Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

Posts made in: February, 2017 (24) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 24

February 2, 2017 at 12:24pm

Army's vehicle of the future

General Motor’s ZH2 hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle. Photo credit: TARDEC

In a tactical situation, the last thing a soldier wants to do is give away his position to the enemy.

The ZH2 hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicle promises to provide that important element of stealth, said Kevin Centeck, team lead, Non-Primary Power Systems, U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center at the 2017 Washington Auto Show here Thursday.

The ZH2 is basically a modified Chevy Colorado, fitted with a hydrogen fuel cell and electric drive, he said. It was put together fairly quickly, from May to September, and will be tested by soldiers in field conditions later this year.

Charley Freese, executive director of General Motor's Global Fuel Cell Activities, explained the ZH2 is stealthy because its drive system does not produce smoke, noise, odor or thermal signature. GM developed the vehicle and the associated technologies.

The vehicle provides a number of other advantages for soldiers:

  • The ZH2 produces high torque and comes equipped with 37-inch tires that enable it to negotiate rough and steep terrain.
  • The hydrogen fuel-cell can produce two gallons per hour of potable water.
  • When the vehicle isn't moving, it can generate 25 kilowatts of continuous power or 50 kW of peak power. There are 120- and 240-volt outlets located in the trunk.
  • The vehicle is equipped with a winch on the front bumper.

Dr. Paul D. Rogers, director of TARDEC, said the Army got a good deal in testing this vehicle, leveraging some $2.2 billion in GM research money spent in fuel-cell research over the last several decades. The Army is always eager to leverage innovation in new technology, he added.

While GM developed the technology and produced the demonstrator, the Army's role will be to test and evaluate the vehicle in real-world field conditions over the next year.


Electricity drives the vehicle, Centeck said. But the electricity doesn't come from storage batteries like those found in electric cars today. Instead, the electricity is generated from highly compressed hydrogen that is stored in the vehicle by an electrochemical reaction.

As one of the two elements that make water (the other being oxygen), there's plenty of hydrogen in the world. But hydrogen isn't exactly free, Centeck pointed out. It takes a lot of electricity to separate the strong bond between hydrogen and oxygen.

That electricity could come from the grid or it could come from renewables like wind or solar, Centeck said.

Existing fuels like gasoline, propane, and natural gas can also be used to extract hydrogen, he said. The Army and GM are comparing the costs and benefits for each approach and haven't yet settled on which approach to use.

Christopher Colquitt, GM's project manager for the ZH2, said that the cost of producing hydrogen isn't the only complicating factor; another is the lack of hydrogen fueling stations.

Most gas stations aren't equipped with hydrogen pumps, Colquitt pointed out, but California and some other places in the world are in the process of building those fueling stations. For field testing purposes, the Army plans to store the hydrogen fuel in an ISO container.

Another cost involves the hydrogen fuel-cell propulsion system itself. Fuel-cell stacks under the hood convert hydrogen and air into useable electricity. They are composed of stacks of plates and membranes coated with platinum.

In the ZH2 demonstrator, there are about 80 grams of platinum, costing thousands of dollars, he said. But within the last few months, GM developers have managed to whittle that amount of platinum down to just 10 grams needed to produce a working vehicle, he said.

The modern-day gas and diesel combustion engine took a century to refine. Now, GM is attempting to do that similar refining with hydrogen fuel cells in just a matter of months, he said. It's a huge undertaking.

By refining the design, Colquitt explained, he means lowering cost and providing durability, reliability and high performance. Refining doesn't just mean using less platinum, he explained. A lot of other science went into the project, including the design of advanced pumps, sensors, compressors that work with the fuel-cell technology.

Colquitt said the ZH2's performance is impressive for such a rapidly-produced vehicle. For instance, the fuel cell produces 80 to 90 kilowatts of power and, when a buffer battery is added, nearly 130 kilowatts. The vehicle also instantly produces 236 foot-pounds of torque through the motor to the transfer case.

The range on one fill-up is about 150 miles, since this is a demonstrator, he said. If GM were actually fielding these vehicles, the range would be much greater.


