Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

Posts made in: October, 2016 (23) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 23

October 6, 2016 at 8:18am

Substance treatment realigns under Madigan

Substance abuse treatment will be realigned under Madigan Army Medical Center’s newly created Substance Use Disorder Clinical Care services starting this month. (US Army Photo)

The clinical portion of the Army Substance Abuse Program is moving to Madigan Army Medical Center Saturday, while the nonclinical functions of education, training and substance testing will realign under Armed Forces Community Services.

The changes came about due to an Armywide reassessment of the program’s design, resources and effectiveness. The realignment of substance abuse treatment with behavioral health treatment follows national health care trends.

In fact, about 30 percent of service members with behavioral health conditions also have substance use disorders, and 50 percent of service members with suicidal ideation also are found to use alcohol excessively.

Madigan’s substance abuse services will be officially referred to as Substance Use Disorder Clinical Care and will include assessment, treatment and rehabilitation. Aligning these addiction treatment teams with other clinicians such as primary care managers, behavioral health providers and case managers will provide service members with better coordinated and thus better quality care.

Madigan substance abuse treatment will now be offered primarily in the embedded behavioral health clinics as the substance abuse counselors become a part of the embedded behavioral health teams. Being located within units throughout Joint Base Lewis-McChord could lead to better and earlier detection of service members experiencing substance abuse, which could further lead to less treatment failures and better service retention overall. Currently embedded behavioral health clinics exist in the footprints of the 1st Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division; the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, the 17th Field Artillery Brigade and 555th Engineer Brigade.

There are also embedded behavioral health clinics in the Madigan Annex (the Denali and Yukon embedded behavioral health clinics) that serve several JBLM units, on McChord Field and near the Special Operations Forces.

Service members can self-refer for substance abuse treatment by visiting their embedded behavioral health clinic. Prevention, training and testing services can still be accessed by visiting Bldg. 2008.

October 6, 2016 at 11:06am

Raptor Resiliency Center takes flight

Col. William A. Ryan, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade commander, and Family Readiness Group leaders cut the ceremonial ribbon at the grand opening of the Raptor Soldier and Family Resiliency Center at JBLM, Sept. 23. Photo credit: Capt. Brian Harris

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD - Soldiers assigned to 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, 7th Infantry Division, along with families and friends, celebrated the opening of the Raptor Soldier and Family Resiliency Center during a ceremony, here, Sept. 23.

The new center repurposed an unused building to bring together all of the brigade's mental, physical and spiritual fitness capabilities.

"By combining these assets under one roof, opportunities for collaboration, joint planning and maximizing efforts will be much easier," said Chaplain (Maj.) Stephen Pratel, 16th CAB.

Onsite staff will include: Unit Ministry Teams; Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention; Military Family Life Counselor; Armed Forces Community Service; Army Substance Abuse Program; Behavioral Health; and Master Resiliency Trainer.

"It is my hope that by doing this we can combine efforts into single events rather than holding multiple events on the same theme," said Pratel. "We are already doing this with SHARP and Suicide Prevention Training, but hope to expand it to other training requirements such as comprehensive soldier fitness, and ASAP."

Opening the center was a new experience for all involved, and provided them with an opportunity to learn.

"The process gave me space to interact and collaborate with leaders who have different skills and perspectives than my own," said Chaplain (Capt.) Elyse Gustafson, 46th Aviation Support Battalion chaplain. "I feel almost as if I am growing and stretching new muscles, which makes me excited for the strength of support we may be able to offer in the future."

The center is meant to provide resiliency resources to soldiers and families and to be a place for rest and relaxation. Chili cook-offs and Family Readiness Group dinners are planned in the near future.

"We also want the center's classrooms and meeting spaces and café to be reserved by our units and FRGs for family events and activities. This center provides a multipurpose facility that we control, but is not a command building," said Pratel. "This is a community center."

Following the opening ceremony, guests received a tour of the many features the center has and the building's planners were quick to note they have a vision for much more in the future.

"I want the center to become something of a community center, where we can be surprised and blessed by the gifts we each bring to the table and reminded of all the things we have in common," said Gustafson.

"In many ways this is a chaplain's dream, to have a facility dedicated to the care of soldiers and families, training spaces, a café, and to have this under one roof with our resiliency and wellness partners," said Pratel. "I'm humbled and grateful to be entrusted with this mission."

