Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

Posts made in: September, 2016 (21) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 21

September 1, 2016 at 9:56am

Should technology take over?

A mobile detection assessment response system patrols the perimeter of an airfield in Djibouti, July 9. It is an automated patrol vehicle able to navigate paths and detect threats in the vicinity. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Eric Summers, Jr.

Maybe the idea behind the Terminator movie franchise isn't so far-fetched.

In the Terminator films and TV shows, a worldwide computer defense network becomes self-aware and sees humans as the enemy and attacks.

Scientists around the world are currently working on artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, uses for big data and other innovations, and technologies that pose ethical questions.

The Department of Defense is examining those questions, said Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He spoke about some of these ideas yesterday with Kathleen Hicks, the senior vice president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The idea of computers driving cars, landing airplanes, delivering packages or exploring planets is already here. Singapore is testing driverless taxis. Google is looking to do the same in Pittsburgh shortly.

There are a number of autonomous vehicles on Mars.

The U.S. military has a fleet of remotely piloted vehicles that operate worldwide and oceanographers have been using remotely piloted submersibles for years.

Autonomous Weapons Systems

But the idea of autonomous weapons systems poses some real ethical challenges, Selva said. DoD is working with experts on ethics - both from inside and outside the department - on the issues posed, he said. They are looking at the pitfalls of what happens when technology is brought into the execution of warfare.

"I am not bashful about what we do," Selva said. "My job as a military leader is to witness unspeakable violence on an enemy. In the end, when you send me or any soldier, sailor, airman or Marine from the United States ... out to defend the interests of our nation, our job is to defeat the enemy."

How servicemembers accomplish the mission is governed by laws and conventions, he said. "One of the places where we spend a great deal of time is determining whether or not the tools we are developing absolve humans of the decision to inflict violence on the enemy. That is a fairly bright line that we are not willing to cross."

A true autonomous weapon system would be programmed to perform a mission and the decision to use deadly force would be left up to the on-board computer within the program parameters. That is unacceptable to the United States military, Selva said.

Benchmarks

"We have insisted that as we look at innovations over the next couple of decades that one of the benchmarks in that process is that we not build a system that absolves our human leaders of the decision to execute a military operation, and that we not create weapons that are wholly and utterly autonomous of human interaction," he said.

But the U.S. decision does not mean an enemy would follow suit.

In the world of autonomy, a completely robotic system that can make a decision on causing harm is already possible, he said. "It's not terribly refined, it's not terribly good, but it is here," the general said. "As we develop systems that include things like artificial intelligence and autonomy, we have to be very careful that we don't design them in a way where those systems actually absolve humans of that decision."

The discussion needs to occur, the general said, and the United States must be prepared for nations or nonstate actors to violate any convention that the world draws up with respect to autonomous weapons.

"Until we understand what we want the limits to be," Selva said, "we don't have a baseline to use to determine if someone is moving down the path of violating a convention that could create something like a Terminator that adds an incredible amount of complexity and with no conscience to what happens on the battlefield."

September 2, 2016 at 9:36am

Free legal service on JBLM

Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza (far left), I Corps commanding general at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, awards the I Corps and JBLM legal assistance and claims teams with awards in excellence, Aug. 17. Courtesy photo

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD - Legal services can be expensive, but not for U.S. Army servicemembers and retirees here at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Legal assistance available through civilian law providers is free, and covers everything from family law and estate planning to military administration and consumer law issues, along with free tax preparation from January to April.

One service that legal assistance does not provide is representation in court, but that may be changing.

"It's always been out there. There's always been the possibility that either civilian or (military attorneys) could go to court, but it's never really been pushed," said Denise Meenan, JBLM legal assistance chief. "So hopefully this coming year we'll be able to start going to court. It would be a really great opportunity for all of us."

However, legal assistance can provide special victims legal counseling to victims of sexual assault.

"(Special victims counsel) is attorneys providing representation to victims of sexual assault," said Capt. Javier Talavera, a Chicago native and brigade judge advocate for the 189th Infantry Brigade, here.

He has served as a lawyer in the Army for more than six years, and worked with the JBLM and I Corps legal assistance team from the summer of 2014 to the summer of 2016. Prior to his departure, he spent submitting the JBLM legal team for consideration for the 2015 Chief of Staff Award for excellence in legal assistance, an award that has not been seen here in five years.

