Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

December 29, 2017 at 5:58am

Old Camp Lewis team to be honored at Rose Bowl Game

The 91st Division football team from Camp Lewis from the early years of Joint Base Lewis-McChord history played against the Mare Island Marines in the 1918 Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

One of college football’s oldest New Year’s traditions continues Jan. 1 when the Georgia Bulldogs and Oklahoma Sooners — two of the four teams in this season’s College Football Playoff — square off in the 2018 Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

The game has a long history of featuring some of the greatest football legends in history from schools like the University of Michigan, University of Notre Dame and University of Southern California playing in iconic matchups. Early in the game’s history, the Rose Bowl was nearly canceled due to the World War I draft.

Thankfully teams from military bases — including Joint Base Lewis-McChord — were able to fill in during the 1918 and 1919 Rose Bowls. An Army team from Camp Lewis, now JBLM, would go up against Marines from Mare Island, Calif.

That game, which Mare Island won 19-7, will be honored during the 2018 Rose Bowl by the Pasadena Tournament of Roses with a video package — in development for a full year — that will be shown in the stadium right before the singing of the National Anthem of the 104th Rose Bowl game.

“The 1918 game has special significance due to it being allowed to take place at all, and then with two military teams makes it very unique,” said Lance Tibbet, president of the 2018 Tournament of Roses.

With weeks left before the scheduled Rose Bowl was to be played, a large portion of college football players across the country were drafted to participate in World War I. This didn’t leave a lot of options on the table for the game’s committee, which thought about canceling the game altogether.

Then-Rose Bowl president B.O. Kendall sent a telegram to then-U.S. President Woodrow Wilson to inquire whether the Tournament of Roses parade and the Rose Bowl game should continue as normal.

Not only did Wilson say that both events should continue, he also gave the approval for the Rose Bowl game to include military teams.

Although the game began in 1902, the second Rose Bowl game took place in 1916, with subsequent games following on an annual basis.

“The revered Rose Bowl Game that we know today might not have survived another interruption,” Tibbet said. “Additionally, the two military teams brought fans from near and far. It was a sold out game with over 25,000 in attendance. The game also showed how united the country was and gave people an opportunity to show their support for our military services.”

Camp Lewis was still relatively young, having just opened up near American Lake in September 1917. Right away, installation leadership wanted to have a strong athletic program with nearly 90 activities — including an intramural football league with 12 teams.

Additionally, athletic director Capt. Trevanion “Van” Cook formed the 91st Division team with Lt. Edgar Kienholz as the player-coach after playing for what is now called Washington State University.

The team had several college football stars like Utah’s Ernest “Dick” Romney, who had Camp Lewis’ lone score on a 6-yard touchdown run. The team had a strong season leading up to the Rose Bowl with a 5-1-1 record, losing only to Mare Island in the regular season and having a tie with Washington State.

The Rose Bowl hosted military teams again in 1919 with Mare Island losing 17-0 to the Great Lakes Navy Bluejackets from Chicago, which featured Chicago Bears founder George Halas.

December 28, 2017 at 11:58am

JBLM soldiers rescue train accident victims

Lt. Col. Christopher Sloan, Maj. Michael Livingston, and 2nd Lt. Robert McCoy helped rescue passengers at a train accident near DuPont, Dec. 18. Photo credit: John Wayne Liston

Just seconds after seeing the train fall into traffic on Interstate 5, 2nd Lt. Robert McCoy rushed out of his car to run toward the train car now dangling from the overpass.

He was driving home from physical training when the Amtrak train derailed just south of DuPont, Dec. 18. A platoon leader in the 62nd Medical Brigade at nearby Joint Base Lewis-McChord, McCoy was soon joined by other Good Samaritans on the scene including Maj. Michael Livingston, a registered nurse at Madigan Army Medical Center, and Lt. Col. Christopher Sloan, Madigan's deputy commander for administration.

"We all had the idea that that car was going to fall, and there were people in it," said Livingston.

His first priority was to help move the passengers who were underneath the dangling car, having been ejected during the accident. He then joined McCoy, who had found a way to scale a semi, get on top of another downed rail car and then climb into the car still hanging from the overpass. Sloan joined them in the car to help rescue the passengers still inside.

"The seats were everywhere. There was luggage everywhere. It was chaos and people needed guidance, and they needed help," said Sloan.

The soldiers helped the passengers navigate through the tilted car, strewn luggage and shifted overhead racks to safely exit the car.

"We were there to provide care and compassion, and we were there to take care of people and address what they needed," said Sloan.

He recalled one passenger with a broken bone who was trapped underneath a seat. The soldiers lifted the seat up, pulled her out inch by inch, and got her to sit up.

"Then she took a breath, and said ‘I'm going to be okay,'" said Sloan.

None of the soldiers on scene questioned their impulse to run toward the accident and help the injured passengers.

"These could've been our neighbors or people that I knew," said Livingston. "I just knew that people were going to need lots of help and I had to get up there."

They saw other impromptu rescuers, including Madigan nurse Tanya Porter, help as well.

"I look back and I'm thankful that I was able to be placed in that situation; I'm thankful for all of the individuals, the first responders, the civilians, (and) the other military individuals who were able to come together and support the community," said McCoy.