October 6, 2016 at 2:00pm

JBLM golfers earn spots at VGA event

Spc. Jordan Bobert hits out of the tall grass on the 18th hole at Chambers Bay Golf Course during the second day of the VGA West Super Regional Sunday. Bobert was able to find the cup for an eagle on this par 5. (JBLM PAO photo)

Jordan Bobert, an Army specialist from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, was nervously sitting in his seat after completing his round at Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place Sunday. It was the second and final day of the Veteran Golfers Association’s West Super Regional tournament and he was waiting for the rest of the field.

Bobert had a two-stroke lead for the second and final spot out of the Veterans A Flight to advance to the 2016 VGA Championship Oct. 16 to 19 at Fallen Oaks Golf Club in Biloxi, Miss. He was hoping he did enough to qualify after an eagle on the 18th hole, which he hit on a hill about 20 feet above the green and about 100 feet from the pin.

Bobert was met with some bad news, followed by good news. John Scacciotti, the deputy commander of the 446th Operations Group on McChord Field, finished with a 71 and a two-day score of 153. He beat Bobert by one stroke.

The good news was that one of the other flight winners was not going to be able to attend the VGA Championship, which meant there was a spot for Bobert to make the trip later this month. That eagle didn’t go in vain, and where it took place meant a lot more than some of his favorite shots over 17 years of golfing experience.

“I played a very good round on a U.S. Open course, and I feel great,” Bobert said.

It was the same feeling several golfers from the JBLM community felt during their two-day tournament — the final stop of a season with local events in four regions across the country.

Many JBLM golfers were able to earn regional points through VGA West Tour events at Eagles Pride Golf Course and Whispering Firs Golf Course on the base. One of the regular golfers on JBLM was Scacciotti, who was able to keep his score close on the first day with a round of 80.

“The highlight of my weekend was getting an eagle on the par four Hole 12 ( Sunday),” Scacciotti said. “I just had to get a close score ( Saturday) and I was able to play well today.”

While JBLM’s Scacciotti and Bobert took second and third in the Veterans A Flight, Mark Gardiner finished with rounds of 78 and 73 for the total score of 151. Gardiner, a retired Air Force chief master sergeant, said he considered the VGA West Super Regional a homecoming of sorts.

His father served on JBLM as an Army sergeant first class, and his mother still works at Eagles Pride Golf Course on Lewis Main.

“It was nice to come here and play near my hometown area,” Gardiner said. “(I had) a visit with my mother and a chance to play golf at the same time.”

A total of 20 golfers earned spots at the VGA Championship in a few weeks. Michael Coelho won the Veterans B Flight with rounds of 70 and 80 for a score of 159, eight strokes ahead of second place golfer John Smokoska (88-79-167).

The Veterans D Flight also saw some JBLM golfers earn a trip to Biloxi. Howard Smith, who competed in the C Flight at last year’s national championship tournament, qualified with a second place finish with rounds of 86-94. Right behind him was Robert Babauta with rounds of 92 and 99 to earn the third and final spot in the D Flight.

Walking the course with VGA president Joshua Peyton was the defending VGA national champion Micah Tilley. The active-duty Army staff sergeant from JBLM earned an exemption to defend his title in the Veterans A Flight by winning last year at Pinehurst Resort’s No. 2 course in North Carolina.

Tilley said he was watching to see what his competition was going to be like Oct. 16 to 19. He knows it will be difficult with the talented golfers not only from the west, but also from the central, north and south tournaments.

Tilley said he’s happy to see many active-duty golfers at Chambers Bay competing for those coveted spots to the VGA Championship.

“It shows that even though they’re in between deployments and other exercises, they’re still keeping their game sharpened,” he said.

October 6, 2016 at 2:02pm

JBLM runners look to set pace at Ten-Miler

Jessica Knoll, seen running at the JBLM Ten-Miler qualifier in April, is new to the JBLM women’s team. She could be a key piece in the group’s success at the Army Ten-Miler in Washington, D.C., Sunday. (JBLM PAO photo)

Experience could be a big factor for the Joint Base Lewis-McChord women’s Ten-Miler team hoping to finish in the top three at the 32nd annual Army Ten-Miler Sunday at 8 a.m. in Washington, D.C. Both men’s and women’s teams will be competing in an event with a cap limit of 35,000 participants from throughout the United States military community.