This month, Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza, I Corps commanding general, presented the team with the award.

"Just the fact that the office personnel are getting this recognition for the work (they do) day-in-day-out, it's amazing," said Talavera. I spent a year as a chief, and I can tell you the people that work in this office are amazing. Not only do they really care for the soldiers that come in, but they really go above and beyond to provide those legal services. So to have that recognition come down from the Department of the Army, it just feels amazing."

According to Meenan, there were 4,338 individual attorney consultations in fiscal year '15, with the legal assistance team providing services valued at more than $1 million.

"Of course, all of our services are free, but shockingly a lot of soldiers still don't know that they have access to free legal here," she said. "Or they think all we do is make wills, and that's not true. Family law is the number one service we provide, and a lot of people need that service."

The legal services provided at JBLM and across the Army extend beyond the ones provided by legal assistance.

Co-located with legal assistance is the JBLM claims office, which for the 10th consecutive year was awarded the Judge Advocate General Excellence in Claims Award.

"It is gratifying to know that the hard work that my office puts in each day has been recognized by the Army leadership," said Jeffery Smith, chief of the JBLM Claims Division. "This was the tenth year in a row that we received The Judge Advocate General's Excellence in Claims Award."

The job of the JBLM claims team differs from other Army offices because of the base's size, scope and location to major population areas.

JBLM is located in western Washington, along with Olympia, Tacoma and Seattle. It is just south of Tacoma and serves as the third largest employer and seventh largest city in the state.

"Our office has a four-state area of responsibility, (being) Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana," said Smith. We are responsible for receiving, processing, and resolving claims filed under several different federal statutes."

For more information about the services provided by the entire JBLM and I Corps legal team, visit http://www.jointbaselewismcchord.com/community-services/legal-assistance-office.

September 8, 2016 at 11:28am

JBLM soldiers train Guard at Fort Hood

A scout with 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team performs zone reconnaissance during the brigade’s Exportable Combat Training Capability program at Fort Hood, Aug. 12. Photo credit: Sgt. Michael Vanpool

FORT HOOD, Texas - Nearly 2,600 soldiers from the Texas Army National Guard's 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division, descended on Fort Hood for the Exportable Combat Training Capability program 16-5, Aug. 6-26.

The xCTC program is an Army National Guard brigade-held training exercise designed to certify combat proficiency at the platoon level with support from First Army.

"The purpose of an xCTC is to train a National Guard BCT's platoons to proficiency," said Col. Jim Isenhower, commander, 189th Combined Arms Training Brigade, First Army (Division West).

The 56th includes infantry, scout and artillery units. In addition, medical, engineer, signal, and several support platoons comprise the brigade.

"Each of their platoons have very different missions and our job is to help them train to proficiency during their ready-year three," he added.

With support from nearly 300 Observer/Coach, Trainers (O/CTs) of the 189th Combined Arms Training Brigade based out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the Guardsman tackled multiple training lanes ranging from vehicle recovery and platoon defensive operations to mass casualty and route clearance procedures.

Each lane conducted multiple iterations following a crawl- walk-run strategy and was followed by an interactive after-action review that ensured each participating platoon identified their deficiencies and applied those lessons learned to future repetitions.

"It's been the best training I've seen in years," said Col. David Webb, commander of the 56th IBCT for the past two years. "It's shown me where our weaknesses are and what we need to work on in training-year seventeen."

The multi-faceted brigade is spread across several hundred miles of the north, central, east and west regions of Texas. Annual training allows the brigade to work as one cohesive unit.

"The reality of the training far exceeded anything we could do on a drill weekend, and with the OPFOR, and xCTC effects, there's no hiding - your readiness is right there in black and white. Because of it we are phenomenally better than when we started on day one," Webb added.

Capt. Joanna Van Engel, commander for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 949th Brigade Support Battalion, 56th IBCT, agreed with Webb about the training value and importance and stressed its role in increasing her unit's readiness.

"It increased our readiness because when my soldiers get realistic, real-world training, they learn how to react as a team and that cohesiveness translates to a combat environment," Van Engel said. "It also gives us the validation that we need that our troops can perform in a combat situation and it gives them confidence in themselves and each other."

Van Engel and Webb both went on to attribute much of their unit's success during the exercise to the 189th CATB OC/T support.

