Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

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

December 1, 2016 at 1:15pm

New soldier fashions

Pvt. Antwan Williams models a prototype uniform developed by NSRDEC’s textile technologists, a MOLLE Medium Pack System and the Airborne Tactical Assault Panel. Photo credit: Jeff Sisto, NSRDEC Public Affairs

U.S. Army researchers who are developing a wool-based fabric blend are aiming to improve combat uniforms while boosting U.S. manufacturing jobs.

The Army has developed a fabric composed of 50 percent wool, 42 percent Nomex, five percent Kevlar and three percent P140 antistatic fiber. One goal of textile R&D underway is to create a flame-resistant combat uniform made wholly from domestic materials, said Carole Winterhalter, a textile technologist with the Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center.

This research may provide an opportunity to meet this objective.

"We have a lightweight fabric that is inherently flame resistant. No topical treatments are added to provide FR," Winterhalter said. "We are introducing a very environmentally friendly and sustainable fiber to the combat uniform system.

"We don't have other wool-based fabrics in the system right now. This is a brand new material."

Three Army researchers traveled to Germany from Aug. 26 to Sept. 15 for Exercise Combined Resolve VII to work with about 100 soldiers in testing and evaluating prototype uniforms composed of this fabric. The scientists joined John Riedener, the Field Assistance in Science and Technology advisor assigned to 7th Army Training Command. The exercise brings about 3,500 participants from NATO allies to the region.

"We were in the heat of summer here, and it was very warm during the exercise. The uniforms were lighter weight and breathed better. Soldiers were very happy with the material," Riedener said.

FAST advisors are a component of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command.

Soldiers from 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, participated in the 21-day testing and completed surveys before and after the exercise, said Brian Scott, NSRDEC equipment specialist, Soldier and Squad Optimization and Integration Team. The R&D team selected Hohenfels, Germany, because the previous FR wool undergarment evaluation took place there.

Each soldier received three prototypes. Each uniform was made from the same wool-based blend. One was "garment treated" with permethrin, an insecticide, and another "fabric treated" with permethrin. The third was untreated.

Soldiers wore each of the three uniforms for about seven days in a field environment for a total of 21 days. The testing and survey instructions asked soldiers not to compare the prototypes with existing uniforms or camouflage patterns. Participating soldiers came from multiple military occupational specialties.

Their feedback regarding comfort, durability, laundering and shrinkage, insect resistance, and overall performance will help determine whether researchers continue this development effort, Winterhalter said.

Initial results suggest the majority of the soldiers liked the fabric because it was lightweight and breathable; however, analysis of the survey data is not complete, said Shalli Sherman, NSRDEC program manager for the Office of Synchronization and Integration.

Winterhalter is optimistic about the prospect of a wool blend being incorporated into combat uniforms because of its environmental, manufacturing and economic benefits. She said the United States has about 80,000 wool growers, and the Army would like to include this material in the clothing system.

"Wool is one hundred percent biodegradable. It's easy to dye and absorbs moisture," said Winterhalter, who is also the federal government's chief technology officer for the Advanced Functional Fabrics of America Manufacturing Innovation Institute. "The Army has spent quite a bit of time and money to reintroduce a manufacturing process in this country called Super Wash that allows us to shrink-resist treat the wool. It's been very successful.

"When blended with other fibers, the fabric does not shrink excessively when washed. The Super Wash line at Chargeurs in Jamestown, South Carolina, has exceeded its business estimates. It has revitalized wool manufacturing in this country. Something we initiated for the Army has resulted in economic benefits and new jobs for U.S. citizens."

The new Super Wash process makes wool viable for combat clothing in nearly any application, including jackets, pants, underwear, headwear, gloves and socks, Winterhalter said.

NSRDEC researchers plan a larger field study with more users over a longer time period of possibly 30 days. More data on comfort and durability is needed as the Army moves forward with this R&D effort, Winterhalter said.

The U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.