Colquitt said hydrogen fuel cell technology hasn't yet yielded vehicles for consumers, but GM is working on doing just that in the near future, depending on a number of factors, mainly the availability of fueling stations.

The Army is no stranger to the technology, he said. GM's Equinox vehicles, powered by hydrogen fuel cells, are being used on several installations. The difference is that the ZH2 is the first hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle to go tactical, he said.

The value of having the Army test the vehicle is that it will be driven off-road aggressively by Soldiers, who will provide their unvarnished feedback, Colquitt said. Besides collecting subjective feedback from the soldiers, he said, the vehicle contains data loggers that will yield objective data as well.

Testers will put the vehicle through its paces this year at Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Carson, Colorado; Fort Benning, Georgia; Quantico Marine Base, North Carolina; and, GM's own Proving Grounds in Michigan.

February 2, 2017 at 2:11pm

Army launching new TV series

An M1A2 tank crew from Charlie Co., 1st battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, competes in the Sullivan Cup at Fort Benning, Georgia, May 4, 2016. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Jose Ibarra

FORT MEADE, Maryland (Army News Service) - Soldiers Broadcasting is launching its newest video series called Soldiers, Tuesday on Defense TV, YouTube, and the new Soldiers webpage.

"These videos showcase the American soldier in action, preparing for and conducting missions every day around the globe," said Maj. Gen. Malcolm B. Frost, Army chief of public affairs. "Soldier skills, grit, commitment and character will be on full display. You will be inspired by the soldiers who defend our nation as part of the greatest team on Earth."

The first episode of the series will follow an M-1 tank crew training and showcase the readiness and enduring value of Army forces.

"The series aims to excite and inspire viewers as they experience the dedication and excellence of this nation's Army soldiers, family members and veterans," said Peter Ising, one of the show's producers. "(The series) displays soldiers in their element and their readiness to defend the United States and its allies."

"Soldiers' stories are exciting, inspiring; they move. We want people to feel the way we feel about soldiers," said Lance Milsted, Soldiers Broadcasting executive producer. "When we created the Soldiers series, we wanted to create something different, something original and, above all, something compelling."

The first season consists of four episodes that will debut on a monthly basis, February through May:

  • February - "Seeding Excellence (Sullivan Cup)" follows an M-1 tank crew training at Fort Stewart, Georgia, through its competition at the biannual Sullivan Cup gunnery competition at Fort Benning, Georgia.
  • March - "Best Medic" follows two soldiers as they compete in the Army Best Medic competition at Camp Bullis, Texas. The competition tests their abilities as soldiers and as medics in scenarios they might encounter in the real world.
  • April - "Workforce Warrior" takes a close look at the process of transitioning from active-duty to the civilian workforce and examines how work-study programs are helping veterans. The segment highlights a soldier who is taking advantage of one such program while also working in a bakery and the Soldier for Life program.
  • May - "Empire Shield" explores the work of members of the New York National Guard who have been assisting the New York City Police Department and Department of Homeland Security safeguard New York City as part of Task Force Empire Shield. The segment highlights individual readiness and homeland defense.

"Our team of soldiers and civilians will go where soldiers and their families live, train, and work to support and defend America and American interests - wherever that is - Alaska, Africa, or Afghanistan," explained Michael Burnette, Soldiers Broadcasting chief. "This new original feature series is their story."

The show will be available online beginning Jan. 31 at or It can also be viewed on Defense TV. The Defense TV app can be downloaded for free on iOS mobile devices, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Google Chromecast.

February 2, 2017 at 3:20pm

University of Washington-Tacoma, JBLM team-up

Jane Taylor (left), founder and chief strategy officer for the Geneva Foundation, and Lt. Gen. Steve Lanza, introduce themselves at the University of Washington-Tacoma/JBLM Leadership Luncheon, Jan. 30. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Bryan Dominique

Leadership was the talk of the town in Tacoma, Monday, where about 55 University of Washington-Tacoma students, community leaders and education professionals came to a luncheon to hear three experts speak on the subject.