"I really appreciate what the OC/Ts did to create realistic training," Van Engel said. "They gave us some very valuable guidance and were able to observe my troops from aspects that I can't always get to. They really served as my eyes and ears."

Following each lane iteration, the platoons gathered with the OC/Ts to have an interactive after-action review. Notes were augmented with two- and three- dimensional troop movements, as well as video recordings.

"Their method was to come out here, support us and make us better, and they helped us to be successful," Webb added.

The Guardsmen and women were not graded, but given a benchmark. They were then trained and coached to improvement and proficiency.

"We are indebted to them for all of their help and mentorship and honest evaluation. The 189 just basically never said no. They facilitated anything that I asked them to. It's been the best OC/T experience I've had, and I've had several."

Since its first rotation held in 2005, the xCTC program has been designed to provide tough, realistic training for participating brigades as well as methods for achieving company level and battalion battle staff proficiency for ARNG units during pre- mobilization training.

The exercise also satisfies requirements for possible participation in future Combat Training Center rotations at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana, or the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California.

September 8, 2016 at 11:38am

Tent City for I Corps

A U.S. Army soldier with I Corps walks between tents on the housing compound at Yongin, South Korea, Aug. 23. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Ken Scar

YONGIN, SOUTH KOREA - More than 300 I Corps soldiers showed up at Yongin, South Korea, Aug. 20, bleary-eyed and jet lagged after making the long journey from Joint-Base Lewis-McChord to participate in a two-week training exercise. Two bus rides, two plane flights, several briefings, and clearing security and customs can take a toll - in all they'd been traveling nearly 24 hours. Now all they needed was food, water and a place to sleep. Fortunately, I Corps knows how to prepare for these things, and within hours, every soldier had a new home in a temporary town called the logistics support area, or "LSA."

Orchestrating the movement of an army across an ocean is a huge logistical undertaking. It's not just about transporting a large number of soldiers from point A to point B. It's also about how to keep them alive, safe, and as comfortable as possible at point B. That's where the LSA mayor's cell and their Korean partners come in.

In the case of Yongin, a small city of tents was erected to house the influx of U.S. and Canadian soldiers - over 500 in all. The accommodations might seem rustic to the typical civilian, but to a soldier they were pretty good. Each tent had plywood floors, power supply, lights, and even air conditioning. Each soldier's cot was only steps away from a bathroom, showers (with hot water!) and four DFAC tents where they could get two hot meals a day. Everything had been arranged - places for male soldiers to shave, electric outlets to charge devices, laundry services, church services, and - in a nod to the modern day that some of our older veterans might find baffling - even WiFi.

"Creating a temporary city like this requires a lot of coordination between us, our Korean partners, and the subordinate units of the 8th Army. It's a very challenging and complicated effort," said U.S. Army Capt. Robert Arkell, I Corps Headquarters Support Company commander and "mayor" of the temporary city. "Our Korean partners have been really providing an extensive amount of support for establishing the LSA. We facilitated the contracts for establishing the PX support, the barber and for all the other basic amenities, but really the overall architecture and infrastructure was built by the Koreans."

Local Korean and U.S. personnel buzzed around the LSA at all hours of the day to care for their foreign guests: cooks, water supply specialists, cleaners, shopkeepers, and even a couple of barbers were present to keep the temporary town running smoothly.

In a typical day, the temporary village would go through about 8,000 gallons of water - most of that going to the five shower trailers. Two tents were set up with hot water, metal sink bowls and mirrors for the male soldiers to shave.

The 10 culinary specialists from 6th Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Artillery, were one of the busiest crews keeping the hundreds of soldiers fed every day.

"We're cooking twelve hundred servings a day," said Staff Sgt. Brian Hicks, noncommissioned officer in charge of the field site. "The guys get up at two in the morning and come in at 2:30 a.m. to start cooking to be ready to serve breakfast by six. At dinner time they come in at one, start cooking at 1:30 p.m. to be ready to go by five. They're great workers. I couldn't ask for a better bunch of soldiers because they work hard, they love what they do and they put their hearts into it."

Hicks said the two most popular menu items were steak and coffee - with coffee apparently being the fuel powering the engine for this exercise.

"We make thirty gallons of coffee a day," laughed Hicks. "And that's not counting the bags of grounds I give to the soldiers to make in their own pots all day long."

Once the two-week exercise concludes, the LSA will be broken down into containers and shipped away - the entire process taking less than two days, leaving an empty field in the middle of the South Korean mountains until I Corps decides to pay a visit again.

