Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

September 14, 2017 at 12:01pm

WA cyber going national?

Benjamin Beberness, the chief information officer for the Snohomish County PUD, speaks with Col. Gent Welsh & Maj. Gen. Bret D. Daugherty in April. Photo courtesy Washington National Guard

New, bipartisan legislation named for the late Major Gen. Tim Lowenberg would build upon the success of the Washington National Guard's cyber units and create dedicated units around the country to help states counter cyber-attacks.

The legislation is sponsored by Congressman Derek Kilmer (D-WA), who has seen the Washington National Guard's cyber work in action, as well as Congressman Steven Palazzo (R-MS). As of Sept. 8, the legislation had been referred to the House Committee on Armed Services.

"States need reinforcements in the fight against cyber attacks," Kilmer said in his release announcing the proposal. "They currently face a gap when it comes to protecting their communities from hackers and other cyber criminals. Local national guard personnel have the right expertise to make sure states like Washington have the tools to fight back."

Washington National Guard's cybersecurity units have become leaders in the nation, forging relationships with private industry and local partners, and tasked with finding vulnerabilities in public networks. The soldiers in the units became the first in the nation to see if they could get into the network of a public utility when the Snohomish County Public Utility District asked for help. It only took 17 minutes to break into the Snohomish PUD's system. After, the Guard worked with the PUD to improve its security.

The Maj. Gen. Tim Lowenberg National Guard Cyber Defenders Act would create Cyber Civil Support Teams (Cyber CST) through the National Guard to coordinate responses to significant cyber-attacks in their state. These teams would have to be up and running within five years of the law's passage. The National Guard Bureau would submit a report to Congress outlining the plan to meet this deadline and work with the Council of Governors to establish when the teams would be used.

"Never before in history has there been such a tremendous gap between our awareness of a threat -- cyber and our lack of ability to do anything about it -- response force," said Col. Gent Welsh, commander of the Washington Air National Guard's 194th Wing. "That issue is solved with this legislation.   These teams will be the ‘connective tissue' that bring government and critical infrastructure providers together to help defeat those who are attacking America now with keystrokes, not bombs or bullets."

Cyber Civil Support Teams are proposed to be 10 members, half made up of full-time personnel and the other made up of traditional guardsmen, who likely work in a technology sector as a civilian. The teams would provide the connective tissue between local municipalities and private sector with national response infrastructures and agencies through regular exercises and outreach activities. The teams fulfill a two-fold mission encompassing cyber incident response and continual defensive cyber training.

The Guard also has worked with the Washington State Auditor's Office, the state Department of Licensing and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, among others, to test for vulnerabilities.

The new congressional legislation would be named for the late Maj. Gen. Lowenberg, who unexpectedly died Aug. 27. Lowenberg was the former adjutant general of the Washington Military Department and commander of the Washington National Guard and a major advocate for building cyber capability for the state and nation.

September 14, 2017 at 7:17am

Walk in county's largest breast cancer walk

Come Walk With Me is Pierce County's largest breast cancer walk hosted by Multi Care Health Systems - it begins and ends at Sumner's own Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse located at 13608 Valley Avenue East. Join Multi and walk for the women and men in your life battling breast cancer. Register, form a team, join a team, or make a donation to support breast health programs at Good Samaritan Hospital. 

Registration Fees

Early Bird - $25

Through July 31
Ages 13+ 

Online Registration - $30

August 1 through October 4
Ages 13+ 
*Online registration closes on October 4 

Event-Day Registration - $35

October 5 at Packet Pickup or October 7 at the event
Ages 13+

Youth Registration - $10

Ages 5-12

Children 4 & Under are FREE

T-shirt not included

*Please note that the Motorcycle Poker Run has been cancelled for 2017. 

Event Schedule

7:30 am - Registration, T-Shirt Pick-Up, & Hot Pancake Breakfast Open
8:30 am - Free Kids' 50-Yard Dash Begins
8:45 am - Program Begins
9:00 am - 5K Walk Begins
10:30 am - Silent Auction Closes & Bedazzled Bra / Pink'd Awards Announced

Skip the lines on Saturday morning, and join us at Pre-Event Packet Pickup on Thursday, October 5 from 3:00-7:00 pm at The Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse!


100% of donor contributions to Come Walk With Me support breast health programs at Good Samaritan Hospital (we keep it local!). Click here to learn about some great fundraising tips, tricks, and rewards.