December 1, 2016 at 2:09pm

DoD launches confidential peer-support service for soldiers, families

Interested personnel can learn more about the BeThere Call and Outreach Center at betherepeersupport.com or call 844.357.PEER (7337). Photo credit: U.S. Army

WASHINGTON - On Oct. 21, the Defense Department launched a new call and outreach center that offers confidential peer support to active-duty servicemembers, National Guardsmen, reservists and family members through 24/7 chat, phone and text.

The Department of Defense "BeThere" Call and Outreach Center is staffed by peers who are veteran servicemembers and family members of veterans. The center aims to provide support for the everyday problem-solving of career and general life challenges.

"We are honored to support our servicemembers and their families as they get connected to needed resources through the support of those who have also served our country," said Wendy Lakso, the Defense Suicide Prevention Office's director for outreach and education.

"This new initiative recognizes the unique challenges faced within the military community, promotes awareness, reduces the stigma, and provides solutions for breaking through barriers when it comes to seeking help."

TriWest Healthcare Alliance administers the BeThere Call and Outreach Center in 50 states and four U.S. territories, and provides worldwide service through live chat. The company has supported the TRICARE program for active-duty servicemembers and their families and currently administers the Veterans Choice Program for former servicemembers within 28 states.

"It is a privilege to again serve alongside the Department of Defense in providing quality services to support those who wear the cloth of the nation and their families," said Dave McIntyre, president and CEO of TriWest.

"This unique population deserves and will receive our full focus in offering high quality, easily accessible assistance. We thank DoD and their Suicide Prevention Office team for the confidence in allowing us to come to their side to contribute to their efforts through this important new initiative."

To learn more about the BeThere Call and Outreach Center, visit betherepeersupport.com or call 844.357.PEER (7337).

December 1, 2016 at 2:58pm

Units host turkey bowls on base

HHB teammates celebrate after winning the 2nd Infantry Division Artillery Turkey Bowl at Cowan Stadium Nov. 23. (JBLM PAO photo)

It’s no secret that service members put in a lot of hard work through the year. That’s why the holiday season is a good time to blow off some steam and enjoy the camaraderie within units with the traditional Turkey Bowls during Thanksgiving week.

Many units on Joint Base Lewis-McChord have their own Turkey Bowl football games that pit noncommissioned officers against officers. Games like this are considered a big deal for units like the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, which played Nov. 22 at the Lewis North Athletic Complex on Lewis North.

Staff Sergeant Jake Norris, a squadron leader in 4-23 Inf., said the Turkey Bowl is a big deal that allows NCOs and officers to come together in a friendly, yet competitive atmosphere.

“Sometimes, the NCOs need to know who’s boss,” Norris said with a laugh. “But this is very good for the esprit de corps.”

Playing football is a Thanksgiving tradition. There’s a reason there are three NFL games televised for the holiday. Many people can relate to playing some football in the backyard before or after the big meal.

The NCOs vs. officers game was the main event of an entire afternoon of flag football for the 4-23 Inf. Five teams from different companies under the unit competed for a team title. The unit likes to have its Turkey Bowl event within a day or two of Thanksgiving as a way of having fun before the holiday break.

Norris said football is a perfect sport for bringing service members together, regardless of who ends up winning and losing.

“All of the Army values are found in this sport,” Norris said, citing traits like loyalty, honor, respect and team building.

Tournaments with multiple teams can be quite common among larger units. The 2nd Infantry Division Artillery also hosted a five-team tournament at Cowan Stadium with thousands of service members and families who circled the field Nov. 23.

The 8th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Bde. 2nd Inf. Div., held its annual Turkey Bowl tournament Nov. 21 with teams representing six troops under the regiment. Multiple games were played back to back with music playing overhead on two multipurpose fields.

The 8-1 Cav. allowed its Family Readiness Group to sell concessions and also raised money by selling holiday decorations.

“Traditionally, this is a Wednesday event,” said Lt. Col. Ian Palmer, commander for 8-1 Cav. “This is our send off into the (Thanksgiving) holiday.”

Palmer said the unit likes to have friendly competitions throughout the year, but this is the biggest way service members develop a spirit of winning that carries over into work.

“In the battlefield, there is no trophy for second place,” Palmer said.