September 9, 2016 at 9:40am

VA estimates 107,000 vets have undiagnosed or untreated Hepatitis C

WASHINGTON - With more than $2 billion appropriated for new hepatitis C drugs during the past two years, the Department of Veterans Affairs treated 65,000 veterans for the virus, but about 87,000 remain untreated and an additional 20,000 are undiagnosed.

VA officials are seeking $1.5 billion in the 2017 fiscal year to treat more veterans, a group in which hepatitis C is especially prevalent.

Funding for the latest drugs, which have a high cure rate, is not the biggest problem, said David Ross, director of the VA's HIV, Hepatitis and Public Health Pathogens Programs.

Instead, its challenge is finding ways to help veterans who are unwilling or unable to be screened or treated for the contagious virus, which lives in liver cells and is the most common blood-borne disease in the U.S. Until two years ago, the disease was considered incurable.

"In some ways, the veterans already treated were the easiest to treat," Ross said.

Ross and Tom Berger, a leader within Vietnam Veterans of America, said there are several reasons that some veterans don't volunteer to be screened or decline treatment. Some distrust the VA, are concerned with the stigma of hepatitis C and drug use, and fear traditional drug treatment with severe side effects, they said.

Some veterans who test positive for hepatitis C suffer from mental illness or substance abuse - issues that "affect their ability to come in and take treatments reliably," Ross said.

For those veterans, he said, the VA needs to boost its psychological or psychosocial care.

"We're running into issues of veterans more frequently having these other issues," Ross said. "If someone has alcohol or substance abuse issues, we want to integrate care for those conditions as well to get better outcomes. We need those support systems."

Vulnerable Vietnam vets

The VA and Vietnam Veterans of America are specifically targeting Vietnam War-era veterans born between 1945 and 1965. In that group, eight percent of veterans screened have tested positive for the virus. In comparison, about 1.6 percent of the general U.S. population is estimated to have it.

The VA has screened 73 percent of Vietnam War-era veterans enrolled in the VA system. There are about 700,000 veterans born between 1945 and 1965 who still must be screened, and the department is estimating about 20,000 of them have undiagnosed hepatitis C.

Some blame the virus on unsterilized medical syringes used by the military during the Vietnam War to inject vaccines. While that is "possible," Ross said, there hasn't been a documented case. Blood exposure during combat is another concern, since transfusions were used in great number during the war. The virus also can be sexually transmitted or through intravenous drug use, which was common in Vietnam.

The VA has started to reach out to veterans with hepatitis C to inform them that they have the resources to test and treat them, Ross said.

"Facilities have for months now been taking lists and just calling people and saying, ‘Would you like to come in?' " he said. "We're trying to let people know we're very committed to doing this, and we have the resources to do it."

Expensive choices

At one point, hepatitis C care was about money. When a new drug called Sovaldi came on the scene in 2013, it was called a "miracle" said to work nearly 90 percent of the time with few side effects. But it came at a cost: $1,000 a pill. Insurance companies balked at the price; doctors were encouraged to reserve the drug for the most dire hepatitis C patients.

Until last spring, only VA patients with a progressed stage of hepatitis C were prescribed the drug. People who didn't meet the criteria were redirected to Veterans Choice, an often-criticized program in which veterans see non-VA healthcare providers at the VA's expense.

At the time, Berger faulted the VA for choosing which veterans received treatments, saying it was rationing care.

"The VA claimed it was not prepared financially to start wholesale treatments," said Berger, who leads the Vietnam Veterans of America health council. "When I found out that they were prioritizing the treatments, that's when I said they were death panels."

In March, the VA announced it would start treating all hepatitis C patients with Sovaldi, regardless of a veteran's age or the progression of the virus, because of increased funding from Congress and discounted drug prices.

The average cost per patient to receive the 12-week treatment now is $41,460, a discount of 47 percent from the wholesale price, VA spokeswoman Sabrina Owen said.

"I know that's been a very, very controversial topic," Ross said. "Because of funding Congress provided, we said we want to treat everybody in-house."

About 92 percent of veterans treated since 2014 have been cured. That includes Vietnam War veteran Dick Southern of Sonoma, California.