For more information about fundraising or about Come Walk With Me, please contact Michelle LoFaso at 253-403-4374 or


Come Walk With Me is powered by the support of incredible volunteers throughout the community. Interested in volunteering? Click here to see jobs and descriptions and then follow the steps below. 

I want to apply! If you have never applied to volunteer at Multicare, start here

I've already applied and I'm ready to sign-up! Login to the Volunteer Services Center, click My Schedule, go to October 2017, and click the date you wish you volunteer and select your position.

Have questions or need help signing up? Check out this step-by-step guide or email

Partner with Us

Partnering with Come Walk With Me will not only allow you to support breast cancer patients at Good Samaritan Hospital, but will provide your company with brand exposure to hundreds within our community. Download our Sponsorship Opportunities to see what's available. For more information about sponsorship opportunities, please contact Shawn Harris at 253-403-1368 or


September 12, 2017 at 6:11am

Flea Market and Oktoberfest Saturday on base

Rob Braholli, left, and his wife Megan enjoy a plate of jaegerschnitzel and sauerkraut with a stein of beer during the 2016 JBLM Oktoberfest celebration at Family and MWR’s Fest Tent on Lewis Main. JBLM PAO photo

Two popular Joint Base Lewis-McChord events are combining this year for a day of fun and all things recycled — or German.

The installation’s successful Fall Flea Market and Oktoberfest joins at Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation’s Fest Tent on Lewis Main Sept. 16 for what’s expected to be an incredible day of deals, bratwurst, German potato salad, apple strudel, German beer and jaegerschnitzel — a flattened and fried pork cutlet with mushroom sauce.

The event will be at the tent next to Bowl Arena Lanes, 2200 Liggett Ave. on Lewis Main — with the flea market from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the Oktoberfest event overlapping slightly, from 2 to 10 p.m.

The Fall Flea Market will be outdoors, under small tents, while Oktoberfest will be inside Family and MWR’s Fest Tent.

The combined event is a way to get more flea market buyers and sellers involved in Oktoberfest and more Oktoberfest attendees excited about the flea market, according to Megan Braholli, recreation specialist with Family and MWR.

“We have a lot of great events on base, but Oktoberfest is my favorite,” Braholli said. “What isn’t there to love about Germany?”

Braholli and her husband, Sgt. Robert Braholli, 508th Military Police Battalion, 42nd Military Police Brigade, moved to JBLM last year from Germany where Braholli was stationed for the past five years.

The couple hails from Canton, Ohio, originally, but Germany is home, she said, adding she cooks many traditional German dishes, but enjoys going to Oktoberfest because of the German community atmosphere.

“Oktoberfest is one of many German celebrations that go on all year long in Germany; I love all the festivals,” she said. “If it’s summertime there’s a celebration; if the leaves are changing it’s time to celebrate. Anything brings on a celebration and lots of food — simple but good.”

Bounce houses, food vendors, games and a rock climbing wall will be available.

As for the flea market, Braholli won’t be selling any items, but she just might find time to peruse the many tables of treasures.

And, there’s still time to sign up to sell items. It’s $26 to rent two 6-foot long tables to sell gently used items and $30 for three tables. Additional tables are available for $6 per table. Participants must be authorized Department of Defense ID cardholders to purchase space to sell items.

September 12, 2017 at 6:09am

22nd STS wins JBLM Commander’s Cup Softball Championship

Brandon Simpson of the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron aims for contact during a first inning where his team had six runs on eight hits. JBLM PAO photo

Keyton Thiem might not have been the exact description of a walk-off winner with a three-run home run during the JBLM Commander’s Cup Softball Championship, but was the final hit that forced a fifth-inning, 10-run mercy rule to give the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron a 17-6 win over Maintenance Group Support Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) at the Lewis North Athletic Complex Aug. 31.

“I felt selfish because I took the bats out of my teammates’ hands,” Thiem said with a laugh after the game.

The 22nd STS lineup saw just about every player who stepped up to the plate drive in a run. In addition to the team hitting three home runs, there were several well-hit balls that bounced off the outfield fence or made it hard on the 1st SFG fielders to play defense.

The first inning saw everyone in the 11-man lineup have an at-bat, starting with a double by Thiem. This was followed by a RBI double from Kyle Plasterer and a RBI single from Mike Charvat. James English had a two-run home runs before the first out was recorded.