The LNAC has certainly seen a lot of interest since it opened up in October 2015. Before the LNAC opened, there were very few formal fields to host a flag football game. There’s Cowan Stadium and an older field behind Soldiers Field House, on Lewis Main, as well as Rainier Field on McChord Field for Air Force units.

Gregory Matthews, assistant manager at Wilson Sports and Fitness Center, is the manager of reservations for the LNAC. Units often make reservations for organizational days throughout the year, but the Thanksgiving Turkey Bowl tradition has a special feeling, he said.

“In November, they bring out their flags and banners,” Matthews said.

December 1, 2016 at 2:59pm

308th BSB wins indoor soccer crown

308th BSB celebrates winning the JBLM Commander’s Cup Indoor Soccer Championship at Wilson Sports and Fitness Center Nov. 21. (JBLM PAO photo)

The indoor soccer pitch is compressed from the approximate 80-yard width and 120-yard length to a basketball court that is 50 feet wide and 84 feet long. While it may sound like a rainy day recess activity from elementary school, it was the setting for the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Commander’s Cup Indoor Soccer Championship Nov. 21 at Wilson Sports and Fitness Center on Lewis North.

The sport of soccer, known as football outside of North America, is a traditional sport that tests one’s endurance, speed and agility. Those same skills are pushed to the limits in a more condensed format when brought indoors.

The playing area isn’t the only thing compressed so closely. The game is two, 20-minute halves and players attempt to score from anywhere — including their end of the court.

“If you play lazy, you are going to lose,” said Crispin Afriyie-Addo, team captain of the 308th Brigade Support Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Brigade. “Out here, it’s easy to score. You have to be alert all of the time.”

His team was certainly alert as players were able to defeat Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, in the championship game 7-4.

The first goal for the 308th BSB came on an alert play when a wide shot by Jakob Bierere from midcourt was redirected by Andy Hyres into the net. Hyres quickly lifted his right leg slightly behind him similar to a hockey player lifting his stick to redirect a puck.

Hyres said goals like that are common in indoor soccer and it’s all about positioning and awareness.

“(It’s about) being in the right place when the ball comes your way,” Hyres said.

It was one of Bierere’s two assists in the game. He became the championship game’s Most Valuable Player with three goals, scoring twice in the first half’s 10th and 19th minute to give the 308th BSB a 3-1 halftime lead.

Bierere then scored quickly in the 22nd minute, followed by getting the assist on Afriye-Addo’s goal moments later. Bierere credited the team’s quick one-two passing to give him the hat trick that led to the team’s seven goals.

“I was just at the right place at the right time,” Bierere said. “With good teammates, scoring goals is easy.”

Both goalkeepers made saves throughout the game, including the efforts of Jacob Suenkel of 1st Bde., 2nd Inf. Div. He faced more shots on goal and had one more save than the 308th BSB’s Robert Aaron.

“You would think it’d be easier with a smaller net, but the shots come a lot quicker and a lot closer,” Suenkel said.

The 308th BSB took home the first JBLM Commander’s Cup Indoor Soccer Championship after finishing with an overall record of 9-1 (including playoffs). Afriyie-Addo said it was a tough season, but the team had the right group of players to make things work.

“It was good to have people you were comfortable playing with,” Afriyie-Addo said. “Without good teammates, it’s hard (to win).”

Results

Indoor Soccer Championships results

HHC , 1st Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division 1 3 – 4

308th Brigade Support Battalion 3 4 – 7

SCORING SUMMARY

308th – Andy Hyres goal (Jakob Bierere assist), 6th minute

308th – Bierere goal (Hyres assist), 10th minute

1-2 – Nana Agyemong goal (unassisted), 12th minute

308th – Bierere goal (Gerald Tsanang assist), 19th minute

308th – Bierere goal (Hyres assist), 22nd minute

308th – Crispin Afriye-Addo goal (Bierere assist), 25th minute

1-2 – Michael Quarm goal (unassisted), 30th minute

308th – Eduardo Catalan goal (unassisted), 30th minute

1-2 – Quarm goal (Mamadou Konate assist), 33rd minute

308th – Hyres goal (Catalan assist), 34th minute

1-2 – Quarm goal (unassisted), 39th minute

TEAM STATISTICS

Shots on goal – 1st Bde., 2nd Inf. Div., 23; 308th BSB, 28. Goalie saves – 1st Bde., 2nd Inf. Div., 13; 308th BSB, 12. Corner kicks – 1st Bde., 2nd Inf. Div., 8; 308th BSB, 4.