Once ambulances were able to get to the scene, emergency medical services took over and transported the passengers to hospitals throughout the area, including Madigan. Altogether, Madigan treated 19 patients from the accident for conditions including spinal fractures, head lacerations and abdominal injuries.

The hospital began prepping for massive casualties as soon as they heard about the accident -- stopping elective surgeries, sending current emergency room patients to inpatient floors, and readying themselves to begin treating the passengers.

"Most of us have been deployed, and we have experienced mass casualty scenarios. This is something that we rehearsed for, and this is something that many of us have experienced in combat, and so I think it helped us and we were very ready for this scenario," said Lt. Col. Vance Sohn, Madigan's program director of general surgery.

While the 19 patients were treated in the emergency room, clinics, surgery or intensive care, Madigan staff members were prepared to care for many more passengers, given the extent of the accident. Located just six miles from the accident scene, the hospital was prepared to care for at least 70 patients, said Lt. Col. Carl Skinner, Madigan's chief of the Department of Emergency Medicine.

The staff counted it as very fortunate that the actual number of injured passengers was much lower than that, said Emily Phillips, a registered nurse team lead in Madigan's Primary Care Service Line.

"It was nothing short of a miracle," she said.

December 21, 2017 at 5:03pm

Blended retirement system takes effect Jan. 1

One of the most wide-reaching and significant changes to military pay and benefits over the last 70 years goes into effect Jan. 1 with the implementation of the Uniformed Services Blended Retirement System, known as BRS. DoD graphic

One of the most wide-reaching and significant changes to military pay and benefits over the last 70 years goes into effect Jan. 1 with the implementation of the Uniformed Services Blended Retirement System, known as BRS.

The new system blends aspects of the traditional defined benefit retirement pension system, with a defined contribution system of automatic and matching government contributions through the Thrift Savings Plan.

All new entrants into the uniformed services on or after Jan. 1 will be enrolled in this new retirement system, Pentagon officials said. The uniformed services are the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps.


Nearly 1.6 million current servicemembers will have the option to remain in the current legacy "high-3" retirement system or to choose the BRS when the opt-in period for eligible servicemembers opens Jan. 1. Opt-in eligible servicemembers from all seven of the uniformed services will have an entire year to make their retirement system election. The open period for the majority of servicemembers is from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2018.

Servicemembers will need to visit one of these designated resources to opt into BRS:

  • U.S. Public Health Service personnel should contact the USPHS Compensation Branch.

Servicemembers who believe they are eligible to opt in, but do not see the opt-in option available online should contact their local personnel/human resources office to verify eligibility, officials said.


The decision to opt in is irrevocable, officials emphasized, even if a servicemember changes his or her mind before the Dec. 31, 2018, deadline. Eligible servicemembers who take no action will remain in the legacy retirement system, they added.

Prior to opting in, officials recommend that servicemembers take advantage of all available resources to assist in making an informed decision on the financial implications specific to their retirement situation. The Defense Department endorses several training and informational tools to support a servicemember's decision, including the BRS Opt-In Course, the BRS Comparison Calculator and numerous online BRS resource materials. Servicemembers can receive no-cost, personal support from an accredited personal financial manager or counselor available at their installation's military and family support center or by calling Military OneSource at 1.800.342.9647.

December 16, 2017 at 6:26am

Winterfest TODAY on JBLM

Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation’s new Winterfest event will take place at American Lake Conference Center Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Winterfest is expected to offer all the fun of the previous reception that used to take place at Family and MWR’s Fest Tent after the Lewis Main Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, with some new offerings and activities.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun for children and adults,” said Gloria Tomczewski, Family and MWR special events coordinator.

This is the first year the event has been organized by a combined Family and MWR and Child, Youth and School Services.

There will be carnival games, crafts for the kids and a wreath-making craft for adults. A variety of other booths also will be available, including airbrush tattoos and the creation of balloon animals.

An announcement is planned of the winners in the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Armed Forces Community Services Treasure Hunt.

Also scheduled are performances by America’s I Corps Band from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. and several dance groups from SKIES Unlimited, including: step, jazz, ballet and performances from “The Nutcracker.”

Three hundred trees will be given away to service member families through Trees For Troops, which held its annual giveaway at American Lake Conference Center Dec. 2. Five-hundred trees were given to service members ranks E-5 and below. The remaining trees were saved for Winterfest distribution.

Food will be available for purchase at the event, and a visit from St. Nicholas also is expected.

“Santa will be there,” Tomczewski said. “It wouldn’t be a Christmas event without him.”

Events will take place indoors at the center, with the exception of the Christmas tree giveaway.

If you’re looking to see Santa more than once this holiday season, don’t miss the annual Breakfast with Santa at the Club at McChord Field, located at 700 Barnes Blvd. on McChord Field, Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon. There’s a cost for that event, and tickets must be purchased in advance at or by calling: 253-982-5581.

December 16, 2017 at 6:25am

Sports on JBLM - Year in Review

46th Aviation Support Battalion’s Adrian Kenney (11) holds the trophy high as he celebrates with teammates after winning the JBLM Commander’s Cup Basketball Championship at Wilson Sports and Fitness Center on Lewis North April 6. 46th ASB defeated 23rd Br

Like most years, the Joint Base Lewis-McChord community showed they can compete with the best in their respective sporting venues. Active-duty service members, spouses, family members and civilians made headlines throughout 2017 for various athletic achievements.