Runs driven in by Chad Rosendale and Austin Osburn rounded out a first inning with six runs for 22nd STS. The team added another five runs in the second inning that Plasterer hit a two-run home run.

“They have some great hitters,” said Robert Straughn, player coach for the 1st SFG team. “All you can do is pitch and play defense, but we didn’t really have any good batting either.”

The 1st SFG struggled to get hits with runners in scoring position in the first two innings. After singles from Maximiliano Gonzalez and James Pierce, Michael Lockridge and Robert Straughn could not convert with a flyout and groundball fielder’s choice out to close the inning.

Nicholas Marban got the first run with a sacrifice groundout that followed Alexander Woodruff’s leadoff triple in the second inning. Neither Ahmad Strickland or Samuel Conwright could get on after a single from Anacleto Zamora.

The 1st SFG team started to show life in the fifth inning with Pierce drawing a bases-loaded walk, followed by Lockridge’s single driving in two runs. The 22nd STS was able to close out the game in the fifth after back-to-back RBI singles from Osburn and Jacob Sikovic and Thiem’s three-run walk-off homer.

Powerful offense has been a trend for the 22nd STS team as it was undefeated in the regular season and through the playoffs to win the JBLM Commander’s Cup softball title. Power batting maintained despite the team having a revolving door due to a very grueling schedule linked and the demands of a pending deployment.

“Some players were here one week; others were here another week,” said Joe Fernandez, the team captain and coach. “Some guys missed anywhere from one to four weeks due to training.”

Even with some weeks where the team barely made the minimum of 10 players for games, Fernandez credited not only the 22nd STS team’s communication skills, but also their commitment throughout a challenging softball season.

“Even when they are home, they sacrificed time with their family and good friends, and well deserved time off, to showcase their talents,” Fernandez said.

It was also a special day for the 22nd STS’ Erin Bowser, who was just pinned to become a chief master sergeant in the Air Force. He added that the honor, plus being part of a championship team, was a great way to celebrate and start Labor Day weekend.

“I’ve been here (on JBLM) for six years, and this is the best team I’ve played with,” Bowser said. “It’s all about the camaraderie. You can tell how tight-knit this unit is.”

Scoring summary

1st Special Forces Group 0 1 1 1 3 – 6

22nd Special Tactics Squadron 6 5 0 1 5 – 17

F/5 innings

1st SFG (H-AB-RBI) – Maximiliano Gonzalez, 3-3-0; Michael Correll, 0-2-0; James Pierce, 0-2-2; Michael Lockridge, 1-3-2; Robert Straughn, 0-3-0; Alexander Woodruff, 2-3-0; Nicholas Marban, 0-2-1; Anacleto Zamora, 2-2-1; Ahmad Strickland, 0-2-0; Samuel Conwright, 0-1-0.

22nd STS (H-AB-RBI) – Keyton Thiem, 3-3-3; Kyle Plasterer, 3-3-3; Mike Charvat, 1-3-2; James English, 2-3-2; Joe Fernandez, 2-3-1; Brandon Simpson, 2-3-1; Travis Jordan, 1-3-1; Chad Rosendale, 2-3-2; Jordan Smith, 0-3-0; Austin Osburn, 1-3-1; Jacob Sikovic, 1-3-1.

September 12, 2017 at 6:07am

Madigan neurologist member of U.S. Military Endurance Sports Team

Courtesy photo Jodie Bolt poses near the start line at the International Triathlon Union’s World Championships for Duathlon in Penticton, Canada, Aug. 19. She finished fourth in the sprint duathlon and second in the standard duathlon in her age group.

Jodie Bolt has a drive to move. A retired Army lieutenant colonel, she now works as a child neurologist for Madigan Army Medical Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

She’s also a member of the U.S. Military Endurance Sports Team. She qualified for the International Triathlon Union’s World Championships for Duathlon Aug. 19 to 21 in Penticton, Canada, and earned her berth by taking first place in the women’s 50 to 54 age group at the USA Triathlon’s Duathlon National Championship in June 2016.

The competition wasn’t the only reason why Bolt said she went; participating in events like this is her respite.

“I don’t do ‘still’ very well,” Bolt said. “I’d rather be outside when I can.”

Her endurance was truly tested late last year after she crashed on her bike near her home in Lakewood, suffering two fractures on the left side of her pelvis. Bolt hit a speed bump that hurled her into the pavement. It didn’t take long to realize the severity of her injuries.

