Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

Posts made in: November, 2017 (22) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 22

November 2, 2017 at 2:12pm

Troxell: Soldiers at DMZ ready

Army Command Sgt. Maj. John W. Troxell speaks to reporters en route to Washington, D.C., after departing Hawaii, Oct. 30. Photo credit: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro

South Korean and American troops on and near the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea are ready, well-supplied, well-trained and prepared, the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman said following a visit over the weekend.

Army Command Sgt. Maj. John W. Troxell accompanied his boss, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to South Korea. But where the general participated in the Military Committee Meeting and Security Consultative Meeting with his Korean counterpart, Troxell used his time to get a feel for what life is like on "Freedom's Frontier" in light of current tensions.

The DMZ is a place where North Korean troops are studying every action on the southern side. They continually probe, test and push for a reaction from the South Korean troops that man most of the DMZ.

The unit Troxell visited -- the 1st Republic of Korea Division's 1st Reconnaissance Battalion -- was the victim of a North Korean intrusion across the DMZ three years ago and had soldiers wounded in a minefield laid by North Korean special operations forces.

Unfiltered Look at the North

"I felt the need to go up to the Demilitarized Zone outside of the Joint Security Area and go to an area where I could get an unfiltered look at the North Koreans and what their demeanor, what their disposition, what their posture was in light of all of this rhetoric," Troxell said.

He also just wanted to talk with South Korean troops to get a feel for their morale and readiness, he said.

The sergeant major's previous job was as the senior enlisted leader for U.S. Forces Korea and the Combined Forces Command.

He said he did not notice much difference in the North Koreans across the line. "They were on security," he said. "They were observing into the South, especially when I got there -- a lot of folks with binoculars trying to figure out what we were doing. But their patrols did not seem like they were in any more enhanced readiness than what they normally are."

Despite the rhetoric from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the North Koreans were carrying on business as usual, he said. On the North Korean side, there are heavy weapons in contravention of the U.N.-brokered armistice signed in 1953. The North kicked out the two armistice guarantor nations -- Poland and Czechoslovakia -- when the Soviet Union fell.

"We still have the Swiss and the Swedes in the southern part of the DMZ that are making sure that the (South Koreans) and the U.S. aren't breaking any rules, in accordance with the armistice," the sergeant major said.

The assumption in the south is that the North Koreans are breaking the rules and allied forces have to plan accordingly, he said.

‘Frail' Troops

And there are a lot of North Korean troops. "There's 750,000 North Korean troops on the DMZ, out of a more than 1.1 million man and woman force," Troxell said. "But we haven't seen them do a combined arms maneuver in 20 years. They fire about five to 10 rounds out of their rifles a year. And a good part of them have been diagnosed as being medically frail."

"But there are 750,000 of them," he continued. "So if you end up in conflict and you got full magazines of ammunition, you better not miss."

And the North Koreans have been indoctrinated since birth on the infallibility of the Kim family. "If we have to go into high-end conflict, the North Koreans are going to fight," Troxell said. "They're prepared to fight and defend their country and defend who they call the Great Leader."

On the South Korean side, the troops were patrolling and ready, the sergeant major said. They are a learning Army, he said, and have learned from the incident where the infiltrators came in. "They've really upgraded their positions," Troxell said. "They've cut back all of the foliage from around their guard posts and the gates to get into the DMZ. They've also reinforced with, you know, better cameras and everything, so they have (fewer) blind spots that the North Koreans can exploit."

‘Ready to Fight'

A bit farther back, the sergeant major met with American soldiers. "Obviously, they pay attention a lot more to the news than the (South Koreans) do, and certainly more than the North Koreans," he said. "There was a lot more heightened sense of, ‘Hey, we got to be ready.'"

The rotational brigade -- now from the 1st Cavalry Division -- goes through a decisive action training rotation at the National Training Center in California and then deploys to the Korean Peninsula. "Those guys and gals are absolutely prepared for high-end conflict because they've been certified in it," Troxell said. "They're ready to fight."