December 1, 2016 at 3:02pm

7th ID celebrating 100 years in 2017

It is truly an honor to serve our great nation along with the magnificent Soldiers and families of Task Force Bayonet. I would like to highlight that we are celebrating the 99th anniversary of the establishment of the 7th Infantry Division.

As we embark on our yearlong centennial celebration journey, we will reflect on the division’s legacy in service to our nation and focus on Task Force Bayonet’s future.

The 7th Infantry Division was created during World War I and was first activated on Dec. 6, 1917, as Headquarters, 7th Division of the Regular Army, and organized on Jan. 1, 1918, at Camp Wheeler, Ga. It was designated to serve in the Regular Army to build combat power for World War I, and once it arrived in France, the division trained hard for combat on the western front.

In World War II, the 7th Infantry Division reclaimed American soil in the Aleutian Islands from the Imperial Japanese Army then pressed west into the Pacific. Soldiers of the 7th had the honor of being the first Americans to set foot on Japanese soil at Kwajalein Atoll followed by major actions on Leyte and Okinawa. When the Japanese surrendered in 1945, the 7th ID headquarters was stationed in Japan and Korea.

During the Korean War, the division was one of the first units committed to fight on the Peninsula in 1950, and took part in the Inchon Landings where Gen. Douglass MacArthur coined the 7th Infantry Division his “Bayonet Division” because it would stab into the heart of Korea.

The 7th Infantry Division earned 22 campaign streamers and was honored with 17 Medal of Honor recipients from World War I to the end of the Korean War.

The division remained at Camp Kitty Hawk in South Korea conducting occupation operations along the newly established Demilitarized Zone following cessation of active hostilities in Korea. In 1971, it returned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord and was deactivated.

The division was reactivated on Oct. 21, 1974 at Fort Ord, Calif., It did not see action in Vietnam or during the post-war era, however it received orders to keep a close watch on South America.

In October 1985, it was re-designated as the 7th Infantry Division (Light), organized again as a light infantry division, the first of its kind in the Army, under the leadership of Maj. Gen. William Harrison.

In 1989, 7th ID participated in Operation Just Cause in Panama, briefly occupying Panama alongside the 82nd Airborne Division. The 7th ID landed in northern Colon Province, Panama, securing the Coco Solo Naval Station, Fort Espinar, France Field and Colon.

The division was deactivated on May 18, 1994, at Fort Ord.

The 7th Infantry Division reactivated at JBLM on Oct. 10, 2012, succeeding several activations and deactivations from 1971-2012.

In the summer of 2015, we reorganized our division headquarters in partnership with the 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division forming Task Force Bayonet, and deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, to assume responsibility for the Train, Advise and Assist mission.

Today, Task Force Bayonet is a combat-ready organization with leaders who are confident, competent, engaged and internalize the Army profession. Our more than 14,000 Soldiers remain regionally engaged in the Pacific, globally responsive and locally connected to the south Puget Sound community.

We are a unique organization comprised of seven active brigades and one associated brigade from the Washington Army National Guard, with multiple shoulder patches, but bonded by a common purpose to build and sustain readiness and to protect our great nation and its interests.

As we look to the future and our centennial celebration in 2017, we will never forget our past. The many phenomenal warriors have worn the red and black “Hourglass” patch in the harshest of conditions have paved the way for this great division.

We will strive to live their legacy every day.

Trust in Me!

Bayonet!

December 1, 2016 at 4:10pm

Free holiday trees for military Saturday on JBLM

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. –JBLM’s Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation will accept a delivery of several hundred Christmas “Trees for Troops,” donated by tree growers and their customers throughout the United States.

The Christmas Trees are scheduled to be delivered Friday at the JBLM Lewis North American Lake Conference Center. JBLM is expecting 700 trees from the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation delivered by FedEx. Junior enlisted service members, E-1 through E-5, will have the opportunity to select a Christmas tree beginning Saturday morning.