Some service members represent their units in numerous league championships under JBLM’s Commander’s Cup umbrella. Others competed at a high-level, like the Army Ten-Miler and the Marine Corps Marathon.

JBLM was represented in a few Army vs. Navy rivalries in local venues of hockey, rugby, soccer and football — showing an expansion rooted in the traditional Army-Navy college football rivalry. The stories throughout the year showcased the competitive spirit that has long been noted within military life.


•  Team U.S.A.: Andrew Hyres, a captain from 593rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command, was one of two Army players on the Team U.S.A. roster in the International Military Sports Council’s World Military Football Cup in January.


•  Hockey rivaly: A JBLM hockey team was able to earn another dominant victory, 11-4, over Navy Region Northwest in the Pacific Northwest Army vs. Navy Hockey Game at Xfinity Arena in Everett Feb. 4.

•  Indoor soccer: The 308th Brigade Support Battalion indoor soccer team struggled to get on the board in an exhibition match with Navy Region Northwest at ShoWare Center in Kent Feb. 12.

•  Can-Am Cup: The Canadian Detachment on JBLM was able to reclaim the Can-Am Challenge Cup with an 8-1 hockey win on the ice over the Western Air Defense Sector at Sprinker Recreation Center in Spanaway Feb. 17.


•  Hoops 4 Heroes: In similar fashion to the 2016 matchup, a team of JBLM service members played right down to the wire with a team of local first responders in the second annual Hoops 4 Heroes game at Pierce College at Fort Steilacoom in Lakewood March 4. The responders won 61-57.

•  Women’s hoops: The Lady Hawks repeated as champions in the JBLM Open Women’s Basketball League after defeating the Lady Savage 52-38 at McChord Fitness Center March 12. Babrielle Wade scored 20 points with nine rebounds.

•  JBLM golf: Dennis Browne utilized course knowledge, with some luck, to claim the JBLM Spring Break golf title March 25 to 26. The Spring Break was a skills competition that awarded an annual green fee for both JBLM golf courses.


•  Bowling: The 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) was able to score a four-man total of 2,642 pins to outscore three other teams to win the 2017 JBLM Commander’s Cup Bowling Championship at Bowl Arena Lanes April 4.

•  Men’s hoops: Adrian Kenney led the 46th Aviation Support Battalion with 22 points en route to a 62-53 win over 23rd Brigade Support Battalion in the 2017 JBLM Commander’s Cup Basketball Championship at Wilson Sports and Fitness Center April 6.

•  Masters bowling: After a total of five hours and 10 total games bowled, Rafe Barone of Bremerton defeated Lucas Dwornick in the championship, 203-177, of the 2017 Northwest Military Masters bowling tournament at Bowl Arena Lanes April 22.


•  Amateur golf: Sean Packer became a two-time champion at the 59th annual Fort Lewis Amateur golf tournament with scores of 75 and 72 in 36 holes at Eagles Pride Golf Course May 6 to 7.

•  Volleyball: Despite being one player down, the Western Air Defense Sector was able to defeat 46th Aviation Support Battalion in three sets — 28-30, 25-23 and 16-14 — for the JBLM Commander’s Cup Volleyball Championship at Soldiers Field House May 18.

•  Rugby rivalry: For only the second time in the rivalry’s history and first since 2009, Naval Base Kitsap defeated JBLM, 42-31, during the 18th annual Pacific Northwest Army-Navy Rugby Championship at Cowan Stadium May 20.


•  Soccer champs: Guillermo Jimenez gave the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) an overtime victory with a header goal to edge out the 5th Air Support Operations Squadron, 2-1, in the JBLM Commander’s Cup Soccer Championship at the Lewis North Athletic Complex June 2.

•  Formation Run: The 17th Field Artillery Brigade was able to clinch a three-peat with a win in the Company Division of the 45th annual Sound to Narrows’ Military Formation Run competition in Tacoma June 10.

•  Rainier Cup: Team Air Force finished strong in the third and final day, winning 48 out of a possible 76 points, to win the 20th annual Rainier Cup over Army and Navy at Eagles Pride Golf Course June 25.


•  Warrior Games: Four JBLM athletes — Col. Daniel Dudek, Spc. Maria Garcia, Sgt 1st Class Heather Moran and retired Sgt. 1st Class David Iuli — collected a combined 16 medals at the 2017 Department of Defense’s Warrior Games June 30 to July 8 in Chicago.

•  Freedom Run: Captain Kevin Kniery (1:03:59) and 1st Lt. Kristen Conley (1:12:03) set the pace as the fastest male and female during the Army Ten-Miler qualifier during JBLM’s 2017 Freedom Run at Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation’s Fest Tent July 22.


•  JBLM golf: The 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment team defeated three Air Force teams in a two-duo best ball format during the JBLM Commander’s Cup Golf Championship at Whispering Firs Golf Course Aug. 14. Han Rex and Joshua Anderson paired for a score of 75; DeShane Greaser and Matthew Mueller scored 71.