While they may not have someone who can complete the course in less than an hour, as many first-place teams have, team captain Anne Spencer feels that all members of the team can finish consistently around the 65- or 66-minute mark — maybe a little faster.

“I think we’re all expecting to cut a couple of minutes from our previous times,” Spencer said. “We’ve been training together for a few months, and we’ve all had some really great workouts. We feel we can sustain a pace to hit our (personal records).”

Spencer last ran for the JBLM team in 2014, finishing with a time of one hour, nine minutes and 41 seconds. Although she missed last year’s Army Ten-Miler because of a deployment, Spencer was named the women’s team captain this year.

She has allowed for other runners to provide some influence on the workouts and training. This year will be Jessica Knoll’s fourth time running in the Army Ten-Miler, but her first with JBLM.

Last year, she also finished with a time of 1:09:41.

The rest of the women’s team includes Baillie Locke, who finished with a time of 1:06:54 with JBLM last year. Two newcomers to the event for JBLM will be Lea Keedo and Elizabeth “Betsy” DeSitter.

Not only are Knoll and Locke likely the No. 1 and 2 runners for the JBLM women’s team, they have also provided knowledge and tips based on their athletic backgrounds.

“(Knoll and Locke) both ran in college, so they have experience being coached on a professional, semiprofessional level,” Spencer said. “Betsy and I run more for fun. We’re more hobby runners, but we’ve really taken to the sport.”

Although the JBLM women finished second last year, they were still about six minutes behind the team from Installation Command Europe (4:17:10). With teams coming from nearly every Army installation, there’s going to be a lot of fast distance runners. Still, there’s confidence for the JBLM women.

“We have this theory that if everyone of us runs our best race, we will finish first or second,” Spencer said.

The JBLM men’s Ten-Miler team is hoping to return to a competitive state. Last year, the JBLM men finished sixth overall with a time of 3:50:24.

Usually, the JBLM men’s team finishes among the top three, but the competition has been tough the last few years. The JBLM men finished fifth in 2014 and sixth in 2015. The men’s team from Fort Carson, Colo., repeated as champions last year after finishing with a team time of 3:30:57.

New men’s team captain Bobby Brown may have only been on JBLM since December, but he knows what the JBLM runners are capable of. He’s also seen how the team is continuing to improve through months of individualized training.

“These runners have an incredible drive and work ethic to get miles in,” Brown said. “I know our top runners are putting in 60-plus miles per week.”

Chris Pedi is expected to improve from his time last year of 55:03. But a close number two runner could be Richard Williams, who came to JBLM after a transfer from Schofield Barracks, in Hawaii.

While Williams completed the run in 1:00:06, he has successfully dropped his pace and finished second behind Pedi at the JBLM Freedom Run last July — which hosted a Ten-Miler qualifier.

Eric Geber, who will be running with the JBLM team for the third consecutive year, has also been hard at work training with former JBLM runner Gregory Leak. He’s since finished second overall at the Tacoma Narrows Half Marathon in August and first overall at Race for a Soldier half marathon in Gig Harbor Sunday.

“I would prefer having a team (to practice with), but there are benefits to not having a team where it’s just you and your limitations,” Geber said. “Perhaps you’re not pushing yourself to keep up with someone and risk getting hurt.”

October 7, 2016 at 7:33am

Free salmon at JBLM hatchery

Volunteers (from left) Marvin Thompson, Art Thompson and Wilbur Johnson sort salmon at the Clear Creek Fish Hatchery on Lewis Main Tuesday. (JBLM PAO photo)

You’ve probably heard of “Free Willy,” well, how about “Free salmon?”

It’s that time of year on Joint Base Lewis-McChord: the time to fill your belly and your freezer with the free salmon available now at the Clear Creek Fish Hatchery near the East Gate at JBLM.

Each year, 3.4 million Chinook smolts (baby salmon) are released at the hatchery. Every fall, when the Chinook salmon return to the waters of their youth, thousands of fish return, most three or four years after being released, to die. The eggs the fish carry are harvested before the fish die on their own. Those salmon are then distributed at the hatchery.

After leaving as smolts, many of the fish swam into the Pacific Ocean, avoided killer whales and other predators, and some even traveled north as far as the waters of Alaska before returning home to Clear Creek.