Trees for Troops brings together FedEx, the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation and tree farmers across America to deliver real Christmas trees to service members stationed in the U.S. and overseas. Since the Trees for Troops program launched in 2005, FedEx has shipped more than 176,000 real Christmas trees to service members and their families—covering every branch of the military at more than 65 bases in 17 countries.

The Christmas SPIRIT Foundation is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization that works to recognize and support the true spirit of Christmas for U.S. troops through the Trees for Troops® program.  The foundation was established in 2005 and is among fewer than 5 percent of U.S. charities to be awarded the “Best in America” seal of excellence by Independent Charities of America.  Trees for Troops was a Top 20 Finalist in the 2012 Joining Forces Campaign, a White House initiative that honors exemplary support organizations for military families.  To learn more, visit www.treesfortroops.org or call (800) 965-1653.

December 2, 2016 at 9:07am

SMA NW elects first female president

The members of the Sergeants Major Association of the Northwest elected next year’s officers recently, including active-duty members as the two top officers, the first time in nearly 10 years.

The president will be Sgt. Maj. Kesha White, chief medical noncommissioned officer for Regional Health Command-Pacific. The vice president will be Sgt. Maj. Andrew Garate, 7th Infantry Division G2 sergeant major.

Association records show that White will be their first female president.

Two retired sergeants major will fill out the association’s 2017 leadership team. Retired Sgt. Maj. Bryan Novak and Retired Sgt. Maj. Troy Falardeau will serve as treasurer and recording secretary respectively.

Comprised of more than 150 active-duty and retired E-9 service members from the Joint Base Lewis-McChord area, the Sergeants Major Association of the Northwest began in 1974 and is open to equivalent NCOs from all military services.

Over the past 15 years, the retired sergeant major community stepped up to lead the organization while many of their active-duty counterparts were deployed or preparing for deployments.

As the operations tempo has decreased, the association’s retired sergeants major pushed their active-duty counterparts to return to their rightful place.

“I’m glad to see Kesha and Andrew leading our association next year,” said retired Command Sgt. Maj. Jim Davis, the outgoing president. “Sergeants major like them are younger and better connected to the enlisted families we support. Our military, including the Army, has changed since 9-11, and we need association officers with that new perspective.”

Both White and Garate are veterans of multiple combat deployments and other overseas assignments — and both want to bring their experiences to the association.

“I’m honored to have been elected, and it’s my goal to support our association’s programs,” White said. “I also want to continue efforts to build more community partnerships to ensure our service members receive all that they need to succeed. I hope other sergeants major will join us.”

Garate concurs with White’s challenge to others.

“I invite my fellow active and retired sergeants major to be a part of this great and noble work,” he said. “We need to heighten awareness of the positive impact of what we do now and what we can do by recruiting more members. This is what senior leaders do.”

Over the past two years, the Sergeants Major Association of the Northwest has provided volunteers and financial support for monthly retirement ceremonies, the Warrior Leaders Course Distinguished Leadership Award, the Regional Medical Command-Pacific’s Top Medic Competition, the Holiday Food Card Program at JBLM and Yakima Training Center, emergency fund requests, the annual JBLM Army Birthday Ball and countless other activities and events.

“We appreciate the efforts of all of the many nonprofit, voluntary service organizations and local communities that support the service members, military families, retirees and veterans in the South Puget Sound area,” said I Corps Command Sgt. Maj. Michael A. Grinston, who is also a member of the association.

The next meeting for the association is scheduled for Jan. 19 at 4:30 p.m. at the Samuel Adams Brewhouse on Lewis Main.

December 2, 2016 at 9:37am

Local soldier wins

“Sunset Over Puget Sound,” by Capt. Brian Harris of JBLM, won first place in ARMY magazine’s photo contest.

The competition was intense in ARMY magazine's 2016 SFC Dennis Steele Photo Contest. The magazine received more than 70 entries that captured everything from soldiers and families to training and ceremonies. Army photographers took the top two spots, while an Army spouse placed third.