•  Triathlon: Philippe Bouttefroy of Seattle (1:02:56) was the first male to finish the 2017 JBLM Pacific Pathways Triathlon at Shoreline Park Aug. 19. Captain Allie Trabert, a Marine Corps reservist from Silverdale, was the first overall female (1:10:27).

•  Duathlon: Jodie Bolt, a child neurologist at Madigan Army Medical Center, earned a silver medal in her age group during the International Triathlon Union’s World Championships for Duathlon Aug. 19 to 21 in Penticton, Canada.

•  JBLM softball: The 22nd Special Tactics Squadron of McChord Field powered its way to a 17-6 victory over 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) in the 2017 JBLM Commander’s Cup Softball Championship at the Lewis North Athletic Complex Aug. 31.


•  Softball gold: Sergeant Jedon Matthews of 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment produced 10 home runs and 27 runs batted in with the All-Army men’s team as it won gold at the 2017 Armed Forces Softball Championship at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, Sept. 19 to 23.

•  Anchor Invitational: Players from JBLM’s 22nd Special Tactics Squadron and 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) teamed up for a 12-8 victory over local Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps members during the second annual Anchor Invitational softball game at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma Sept. 23.

•  Invictus Games: Colonel Daniel Dudek of I Corps’ Headquarters was one of more than 550 competitors at the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto Sept. 23 to 30. He earned a bronze medal in the men’s IT4 1,500-meter wheelchair race (5:04.11).


•  Flag football: Clark Jones led the 502nd Military Intelligence Battalion’s offense with 335 passing yards and six total touchdowns in a 39-27 win over the 627th Communications Squadron during the JBLM Commander’s Cup Flag Football Championship at the Lewis North Athletic Complex Oct. 5.

•  Ten-Miler: The JBLM women’s Ten-Miler team finished second among all active duty women’s groups (4:41:54), behind only Fort Bragg, N.C., (4:28:33) at the 2017 Army Ten-Miler in Washington, D.C., Oct. 8. Trevor Lafontaine ran with the JBLM men, who finished sixth among active-duty men. Lafontaine also finished 12th overall at the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., Oct. 22.

•  JBLM Tigers: Thirty-six bowlers for JBLM’s Special Olympics team finished with a total of 22 medals — eight gold, seven silver and seven bronze — at Special Olympics Washington’s Capital Bowling regional tournament at Tacoma’s Pacific Lanes Oct. 29.


•  Basketball: Second Lieutenant Kyle Wilson of JBLM’s 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment averaged 11.4 points per game as the All-Army men repeated as gold medalists in the 2017 Armed Forces Basketball Championships at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, Nov. 1 to 7.

•  Indoor soccer: The 627th Logistics Readiness Squadron finished strong with four second-half goals to defeat the 308th Brigade Support Battalion, 6-2, during the JBLM Commander’s Cup Indoor Soccer Championship at Wilson Sports and Fitness Center Nov. 9.

December 16, 2017 at 6:23am

Mulryan reflects on years at JBLM

JBLM Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Mulryan plans to continue living in Western Washington with his family after he retires in May. JBLM PAO photo

After completing 27 years in the Army, Joint Base Lewis-McChord Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Mulryan is set to retire. His change of responsibility ceremony, with incomming Command Sgt. Maj. Kenny Clayborn, is scheduled at French Theater Monday at 10 a.m.

His last day in his current position is Friday. Mulryan will go on transition leave, participating in a transition program over the next few months before officially retiring May 1.

He said he’s looking forward to finding a management position in a service organization and buying a home in Western Washington.

“I love it here; it’s beautiful,” he said. “It’s got mountains, water and forests — an outdoor experience.”

Mulryan said he enjoys taking walks and drives with his wife, Jennifer, where people in the Northwest are warm and welcoming.

A New Englander, Mulryan claims the east coast as home; he was born in Maine and grew up in Massachusetts.

After spending much of his early years in foster homes, at the age of 8, Mulryan — who described himself as a terror — and a younger brother were adopted.

“My adoptive mom and dad were awesome,” Mulryan said.

After graduating from Countryside High School in Clearwater, Fla., Mulryan studied at St. Petersburg College for one year before joining the Army. During that year, Mulryan met and fell in love with the woman he refers to as his first love.

However, he said, the timing wasn’t right. Although the couple dated for three months while working together at a local hospital, they went their separate ways and didn’t meet again for several years, after they’d each married and divorced other people and had children of their own.

Seventeen years later, Jennifer contacted him through an email that began: “You may not remember me ....”

“I read it and thought, ‘How could I not remember you?’” Mulryan said.

The couple married 10 years ago and has a blended family, with a combined seven children and two grandchildren.

Mulryan’s military career began as a 2-year, 16-week enlistment. He said his dad didn’t want him to enlist, but each time when his contract was about to end, his dad told him to re-enlist.

“I would call him every other year and he kept saying, ‘You’re doing well; keep going.’ Two years and 16 months turned into 27 years and six months,” Mulryan said.

“Thank God for my father saying, ‘Don’t get out,’” Mulryan said.

Mulryan’s military career has allowed him to serve with units in Vilseck, Germany; Fort Riley, Kan.; LaGrande, Ore.; Fort Benning, Ga.; El Paso, Texas; Fort Drum, N.Y.; Fort Carson, Colo.; and Fort Stewart. Ga. Most recently, Mulryan served for two years at JBLM.