The event was co-sponsored by the university and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, with Joe Lawless, executive director at the Center of Leadership and Social Responsibility at the university, moderating the event.

JBLM's senior mission commander and most senior military official in the state, participated as a panelist.

"What you want in a leader is someone who can provide purpose, direction and motivation, and I think that is what any organization is looking for," said Lt. Gen. Steve Lanza, I Corps commanding general at JBLM. "If you think you're uncertain as a leader, just imagine how everyone below you feels. A leader who can embrace that will be able to lead in uncertain environments."

Lanza was joined by Kathleen Deakins, president of a strategic communications firm in Tacoma, and Jane Taylor, founder and chief strategy officer of a military medical research foundation.Everything from bringing people together to creating inclusive cultures was open for discussion, but the moderator chose to begin with a leader's character. He asked each panelist to weigh in on what was more important in identifying effective leaders: character or competence.

"I can close a capability gap. I can train to close that gap," said Lanza. "I cannot close a character gap, and when a character gap occurs, we fail as a military; we lose your trust."

Both Deakins and Taylor agreed that character was the more important of the two in determining effective leadership.

Taylor added that, "expertise can be taught, but character can't necessarily be taught. Character is something that comes from within."

The approximately one hour conversation spent a lot of time discussing diversity and bringing people together.

Lawless posed the question of how to create inclusivity in diverse environments to Lanza, noting that as a military leader he leads an organization comprised of people from all around the world.

"I think in order to have diversity you have to be part of a values-based organization, and I'm proud to say that as a profession the military is a values based organization," said Lanza. "I think that's something you need to look for because in an organization without values it's very hard to embrace diversity."

He added: "Our junior leaders have done a magnificent job, with not a lot of guidance, on embracing how to change the workplace to making it more diverse," said Lanza. "I think that's what you want in a leader; you want someone who is adaptive, someone who is agile, and that can understand intent."

The conversation concluded with an opportunity for guests to pose their questions to the panel members.

One guest who identified himself as a university freshman asked how you bring people together in a world that feels so divided right now.

"In the military we offer debate. We offer it in a way for people to bring issues forward so we can have a (conversation) about what to do to treat people with dignity and respect, and to listen to others' perspectives," said Lanza. "But at the end of the day we have to be able to operate together. I have to be able to trust you with my life and you have to be able to trust me with your life."

February 2, 2017 at 3:38pm

JBLM soldier top career counselor

FORT BRAGG. N.C. — Two Soldiers came out on top after competing against six other Soldiers from across the command during the 2016 U. S. Army Forces Command Career Counselor of the Year Competition held at Fort Bragg, N.C., Jan. 23 to 26.

Staff Sergeant Matthew Kindle, representing I Corps, headquartered at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, was named the FORSCOM Active-Duty Career Counselor of the Year, and Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Wienczkowski, representing III Corps, Fort Hood, Texas, was named the FORSCOM Reserve Component Career Counselor of the Year.

General Robert B. Abrams, commanding general of FORSCOM, was on hand to present Kindle and Wienczkowski each a trophy and Meritorious Service Medal for winning the competition.

Abrams spoke to career counselors and others in attendance and told them their job is not to “sell” the Army.

“We have high-performing Soldiers who meet our standards and want this way of life,” Abrams said. “Soldiers want to serve their country and you are the tip of the spear to enable that to happen.”

There are 954 Career Counselors in the Army and nearly half of them, 480, are in FORSCOM. The eight competing Soldiers who came to compete represented the best in each of their commands. Five of the competitors were active duty and three were Army Reservists.

Each competitor was judged on their performance in an Army Physical Fitness Test, written exam, board appearance and a mystery event that turned out to be a surprise career counseling session with a female Soldier who was interested in potentially filling one of the combat positions recently opened to women.

“Competitions like this accomplish three things; they test the competitors leadership competencies against their peers, solidifies their commitment to professional development, and provides competitors exposure to many of our career field’s senior-most leaders which can be beneficial for future assignments, schooling and promotion opportunities,” said Sgt. Maj. Matthew Quick, command career counselor for FORSCOM.