“I get a certain nausea when I recognize broken bones,” Bolt said.

Still, she attempted to finish her bicycle ride before collapsing on the family driveway. Her husband transported her to Madigan where the fractures were confirmed.

The good news was that she didn’t need surgery, but in true Bolt fashion, she wanted to remain active during her recovery. One day after the crash, she was walking on a path near American Lake on JBLM with her oldest daughter, Jackie.

Bolt spent the next several weeks on crutches, mostly putting her weight on her right side. Her first mile after the crash was about 48 minutes — far from her competitive 7-minute pace.

“I became a figure on the McChord track,” Bolt said.

She worked herself to be active with the short-term goal of attending a bicycle camp in Tuscon, Ariz. By this time, she was comfortable on the bike and had a strong performance doing hill climbs in places like Kitt Peak and Mount Lemmon, despite having some pains.

“Through my life, I tend to ignore pain,” Bolt said. “I’ve finished races with bones broken through the foot thinking it was my foot cramping.”

Not long after the hill climb camp, Bolt learned that she had fractured the sacrum on the right side. She said it was likely due to low bone density and having done a lot of work on that side of the body since the December crash.

While she followed doctor’s orders not to run, Bolt spent months on the stationary bicycle staying active. She again progressed well enough to do time trials that have a lower crash risk. She found herself cycling stronger this spring and through the summer.

On Aug. 12 during a time trial race in Oregon, Bolt finished third in the women’s 50-59 category with a time of 1:38:38. Not having officially pulled out of the world duathlon event, she decided to go for it.

With the support of her family, friends, co-workers and patients, she decided she would give it an effort.

“Even if I had to walk, I was going to finish,” Bolt said.

Being competitive wasn’t a problem as she started the event with a fourth place finish in the women’s 50-54 category in the sprint duathlon Aug. 19 with a time of 1:13:46.

Two days later, Bolt took the silver medal in the same age group in the standard duathlon with a time of 2:16:10. She credits the support system in Washington state and her faith.

“It’s the hug from your husband and your son, or the patient and son who tell you they’ve been praying for you,” Bolt said. “As a person of faith, I don’t have a coach; I listen to my heavenly coach.”

As for the rest of 2017 and into 2018, Bolt said she’s not sure. Her husband is retiring from the Army after 30 years, and her youngest son will be a junior at Bellarmine Preparatory School in Tacoma. The rest of the children are moving on in life.

Although Bolt doesn’t have a training plan, she said she will keep herself active.

“My life is always crazy like that,” Bolt said. “I really am a haphazard athlete.”

September 8, 2017 at 5:51am

Takuichi Fujii exhibit to open in Tacoma

This fall, see three exhibitions at Washington State History Museum that explore how individuals react in crisis: artistic expression and quiet introspection; protest; and citizen diplomacy. Witness to Wartime is the first, followed byLoyal Opposition: The Protest Photos of George P. Hickey, opening September 30; and on October 7,Glasnost and Goodwill: Citizen Diplomacy in the Northwest.Don’t miss our newest permanent exhibition,Washington, My Home, sharingdiverse stories of migration and immigration to Washington.
Takuichi Fujii was incarcerated during World War II as a result of Executive Order 9066. His work sheds light on difficult events that most Americans did not experience, the lessons of which remain highly relevant today. Fujiidrew and painted throughout his imprisonment at the Puyallup and Minidoka War Relocation Centers.Witness to Wartime: The Painted Diary of Takuichi Fujiiopens Saturday, September 16, 2017 and is on view through Monday, January 1, 2018. See70 works by Fujii and scroll through a digital version of his nearly 400-page diary to see the evolution of his experiences and his artmaking.

September 8, 2017 at 5:49am

Warren Miller's Line of Descent to swoosh through here

This fall, the annual tradition is back to salute the start of winter. The world’s biggest name in snowsports cinema—Warren Miller Entertainment—celebrates its 68th ski and snowboard film with downhill thrills, global adventure and a nod to those that taught us to slide on snow with multiple showings in the greater Puget Sound area at the start of November.  See dates and times here.

Snow riders are a family—one big tribe comprising of many smaller ones. Familial rites pass down through generations. Skier roots grow deep in high mountain soil. Line of Descent celebrates just that, the lineage of legendary athletes through a multi-generational cast of skiing’s icons and fresh faces, including Tommy Moe, Jonny Moseley, JT Holmes, Lexi duPont, Seth Wescott, Kalen Thorien, Marcus Caston, Jeremy Jensen, Griffin Post, and more.