He earned an online Bachelor of Liberal Arts degree from Thomas Edison State University, in Trenton, N.J., and in April plans to earn a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Brandman University.

Mulryan has numerous military deployments, awards and accomplishments, including membership in the Military order of Saint Maurice and the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club.

“There have been hard times, and I never will forget the people who made the ultimate sacrifice — both friends and some of my Soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq,” he said.

One of his most difficult memories was of a suicide vest attack in Afghanistan in 2012, he said.

His best memories, he said, were of training Soldiers. Some fought him all the way, but later came forward to thank him, because they finally saw why they needed to do what he told them.

December 16, 2017 at 6:22am

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

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.

December 14, 2017 at 11:09am

Robots on point

By 2025, the Army sees ground troops conducting foot patrols in urban terrain with robots, called Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport vehicles, that carry rucksacks and other equipment alongside soldiers. U.S. Army graphic

It's December and many are doing their holiday shopping or making a wish list of gifts they'd like to receive.

During the Future Ground Combat Vehicle Summit here earlier this month, Army acquisition professionals and program managers had their own wish lists that included an assortment of robots and ground combat vehicles meant to protect soldiers and give pause to potential adversaries.


Brian McVeigh, project manager for Force Protection, was big on robots.

Over 7,000 were fielded in just the last decade, he noted. The challenge now is to move the most effective ones into programs of record.

Among these, he said, is the M-160 Robotic Mine Flail, which efficiently clears land mines using rotating chains that flail the ground. It is also rugged enough to be protected against mine explosion fragments.

The M-160 made it into a program of record this year before the holidays, and a number are already involved in route-clearance missions in Afghanistan.

By 2025, dismounted soldiers will conduct foot patrols alongside robots called Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport, or SMET, vehicles that carry rucksacks and other equipment that will lighten the soldier load, McVeigh said.

In order to get these to the warfighter sooner rather than later, the Army is procuring them through an Other Transactional Agreement, or OTA, he said.

The OTA got the program rolling fast, with requirements out in April and a down-select six months later in November, he said. Four contracts were awarded for 20 vehicles each, which will be tested by soldiers in two brigades until the end of next year. Low-rate initial production is expected to follow with a production contract in place.

The requirements were limited to give manufacturers more flexibility in the trade-space, he said. The only firm requirements were that SMET be able to haul 1,000 pounds off-road, cover 60 miles in 72 hours and cost $100,000 or less each.

The OTA was used because Army leaders prioritized getting the weight off the backs of dismounted soldiers, he noted.

Common Robotic System (Heavy) is designed to disarm or disable unexploded ordnance using a highly dexterous arm remotely controlled by a soldier. The Army just published requests for information from industry for the wireless-range manipulator arm, McVeigh said.

Feedback from industry on CRS-H has been good, he said. It is expected that by next summer, draft performance specifications will be issued, and it is hoped that fielding can begin as early as 2020. This system is also going the OTA route.

The Enhanced Robotics Payload is another explosives ordnance disposal robot. A request for proposal has been released, McVeigh said. And in October, a contract was awarded to Endeavor Robotics for another EOD robot, the Man-Transportable Robotics System Increment II.


David Dopp, program manager for Mobile Protected Firepower Vehicle, Ground Combat Systems, said a request for proposal was released in late November for MPF.

The MPF he envisions can be described as a light tank. It will be light in the sense that it will weigh less than half as much as an Abrams tank, which will allow two to fit inside a C-17 aircraft. That means its armor will be less than an Abrams.

The MPF will also sport a gun in the 105mm to 120mm range, similar to the ones on early versions of the Abrams, Dopp said.

It is expected that the MPF will provide infantry brigade combat teams with a long-range, direct-fire capability for forcible entry and breaching operations, he noted, so it is not by any stretch a tank replacement.

There will not be a lot of requirements other than MPF being light and powerful, he said. Army leaders are eager to quickly get it into the hands of Soldiers for testing.

A contract could be awarded by early FY19 with low-rate initial production to follow, he said.

Maj. Gen. John Charlton, commander, Army Test and Evaluation Command, said that although the Next Generation Combat Vehicle fielding isn't expected until 2035, a lot of the components that may find their way onto the NGCV in one shape or another are being currently tested around the Army.

Two such systems that will likely inform development of NGCV, he said, are the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station-Javelin and the Stryker Remote Weapons Station.

CROWS-J allows the warfighter to remotely engage targets with precision fire from the Javelin while on the move, he said. Stryker RWS is a 30mm cannon on an unmanned turret. Both systems keep the gunner inside the vehicle, in a less exposed area than the turret.

Electro-magnetic interference testing is now underway on the sensors and software, he said.

There are some challenges to overcome in putting this technology on the NGCV, he said, describing a few.

Although the gunner is tucked inside the vehicle, rounds must still be loaded and reloaded in the gun, which means being exposed to enemy fire and working in cramped conditions, he said.

Getting everything working correctly will require a lot of software development, he said. This is probably the most difficult challenge.