This year, the annual salmon giveaway wasn’t well-publicized as the projected number of salmon expected to return to the hatchery was fairly low — about 6,000 fish; however, that wasn’t the case, according to Shane Bryant, a biologist for the Nisqually Indian Tribe. The tribe operates the hatchery on what was formerly reservation land.

“We got a bumper crop of salmon this year,” Bryant said, of the nearly 23,000 salmon already processed in the past few weeks. “Our creek is full (of salmon) and we’re still going,” he said.

The salmon giveaway began the last week of September and will continue every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday through Oct. 14 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or whenever the last of the salmon return.

Bill St. Jean, enhancement program manager for the Nisqually Indian Tribe, oversees both the Clear Creek and Kalama Creek hatcheries for the tribe. The Kalama Creek Hatchery is a smaller facility on the other side of the river, down from the Red Wind Casino. The Kalama Creek Hatchery also is offering free salmon this year on Wednesdays.

Though one might consider the thousands of salmon a blessing, the bounty this year is a bit too bountiful.

In previous years, the lines of people excited to receive their quota were limited to two salmon per vehicle, unless the driver went to the end of the line and waited for, if quantity warranted, another two fish. This year, there are no lines due the “bumper crop,” according to Bryant.

St. Jean said he’s hoping there are lines in the coming days, so the slew of salmon don’t go to waste.

“I’m (harvesting) 800 to 1,000 fish today.” he said. “I’ve given away 1,000 (in the past week), but I should have given away 10,000; I hate to bury them.”

The salmon range in size from one or two pounds to upward of 25 or 30 pounds, St. Jean said.

“They’re not prime, but all the meat and protein is there,” he said.

Most of the fish given away are males. The salmon are sorted at the hatchery and eggs removed from the females. Eggs are used at the hatchery or sold for caviar, St. Jean said. With all the jobs to be done in the process, volunteers are needed for fish processing, according to St. Jean.

A group of North Thurston High School students is currently learning about salmon through volunteering. There also are several older volunteers, most retirees, such as Wilbur Johnson, who has been a volunteer at the hatchery for the past 15 years. He’s a two time retiree, after 30 years in the Army and 23 years with the Washington Corrections Center in Shelton.

Johnson didn’t seem to mind the strong smell of salmon in the air as he sorted and moved along slick, smooth fish on a conveyor belt-style machine Tuesday morning.

Although Johnson doesn’t take home fish for himself — he said he doesn’t care for salmon — he planned to take a cooler full of fish at the end of the day to neighbors and a friend at his local post office. He also smoked several salmon in a previous year and mailed that to his son, who was then serving in the Army in Afghanistan.

“Smoking it is the way to go,” he said.

Tony Flores, of Graham, also opts to smoke much of the salmon he takes home.

“I smoke some and I cut up some for barbecues,” he said. “Then, I put some in the freezer. You could have fish all year long if you did that.”

October 7, 2016 at 7:35am

Triple Nickels doing yoga

Capt. Erika Hildebrandt, front right, a behavioral health officer assigned to 555th Engineer Brigade, leads Soldiers assigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 864th Engineer Battalion, in a yoga session at Joint Base Lewis McChord Sept. 28. (

Think Army physical training and the sounds of Soldiers running in formation to boisterous cadence calls comes to mind, but today there is a calm in the air, a sense of peace and tranquility. From the front of the formation comes a soft soothing voice leading Soldiers through a complex list of poses and stretches.

However, these aren’t typical Army physical training movements and exercises.

This is yoga, and the gentle voice guiding Soldiers is that of Capt. Erika Hildebrandt, a behavioral health officer assigned to 555th Engineer Brigade, 7th Infantry Division, who has more than 20 years practicing and instructing yoga to include studying yoga extensively in India for two years.

Because of her background, the brigade gave her the green light to start conducting yoga with the unit’s behavioral health specialists and then she started giving classes to the rest of the brigade.

“We started slowly, using suicide prevention month as our debut,” Hildebrandt said. “Five out of the seven commanders signed up for yoga PT immediately. It’s been very successful with the participation and enthusiasm from the Soldiers.”

In support of Suicide Prevention Month in September, she teamed up with the brigade’s command team, chaplain and behavioral health specialists to put together a dynamic and collaborated effort for Suicide Prevention Month.