Southern, now 72, was diagnosed with hepatitis C in 2002, when the VA used a drug that Ross said caused "extremely serious" and "horrible" side effects. Southern went through 48 weeks of treatment - and experienced irritability and hair and weight loss - with no results.

After Sovaldi was approved and Congress allocated billions to make it widely available for veterans, Southern went through the new treatment two years ago.

"After twelve weeks, they said I looked pretty good," he said. "Three months later, they said I was cleared."

Southern now travels to meetings of Vietnam Veterans of America, talking to groups about the improved drugs and encouraging others to get screened and treated.

"It worked for me," he said. "It's worked for a lot of other folks, too. If you don't know if you have it, why not find out?"

In order to continue treatments, continued funding is essential, Ross said. According to the VA's budget request, $1.5 billion in fiscal 2017 would provide treatments to approximately 35,000 veterans.

But at the current price per treatment, it would cost more than $4.4 billion in taxpayer dollars to treat the 107,000 veterans who are untreated or undiagnosed.

Funding was the "third ingredient" needed to boost the number of treatments behind the new drug and new, regional systems that Ross helped put in place to treat patients in an organized way, he said.

"These things don't happen by themselves, so that really was the third ingredient that was needed," Ross said. "I think we're very proud so far. But we have a lot more work to do."

Vietnam Veterans of America has lobbied since 1998 for the VA to provide more hepatitis C treatments. The group plans to advocate for more funding for 2017 and in subsequent years.

"If we get funds for 2018 and 2019, that will make a big dent," Berger said. "Provided that we can get folks to go in and get treated."

September 19, 2016 at 8:47am

Researchers at Madigan are on the front edge of precision medicine

Dr. Nicholas Ieronimakis, a clinical research scientist in Madigan’s Department of Clinical Investigations, is a part of team of researchers here who specialize in the new field of precision medicine. (Photo by Madigan PAO)

Researchers at Madigan Army Medical Center are on the front edge of the new field of precision medicine, using patients’ unique differences in their genes, lifestyles and environments to predict what medical conditions they are susceptible to and what treatments work best for each individual.

While by default, most medicine is designed to work for the “average patient,” the White House created a Precision Medicine Initiative in 2015 in recognition that people’s complex and unique makeups require more tailored medical solutions.

“Part of precision medicine, the central mantra really, is just predicting your health,” said Dr. Nicholas Ieronimakis, a clinical research scientist in Madigan’s Department of Clinical Investigations. “It’s really about predicting whether you’re predispositioned to diseases and also tailoring the treatment.”

Ieronimakis is part of a team of researchers who specialize in precision medicine at Madigan, building upon current research to study patients’ genetic makeups to refine the best tests, the best diagnoses and even the best genes to focus on in studies.

The field is still in its infancy, since the human genome (which provides the underpinnings of precision medicine) was only fully mapped 10 years ago. Since then, the technology needed to conduct mass genetics studies has grown rapidly enough to make precision medicine research viable.

“It’s really the technology that is driving this,” Ieronimakis said. “In the past, precision medicine wasn’t feasible in a lot of ways because we could not generate enough information.”

September 19, 2016 at 2:36pm

Puget Sound civic leaders fly to Alaska

McChord civic leaders sit on board a C-17 Globemaster III before departing to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Aug. 30. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Naomi Shipley

Leadership from the 62nd Airlift Wing accompanied 27 civic leaders from the Puget Sound during its civic leader fly away tour to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Aug. 30-Sept. 1.

Col. Leonard Kosinksi, 62nd Airlift Wing commander, flew the C-17 Globemaster III along with Capt. Brad Fisher, 62nd AW executive officer, to Alaska and back. Chief MSgt. Tico Mazid, 62 AW command chief, took part in the two-day event as well, serving as a military liaison for the group.  

"The purpose for this event is to educate and familiarize our community members with other military installations and to give them the opportunity to meet face to face with the airmen of our Air Force," said Master Sgt. Todd Wivell, 62 AW Public Affairs chief. "Every year, we try to take our civic leaders somewhere different, to demonstrate the diversity of missions across the Air Force."

The group from JBLM was hosted by JBER leadership, the Public Affairs office and other countless units at JBER.

The group from McChord began their tour at the Blood Bank of Alaska in Anchorage to learn about the unique partnership of the base and the blood bank. A large amount of blood donations at the blood bank come from the men and women who work at JBER.