And finally, situational awareness could be lost with the crew fully buttoned up inside the vehicle, he said. This could be particularly bad in urban terrain where Soldiers cannot get good visuals of what's around and above them.

The situational awareness issue could be addressed through adding sensors and cameras so the crew doesn't feel so completely closed in, he noted.


Charlton said several promising weapons are in the science and technology and testing stages.

Engineers are now designing extended-range cannons that can be mounted on the Paladin and will fire much greater distances than current artillery, he said, noting that the distances are impressive but classified.

The cannons could find their way on the NGCV, he said.

The challenges are now designing a breech in the gun system that can handle the enormous pressures and getting the APS software and sensors developed. Also, the crew might be adversely affected by the enormous pressures, so some sort of dampening mechanism would be needed.

Another weapon that will eventually make its way to the battlefield is the high-energy laser, Charlton said.

The Army and Air Force are now out at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico using them to knock out air-to-ground and surface-to-air missiles, as well as unmanned aerial vehicles, he said.

A 300-kilowatt laser will be built and tested in the near future, he added.

"We want to ensure the lanes are clear when firing the laser," he said. "We don't want to take out one of our own satellites, so it will need to be equipped with an avoidance detection system."

Lastly, Charlton said that an electromagnetic rail gun will be developed soon, but he's not sure if it will find its way onto the NGCV. "But it will be on the battlefield in some shape or form," he said.

The rail gun will shoot small, dense projectiles to distances of 30 kilometers at several times the speed of sound using electromagnetic pulses, he said. That will require some serious power, so initially it might have to be loaded on a large cargo truck.


Dr. Dale Ormond, principal deputy, Research Directorate, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, said his office is working to ensure all of the laboratories across the Department of Defense are talking to each other, helping each other and avoiding duplication of effort.

The areas he's particularly excited about are artificial intelligence paired with autonomy. Machines programmed for artificial learning will be able to collaborate much better with Soldiers and give commanders more options on the battlefield, he said.

Other promising areas are hypersonic weapons, he said, like the rail guns and lasers that the Army is working on.

He said he also expects to see a lot of developments in the space and cyberspace domains, as well as being able to operate in GPS-denied environments.

December 7, 2017 at 11:41am

Meet Washington National Guard's Spartan Warrior

Julie Keppner is getting ready for Pre-Ranger School. Photo credit: Washington National Guard

"Put one foot in front of the other," Julie Keppner kept saying to herself.

"Focus on the little goal right in front of you," she added, standing in position, waiting for the signal at the start of her latest attempt to conquer another Spartan Race.

"Anything is possible."

Keppner, 36, lined up next to hundreds of others, all of them revved-up and set to leave everything out on the course in order to get the fastest time. That is, after all, what a Spartan Race is all about. The mentality is also what makes her a clear champion in the Washington National Guard, and gives her the potential to be the state's very first female Infantry Officer. She's a Motor Transport Operator, 88M, but things are changing quickly for her.

Off to the races

The Spartan Race is a series of obstacle courses of various lengths designed to test the willpower, endurance and stamina of anyone who attempts them. They range from three to five miles with 20-23 obstacles, a Super at eight to 10 miles with 24-29 obstacles, a Beast at over 12 miles with more than 30 obstacles, to the Ultra Beast at 26+ miles and more than 60 obstacles. Complete all three distances (Sprint, Super, Beast) and earn a Trifecta.

To the average person, this might seem like a totally absurd situation to voluntarily put yourself in, but to Keppner this is just another weekend.

"I've done almost 50 Spartan Races, including three Ultra Beasts, and over 100 races all together," recalled Keppner, who calls Kent home. "I've done seven marathons and 21 half marathons."

Keppner wasn't always an enthusiast of endurance races. In fact, it was just in April 2012 when she ran a half marathon on a whim. She flew down to California to visit a friend and found out that her friend was going to run the race by herself.

"I wanted to support her and help her out. And so, I ran the half marathon without training for it," Keppner said.

It was at that moment, after running 13.1 miles without training that Keppner realized the human body can do so much if you just put your mind to it. "If I can simply walk on and complete a half marathon without training, what else can I do?" Keppner thought to herself. Her motto became, "If you Believe, you can Achieve."

"That first year I signed up for several half marathons and three obstacle races," Keppner said.

Over the course of the next couple years, Keppner just couldn't help herself. She signed up for all the marathons, half marathons, obstacle races that she could find. It started off every couple of months and then quickly turned into nearly every weekend.

One race was not enough.

"How can I make it harder?" Keppner asked herself.

She started making half marathons harder by adding a ruck sack, wearing boots and cargo pants on obstacle races, completing only men's obstacles, multiple races in a day, back-to-back races in a weekend and following up shorter distance races with longer ones, such as a Beast and Ultra Beast.

She's even gone so far as to book flights to Spartan Races around the country.

For Keppner, submitting herself to these grueling and exhausting endurance races isn't just about proving to herself that she can conquer them, it's about finding guidance in her life.

"I think, overall, between obstacle racing and the military, they have helped with always looking forward and having a vision of where I want to go. Having these races to look forward to has helped me stay motivated in life."

Challenging the status quo

Prior to her military career, Keppner was in a traditional relationship based in a religious culture that was family-oriented.