This year, Volkswagen joins the most esteemed name in winter sports films as the presenting sponsor of the Line of Descent U.S. film tour. The partnership builds on the heritage and passion associated with both the Volkswagen and Warren Miller brands. Volkswagen’s partnership will grow authentically well into 2019, elevating the event experience that is the Warren Miller institution and marking the beginning of every winter season.

Ride along on a stunning cinematic journey as we travel near and far, descending some of North America’s deepest lines in Jackson Hole, Montana, Silverton, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, and Steamboat.

From powsurfing to splitboard, motorcycle, dogsled or snowmobile, watch as athletes chase winter along the Beartooth Pass, the French Alps, New Zealand, British Columbia, and Norway.

“This season, we explore how skiers are shaped by picking up a pair of skis for the first time,” notes Warren Miller’s veteran producer Josh Haskins. “More often than not, it’s family who introduces us to the sport or steers us on the path towards an ongoing passion—be it a ski bum lifestyle, a professional career or simply the desire to pass on the same feeling to the next generation. There is a kinship unlike any other in the ski community, and Warren Miller is the elder, bringing generations of skiers and riders together for 68 years, and this year is no different.”

Since 1949, ski families have cheered the official kickoff of winter with the ski film company that started it all. As the family grows, the traditions grow richer. Volkswagen Presents Warren Miller’s Line of Descent will premiere worldwide in three locations on October 13, 2017, including Salt Lake City, UT, Portland, OR and Bozeman, MT. Screenings will then sweep across the U.S. from the Pacific Northwest to the East Coast from October to January.

Tickets go on sale September 12, 2017, and discounted presale tickets will be available online only the week of August 28. Film attendees will enjoy lift ticket and gear savings from Warren Miller resort, retail and partnered brands and also be entered to win nightly prizes like swag and ski vacations. Local show dates and times can be found on

Sponsors of the 2017 Warren Miller Film Tour include: Volkswagen, Western Montana’s Glacier Country, Gosling’s, L.L.Bean, Ester C, Ducati, Airstream, Helly Hansen, K2, HEAD, Marker Dalbello Völkl USA and SKI Magazine.

Featured Athletes

Scotty Arnold | Jeremy Jensen | Neil Provo | Ian Provo | Jonny Moseley | JT Holmes | Errol Kerr
Ty Peterson | George Rodney | Arielle Gold | Taylor Gold | Lexi duPont | Amie Engerbretson
McKenna Peterson | Tyler Ceccanti | Collin Collins | Julian Carr | Keith Curtis | Kalen Thorien
Michael "Bird" Shaffer | Seth Wescott | Rob Kingwill | Kevin Giffin | Marcus Caston | Kaylin Richardson Linda Haaland | Tommy Moe | Jess McMillan | Griffin Post

Film Destinations

British Columbia | California | Colorado | France | Montana | New Zealand | Norway | Wyoming

About Warren Miller Entertainment

Warren Miller Entertainment has been a pioneer in action sports cinematography since 1949. Line of Descent marks the 68th installment of its expansive feature film library. Warren Miller Entertainment is a division of Active Interest Media based in Boulder, Colorado. One of the world’s largest enthusiast media companies, Active Interest Media ( produces leading consumer and trade events, websites, magazines, and films and TV shows that reach 40 million readers, fans, and attendees in 85 countries.

About Volkswagen of America, Inc.

Founded in 1955, Volkswagen of America, Inc., an operating unit of Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. (VWoA) is headquartered in Herndon, Virginia. It is a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG, headquartered in Wolfsburg, Germany. VWoA’s operations in the United States include research and development, parts and vehicle processing, parts distribution centers, sales, marketing and service offices, financial service centers, and its state -of-the- art manufacturing facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Volkswagen Group is one of the world's largest producers of passenger cars and Europe's largest automaker. VWoA sells the Atlas, Beetle, Beetle Convertible, e-Golf, Golf, Golf GTI, Golf R, Golf SportWagen, Golf Alltrack, Jetta, Passat, Tiguan and Touareg vehicles through approximately 651 independent U.S. dealers. Visit Volkswagen of America online or to learn more.