American units are training and focusing on potential threats, one of which is North Korea's use of tunnels. "Subterranean warfare is something we have to continue to prepare for," the sergeant major said. "As a matter of fact, the Army is making subterranean warfare part of their doctrine, and the Marines are going that way, too."

South Korean and U.S. soldiers serve together closely. The 2nd Infantry Division, which is the divisional headquarters there, is now a combined division, with South Korean and U.S. officers and noncommissioned officers on their division staff. "If you look at the 2nd Infantry Division patch, ... it says combined division over their patch now," he said.

The 2nd Infantry Division is also certified at all levels of combat.

Building Mil-to-Mil Relationships

The members of the division continually look for ways to enhance the military-to-military relationship, Troxell said, especially in their noncommissioned officer corps. The South Koreans are looking "to better develop their squad leaders and platoon sergeants to operate effectively at the decentralized level and operate off of commanders' intent and apply discipline initiative to get after combat, if they have to," he said. "They really look at the noncommissioned officer corps in the United States military, and they want theirs to be like that."

There are cultural differences that have to be overcome and much of the South Korean military is made up of conscripts. But, South Koreans have served alongside the U.S. in every contingency since the Korean War, Troxell said, and they see that the American military expands the commander's reach in the battlespace by empowering noncommissioned officers to act without being told.

This is especially needed in terrain like that at the DMZ, which is mountainous. "It's a cluttered battlefield," he said, "and it will call for decentralized execution to defeat the North Koreans. That means we've got to continue to have empowered enlisted leaders, because this will be a squad-level fight, more so than it will be a battalion/brigade-level fight."

November 2, 2017 at 2:24pm

Standards remain: Army needs quality recruits

Sgt. Artem McCall participates in a fitness photo shoot to promote the Army Reserve at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, July 25. Photo credit: Master Sgt. Michael Sauret

In an increasingly complex world in which higher demands will be placed on soldiers, "we cannot afford to lower our standards" for enlistment, said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey.

Dailey spoke at the Association of the U.S. Army's Annual Meeting and Exposition, Oct. 11.

It would be easy to successfully make the recruiting mission by lowering physical or mental requirements, he added, "but it wouldn't bring us capability or readiness. We have no intention of dropping those accession standards in the future."

Sgt. Maj. Anthony C. Bowers, operations sergeant major for U.S. Army Recruiting Command, said that despite an increasingly tough recruiting environment, "there are a lot of high-speed non-commissioned officers out there every day beating the street, finding young men and women to join the Army."

He then outlined several reasons why it's getting tougher to recruit and why it will be even tougher in the future.

Military service is a family business. Most who serve have a family member who served and that's a big draw, he said, adding that 79 percent of recruits have a relative who served, including 28 percent who had a parent in the Army.

In 1995, 40 percent of all American youth between 16 and 24 had a family member who'd served in the Army. By 2014, it was down to 16 percent, Bowers said.

In the next 30 years, it's estimated that America's veteran population will decline by over 35 percent from what it is today, he added.

Because of fewer and fewer veterans for youth to have a conversation with, there's also very little accurate information out there about the Army, Bowers said.

For instance, 49 percent of people between the ages of 17 and 35 were not able to name all four services of the Department of Defense, he said. About 36 percent of them didn't know the difference between officers and enlisted.

Today's youth are also not inclined to leave their friends and family, he said. Those same family and friends often oppose them joining the military service, he added.

Another hurdle to joining the Army is that "we're competing against corporate America," Bowers said, meaning that companies often have fat pay and benefit packages that eclipse the Army's.

Most high school students say they plan to go to college, he said. Parents and high school counselors think that if they join the Army, it means they won't get that education. As recruiters, "we try to show the benefits of joining and that they'll still have the ability to go to college."

It's sometimes an uphill fight just trying to get into the schools, he said, to administer the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, an aptitude test that helps students understand what careers, both civilian and military, are a good fit for their strengths and interests. Even when students take the ASVAB, many don't score high enough to join, he added.