"It was not common for wives to work outside the home or be in the military. It was the husband's job to provide for the family, and the mother's job to care for the children and tend to the home," Keppner said. "I accepted it at the time, and it is a great culture, but it's very difficult for ambitious, goal-oriented women like myself who's main role is to be the homemaker. Once I left, I decided to go after all the things that I couldn't do."

One of those things was enlisting in the military.

Keppner, 32 years old at the time and a recently single mother of two, started her own business as a fitness coach. She volunteered much of her time preparing Marine Corps poolees (those who have passed all the prerequisites for service, have signed a contract and are awaiting shipment to boot camp) and those wanting to enlist for the rigors of recruit training. She coached them on physical fitness in order to help give them a running start at boot camp. She also took on clients on an individual basis.

Keppner has a passion for inspiring people to be the best version of themselves. That's why the Marines kept returning to her to motivate and train their newest recruits.

"The thing with my business, as well as coaching in general, was that it focused on dreaming big and living out your passions and helping other people," she said. "I wanted to be a part of that. Also, my lifestyle of coaching and obstacle racing really ties closely to the military."

Being around and coaching all the eager and motivated recruits inspired Keppner to be a part of the very organization she was helping to strengthen.

"I looked into the Marine Corps but I was too old for them so I couldn't enlist there," she recalled. "I considered the Air Force and the Navy but the reason why I chose the Washington National Guard was that I felt that with the Guard I would be able to live where I wanted to -- have my family here, run my business and be in the military at the same time. I would have that flexibility."

So, in December 2013, she enlisted in the Washington National Guard and soon joined Officer Candidate School with the hopes of being an officer.

"I chose the officer route because as an officer I could have a larger base of people that I can inspire and influence," she said.

Fun for the whole family

When Isaac, 11, Keppner's youngest, was 6 years old, she brought him to a local obstacle race. It was fairly small and was geared toward the younger crowd. There was a one-mile course and a three-mile course.

"At first, he told me that he didn't want to run at all," Keppner recalled. "I told him that it's okay, you don't have to if you don't want to."

As Keppner continued on to the starting point, Isaac spoke up and said that he wanted to give the one-mile course a try. So, they got Isaac registered and they started the one-mile obstacle course. As they came upon the end of the first mile, they had the option to quit now or continue on to complete the three miles.

"At that point, at the cutoff, he decided to keep going," she said. "He went from not wanting to do anything, to wanting to do just the one-mile course, to wanting to do the whole three-mile course."

But once they got to the end of the three miles, Isaac spoke up.

"I want do this again," he announced.

So, he did ... two more times. At the end of the day, Isaac and his mom completed about nine miles of the local race, turning what was supposed to be a quick jaunt into an afternoon affair.

"At that moment, I really saw myself in him," she said.

Little Isaac is not the only Keppner child to tackle various mud runs with their mother. Hannah is Keppner's oldest. She's 14 years old and recently ran a Spartan Sprint in Big Bear Lake, California, and earned her first Trifecta. Keppner remembered the struggle Hannah had during this particular race.

"She really struggled with this one due to the elevation," Keppner recalled. "I told her ‘Look. Look around you. You're not the only one that's having a hard time. Everyone is having a hard time. Just take a deep breath, you're going to be fine and we can continue when you're ready.'"

Keppner reassured her daughter once they crossed the finish line of the Big Bear race. She treated Hannah's experience as a teachable moment for her. Life is not always going to be easy. Life is full of obstacles and we shouldn't quit when we start to struggle a little bit. When we stop and look around, we realize that we're not the only ones struggling.

Both have been racing with their mother since 2012. Hannah has done 30 races and Isaac has completed more than 40.

"They really like the bonding experience of doing (races) with me," she said. However, when she continued her thought she couldn't help but notice the irony in her children's affinity toward these races. "They like the obstacles and yet they don't like the obstacles. They like the challenge of them and they like doing them but yet they hate doing them. It's a weird concept," she chuckled. "All obstacle racers understand this concept and do the races because of the struggle and challenge of doing them."

First comes Infantry, then comes Ranger School

When Keppner first enlisted into the National Guard, the Department of Defense was still reviewing its initiative to open combat arms occupations to female servicemembers. The idea to be an infantry leader hadn't crossed her mind in the early stages of her career.

That all changed on the side of a mountain in Temecula, California, in 2014.

While Keppner was in Officer Candidate School (OCS), she had a weekend off and took the opportunity to fulfill her itch to do a Spartan Race. She was coaching a client at the time and flew to Southern California to do a Spartan Race with her.

"There are two ways to do a Spartan Race," Keppner explained. "One way is if I'm doing it by myself, I go for time. The other method is with other people. You are there to provide assistance when they need it."

In this particular race, she was there to provide support for her client. This was the first time the Temecula Spartan Race held their event in September as opposed to the more reasonably temperate January. The temperature exceeded 100 degrees and people weren't prepared and started dropping out of the race left and right. Even Keppner's racing partner dropped out after six miles. The heatwave that weekend gave rise to the race's new nickname, "Hellmecula."

"It was so hot that people started getting heat exhaustion and heat stroke," Keppner said. "They didn't have food, didn't have water."

