Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

December 16, 2017 at 3:22am

JBLM'S Year in Review

New JBLM garrison commander Col. Nicole Lucas, second from left, passes the colors to Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Mulryan, middle right, during a Change of Command ceremony July 28. JBLM PAO photo

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As 2017 comes to an end, it marks a special year that was a century in the making. All yearlong, the base had a variety of celebrations and events centered around the 100th anniversary of Camp Lewis — now Joint Base Lewis-McChord — in August. Not be outdone, as the year comes to a close, 7th Infantry Division celebrates its 100th anniversary this week.

The reporters and photographers from the Northwest Guardian staff, supplemented by a host of public affairs agencies from throughout JBLM, reported on centennial events, real-world and training missions, humanitarian efforts and personality features to help tell the story of what our people do every day inside and outside the gates of JBLM.

The following is just a flavor of some of the stories covered in the Northwest Guardian newspaper for 2017.


• Final new school: A new era of elementary schools began on Joint Base Lewis-McChord when Evergreen Elementary School opened Jan. 3. The school, which cost $39 million to construct, is stocked with cutting edge technology and a variety of new offices and services.

• Best weather squadron: The 1st Weather Squadron, from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, was named by the Air Force as the most outstanding weather squadron for 2016, announced in the Northwest Guardian Jan. 13. The squadron is globally engaged — 121 Airmen were deployed in support of 54 contingency and training operations and were awarded 10 Army decorations.

• Science fair judges: Twenty-five members of the 42nd Military Police Brigade served as judges at the Rainier Elementary School Science Fair for fourth and fifth grade students on Joint Base Lewis-McChord Jan. 26. “I want to work with kids, so when I heard our unit was judging the science fair, I said, ‘Can I go?’” said Sgt. Marcela Avina, 13th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 42nd Military Police Brigade.


• AMC commander visits: General Carlton Everhart II, Air Mobility Command commander, visited Joint Base Lewis-McChord Jan. 29 to Feb. 2 to meet and speak with Airmen and Soldiers about the installation’s role in critical national missions. While here, Everhart participated in a C-17 training mission and discussed the command’s upcoming premier exercise, Mobility Guardian.

• The guilty named: The Northwest Guardian began publishing the names of Soldiers found guilty at courts-martial on a monthly basis Feb. 10. “There are two major factors behind publishing the courts-martial: general deterrence and transparency,” said Lt. Col. Jennifer Clark, I Corps chief of military justice.

• A new perspective: To get a better understanding of what missions, units and capabilities their Air Force counterparts do on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, more than 30 Army senior leaders attended an Air Force orientation tour Feb. 9 on McChord Field.


• Rockets go silent: Joint Base Lewis-McChord senior Army leaders have decided to not pursue further environmental studies toward integrating the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System Reduced Range Practice Rockets into JBLM’s permanent training infrastructure, the base announced March 2. Army leadership wants to place more efforts and resources into other training and operational requirements for the near future.

• Old explosive found: A training fuse, that goes inside a World War II anti-tank land mine, was unearthed near the railroad tracks that run along Joint Base Lewis-McChord March 8 which forced officials to shut down portions of Interstate 5. Soldiers from the 3rd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, 555th Engineer Brigade, safely remove it and disposed of it by detonation.

• Raptors take wing: The 16th Combat Aviation Brigade finished deploying its final group of Soldiers to Afghanistan March 19. The Raptor Brigade deployed about 800 Soldiers in the region to support Operation Freedom’s Sentinel for about eight months.


• Change of command: Lieutenant General Gary Volesky takes over command of I Corps from Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza in a ceremony on Watkins Field April 3.

• Joint training experience: Joint Base Lewis-McChord Airmen and Soldiers participated in a Mission Oriented Training exercise to load a 121,000-pound Rough Terrain Container Handler onto a C-17 Globemaster III April 13. “This is a 100 percent brand new experience for everyone involved,” said Army Capt. Nima Sarrafan, 62nd Operations Support Squadron ground liaison officer.

• Browsing for gowns: Tami Bailey, the 2015 Mrs. Washington and Miss Idaho USA 2017 Cassie Lewis were on hand at the first Operation Deploy Your Dress event at Joint Base Lewis-McChord April 20. One hundred and fifty dresses were given away at the event.


• Honor Walk continues: About 270 people participated in the ninth annual Leschi-Quiemuth Honor Walk on Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s Training Range 91 on May 6. This year marked the 100th anniversary of the Nisqually tribe giving up its ancestral land, which was used to create the installation.

• The kids deploy: About 135 children of Joint Base Lewis-McChord Soldiers and Airmen, ranging from 5 to 12 years old, attended the Kids Understanding Deployment Operations event at McChord Field May 13. “I can barely see you; can you see me?” said Gavin Hegenbart, 7, to his 5-year-old brother, Chance, after the siblings got their faces painted in camouflage for the event.

• Islamic division chaplain: Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Khallid Shabazz, the former I Corps deputy chaplain, became the Army’s first Islamic chaplain at the division level at a Change of Stole ceremony May 23 at the Lewis Main Chapel. Shabazz grew up as a Lutheran in Louisiana and converted to Islam as an enlisted Soldier.


• Joint live-fire mission: A High Mobility Artillery Rocket System Rapid Air Infiltration, live-fire mission was held June 7 by Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 94th Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Field Artillery Brigade. The operation was in support of the 62nd Airlift Wing’s rapid mobility exercise Operation Rainier War.

• Airman tops firefighters: Master Sergeant Tom Anderson, 627th Civil Engineer Squadron, is the Department of Defense’s 2016 Fire Officer of the Year. In May, he was honored at his retirement ceremony as the last retiring JBLM Air Force firefighter. In March, he earned the title of the best military fire officer in the Army.