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September 7, 2017 at 11:14am

Incoming JBLM spouse hikes 2,198 miles along Appalachian Trail

Julie Coffman poses at Baxter Peak on Mount Katahdin, the stopping point of the northbound Appalachian Trail, July 30. Coffman hiked 2,198 miles on her journey. Photo credit: Julie Coffman

Just over six months ago, Fort Lee spouse and USO volunteer coordinator Julie Coffman took the first step on the journey of a lifetime.

Coffman set out to traverse the Appalachian Trail, an arduous undertaking, to say the least.

The trail goes through 14 states and is 2,198 miles long. The journey took her 163 days. She had 23 zero days (no miles hiked) and took off five weeks for family activities.

"I thought it was going to be a cake walk. I sure was in for a surprise," she said. "This was one of the hardest things I have ever done."

Coffman's family -- including Sgt. 1st Class Doyle Coffman, who was an instructor on the Ordnance Campus, and her three children -- were supportive of her journey, but also surprised at first.

"About a year-and-a-half ago, I decided it was my turn to go TDY," Coffman said. "I always have had a love of the outdoors and thought I wanted to do something big before I turned forty. A few nights later, I told my family. I think, at first, they thought I was nuts.

"I told them I was almost forty years old and needed to find peace and clarity in myself," she continued. "They understood this."

The hike was a chance for Coffman to rediscover herself, she said.

"I have been the Army spouse, mom, Linda's daughter, and many other things, but I wondered who I really was," Coffman said. "I've been to college, but could never decide what to study. I've switched professions many times, but never decided what I wanted to be. I used this as a quest to do soul-searching and find these answers."

On Feb. 18, Coffman's husband and two of her children dropped her off in Amicalola Falls, Georgia, which is the starting point for the thru-hiker traveling northbound.

It's been said that hikers will walk more than five million steps on the trail, but when Coffman's Fitbit died due to water damage, it registered more than seven million.

"When I started, there were no leaves on the trees, so you could see for miles," she said. "As I walked north, the seasons changed and the leaves came out to turn into a green tunnel. The views were still amazing!

I stayed at 17 hostels, four strangers' houses, behind a building and in a restroom. I cowboy camped (under the stars) in three parks. For the most part, I used my tent up until the end. When I got lazy, or when it was storming, then I camped in a shelter."

It rained about half the time she was on the trail, said Coffman, but that wasn't the only weather difficulties she faced.

"I hiked for about four days in over a foot of snow deep in Tennessee, and temps of 11º F and a wind chill of -10º F," she said. "The trail took on many forms from dirt to mud puddles, bridges, board walks, bogs, bog bridges, rocks, cliffs, rock scrambles, streams, and, yes, even rivers. I have forded four rivers and rode on two boats."

Many northbound hikers experience the "Virginia blues," said Coffman, where they are just done with the trail and want to quit.

"For me, it was the Vermont blues," she said. "I was done; I had it with the mud, rain, smells, cuts, scrapes, hunger, exhaustion, and everything about the Appalachian Trail. There's a saying that you don't quit on a bad day. So, I hitched into the Yellow Deli Hostel in Rutland, Vermont. I had the rest of the day and the next one off as a mental health break and spent it with family and friends. I took off on the trail with a new outlook the next day."

Coffman's trail name is Trippin' due to her not being the most graceful hiker, she said.

"I quit counting how many times I biffed it," said Coffman. "I tripped all day long, but tried not to eat dirt too many times. The most I ever fell was ten. Maine had to be the state I ate the most dirt. I broke four toes and two ribs, and I tore my rotator cuff. It was my fault because I like to monkey around on rocks. The injuries did not stop me, though, I just pulled over, taped them up and pushed on. I had zero blisters, as for which I am very happy, but lost all but two of my toenails."

Coffman said the hike gave her a greater appreciation for the little things in life, like modern bathrooms.

"The longest I went without a shower was nine days," she said. "I have a new respect for running water and flushing toilets."

Additionally, she said she lost 38 pounds on her journey and consumed about 3,500 calories a day with two breakfasts, lunch, dinner and lots of snacks.

"I also developed a sweet tooth," Coffman said. "When I came into a town, and saw the word ‘bakery,' well, my feet just took me there."

Summiting the trail on the final day was Coffman's favorite part of the journey, she said.

"It was a day of mixed emotions," she recalled. "I felt so empowered when I got to the top. I accomplished and fulfilled a dream."