Kindle and Wienczkowski will go on to represent the Army’s largest command as they compete for recognition as the Department of the Army Career Counselor of the Year at a follow-on competition taking place in Washington, D.C., from Feb. 27 to March 3.

While there for the competition, the Soldiers will also enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime tour of the oldest active-duty infantry unit in the Army, the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), where they will get a behind-the-scenes look at the caisson stables and the Tomb of the Unknowns.

February 3, 2017 at 9:45am

New vet home opens

WALLA WALLA - The veteran's community, media and public are invited to attend a grand opening ceremony at the Walla Walla Veterans Home Feb. 18, as officials cut the ribbon to officially open Washington state's newest veterans home.

The event will begin at 1 p.m. at the Walla Walla Veterans Home, located at 92 Wainwright Dr. in Walla Walla.  Following the ceremony, tours will be provided to show visitors the special features that make this home so unique.

"We are so excited to welcome veterans and the community to our newest state veterans home," said Alfie Alvarado-Ramos, director of the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs. "This home is truly unlike any state veterans home in the country and will expand much needed nursing care to more veterans in eastern Washington.  We are proud to have been able to incorporate artwork showcasing both Native American culture and the history of the Walla Walla area.  Our thanks goes to each and every member of the Walla Walla Veterans Task Force who never lost sight of this vision and never lost hope that it would eventually happen!"

Construction Project:

  • Architect and Engineer - NBBJ
  • Project Management - RGU Architecture
  • General Contractor - Absher Co
  • Cost - $32.7 million (65 percent paid by the Federal VA State Homes Construction Grant and 35 percent paid by Washington state)
  • Construction began in July 2016 and is scheduled to be completed in February 2017
  • LEED Silver / Gold: Currently the project is Silver; however, the addition of PV panel arrays to be mounted in a subsequent construction phase may enable a Gold rating certification.  Other sustainable features include:

     - Landscaping using drought tolerant and native adapted species, plants and
     - 100 percent of stormwater runoff either fully dispersed to pasture or treated
       with bio-filtration and infiltrated on-site.
     - Water efficient fixtures;
     - Natural light;
     - Lighting controls such as occupancy sensors, automatic daylighting controls and
     - Energy efficient heating and cooling; and
     - Low emitting materials such as paint, sealers, adhesives, caulking, and flooring.

Veterans Home Facts:

  • The Walla Walla Veterans Home is a nursing care facility operated by the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • This new facility will serve 80 veterans, spouses, widows and Gold Star parents in eight small houses creating a home-like environment.
  • Veterans rated 70-100% Service Connected Disabled, or whose service connected disability is the reason nursing care is needed, may have their nursing home care paid by the Federal VA.
  • The Walla Walla Veterans Home provides Medicare Rehabilitative Care, and accepts Medicaid, long-term care insurance, and private pay.
  • One 10-bed house will be dedicated to memory care for veterans with alzheimer's or dementia.  This will be the last house that is filled so it likely will be late summer or early fall in 2017 before we begin admitting residents with these conditions.

For information on admissions and employment and to find out more about the Washington State Veterans Homes, visit

February 9, 2017 at 2:30pm

JBLM house fire caused by incorrect wiring

A recent house fire on Joint Base Lewis-McChord has rekindled worries about potentially dangerous wiring practices that could leave community members unknowingly susceptible to the same disaster.

The culprit of the fire of the was an overused extension cord, which was powering an entertainment system. Ed Chavez, JBLM’s Directorate of Emergency Services fire inspector, said misusing extension cords is a common occurrence.

“Extension cords should only be used as temporary wiring,” he said. “If you need to use what the cord is plugged into every day, then it isn’t temporary. That is what happened here. Even when televisions are turned off, they are still drawing power.”

Due to the overuse, the wire began to heat up and burn, which led to the damaging fire. Luckily, no one was hurt in the blaze, but it still cost the occupant $5,000 in personal content. It’s a good reminder that one must always be vigilant to prevent fires, Chavez said.