The first-place winner, Capt. Brian Harris, a public affairs officer with the 7th Infantry Division at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, wanted "to tell the Army story," so he entered the contest after finding out about it through the I Corps public affairs team. He jumped at the chance because "finding new places to share the amazing work of our 16th Combat Aviation Brigade soldiers" is always on his mind.

His photo, "Sunset Over Puget Sound," was "one of those ones that happens out of the blue," he said. He and his team were flying to meet an infantry unit for air assault training when he realized the perfect scene was unfolding before his eyes.

As the aircraft approached JBLM at 8:30 p.m., June 26, Harris snapped a few photos of the crew chief in silhouette. He used a Canon EOS 7D to take the photo with a Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 lens.

The photo "is significant to me because it really feels like it brings emotion out of people. The combination of the beautiful scenery and the rugged military gear is a really great pairing," Harris said.

Emotional response is the reason why he decided to submit the photo in the first place. "Sunsets are one of those things that almost everyone gravitates toward, and it's paired with an amazing U.S. Army soldier training hard in one of our great aircraft," he said.

Army leaders have stressed that the total force cannot be truly strong without tough training. Michael Curtis of Waynesville, Missouri, an Army photographer, set out to capture strength and resilience in his second-place photo, "Hold On!"

Each year, he has the opportunity to photograph the Best Sapper Competition at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. The grueling three-day competition for combat engineers is designed to measure technical proficiency, stamina and performance under stressful conditions.

Curtis was positioned at the finish line when he saw the perfect moment to snap the shutter as two soldiers consoled each other.

"It is a hard competition, and I believe this image shows just how hard it can be."

Deborah Spratt didn't have much of a plan in mind when she snapped her third-place photo, "Growing Up." She just knew she wanted to catch her husband, Staff Sgt. Terry Spratt, kissing their daughter Glory goodbye shortly before seeing her off for her first day of first grade. The photo was taken at Pierce Terrace Elementary School in Columbia, South Carolina.

“Hold On!” by Michael Curtis of Waynesville, Missouri, took second place.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________

“Growing Up,” by Deborah Spratt of Columbia, South Carolina, took third place.

December 8, 2016 at 2:26pm

Soldiers test future ration options

Soldiers from the 266th Quartermaster Battalion, serve others in a training exercise at the Quartermaster Field Operations Training Branch Fort Lee, Virginia. Photo credit: Chris Hart

FORT LEE, VIRGINIA - The Army is working on adding some new items to its meal ration menu.

In November, soldiers from T Company, 266th Quartermaster Battalion, got a chance to taste-test the latest dishes created by engineers from Natick Soldier, Research, Development and Engineering Center to determine whether the new offerings should make it to the field.

"(Unit group rations) must be warfighter-tested and warfighter-approved," said Beverly Hamlette, a quality assurance officer for field testing at the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence at Fort Lee, Virginia.

Natick brought the new dishes to the Quartermaster Field Operations Training Branch to gather soldier feedback on the new rations. Soldiers were asked to score each item based on its degree of tastiness.

The test items included a breakfast of turkey sausage links - for soldiers who do not eat pork products - eggs and biscuits, and a dinner option of meatballs, pasta and brown gravy.

The new rations are being developed according to taste, nutritional value and soldier preference, said Meg Walker, Natick project officer.

Hamlette said she was pleased that the soldiers had the opportunity to provide feedback. Natick will present the data from this test to the Army and Fort Lee Joint Service Operations Forum in February.

"We may not have Chipotle just yet, but we do look at trends and nutrition changes that may benefit our soldiers and war-fighters down range," she said.

December 8, 2016 at 3:19pm

JBLM troops receive free trees

Spc. Javier Solis, left, of 23rd Brigade Engineer Battalion, gets some help loading a tree into his car from Spc. Anthony Garcia, right, of 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, during a Trees for Troops distribution a

Christmas spirit was in the air as nearly 700 fir Christmas trees were distributed to local service members at Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s American Lake Conference Center Dec. 2 and Saturday.

The trees are part of Trees for Troops, a holiday program sponsored by the FedEx Corp. and Christmas SPIRIT Foundation. The program began in 2005 and has since delivered 176,000 real Christmas trees to service members and their families in all branches of the military at 65 bases in 17 countries.