Coffman used the trip to promote another aspect of her life that she loves -- volunteering with the USO.

"When thinking about all the reasons why I wanted to do this hike, I thought of all the people I would be meeting, and all the opportunities it would have to pass on knowledge about an organization I love," said Coffman, who posed at various landmarks along the trail with her USO patch. "Most people don't even know what the USO is, so it was great to inform them of all the hard work our volunteers do for our servicemembers. The USO and I climbed approximately 470,000 feet in elevation and reached the summit of dozens of mountains. I followed over 165,000 white blazes, which are the trail markers for the trail.

"I hiked 2,198 miles, but I can't say I did it all on my own," she continued. "I had a great support system. I could not have done the trail without the love and support of my family. Most of the time I could not talk to them, but I always knew they were there with me. I also have been blessed to have great friends, and a USO family to support me on my journey. The Fort Lee USO employees and volunteers were a vital part of my trip on the Appalachian Trail."

Now, Coffman said she's enjoying family time. They changed duty stations shortly after she completed her trip and are on their way to Joint Base Lewis-McChord. But she has her eye on her next goal: "I have the Pacific Crest Trail -- a 2,659-mile path that runs from California to Canada -- on my docket for 2020."

September 7, 2017 at 11:08am

Army to rapidly procure reusable shoulder-fired weapon system

The Army plans to purchase 1,111 M3E1 units and field them to soldiers, as part of an Urgent Material Release. The M3E1 can fire multiple types of rounds, giving soldiers increased capability in battle. Photo credit: U.S. Army

Used on battlefields around the world since 1991, the M3 Multi-Role Anti-Armor Anti-Personnel Weapon System, or MAAWS, has seen several iterations.

The latest version, or M3E1, is not only lighter, but shorter and ergonomically designed with a longer handle and better grips. These features, as well as its ability to use multiple types of rounds for firing, has led the Army to approve a requirement for 1,111 M3E1 units.

"The current system that the Army uses is the AT4, which only allows soldiers to fire one shot, and then they have to throw the system away. With the M3E1, soldiers can use different types of ammunition which gives them an increased capability on the battlefield," said Randy Everett, Foreign Comparative Testing, or FCT, project manager.

The M3E1 is part of the Product Manager Crew Served Weapons portfolio, which is processing a contract to procure 1,111 M3E1s and an Urgent Material Release to field them as soon as possible.

The U.S. Army FCT program office, which is positioned within U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, receives oversight from the Office of the Secretary of Defense's Comparative Technology Office. The FCT program provides an avenue for Army engineers, scientists and program managers to test and evaluate items and technologies from allies and other friendly nations that may fill an Army capability gap.

The program encourages international cooperation and helps reduce the DoD's overall acquisition costs by providing funds to formally test and evaluate foreign non-developmental items, commercial-off-the-shelf items, or technologies which are in the late stage of development that may satisfy U.S. military requirements.

In 1988, U.S. Special Forces identified a need for a shoulder-fired, recoilless rifle to replace the M67, and Saab Dynamics developed the M3, which was a likely candidate to address the need. It was through the FCT program that the first M3s were delivered to U.S. Rangers and U.S. Navy Seals in 1994.

Kevin Finch, MAAWS product director, has worked on the M3 program throughout the years, collaborating with Saab Dynamics AB, the Swedish vendor, to perfect their system.

According to soldier feedback, the M3 was too heavy and bulky. By using titanium, the updated M3E1 is more than six pounds lighter. The M3E1 is also 2.5 inches shorter and has an improved carrying handle, extra shoulder padding and an improved sighting system that can be adjusted for better comfort without sacrificing performance.

In response to the new requirement, a wiring harness was included in the M3E1 configuration that provides a foregrip controller and programmable fuze setter for an interchangeable fire control system. For added safety and cost savings, an automatic round counter enables soldiers and logisticians to accurately track the service life of each weapon.

The system was tested for gun tube safe service life at IMT Materialteknik AB in Sundsvall, Sweden, by the U.S. Army Test & Evaluation Command and other subject matter experts. Testing at the vendor's test facility in Sweden eliminated the need to purchase ammunition and material, and it limited range time in the U.S., saving the Army nearly one million dollars.

The M3E1 uses the same family of ammunition as the M3, which has already been successfully tested.

As a result of this project, the Army received the OSD award for the FCT program.