“Never overload electrical cords, whether they be extension cords or power strips,” Chavez said. “Always disconnect the cords if you’re not at home. You never know what is still drawing power. You should also never modify electrical wiring on your own, unless you are a certified electrician.”

Chavez also said to make sure to never tamper with the large third prong that various large electrical machines have. Referred to as the grounding prong, it helps keep everything safe. Still, the prong sometimes frustrates people because it makes items harder to plug in, which leads to them removing it themselves. This should never be done, Chavez said.

If you find yourself using power strips, it’s important to make sure to use them within reason and avoid overloading them. You should also double check that whatever you are using is Underwriters Approved. This UL stamp approval means that the device has been rigorously checked for safety.

February 9, 2017 at 2:32pm

7th ID program targets new culture, mindset

7th Infantry Division Task Force Bayonet Soldiers attend the BWAP course at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. The intent of the course is to impart expert level knowledge to leaders implementing and leading daily physical readiness training within Task

Every service member in the armed forces wants to achieve a physical peak in their fitness. But there’s a limit in trying to be the strongest, fastest and most agile person on the field.

Professional athletes have learned to adjust their training regimen in an effort to prevent injuries down the road. What good is a 4.23-second 40-yard dash time if your body is prone to suffering an ankle or knee injury very easily?

That mindset has transferred to the military with the new Bayonet Warrior Athlete Program starting within the 7th Infantry Division on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

The concept for BWAP was pitched by Maj. Gen. Thomas James, 7th ID commanding general. His vision is to make the 7th Inf. Div. a combat ready unit that can win in any kind of environment, he said.

“We’re warrior athletes,” James said. “We are Soldiers who need to deploy anywhere in the world and fight. How can we resource and develop a strategy to change a culture and mindset?”

James saw that units on JBLM were creating workout programs with a sports mindset. It was part of the reason why the Bayonet Division also launched BWAP Boxes.

They resemble storage containers that consist of everything one would find in a fully functional fitness center — kettlebells, ropes, free weights and even attachments for exercises like pull-ups that attach to the side of the box. The equipment focuses on mobility and agility work with less emphasis on powerlifting.

One positive is providing another workout venue for the 7th Inf. Div.’s service members.

“We have gyms on (base) that are actually nice, but those weight rooms can’t service 15,000 Soldiers during PT time,” James said.

On top of that, the BWAP Boxes are also mobile and ready to deploy at a moment’s notice — extremely useful wherever units are sent across the globe.

“Rather than try to grab sandbags and big gallons of oil, it’s nice to have weights,” James said.


BWAP is more than providing a convenient and mobile workout setting. Part of the culture change is to train service members to become certified instructors for their respective units.

Soldiers who can score at least 265 on the Army Physical Fitness Test will qualify to take the instructor course through the 7th Inf. Div.’s Bayonet Academy. The goal is to train instructors who are experts in functional fitness.

Major Jason Yellman, 7th Inf. Div. deputy surgeon, said a good portion of musculo-skeletal injuries that keep service members out of deployment can be attributed to overworking the body through physical activity.

The main reason for creating BWAP is to utilize functional fitness to provide what Yellman described as “prehabilitation.”

“We’re just trying to get to the left of the injury and make sure that the Soldier’s range of motion and functional strength are at an adequate level to prevent injury,” Yellman said. “There are a lot of motivated Soldiers who want to do the right thing. We just want to help them do the right thing in the right way.”

Along with placing a focus on proper, functional fitness training, the Bayonet Division is also going to be placing an emphasis on sleep and nutrition — two major parts of the Army’s Performance Triad. Dining facilities will have a color code for menu options ranging from green (healthy) to red (not so much). Leadership will also continue to push for service members to try and get seven to eight hours of sleep per night.

All of these components will build toward the lessons that will be taught by BWAP certified instructors to the 15,000 Soldiers throughout the division.

“There are a lot of motivated Soldiers who want to do the right thing,” Yellman said. “We just want to help them do the right thing in the right way.”

The BWAP is still young and will likely continue to grow in the coming years. There are already plans to help establish monthly competitions for units to complete physical challenges.