This year, more than 18,000 Christmas trees were donated by tree farmers across North America. They were distributed to service members E-5 and below.

More than a dozen trees were also delivered to families at the Yakima Training Center, according to Natalie Boutte, chief of community recreation for JBLM’s Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation.

Prior to the Saturday event — through which 684 families each received a tree — one family representing the Army, Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Graham, and one representing the Air Force, Senior Airman Jediah Stebbins, were gifted a free tree.

“This is such a good program; it’s a win for the (service members) and their families and rewarding for the service members giving out the trees,” Boutte said, as she helped direct traffic at the event.

Receiving a tree was a good start to the season for Stebbins, 627th Logistics Readiness Squadron, 627th Air Base Group, his wife, Madison, and the couple’s two sons, 4-year-old Jackson and 2-year-old Walter. Last year, Stebbins was deployed overseas, so the family didn’t put up a tree, his wife said. This year, the Stebbins family is looking forward to sharing time at home and decorating for the holidays.

“We’re getting to do all the fun traditions, like driving around to look at lights, and now we can decorate our own tree,” Madison said. “It’s all very exciting.”

The family also plans to visit extended family this year, as Madison grew up in Longview, Wash., and her husband in nearby Rainier, Ore.

“Christmas is about family, so it’s good to spend time together,” she said.

JBLM Command Sgt. Maj. Richard T. Mulryan was on hand Dec. 2 to chat with the families, as were Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus.

“This is such an awesome thing,” Mulryan said, as he shook Stebbins’ hand and looked around at all the trees being unloaded from a FedEx trailer.

Graham, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 6th Military Police Group (CID), was excited to pick up a tree for his family. He and his wife, Jasmine, haven’t had a real tree before, but they do have ornaments for one, he said.

“This is definitely great,” he said. “I love Christmas; it’s my favorite holiday. Having a tree brings out the Christmas spirit and reflects the joy of the holiday.”

Kaylin Creedin waited in her car Saturday with her 4-month-old terrier puppy, Indy, and 6-year-old son, Aiden, as her husband, Spc. Adam Creedin, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, tied a 7-foot-tall fir Christmas tree on top of the sedan.

The Creedin family moved to JBLM in June from Indianapolis and is expecting a second son in a few months.

“This is so nice; having a tree spreads the Christmas spirit,” Creedin said as her husband prepared to climb in the passenger seat window, since he’d tied the vehicle doors shut with the rope for the tree.

“How do you tell which ones are full?” Spc. John Kelley, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, asked Spc. Wesley Kimmel, 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, as Kimmel helped hand out trees at the event.

The trees were wrapped with rope, so it was difficult to see how the branches would fall when untied.

“I need it full so there are enough branches to hang the ornaments,” Kelley said.

Kimmel helped him select a seemingly-thicker tree, and the two tied it on top of Kelley’s vehicle.

This is Kelley’s and his wife, Devon’s, second year at JBLM. They moved here from Kentucky. The couple will celebrate the holidays together with their children, 3-year-old son, Bramwell, and 1-year-old daughter, Robin.

Kimmel said he enjoyed distributing trees to fellow service members but wouldn’t be getting a live tree for his own family.

“My wife and I have an artificial tree that we brought from Kansas,” he said, explaining that the tree has sentimental value, as it was passed down from his grandmother.

“When my grandmother died, we got the tree; it’s special,” he said, adding that he and wife, Lydia enjoy Christmas and decorating their tree together.

Sergeant Adrian Cormier, 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Bde., 2nd ID, hefted a tree on top of his vehicle as his wife, Deanna, and 2-year-old son, Jaxon watched.

Cormier grew up in New York and hasn’t had a real Christmas tree since he was a child, when he’d go to the woods and pick out a tree with his grandpa, he said.

“Having a tree is a great family tradition, and there are a lot of good memories associated with it,” he said as his wife agreed.

“Christmas is all about family,” she said. “Although my family is in Massachusetts and my husband’s is in New York, there’s a great sense of family here at JBLM.”

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