Congress requires that 90 percent of recruits have a high school diploma, Bowers said. Many potential recruits don't and over the next 30 years, projections are that even fewer will graduate.

Within the Army's acceptable age range of the U.S. population is a pool of 33.4 million, but just 5.7 million are qualified and available to serve. Only 136,000 of those say they have a propensity to serve in the Army, he said.

There are myriad reasons they cannot serve, he said, listing some of the disqualifying factors: medical or physical, 30 percent; drug usage, 30 percent; misconduct, 10 percent; overweight, 31 percent; mental health, 15 percent; and aptitude, nine percent.

Those with two or more of these disqualifying factors total 39 percent, he added.

Finally, with the unemployment rate down from what it was several years ago, more jobs outside the Army are available, he said.

James Cox, Active Duty Brand manager, Army Marketing and Research Group, added to Bowers' list, noting that there's a widespread perception out there that people who join the Army do so because they have no other opportunities and nothing better to do in life.

Cox, who was a recruiter in the Army before retiring, said his group is trying to provide information to young people so that when they meet a recruiter, they will have a baseline understanding of the Army.

The group's marketing efforts are trying to use the language of youth in advertisements and including people from all ethnicities, cultures and genders.

Ads target people the Army needs to recruit such as those in cyber fields, he said. A recent recruiting video portrays soldiers going after malicious hackers, depicting the soldiers as having the ability to code and being cool.

The ads aim to funnel youth to recruiters or to get them to find more information on, he added.


Besides marketing efforts to attract qualified prospects, the Army is gaining ground in cutting down on attrition rates during initial military training, said Dr. Whitfield "Chip" East, research physiologist, U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training.

The way it's doing that is through the administration of the gender-neutral Occupational Physical Assessment Test, or OPAT, which is used to assess recruits' fitness for various occupational specialties.

At first, it might seem that the OPAT might be another hurdle to joining, East said, countering, "no one fails it. You can retake it as many times as necessary. It just means you're not ready to ship to initial military training."

And, those who score better in the OPAT graduate at higher rates and have fewer injuries during initial military training, he said, particularly women.

Since the OPAT is less than a year old, those are initial findings, he added. A full-up review of OPAT results will be conducted in January.

November 2, 2017 at 2:29pm

Washington National Guard captain makes history

Capt. Samantha Domingue, Alpha Troop, 1st Squadron, 303rd Cavalry Regiment, takes possession of her troop’s guidon in a change of command ceremony held at the Washington National Guard armory in Puyallup, Oct. 13. Photo credit: Wash. National Guard

Friday, Oct. 13, the soldiers of Alpha Troop gathered together in the tiny National Guard armory in Puyallup to witness the first ever cavalry-qualified female take command of a troop in the Army.

Capt. Samantha Domingue took command of A Troop, 1st Squadron, 303rd Cavalry Regiment (1-303rd CAV), 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT).

"The squadron is already leading with a female platoon leader in Bravo Troop," said Lt. Col. Chris Blanco, commander, 1-303rd CAV. "We have strong females in almost every formation. This was the next logical step to progress, not only for the squadron and where it's at but the Guard in general."

Domingue said that she is honored to have been considered for the position and that she doesn't take the task lightly.

"I am new to the Armor community, so to be considered for a troop command is a privilege," Domingue said.

Domingue's assumption of command marks a new milestone for the Army and National Guard as the military continues to integrate women into combat roles previously only held by their male counterparts.

Domingue comes to "Assassin" Troop in the midst of a major transformation and reorganization within the Washington National Guard. The reorganization of the 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team removed the 1-303rd, placing the command and control of the historic unit between 96th Troop Command, Washington National Guard, and the 41st IBCT, headquartered in Oregon.

"It's going to be a long and challenging year ahead," Domingue said, after her ceremony. "But we've got the right soldiers, so I have the faith that we can overcome any challenge."