Additionally, there will be a “Best of the Best” competition Feb. 28 at Cowan Stadium when Bayonet Soldiers will complete a special workout. The 7th Inf. Div. will also have a special competition called “The Martinez” from Monday through March 10 — a virtual competition to complete exercises in a certain amount of time.

“We’re trying to build a competitive mindset to change the culture,” Yellman said.

February 9, 2017 at 4:22pm

Zumba classes improving fitness

Fernanda Green, a Zumba instructor, leads participants in a workout during the first 25-minute sample class during the Fitness Resolution Fair at the Wilson Sports and Fitness Center Jan. 7 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo credit: Sgt. Youtoy Martin

Zumba is an aerobic fitness workout featuring movements inspired by mostly Latin American dance music in which participants imitate the steps of the instructor.

Heather Forrey, a Zumba instructor at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, said the dance workouts have become a part of her lifestyle.

"It's a great cardio-workout that men may think is not that intense," she said, "until they actually attend a class."

The free Zumba sessions offered at various facilities on JBLM are usually packed with people of ages from the very young to senior citizens. They come from varying walks of life including active-duty and retired military, spouses and family members.

Forrey said she'd struggled with weight issues since she was 12 years old. When she discovered Zumba, that changed. Forrey said she lost 85 pounds in three years before becoming a Zumba instructor.

Like many who see the results from their labor, motivation to keep going became easy in the family-feeling atmosphere, she said.

"When I started losing weight, it became easier to work out," added Forrey. "The thing with Zumba that is wonderful, you can modify as you need to. The whole thing is to keep moving and have fun. It's like a party. It makes it easy to get into the gym and start exercising."

Forrey said she has a love for food and sometimes caves in to moments of weakness because of it. Often times, she has to weigh the risk versus reward on things she eats or drinks, she said.

"Some days I want a half of pizza, so I go and run for an hour and eat that half of pizza," laughed Forrey. "I like to eat. I eat well. I love food; I have a very good relationship with it."

The lifestyle of Zumba, a few days of weight training and tracking her calories has improved her relationship with food, she said.

"You just start becoming aware of it," she continued. "Is it really worth the 120 calories for that soda? No. I would much rather not have to work my (butt) off to make up for that."

Although weight loss can be the motivation for some people to Zumba, for Agnes Watkins, Army retired, it's the family feel and friendships she's made that keeps her attending weekly classes.

"I love the energy, I love the comradery," said Watkins. "This is where you get to meet friends and make friends. I enjoy participating and being active in all of the classes."

Watkins said while she has lost 20 pounds since starting Zumba classes, weight loss is not the reason she attends.

"I'm not doing it for just weight loss," said Watkins. "The ladies here encourage me. I get a lot of my strength from the younger people coming in. I'm a grandmother but I'm like their momma. They encourage me and I encourage them."

Watkins, who calls herself the "Zumba Queen" said, she tries to attend every Zumba class throughout each week at either the Jenson or Wilson Fitness Centers.

She said, the resolution fair was a great way to let everyone know they are welcome to join the party regardless of their Zumba skill level.

"It's about move, move, move," said Watkins, twisting her body side to side. "No one cares if you're doing the right step, because there is no wrong step."

For more information on Zumba and other fitness classes available, visit any of the fitness centers on base or online at

February 9, 2017 at 4:25pm

Commissary store brand names unveiled

FORT LEE, Virginia - The Defense Commissary Agency has chosen the names "Freedom's ChoiceTM" and "HomeBaseTM" for its private label product assortment. That announcement came from DeCA director and CEO Joseph H. Jeu.

Private label, also known as store brands, will be appearing on commissary shelves in May.

"Commissary patrons have been telling us for quite some time that they want to take advantage of the value offered by store brands, but commissaries have not had their own brand until now," Jeu said. "We are proud of our new brands, and I believe our customers are going to be very pleased with the quality and low prices that Freedom's Choice and HomeBase bring to our shelves."

Freedom's Choice will be the commissary brand name for food items and HomeBase for nonfood items such as paper products and other household items. With the initial rollout targeted for May, patrons in commissaries worldwide can expect to see a number of DeCA's Freedom's Choice and HomeBase products.