“What’s beautiful about the combination of yoga and Suicide Prevention Month is that yoga is a very life affirming practice,” Hildebrandt said. “It changes the physiology of the body to reduce cortisol levels, reduce stress and enhance heart rate variability which increases serotonin in the body.”

The yoga session is followed by an interactive suicide prevention training, but instead of watching a film or slideshow, they had the Soldiers focus on looking inside themselves to identify their own risks and self-assessments.

This falls under the Army’s Ready and Resilient campaign as well as the Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness program.

“This has been powerful,” she said. “We’ve used case examples and are trying to steer clear of the suicide rates of veterans and the daily suicide rates of Soldiers and make it more generalized about human beings and the vulnerabilities in or out of uniform.”

She added that doing a yoga session with a group of 100 or more people can be a very powerful group experience and connection.

Hildebrandt went on to explain how this happens in the Army a lot but rarely does it happen in a way that is a spiritual.

For example, for some people, shooting at the range can be a spiritual experience, but in yoga it’s different in a way that it accesses the brain and the body in different ways.

“I found the yoga session intriguing,” said Spc. Humberto Adame, a human resources specialist assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 864th Engineer Battalion. “It was really comfortable and relaxing. I got to work other parts of my body that generally don’t get worked while doing regular (physical training) and it was a good environment.”

Hildebrandt said studies in the last few years show that yoga helps with work performance, post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, overeating, cardiovascular conditions, pain syndromes, headaches, arthritis, Asimah, diabetes and the list goes on.

“I feel blessed to be able to serve and to give the yoga in this venue,” Hildebrandt said. “It’s powerful for me to watch the way the yoga works on many levels whether the Soldiers can identify it or not.”

October 13, 2016 at 2:57pm

Thursday early release; Friday late arrival for JBLM; Except for mission critical personnel



Due to projected poor weather, JBLM service members and civilian employees, who are not designated as mission critical, are authorized an early release today beginning at 3 p.m.


Due to projected poor driving conditions on Friday morning, JBLM military and civilian personnel, who are not designated as mission critical, are authorized to report for work up to 2 hours later than usual, but no later than 10 a.m.

Employees who are unsure about their work schedule should check with their supervisors for instructions.


Service members should follow the instructions of their chain of command. They may also check the web site or Facebook page of their respective commands for more details.


Madigan personnel should confirm work schedules through their supervisory chain of command.


For the latest information about JBLM road conditions, closures, and delays, refer to:

JBLM Facebook page at  

JBLM Joint Base Ops Center Recording – Call (253) 967-1733 for updated information.

October 14, 2016 at 7:04am

Strykers finish training in India

Photo by 1st Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division A U.S. Soldier with 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, and his Indian counterpart move through an improvised explosive device detection course at Chaubattia Military Station, India, Sept. 17.

CHAUBATTIA MILITARY STATION, India Soldiers from the United States and India completed a two-week training exercise Sept. 27 at Chaubattia Military Station, India. The closing ceremonies marked the 12th year of the bilateral training exercise known as Yudh Abhyas.

Yudh Abhyas, which means ‘training for war’ in Hindi, focused on the interoperability between the U.S. and Indian armies. The training integrated the soldiers of both the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division and the 12 Madras into a single unit for a simulated U.N. peacekeeping operation in a fictional African nation in crisis.

The exercise was divided into a command post exercise and a field training exercise.

“Exercise Yudh Abhyas has been a unique experience, a first of its kind for me and my team,” said Maj. Sriram, an Indian army officer with 12 Madras. “The unique platform facilitated closer interactions and development of stronger bonds between the soldiers of both armies.”

Yudh Abhyas allowed for an exchange of knowledge between the two militaries by sharing training techniques, cultural exchanges and building joint operating skills.

Some of the mutual training included education on each nation’s equipment and weapon systems, counter improvised explosive device tactics, battlefield trauma management, house clearing techniques, rappelling and more.

“The training curriculum in the exercise was so designed to encourage a high degree jointness in the tactical drills and that the soldiers of both teams could use and understand each other’s weapons and equipment,” Sriram said. “The social interactions that the soldiers underwent gave a chance for the soldiers to get to know each other better — that is the biggest takeaway.”

From day one, the emphasis was to encourage soldier-to soldier interaction, Sriram said.

Being two different countries with different cultures, it helped to know the soldiers of the other nation better. The more social interactions the soldiers had, the more they bonded.