The squadron is currently preparing for an eXportable Combat Training Capability (XCTC) rotation at Fort Hunter Ligett and Camp Roberts in California. XCTC is a brigade field training exercise designed to certify platoon proficiency in coordination with First Army.

Despite the high operational tempo for A Troop, Blanco says that he has no doubt that she is the right person to lead the unit through this demanding exercise and the ensuing years.

"You look across the formation and you try to recognize talent," Blanco said. "She is the right fit for the right time."

Domingue hopes that her assumption of command inspires other officers to pursue leadership opportunities outside of their respective career paths.

"Cross-pollination of talent and knowledge is necessary for the betterment of the organization. If there are officers or soldiers on the fence about (changing career paths), I hope my command motivates them to pursue those positions."

Command Sgt. Maj. Brian Rikstad, squadron command sergeant major, added that the squadron has always led from the front.

"Captain Domingue is both physically and mentally tough and will provide Alpha Troop a diversity of talent, temperament and expertise."

Domingue is a graduate of the Army Reconnaissance Course, Cavalry Leader's Course and Maneuver Captains Career Course.

November 2, 2017 at 2:33pm

Work in Saudi: unique opportunities for reservist

The Army Reserves has continually supported the U.S. Army Security Assistance Command’s Ministry of Interior-Military Assistance Group by providing qualified personnel for deployments to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Courtesy photo

One of the lesser known opportunities may be one of the most rewarding for reservists looking to serve in an overseas assignment.

The Army Reserves has continually supported the U.S. Army Security Assistance Command's Ministry of Interior-Military Assistance Group by providing qualified personnel for deployments to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Organized in 2008, MOI-MAG's mission is to train, advise and equip the Kingdom in the areas of critical infrastructure protection, public security and technical assistance. To accomplish its mission, MOI-MAG integrates diverse skill sets offered by active-duty Army, Reserves and civilian contractors.

Ongoing personnel requirements include both officers and NCOs. Qualified NCOs typically serve as instructors and have a background in Aviation, Special Operations, Infantry, Armor and Supply, but other opportunities are available.

Although the work at MOI-MAG will be challenging and time consuming, there are many benefits to the assignment.

Maj. Christopher Steighner served as the G-3/5/7 and recently returned from a 15-month deployment with MOI-MAG.

"This assignment was unique compared to my time in Iraq and Afghanistan in that we work with an able and well-resourced partner who has sought us out," he said. "I would advise any soldier seeking a challenging, but rewarding broadening assignment to apply for a position within MOI-MAG."

In addition to experiencing the country's rich and hospitable culture, recreation such as fishing and scuba diving in the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf are available. Soldiers will also have access to religious and legal services, PX, commissary, athletic fields, a movie theater and furnished housing.

Steighner speaks highly of the living conditions while in the Kingdom.

"The unit leadership is committed to providing the highest quality of life possible for soldiers assigned to MOI-MAG," he said. "Soldiers are provided furnished private quarters, transportation and Internet."

While assigned to the organization, reservists will receive pay and benefits typically associated with a mobilization -- active-duty pay for the grade held, BAH/BAS, Overseas Cost of Living Allowance, Hazardous Duty Pay -- location, Family Separation Allowance, federal tax exemption and full medical and dental coverage. Tours are unaccompanied and considered ADOS under Title 10, U.S.C. 12301(d).

Interested reservists should visit to apply for open positions. Additional information about the organization can be found at

November 7, 2017 at 6:30am

Vets can shop Exchange starting Saturday

The Defense Department announced earlier this year that veterans will be able to shop online at military exchanges starting Nov. 11, 2017.

The policy change will extend limited online military exchange shopping privileges to all honorably discharged veterans of the military, DoD officials said in a news release.

The shopping benefit will be effective this Veterans Day.

While shopping privileges exclude the purchase of uniforms, alcohol and tobacco products, it includes the Exchange Services' dynamic online retail environment known so well to servicemembers and their families, the release said. The change follows careful analysis, coordination and strong public support, officials said in the release.