The second day of the tour the group visited an F-22 static display, the 212th Rescue Squadron, the Alaska Air National Guard, and a Blackhawk unit.

The civic leaders also attended dinners with local Anchorage civic leaders to get a chance to get to meet with other community members who work closely with their local military installation.

Prior to their departure from JBER, the civic leaders were able to receive a military working dogs demonstration as well as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal demonstration.

One of the civic leaders, Carlene Joseph, McChord Civic Leader, said she learned a lot about the base and their units throughout the trip.

"I've always wondered about JBER and the mission there, especially because it is a joint base like us, but there, the Air Force is the lead," said Joseph. It's always nice to learn what different missions the Air Force is doing."

She said the trip gave her a clear picture of what JBER is doing.

"My favorite part of the tour was the F-22 and meeting with the airmen," Joseph said. "I was totally impressed."

September 19, 2016 at 6:42pm

USO-NW Gala sells out fast

The USO Northwest (USO-NW) announced Wednesday the fastest sell-out of their Five-Star Gala in the organization's history, which sold-out six weeks prior to the Oct. 22 event at The Westin Bellevue. This year's event will recognize the 50th year that USO-NW has been providing 24/7/365 service to our military and their families in the Pacific Northwest.

"This has been the fastest sell-out of our Gala in the USO Northwest's history," said Tami Michaels, Owner and Creative Director of Sound, Kitchen and Bath, and chairperson for the 2016 Five-Star Gala, "This outpouring of support comes at a critical time for our military members and their families. For the first time ever, we have seen four consecutive months of over ten thousand military and family members passing through our Sea-Tac Airport USO Center.  As our men and women in uniform have been called to unprecedented levels of service, the USO Northwest works around the clock to provide the comforts of home and morale support to our military community."

Don Leingang, USO-NW Executive Director, praised the sponsors of the Gala. "Our sponsors understand what it means to support our military and their families. Not only do they provide monetary support, but many sponsors have provided volunteers to serve our military as well," Leingang said. "The Boeing Company and Delta Air Lines have led the way, both being "50 for 50" Presenting Sponsors for this event with $50,000 donations for the year."

USO-NW chairperson, Ed Odom, added, "The work of the USO Northwest is so important. We need our men and women in uniform, and they need to know that we support them. The USO ensures that no soldier, sailor, airman, Marine, or Coastguardsman leaves or arrives without hearing the words "thank you," and "welcome home."

Last year, over 650,000 servicemembers and their families were served through the USO-NW's centers and programs - including 30,000 troops deployed through the region. This marks the eighth consecutive year that the organization has set new records for service to the region's military community in the USO-NW's 50-year history.

Leingang added, "military families continue to travel 24/7, and caring for the home front will take center stage. We have military members and their families experiencing multiple and extended deployments, and while military are beginning to return from Afghanistan, efforts in Iraq have started to increase. As the needs have grown, so has the outpouring of support from our organization."

In addition to support for deployments and homecoming celebrations, the USO-NW extends "Helping Hands" grants that target the needs of military families. Additionally, USO-NW is a supporter of the Families of the Fallen, a program which is committed to taking care of family members after the loss of their servicemember.

The proceeds from this annual fundraiser will ensure the delivery of crucial programs and services designed for the unique needs of our servicemembers and their families. The USO-NW would like to thank this year's sponsors for their generous support of our 2016 Gala:

Presenting Sponsors
The Boeing Company and Delta Air Lines

Five-Star Sponsor
Sound Kitchen & Bath

Four-Star Sponsor
La-Z-Boy of Seattle

Three-Star Sponsors
Alaska Airlines
America's Credit Union
Carol and Spike Anderson
Brown Bear Car Wash
Betty and Kemper Freeman
GEICO
Great Wolf Lodge
Starbucks

Two-Star Sponsors
Chateau Ste. Michelle
Davita
Dollar/Park-N-Fly
The Harrelson Family
International City Mortgage
NECA
Perkins Coie LLP
Seattle Seahawks
Tactical Solutions International
Unisea

Although this year's Gala is sold out, we have one table remaining and it's ONLY available on our USO-NW Gala Online Auction and it's our "12s Table!"  This one-of-a-kind experience includes, Gala seating for 10 and will be decked out in true 12s extravagance.  You're probably shaking your head ... a 12s Table with only 10 seats? Well, here's the kicker, or maybe a wide receiver or a quarterback? You and your guests will be joined by a renowned Seattle Seahawks legend! That's right, you will be sitting and chatting with a Seahawks legend and best of all, you won't have to wear a suit and tie! Nope, attend the Gala in your favorite Seahawks jersey.