“This is my first experience working with the Indian Army,” said Sgt. Etienne Perrault, a fire team leader with Charlie Company, 5-20th Inf. “They were very professional and put out a lot of good information relating to mountaineering, quick assault and rappelling. A lot of it was good information that I can take back and train my Soldiers on.”

The U.S. Soldiers learned from the Indian soldiers and vice versa, said Capt. Chandan, an Indian officer with 12 Madras. A lot of techniques, such as house clearing, were different, but the basic nuances remain the same.

It was the same for physical training — each nation had a different method, but the experience was great.

“We shared in our hardships with them (during training),” Chandan said. “We know more now and learned about each other’s cultures.”

This was another opportunity to interact with a great partner nation and it’s always humbling to listen to somebody’s real-world applications of what the U.S. Soldiers train on, said Capt. Canyon Yeamans, a civil affairs officer with 83rd Civil Affairs Battalion out of Fort Bragg, N.C.

It teaches the U.S. Soldiers a lot about what they do and the impact it has based on the Indian Army’s experiences.

“Anytime you are working in a joint environment, the ability to understand what the partner nation is doing and why they are doing it is tantamount to working together,” Yeamans said. “With these exercises, we build that mutual understanding so that in the event that we ever do work together (in a real-world scenario), hopefully it is not a challenge for either of us.”

It was a great intellectual and professional challenge to understand the Indian Army’s different processes based on decades of experience in operational theaters that are very different from what Soldiers in the U.S. Army are used to, said Capt. Adam David, who was the combined brigade battle captain during the command post exercise.

“I think the biggest lesson that I learned is that soldiers in a lot of ways are the same everywhere we go,” David said. ”We all have a common interest in defending democracy and freedom. It does not matter where you are, as long you have good men and women beside you, you will be able to get the mission done.”

October 14, 2016 at 7:09am

Atlanta Falcons visit JBLM

Atlanta Falcons’ Ben Garland, right, and Joshua Perkins explore a Stryker vehicle during their visit to Joint Base Lewis-McChord Tuesday. (JBLM PAO photo)

After defeating the Denver Broncos on the road Sunday, the Atlanta Falcons decided to enjoy some time in Seattle before the upcoming game Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks. But while many players would usually take time to see landmarks like the Space Needle or the Fremont Troll, some came to Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

About a dozen Falcons had the unique opportunity to go to one of the training area ranges on Lewis Main Tuesday where they met several JBLM service members who have been preparing for a chance to earn the Expert Infantryman Badge. It was an exciting time for all of the players, especially third-year offensive guard Ben Garland. Garland is a graduate of the Air Force Academy and played for the Air Force Falcons football team before playing professionally.

While seeing a lot of equipment used by the Army’s 1st Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, the experience still felt like a walk down memory lane, he said.

“You always get those little flashbacks of that military vibe,” Garland said. “You see that brotherhood around here, and you see how they roll. It’s always good to come back and have those memories.”

Walking through the range, Falcons players had a chance to see the different skills that the service members are being tested in to earn the EIB. Nearly 1,000 Soldiers will be going through the proficiency testing next week.

Tuesday was a nice break for service members to meet NFL players who respect their efforts. Garland said he and his teammates were able to learn the keys to being the best football team in America from the best team the country has to offer.

“So to be able to come out here and see what they do and see how they bond really helps us develop as a team,” Garland said.

The 23rd Brigade Engineer Battalion also provided a display of weapons and tools. Players had fun walking into some of the Stryker vehicles the unit uses out in the field. There were some laughs shared as they put on rucks, with the assistance of the service members.

After that, the players were taken to a range where they were able to throw nonexplosive, training hand grenades for practice. Only a few were able to get the grenade within a target area. While not all of them were quarterbacks, their form was still critiqued by the service members.

“How could you not?” said Sgt. Major Christian Kiechler, the operations sergeant major for the 1st Bde., 2nd. Inf. Div. “You’re always going to measure everybody.”

The players were then taken on a bus to the Lewis Main Exchange, where hundreds of Atlanta football fans greeted them for an autograph session. Although JBLM is located in the Pacific Northwest, the installation is home to football fans from around the country — including season ticket holders for the Falcons.

“Considering this a military base that sells nothing but Seahawks gear, it’s great that there’s another team out here to represent,” said Kai Oboho, a JBLM military spouse.