• Living history lesson: The Soldiers of 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) celebrated their 60th anniversary through living history June 23 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. More than 100 leaders were joined by 1st SFG veterans from each of the decades since 1st SFG has existed.


• Freedom Fest first: Hundreds of joyful Department of Defense ID cardholders and their family and friends shuffled through the aisles of vendors and food trucks to celebrate our nation’s independence July 3 and 4. Freedom Fest, previously a one-day event, expanded to two days this year..

• Sonkiss takes command: Colonel Rebecca Sonkiss assumed command of the 62nd Airlift Wing from Col. Leonard Kosinski during a change of command ceremony July 14. “My promise to you (62nd AW) is to empower you to lead; empower our frontline supervisors and noncommissioned officers; empower our flight commanders; empower our squadron commanders to lead strongly from the front,” Sonkiss said.

• New garrison commander: Hundreds of people turned out to Watkins Field on Lewis Main July 28 for the change of command ceremony to welcome Col. Nicole Lucas, incoming Joint Base Lewis-McChord garrison commander, and bid farewell to Col. Daniel Morgan, outgoing commander. “I am humbled and honored to be standing here today and I know I am joining a phenomenal team, both here on JBLM and in the surrounding communities,” Lucas said.


• Mobility Guardian exercise: Aircrews flew approximately 1,200 hours in eight days, executing nearly 650 sorties during the inaugural Mobility Guardian exercise on McChord Field from July 31 to Aug. 12. The exercise involved more than 3,500 air mobility service members from around the world to measure and train together for global contingency and humanitarian response operations.

• JBLM hits 100: There was singing, dancing, speeches and a variety of activities as hundreds of community members, local dignitaries and service members gathered on Lewis Main to celebrate Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 100th birthday of Camp Lewis Aug. 18. A century ago, Camp Lewis opened, and officers and recruits arrived for training before being deployed to France for service during World War I in 1917.

• 7th ID command: Major General Willard Burleson III took command of as 7th Infantry Division from Maj. Gen. Thomas James Jr. Aug. 11. Burleson said he was honored to be part of the team and promised to remain committed to the readiness of Task Force Bayonet.


• War on fires: Soldiers assigned to the 23rd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, were sent to train and deploy with the U.S. Forest Service in the Umpqua National Forest, Umpqua North Complex forest fires in Oregon Sept. 8.

• Hurricane relief efforts: In the brief respite between Hurricanes Irma and Jose, members of the 62nd Airlift Wing were able to partner with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to deliver much-needed supplies to San Juan, Puerto Rico, as well as St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Sept. 9.

• Free salmon giveaway: Hundreds of service members, retirees and civilians lined up to receive more than 6,000 free salmon at the Nisqually Indian Tribe’s Clear Creek Hatchery on Joint Base Lewis-McChord Sept. 26 during the salmon giveaway.


• Former POW returns: Former German prisoner of war Günter Gräwe, 91, returned to JBLM Oct. 3 to ride his bicycle from the Liberty Gate on Lewis Main to the site of the former prisoner of war camp. For Gräwe, the visit to JBLM was an opportunity to say “thank you” for the treatment he received as a prisoner and see once again the place that holds positive memories, despite the troubling times of his youth.

• JBLM house call: Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Nadja West, who also serves as commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Command, made a visit to Joint Base Lewis-McChord Oct. 3 to 4 for a series of town hall meetings.

• Killed in action: Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jacob M. Sims, 36, from the 4th Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, died Oct. 27 in Logar Province, Afghanistan, as a result of wounds sustained when he was involved in a helicopter crash. He was in Afghanistan flying in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.


• Joining 7th ID: Thirty Army Reserve Soldiers from various units joined the ranks of the 7th Infantry Division during a multicomponent activation ceremony Nov. 3 at French Theater on Joint Base Lewis-McChord. During the ceremony, the Soldiers switched patches they wore from their Reserve units and replaced them with the iconic hourglass patch of 7th Inf. Div.

• New brewhouse opens: The new Samuel Adams Brewhouse at Eagles Pride Golf Course opened Nov. 10 in a series of soft openings gearing up for its grand opening ceremony Nov. 30 at 3 p.m. This is the second Samuel Adams Brewhouse for Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

• Another USO arrives: About 250 people packed a tent in front of the America’s Credit Union building on Lewis Main Nov. 20 for the opening of the new USO Northwest Camp Lewis Center. Creating the additional Lewis Main facility was necessary because many service members on the installation aren’t able to use the USO Northwest Shali Center on McChord Field due to the distance from home and work.


• Together for support: About 50 people attended the Survivor Outreach Services’ fourth annual Fallen Heroes Memorial Tree Decorating Potluck at Waller Hall Dec. 2. In addition to decorating the two trees with ornaments with photos and names, attendees shared a potluck meal together, coordinated by SOS staff.

• Bilateral training exercise: Yama Sakura 73 kicked off with a ceremony to mark the 35th anniversary of the annual bilateral training exercise in Sendai, Japan, between service members from the U.S. military and the Japan Ground Self Defense Force Dec. 5. Approximately 1,600 U.S. service members, led by I Corps from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, as well as 4,600 Japanese soldiers, led by the Northeastern Army, participated in this year’s Yama Sakura exercise.

• Division’s happy 100th: World War I saw the birth of many of the nation’s military units and installations, including Camp Lewis, now Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The 7th Infantry Division celebrated its 100th anniversary Dec. 6. The division was first activated Dec. 6, 1917.

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