Get ready as our online auction (www.usoauction.com) will go live Sept. 26. Don't miss out on this extraordinary opportunity. For more information on the USO-NW and the upcoming gala, dinner and auction at The Bellevue Westin, go to www.usonw.org.

About USO Northwest

For 50 years, the USO-NW has strengthened America's military servicemembers by keeping them connected to family and loved ones throughout their service to the nation. USO-NW continues this critical mission by serving more than 650,000 military and their families annually throughout Washington and Oregon. USO-NW provides a home away from home by offering a safe, comfortable and relaxing lounge as they prepare for or are returning home from deployment through three USO Centers located at Sea-Tac International Airport, Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Portland International Airport. USO-NW also serves our military and their families through two USO Mobile Canteens that expand our service delivery by offering the military the same best-in-class support we provide at our stationary centers, but in the field during training, pier side for deployments and homecomings, and throughout military locations in the Pacific Northwest. USO-NW continuously adapts to the needs of our men and women in uniform and their families, developing new programs and services to support those who need it most, including morale-boosting and family-strengthening programs, deployment and redeployment support to help servicemen and women adjusting to the duty ahead, resiliency training for families facing multiple deployments, as well as discreet and compassionate escorts and other support for families of the fallen.

USO-NW is not a government agency, but a private, nonprofit organization that relies on the generosity of individuals, organizations and corporations to support its activities. USO-NW does not receive any government funding. For more information, or to make a tax-deductible contribution to USO-NW, visit us online at www.USONW.org.

September 22, 2016 at 1:54pm

Tryouts for JBLM football team underway

Brandon Harris makes a catch during a passing drill at the first day of tryouts for the upcoming Puget Sound Army vs. Navy Flag Football Classic at Cowan Stadium on Lewis Main Monday. (Photo JBLM PAO)

Jerry Rice might have been one of the greatest wide receivers to play in the National Football League, but if there wasn’t a quality quarterback on the field, he wouldn’t have had the same statistics.

That’s why building a consistent team is the number one priority for David Cameron as he becomes head coach for Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The team is facing Navy Region Northwest Nov. 17 at 1 p.m. for the 17th annual Puget Sound Army vs. Navy Flag Football Classic at Cowan Stadium.

Tryouts began Monday at Cowan Stadium and wrapped up Thursday. The team hopes to build a consistent group of players that will work together as a unit, Cameron said.

“I’m not looking for the best players; I’m looking for the best team,” Cameron said to the team after Monday’s first practice.

JBLM will host Navy after the tough defeat last season — a 21-0 shutout in Bremerton. Cameron said it could have been a wider margin because of how Navy’s lineup was set.

“They came up like ‘gigantors’ on us,” he said. “I’m hoping to try and match up with them this year.”

That doesn’t make the loss any less painful as Navy completed the first three-peat in the rivalry’s history. There were a number of memorable faces on JBLM who also have chips on their shoulders, including wide receiver/running back Brandon Harris.

Through the last three games, JBLM has scored a total of nine points. To say that the JBLM service members are a little salty might be an understatement.

That continued last year when JBLM finished with 131 offensive yards with two turnovers. This has been a problem for JBLM during the three-year losing streak.

Going into the first week of tryouts, players like Harris want to make sure last year’s lack of production doesn’t happen again.

“It was an embarrassment to not score,” Harris said. “We trained for months to go down there, and we didn’t put up a single point.”

The tryouts also yielded plenty of new faces who are excited about the chance to play in a game that reflects a great college football tradition — Army vs. Navy is one of the oldest traditions in college football that began in 1890.

In the friendlier JBLM vs. Navy rivalry, the Navy leads the series 10-6.

While it’s not at the same level as the Army-Navy college football game, winning would mean something special for JBLM service members — especially after Navy having won the last three games.

“It doesn’t only represent the unit you are with, it represents what organization you are with,” said Geoff Espich, who tried out for quarterback.

Despite the first week of tryouts concluding, the doors are still open to all service members attached to JBLM — no matter what branch or component.

Cameron did say he will always give the first look to those who are faithful and consistent in practice participation. It’s all about finding the right players and the best athletes that JBLM has to offer.