October 14, 2016 at 10:54am

Historic first for career troops

Soldiers from the 814th Medical Company of the North Dakota Army National Guard stand in formation during preparation for day two of a 10-day MEDFLAG, July 12, 2011. Photo credit: Spc. Jess Raasch

WASHINGTON - There's a lot of untapped talent in the Army, especially among soldiers who serve in the reserve components, but that's going to change, according to the Army's senior personnel officer.

Most citizen soldiers put on their uniforms at least two days a month, but they still spend most of their time in civilian clothes doing jobs that require skills and talents the Army hasn't really ever paid much attention to, said Lt. Gen. James C. McConville, the Army's deputy chief of staff, G-1.

That will change with full deployment of new personnel software, called the Integrated Personnel and Pay System-Army. IPPS-A will provide a huge range of human resources and pay capabilities for the regular Army, the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve, McConville said.

One of the capabilities IPPS-A will provide Army leadership is the ability to track talent inside the force, across all three components of the Army. It will track the skills and talents and capabilities that individual soldiers might have, outside their regular Army job.

"It'll be the first time in the history of the Army that we have all three components, the active, the Guard and the Reserve on one system," McConville said. "That's a huge deal. Right now as the G-1 of the Army, I can't screen for the talent I have in the Guard and Reserve."

At the 2016 Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition, leaders said IPPS-A will replace 45 existing systems that currently do things independently of each other.

McConville relayed a scenario from about eight years ago, back when he was serving as deputy commanding general (support), 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), and Combined Joint Task Force-101, Operation Enduring Freedom, in Afghanistan.

Then, he said, there was a surge, and "we needed a lot of skill sets that would help us build up Afghanistan."

There were Reserve and Guard forces there, he said, and those soldiers were asked to provide information about talents and skills they used during their civilian jobs.

"Basically what we found out, the Army is managing this person as a supply sergeant, but they might have been running a construction company," back home, McConville said. "Or they were an S-3, or a captain or a major in infantry, but we found out this person was the head of the Texas Highway Department."

In the reserve components, the Army has an array of talents, right at its fingertips, he said. But until now there's been no way to document that talent, or to identify who has it, so the Army could make use of it. The Army's Talent Management Task Force will use IPPS-A as a way to document those talents and exploit them where needed, he said.

"We manage people in the Army basically by two variables: what is your rank and what is your occupational specialty," McConville said. "We don't know enough about them. We truly don't know what their knowledge, skills and abilities are. Now we have a million folks that we can tap into and get them on the field in the right position, in the right place at the right time."

Now, McConville said, the Army will be able to use IPPS-A to define soldiers by as many as 25 variables, for instance, instead of just rank and specialty, and that will provide much more detail on what a soldier can do beyond what the Army currently thinks might be the capability. That will help the Army put the best people into the jobs it needs to fill, he said.

"We're going to be able to screen their name for their cognitive and non-cognitive skill sets. So if we're hiring somebody, and need somebody who is a very good writer or good speaker, we'll know that. And if we want somebody that can work with the interagency, we'll know that ... or they speak this language, or have this type of skill set.

Maj. Gen. Wilson A. Shoffner, director of the Army Talent Management Task Force, said IPPS-A will provide "talent matching" for Army jobs.

"There are some social apps out there that do that already," he said. "But this is on a very large scale, almost 1.1 million people. It's an information technology system that will allow us to see the talents that are out there, to forecast the requirements of the jobs we need done, and those jobs may have to do with a deployment or upcoming operation, and then make that automated match, so the individual can see it, the assignment officer can see it, and leaders and officers can see it.

"The best way to think of it is an open market place for allowing units, allowing individuals to compete for talent, and to allow individuals to tell us what they want, and to be able to see the jobs that are out there in the future."

Because IPPS-A works across all three components, it'll allow the Army to dip into the total force for talent, Shoffner said. That's something it couldn't do before, and something it will benefit greatly from when IPPS-A comes fully online.

"It's going to be a game-changer once we get the system in place," he said.

This winter, Shoffner said, a "bridge" to IPPS-A called the "assignment interactive module" will be piloted with students from the Command and General Staff College.

"We're going to use our normal distribution cycles, our normal assignment cycles, to take a look at that population - it's about nine hundred officers - and that'll be our first stab or attempt at trying to get this right," he said.

The Army should have an automated talent management capability established by late next summer, he said.

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