, is designed to curb misperceptions about the Army being low-tech. And it's especially aimed at the Army's recruiting demographic of 18- to 24-year-olds during the critical summer recruiting months.

The ad campaign is designed to leverage FOX Studio's promotions and drive potential recruits to the website through the Army's microsite. ESD stands for "Earth Space Defense," and it's the force that repels aliens in the new movie.

The new interactive microsite will "test users' problem-solving skills, ability to work under pressure, pattern recognition and risk analysis to determine their ‘role' in the ESD, while also providing information on relevant Army MOSs that exist today," officials said.

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