It takes time to develop and allow for a store brand to reach maturity, so the number of Freedom's Choice and HomeBase products will continue to grow much larger over the next four to five years.

"Freedom's Choice and HomeBase will give our patrons another chance to save money without sacrificing quality on brands priced significantly lower than national brands," Jeu said. "Our private label products will also be equal or lower in price to commercial grocery store brands. These products will give our patrons the quality they expect and the savings they deserve."

Private label products are offered by retailers under their own, in-house brand or under a brand developed by their suppliers. DeCA conducted extensive research into developing the commissary brands, surveying hundreds of military members and their families to obtain their input for names and logos.

"We talked to our customers about a number of package titles and showed them potential artwork for our commissary brands," said Chris Burns, DeCA's executive director for business transformation. "The Freedom's Choice and HomeBase names and logos proved to be overwhelmingly popular."

Plans to start promoting Freedom's Choice and HomeBase have already begun and commissary customers will be noticing these names and logos very soon.

In December, DeCA announced its partnership with SpartanNash to begin developing the commissary brands. SpartanNash, through its military division MDV, is the leading distributor of grocery products to military commissaries in the United States.

February 10, 2017 at 9:27am

Direct commissions for cyber

Soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division out of Hawaii participate in the U.S. Army’s Cyber Blitz, April 2016, at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. Photo credit: Kristen Kushiyama/U.S. Army

Civilians with expertise in cyber security could be directly commissioned into the Army with a rank up to colonel to help the service improve its expanding cyber domain operations under a Pentagon pilot program authorized in recent weeks.

The program would be similar to the Army's direct commissioning programs for medical doctors, lawyers and chaplains, which place experts in those fields into the Army at a rank that is commensurate with their experience in the civilian sector, said Army Brig. Gen. Patricia Frost, the service's cyber director for operations and planning. The Pentagon tasked the Army with the project Jan. 30.

In June, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the Pentagon would begin looking at broadening its direct commission program to help it attract leaders who have had success in the private sector, especially in fields where the military needs to improve rapidly. Congress has given the Pentagon through 2020 to study the potential of expanding direct commissioning programs.

Cyber is a relatively new sector within the Army. Army Cyber Command was established in 2010, and the service has worked to quickly grow its force. It has had to pull units directly into the cyberspace battle just as quickly as it can train them, Brig. Gen. J.P. McGee, Army Cyber Command's deputy commander for operations, said Wednesday.

Army cyber soldiers are tasked with offensive and defensive operations. McGee said soldiers are constantly conducting offensive cyber operations against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, but he declined to provide specific examples of those operations. Just as important, he said, cyber soldiers are working every day to protect the Army's cyber networks from attacks by adversaries.

Those adversaries, largely nation-states, are rapidly expanding their abilities in cyberspace, McGee said.

"Cyberspace threats and challenges are only continuing to increase, and we're continually trying to keep pace with our defensive measures as we're going along," he said.

That's why commissioning civilian experts directly into the Army as cyber operations officers could help the service fill some of its capability gaps as it continues to develop its abilities to train soldiers in the field, he said.

The Army will start on a small scale with the cyber direct commissioning pilot, Frost said. The service has yet to determine exactly what expertise it will seek from civilian experts. Software design and code writing could be among the skills that the Army wants in the experts it recruits.

"You have to look at what type of skill set are you looking for from private industry that you may not be producing internally in the Army," she said.

The Army also will have to determine whether there is a desire in the private sector to serve in the military, Frost said.

McGee said he was confident such an appetite does exist, even if such experts could make more money in the private sector.

That desire is largely driven by aspirations to contribute to the defense of the country and by "the sense of accomplishment" people can get from serving, he said.

"Sometimes the challenge becomes ‘do they want to take their cyber skills they've spent a lifetime developing to make an app to make a car arrive at a corner more rapidly or do they want to shut down (Islamic State group) beheading videos?'" McGee said. "We are finding there is a tremendous desire for that."

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