Keppner, who is five-foot one and 128 pounds, went into action. She spent the next eight hours tending to exhausted racers -- helping them in any way she could. She would run up and down the side of the mountain bringing people safely down and getting them much needed food and water.

Keppner posted about her experience on Facebook and the sergeant major of OCS noticed. He reached out to her and asked if she would like to attend a certain premier Army school.

"He contacted me on Facebook and asked me if I wanted to go to Ranger School," Keppner recalled. "He said that I demonstrated a lot of the qualities and abilities of what it takes to be a Ranger."

The military recently opened its combat arms occupations to women, including infantry, Rangers and Special Forces.

That was all the convincing that Keppner needed. Keppner dropped out of OCS in order to go get a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). An MOS is required before going to Ranger School. She chose 88M which is a Motor Transport Operator. She wanted to be one of the first females to attend Ranger School but due to an unforeseen funding issue she was not able to attend that first class.

That meant that Keppner had to wait because she missed the cutoff to get back into OCS. During that year-long wait she found herself being pulled toward the infantry.

"Right before I went back into OCS, I went to a career fair," Keppner recalled. "One of the presenters said that they needed female infantry officers." With the integration of females into combat arms, one of the stipulations is that there needs to be a qualified female officer appointed in a leadership position before they can start filling positions with lower-enlisted women.

"The Guard was standing up a new infantry battalion and needed infantry officers," she said. "So I said ‘As long as you send me to Ranger School.'" It's been three years since Ranger School was opened to females in that first class, and she is finally able to attend.

"Keppner is a driven soldier," said Staff Sgt. Virginia L. Adolfson, Keppner's sponsor/mentor throughout last year's Washington National Guard's Best Warrior Competition, which saw Keppner score high marks. "Her focus and strength is an inspiration to her fellow soldiers."

As Keppner stares down this next long road of Army schools that she is about to go down, she can't help but recall the words that go through her mind at the beginning of a Spartan Race: "Put one foot in front of the other, focus on the little goal right in front of you, and anything is possible."

"I attack my military career just like I attack a Spartan Race, I focus on the next immediate task, be it an obstacle on the course or the next school, and I get past it," she said. "Then it's on to the next one and the next one."

Keppner's next school is Infantry Officer Basic Leader Course (IBOLC) at Fort Benning, Georgia. After that, she goes on to Ranger Training Assessment Course (RTAC/Pre-Ranger School) and if all goes well, followed by Ranger School, also at Fort Benning. Once Keppner completes IBOLC and is fully branch qualified, she will be Washington's first female infantry officer.

December 7, 2017 at 11:29am

Program boosts Special Forces physical, mental

(Editor's Note: Names of service members not used because of security concerns.)

Special Forces soldiers, known as Green Berets, are some of the most highly-trained troops in the Army. Their readiness requires them to have a performance training program designed to increase physical performance and emotional well-being, prevent injuries and improve mental skills necessary to perform optimally in training and combat operations.

This is the goal of the U.S. Special Operations Command's human performance program, also known as the Tactical Human Optimization, Rapid Rehabilitation and Reconditioning program, or THOR3.

The purpose of THOR3 is to create programs for special operations-focused missions by using professional sports-quality staff to provide coaching in strength and conditioning, physical therapy, dietetics and cognitive enhancement, officials said.

Increasing Mental, Physical Capabilities

"Our goal is to increase their mental and physical capabilities to help them recover from injuries sustained in combat or training, helping them to stay combat ready, longer," said a cognitive enhancement specialist with THOR3. "Cognitive enhancement is a formal part of the program, which seeks to provide a systematic way to build mental and emotional strength."

A soldier assigned to 10th Special Forces Group here said the THOR3 training significantly enhances troops' physical capabilities. He also said the physical improvements made by those who have participated are resulting in increased attendance in the program.

"The biggest thing about the THOR3 program is its growth," the soldier said. "You see more people filtering in. The facility will definitely need to be expanded to accommodate that."

A strength and conditioning coach said the THOR3 program strives to optimize special operations troops' mental, spiritual, and physical condition.

The THOR3 program staff at 10th Group consists of a human performance program coordinator, strength and conditioning coaches, physical therapists, a dietitian and a cognitive enhancement specialist.

In addition to the mental aspect of the program, proper nutrition is required to optimize rehabilitation and performance. This is an often overlooked, yet vital aspect of human performance, which is emphasized by the THOR3 team.

"We have added THOR3 nutritional items at the dining facility that are scientifically proven to improve a soldier's performance," said a performance dietician with the performance program. "Often overlooked, there are specific foods you must eat to effectively optimize the body's potential, along with rest, recovery and training."

Holistic Approach

Additionally, the total holistic approach to fitness includes the collection of data. Information is collected through sports science data during heart rate monitoring, GPS tracking, mobility tests, lactate testing, and body composition testing. This testing is needed to assure the effectiveness and overall management of the program.

"We collect the data from tests run on the soldiers and personalize a training program for them to optimize their abilities physically, tactically, technically and mentally," said the performance analyst assigned to the program.

While the focus of the THOR3 program is to improve current operational longevity, and reduce the potential for injury, the added value to the SOF operator is the improvement in their overall health, coupled with improving physical and mental well-being that is the catalyst for success throughout their personal and professional lifetime.

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