We are excited to provide these benefits to honorably discharged veterans to recognize their service and welcome them home to their military family," said Peter Levine, performing the duties for the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

"In addition, this initiative represents a low-risk, low-cost opportunity to help fund morale, welfare and recreation programs in support of servicemembers' and their families' quality of life. And it's just the right thing to do," Levine added.

The online benefit will also strengthen the exchanges' online businesses to better serve current patrons. Inclusion of honorably discharged veterans would conservatively double the exchanges' online presence, according to DoD officials, thereby improving the experience for all patrons through improved vendor terms, more competitive merchandise assortments and improved efficiencies.

"As a nation, we are grateful for the contributions of our servicemembers," Levine said. "Offering this lifetime online benefit is one small, tangible way the nation can say, ‘Thank you' to those who served with honor."

More info HERE.

November 7, 2017 at 11:29am

Veterans Day freebies for the military

Pictured: Lunchbox Laboratory

Many restaurants and retailers are offering Veterans Day discounts or free meals to servicemembers and veterans. Some offers even extend to family members.

National Parks and Army Corps of Engineers recreation areas are waiving entrance fees for veterans, servicemembers and their families Nov. 11-12 for the latter, and Nov. 11 for the former.

Most commercial establishments require proof of military service such as a military ID card or current leave and earnings statement, a driver’s license with veteran’s designation, DD 214 discharge paperwork, a veteran’s organization card or a photograph in uniform.

Many of the companies offering deals are franchises, and officials recommend checking ahead to verify participation of specific locations, along with dates and times of the offers.

The following list was primarily compiled by military community services staff members and does not claim to be all-inclusive:

Applebee’s Veterans Day Free Meal, Saturday, Nov. 11

Olive Garden Veterans Day Free Meal, Saturday, Nov. 11

Chili’s Veterans Day Free Meal, Saturday, Nov. 11

Denny’s Veterans Day Free Grand Slam, Friday, Nov. 10

Golden Corral Veterans Day Free Meal, Monday, Nov. 13

Red Lobster Veterans Day Free Appetizer or Dessert, Saturday, Nov. 11

TGI Fridays Veterans Day Free Lunch, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 11

Red Robin Veterans Day Free Meal, Saturday, Nov. 11

IHOP Free Veterans Day Pancakes, Friday, Nov. 10

Outback Steakhouse Free Bloomin’ Onion & Beverage, Saturday, Nov. 11

Dunkin’ Donuts Veterans Day Free Donut, Saturday, Nov. 11

Famous Dave’s Veterans Day Free Meal, Saturday, Nov. 11

Buffalo Wild Wings Veterans Day Free Wings & Fries, Saturday, Nov. 11

Chuck E. Cheese Free Veterans Day Pizza, Saturday, Nov. 11

Sizzler Veterans Day Free Lunch, until 4 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 11

Little Caesars Pizza Free Veterans Day Pizza, Saturday, Nov. 11

Menchie’s Veterans Day Free Frozen Yogurt, Saturday, Nov. 11

Hooters Veterans Day Free Meal, Saturday, Nov. 11

Black Angus Steakhouse Special Steak Meal, until 3 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 11

Lunchbox Laboratory Veterans Eat Free on Veterans Day, Saturday, Nov. 11

Non restaurants:

Brown Bear Car Wash Free “Bear Essentials” Car Wash, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 11

Cabela’s Hometown Heroes 5% Military Discount, Saturday, Nov. 11

Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium Free Admission, Friday–Sunday, Nov. 10-12