“I was telling the coaches that if Jerry Rice comes through that door Nov. 17, and he just happened to join the reserve in time for this game, he’s got a spot,” Cameron said.

September 22, 2016 at 1:56pm

JBLM soldier, life-saving plate reunited

Sgt. Daniel Malm, left, 110th Chemical Battalion (Technical Escort), 555th Engineer Brigade, war reunited with the ceramic plate that saved his life ??" twice ??" in 2011. Malm was given the plate after the Army was finished with examining it Monday. (US

Five years ago, a pair of Taliban gunmen learned the hard way that when it comes to

Army-issued protective equipment, you can’t keep a good sergeant down.

In a ceremony Monday on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Sgt. Daniel Malm, 110th Chemical Battalion (Technical Escort), 555th Engineer Brigade, was reunited with a ceramic plate he wore with his body armor that saved his life — twice — in 2011. The Army returned the plate to Malm after doing a study on the plate in order to help save other Soldiers’ lives.

“I’m going to have this the rest of my life,” Malm said, who requested to have the plates once the Army was done with its study. “I’m going to tell my grandkids you have it too easy.”

Malm, serving in Afghanistan in 2011, had stood up from demonstrating to one of his privates how to properly place a claymore mine only to get shot by the enemy in his stomach. His body armor stopped the bullet, but the impact knocked him to his knees.

“For some reason, my first instinct was to stand back up,” Malm said, a little sheepishly. “Then they shot me again. The second round laid me out flat on my back and broke my ribs. The type of round they were shooting at me with was a long-range round, and they weren’t a long-range away.”

Thanks to the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert in his body armor, the bullets were stopped and Malm’s life was saved. The attackers were not so fortunate, he said.

“One of the other (noncommissioned officers) in my platoon came out and dragged me back into the patrol base,” Malm said. “The rest of my guys returned fire, then they used the .50-caliber machine guns and the grenade launchers on the trucks to lay them waste. They didn’t have a chance.”

Malm recounted the incident which took place during a Sept 2011 push to the Arghandab River. His unit, the 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment of the 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y., was setting up a temporary base camp during a tough fight to drive the enemy to the other side of the river. As a young Soldier, he was teaching a young private how to set up and aim a claymore mine. When he stood up to allow the Soldier to examine the mine’s alignment, the enemy opened up fire on him.

“I knew almost immediately that I had been shot,” he said. “By this time we had been in so many firefights, there was no mistaking the familiar sound of the enemy’s rifles.”

Despite two direct hits, he was alive, though the cracked ribs did cause him considerable pain.

“We were kind of laughing about it before I caught the medevac out,” Malm said. “I was OK, but I was trying my hardest not to move very much because it was pretty painful after the shock and adrenaline wore off.”

He got treatment at a hospital at Kandahar Airfield and then was moved to the wounded warrior center. He was able to get on the Internet and let his family, back home in Platts-

mouth, Neb., know that he had been shot, but was OK.

Malm’s three older brothers were, he said, “a little freaked out” that their baby brother had been shot twice. When Malm managed to get hold of his father a little later, he had to reassure his dad that he was doing fine, thanks to his personal protective equipment.

“I had to assure them a few times that I was completely OK,” he said.

Malm took photos of his battle-damaged Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert plate with his personal cell phone before turning the plates in so Army scientists could analyze how the ceramic body armor performed against enemy bullets.

“I have always been a pretty big advocate of keeping your helmet and plates on, especially the side plates that some choose to go without,” Malm said. “So now I keep the photos of my plate on my phone to show people when they want to complain about their protective vests.”

The plates were photographed, X-rayed and analyzed by technicians in the Program Executive Office Soldier Lab based at Fort Belvoir, Va. The organization collects clothing and equipment damaged in combat to learn lessons on how to design and manufacture even more effective personal protective equipment for Soldiers.

Malm said his experience during two deployments in Iraq and one deployment in Afghanistan led him to trust his personal protective equipment.

“I now have undeniable proof that they work,” he said. “Close to the same time I was shot, there was another pretty big firefight in which the enemy used rocket propelled grenades and 7.62 mm rounds in the attack. Some of my buddies were wounded, but the important thing was that lives were saved by the protective gear. I saw a lot of people with pieces of shrapnel sticking in their helmets and their vests.

“I am proof that it works.”

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