Washington State Parks Free Admission, Saturday, Nov. 11-24

Woodland Park Zoo Free Admission, Saturday, Nov. 11

Lemay America's Car Museum Free Admission, Saturday, Nov. 11

Classy Chasis Free Car Wash, Saturday, Nov. 11

November 8, 2017 at 5:53am

2017 Veterans Day Events in the Puget Sound area

When the air begins to cool and the leaves begin to change colors, we know that fall has arrived. It is many people’s favorite time of the year because of the holidays and how it brings families together. Some holidays are meant to stop us and take a moment in our busy lives to reflect on what others have done for us. Many people celebrate and honor veterans all year long but one day a year is set aside for our nation to come together to recognize those who have valiantly served our country. Veterans Day, formerly known as Armistice Day, became a nationally recognized holiday beginning in 1938. Joint Base Lewis-McChord and the surrounding communities always embrace Veterans Day and find ways to give back and celebrate our veterans. Here are some of the events that will be taking place in the Puget Sound area.

VeteransAppreciationDays. The Northwest Trek Wildlife Park and Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium will be honoring all veterans by offering free admission to the facilities. Family members will receive half-off general admission. Nov. 10-12. For more information, please visit or

TahomaNationalCemeteryVeteransDayCeremony. Saturday, Nov. 11, 11 a.m., free. This event will include keynote speaker George Rossman, former mayor of Enumclaw and a U.S. Army veteran of the Korean War. This year’s theme is, “Saluting our Korean War Veterans.” Guest speaker Mark Daigneault, the last remaining original staff member prior to the opening of Tahoma, will also be on hand. This event will honor all military members who have served or are currently serving our nation and will include a flyover by the Historic Flyover Foundation at 11 a.m. The event will be located at the Tahoma National Cemetery Main Flag Pole Assembly area.

VeteransDayCeremonyattheCapitol. Saturday, Nov. 11, 11 a.m., free. The Thurston County Veterans Council will be presenting this special event at the Capitol Rotunda. World War II veteran, Fred Parker, of the 39th Bomber Group, will be presented with a special flag that was flown at Omaha Beach during WWII. Judge Brett Buckley of the Thurston County Veterans Court and a senior officer from Joint Base Lewis-McChord will be guest speakers. Musical entertainment will be provided by The American Legion Band. 416 Sid Snyder Ave. SW, Olympia. For more information, please call Bill Doucette at 360.701.3242.

LakewoodVeteransDayCeremony. Saturday, Nov. 11, 2-3 p.m., free. The City of Lakewood will be commemorating JBLM’s 100th anniversary with a Veterans Day ceremony. U.S. Congressman Denny Heck, 10th Congressional District, will be hosting along with other community leaders. 6000 Main Street SW, Lakewood.

AVeteransPilgrimageAJourneyofRemembrance,ReflectionandPrayer. Saturday, Nov. 11, 10 a.m. to noon. This Veterans Day event is open to the public and all veterans are invited to attend. Also, be sure to bring a token or icon with you to the service. Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, 1245 10th Ave. E., Seattle. For more information, please contact Deacon Brian Wright at 206.325.4200.

VeteransDayCelebrationattheWashingtonStateHistoryMuseum. Saturday, Nov. 11, 2 p.m. During the Washington State History Museum’s Veterans Day Celebration, guests will learn about how the United States entered The Great War a hundred years ago in 1917. Renowned Northwest historian Lorraine McConaghy will provide an in depth look into this period of time. 1911 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.272.3500.

52ndAnnualVeteransDayParadeandObservance. Saturday, Nov. 11, 11 a.m. The City of Auburn is proud to be designated as a regional site for the celebration of Veterans Day. The parade will honor the country’s veterans and active-duty personnel. This celebration will include over 200 units and well over 6,000 parade participants, including several high school marching bands. The parade will also feature military vehicles, veterans’ units, honor guards, and so much more. The parade route will travel along Main Street from E Street to A Street SW/NW. Several other Veterans Day activities will follow the parade. For more information, please visit:

VeteransDayCeremony. Saturday, Nov. 11, 11 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. The University of Washington Seattle Campus will be hosting a Veterans Day Ceremony and Reception. The ceremony will include recognition of the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Veteran Award recipient, guest speakers, as well as the presentation of the colors. Special performance by the Husky Band as well. The ceremony takes place at the Medal of Honor Memorial at the Seattle Campus. The reception will be held in the Walker-Ames Room in Kane Hall on campus. For more information, please visit:

Other events and observances:

2017 Veterans Day Assembly, Thursday, Nov. 9, 8:30 a.m., Steilacoom High School, 54 Sentinel Drive, Steilacoom

26th IAWP Veterans Day International Association of Workforce Professionals, Thursday, Nov. 9, noon, WWII Memorial, Capitol Campus, Olympia, 360.902.9476

Washington Soldiers Home, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2 p.m., Chilson Hall, Orting Veterans Home,

Veterans Day Concert, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2 p.m., Benaroya Hall, Seattle, 206.417.5677

Thurston County Veterans Council, 10:30 a.m., music 11 a.m., Capitol Rotunda, Olympia

November 8, 2017 at 11:12am

Congress committee wants 2.4% raise for troops

WASHINGTON – A key panel of House and Senate members have reached a deal on the massive defense bill, pushing forward a nearly $700 billion plan to boost pay raises for servicemembers, fund new ships and aircraft, as well as increase missile defense.

Among the funding efforts in the defense budget for fiscal year 2018 are a 2.4 percent pay increase for servicemembers, extension of necessary pay and bonuses to help with retention and costly repairs for two Navy ships that encountered deadly crashes during the summer. But it passes on a plan to create a new Space Corps, according to senior aides of the Senate and House Armed Services committees who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The proposed budget also funds an increase in the number of servicemembers in the military from fiscal year 2017.

The plan “builds on the strong bipartisan support in both the House and Senate,” a senior Armed Services committee staffer said.

Though the plan has overcome several hurdles already, an approval by a congressional conference committee now sends it for a vote in both chambers and a budget fight on how to fund the major increase in military spending.

The bipartisan deal for the defense bill, known as the National Defense Authorization Act, was revealed Wednesday by senior aides of both Armed Services committees.

There are plenty of challenges ahead, however.

The proposed defense budget, which now totals $699.6 billion, surpasses budget caps of $549 billion for defense spending and will require new congressional action to be enacted. Without it, the effort could trigger automatic, across-the-board budget cuts.

The budget also passed on some proposals, declining on a House plan for the creation of Space Corps, a new military service that would be an arm of the Air Force.

The idea drew opposition along the way from several key figures, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. The Senate, in their opposition, went as far as including language in their bill prohibiting a Space Corps.

The U.S. Capitol.

Now, under Wednesday’s deal, the bill directs for the study of the creation of a Space Corps.

The study will “look at the long term prospects of creating a military department” for Space Corps, the committee staffer said.

The defense bill also directs for the funding of repairs to the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S. McCain.

Both ships were badly damaged in separate, deadly crashes that left 17 sailors dead.

The overall boost in military funding request comes in the wake of a deadly year for the U.S. military when it comes to readiness and safety concerns.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said during the bill’s previous debate on the Senate floor that 185 servicemembers have died in military accidents in the last three years.

“We are killing more of our own people in training than our enemies are in combat,” McCain said during the September debate.

Wednesday’s defense budget deal also incorporates, if not goes above, several requests from President Donald Trump’s administration to boost defense funding.
On Monday, Trump asked to boost his original military funding request made earlier this year. In that amended plan, the president increased an earlier 2018 defense budget request by allocating an additional $4 billion for missile defense, $1.2 billion for the administration’s new Afghanistan strategy and another $700 million for Navy ship repairs.

The new missile defense funding will address an increasing threat from North Korea, Trump had said.

November 9, 2017 at 11:18am

Guard's Youth Academy honored by FEMA

Cadets learn mass casuality skills as part of CERT. Photo credit: Washington Youth Academy

The Washington Youth Academy was honored in September for its efforts to train each and every cadet with critical preparedness skills they can take with them back to their home communities.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency gave an honorable mention to the Youth Academy in its national Individual and Community Preparedness Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Youth Preparedness.

To date, 835 cadets have completed Community Emergency Response Team training. This year, the Puget Sound Energy Foundation provided grants to the Washington Youth Academy Foundation for the purchase of Community Emergency Response Team kits to give to the cadets when they go home. By giving all of the cadets Community Emergency Response Team training, the Youth Academy is turning them into preparedness ambassadors for their own communities.

"We're getting our young people to be leaders in their community," the application for the honor states. "They might not use this training every day, but if we get a major earthquake or even a storm event, we think they'll be able to figure out what to do, to be there to help. Before this, most of these cadets have never even held a fire extinguisher or understood the basics of first aid. As a final test of their CERT training, the cadets conduct a mass casualty drill and practice what they've learned -- some cadets practicing as injured, while others demonstrate search and rescue skills."

Empowered youth can help engage their families, their peers and their communities in disaster readiness. Youth are empowered through understanding of risks and knowing protective actions, per the National Strategy for Youth Preparedness Education.

Trainers from CERT teams in Pierce County and Kitsap County helped do the initial training. Lately, though, the program has been self-sustaining with cadre going through specific training so then they can pass on that knowledge back to the cadets.

The program was highlighted in an Evergreen Magazine article back in 2016.

Cadet Amanda Torres, of Yakima, noted in the article that she hadn't ever thought of emergency kits before the CERT training. Now, non-perishable items like canned goods and bottled water are something she actually thinks about.

"Now I know how to use a fire extinguisher," she added. "I never had to use one before, but it's pretty easy. There were some pretty important lessons we learned here that we can take with us after graduation."

The program began as a pilot with just a few cadets back in cycle 2014-2 when Washington Youth Academy Director Larry Pierce was brainstorming with WYA Programs officer Patrick Cruz on ways to help the preparedness mission outlined by Maj. Gen. Bret D.  Daugherty, the adjutant general in charge of the Washington Military Department, including the Youth Academy. Every cadet has been trained since cycle 15-1.

Cruz credited the cadre and the cadets for taking preparedness seriously and getting everyone on board.

"Besides CERT training and CPR training, our cadets also embrace community service, donating many hours of service to their community," Pierce said. "The last cycle, for instance, donated 7,992 hours of community service to the local area, which included creating care packages for the needy."

November 11, 2017 at 6:39am

JBLM Green Beret uses military training to save civilian's life

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Every day provides an opportunity to help someone else. Sometimes this is in small ways, and sometimes this is in large ways. Staff Sgt. Matt Grantham, 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), completed a small act that impacted a stranger in a large way.

Grantham displayed the core Army value of selfless service on October 29th, 2017. As he was pulling into his parking lot, he saw two people crouched over a man. The woman was holding a ripped piece of t-shirt to a man's arms. Grantham knew something didn't look right, so he stopped to help.

Realizing really quickly that the patient had a laceration and a possible arterial bleed, Grantham immediately took over applying pressure and went into his assessment of the wound as he was trained to do in the Army.

"I could tell the man needed help," Grantham said. "Once I realized he was going to bleed out, my military training kicked in and I didn't even think about what I was doing."

Grantham instructed the patient's brother to get Grantham's aid bag out of his truck so he could stop the bleeding. Then he applied a tourniquet and trauma dressing to the laceration.

Grantham remained with the man and kept him calm until Emergency Medical Services arrived on scene. The EMS that responded were not equipped with a tourniquet, and said that the patient was lucky that Grantham saved his life.

An official for Thurston County said when they arrived on scene, the patient was in stable condition due to Grantham's actions. "It's always good to see someone from our military that has medical training step up to help a civilian in need," a county spokesman later said.

"Matt is a consummate professional, and we are very proud of him," said Command Sgt. Major Daniel Orosco, 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne). "His actions that day are a testament to his ‎leadership, training, and compassion for others. He embodies the professional spirit of the Green Beret."

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