"Our original investment of three million dollars has led to an approximate forty million dollar procurement for the Army, which is a great return on investment. But, most importantly, the M3E1 can be reused so it gives soldiers increased flexibility and capability on the battlefield," Everett said.

For more information on the FCT program, visit

September 7, 2017 at 10:52am

A legacy remembered

Gov. Chris Gregoire and Maj. Gen. Lowenberg on his retirement day, July 31, 2012. Photo credit: Washington National Guard

Maj. Gen. (Ret) Tim Lowenberg once said he wanted to be remembered as a general that took care of the soldiers -- and never backed away from a challenge.

His legacy will far exceed his wishes.

On Aug. 27, Lowenberg, the former adjutant general of the Washington Military Department and commander of the Washington National Guard, unexpectedly died at the age of 70.

He helped oversee a time of deep transition for the state agency, with soldiers being deployed to the Middle East, emergency preparedness coming into focus for the state and a brand new school coming online to give troubled teens a second chance. He served as the adjutant general from 1999 to 2012, highlighting a career that spanned more than 44 years in the U.S. Air Force.

"He was a great leader, mentor and friend to all of us and led our team through many difficult challenges during his thirteen years as adjutant general," said Maj. Gen. Bret Daugherty, the current adjutant general.

"America's freedom endures because of those who answer the call to serve. General Lowenberg was the epitome of service, and on behalf of a grateful state and nation, I want to thank him and his family for their service and sacrifice," Gov. Jay Inslee said after hearing of Lowenberg's death.

Lowenberg's impact and dedication to service will leave a lasting impression on the U.S. Air Force and the Washington Military Department. Prior to his retirement, Lowenberg sat down to provide a historic look back at his career, talking about his life, legacy and service to our nation.

Lowenberg was raised in the small rural town of Donnellson, Iowa, and after graduating high school, enrolled at the University of Iowa in 1964. At the time, all freshmen were required to take first year Reserve Officer Training Corps classes, and he enjoyed the experience and continued.

"I was influenced a lot by an uncle who served in the Army, and then two tours in the Navy in World War Two," said Lowenberg in the 2012 interview. "I wanted to serve in any way I could."

After receiving his commission in 1968, Lowenberg started law school at Iowa.

"Along with an ROTC scholarship, I had to work multiple jobs to pay for school, and that continued all the way through law school," he recalled.  

After completing law school in 1971, Lowenberg served on active-duty at McChord Air Force Base. Originally assigned as personal affairs officer with the 62nd Air Base Group, he was reassigned as a judge advocate a year later.  

In May of 1978, Lowenberg, then a major, left active-duty and joined the Washington Air National Guard as a Judge Advocate staff officer.

"I left active service. I did enjoy service, but like most Guardsmen I wanted to have it all, serve my country, I wanted to be in uniform, and wanted to pursue my own interests," Lowenberg recalled.

His first few years in the National Guard weren't what he was expecting. In his historical interview, Lowenberg recalls that the Guard of the late '70s was not up to the standards he had grown accustomed to in the active-duty.

"I had been in the Guard about a year-and-a-half and I remember walking into the Air Guard Chief of Staff's office, it was a colonel as I recall, and asking for a transfer to the Air Force Reserve," said Lowenberg. "He asked me to tell him more, and I did, and at the end of the conversation he said, ‘Would you give us a try for another year? If you still feel the same way I will sign your paperwork.'"

Later that year, Col. Robert Collins was named the adjutant general of the Washington National Guard, and one of his first calls was to Maj. Lowenberg.

"He asked me, ‘Remember the conversation we had, remember the things that were broken? Can I count on you to help me change them?'" said Lowenberg. "If he had been threatened or offended by my candor, I might have just well been in and out of the Guard."

In May 1989, Col. Lowenberg was promoted to the assistant adjutant general for the Air National Guard. This is where Lowenberg and his fellow general officers started breaking down walls.

The post-Vietnam war military was very different than it is today. Army National Guard and Air National Guard headquarters were separated. No information was being shared and the relationship between professional officers was very stand-offish.

"The adjutant general would hold leaders meetings, we were friendly but it always seemed like we were at arm's length from one another."

After a successful four-and-a-half years as the assistant adjutant general, then Brig. Gen. Lowenberg was selected to work at the Pentagon as the Air National Guard Assistant to the Judge Advocate General of the Air Force.

For six years, he worked on multiple high profile assignments that would shape the Air Force.

It was while planning a United Nations' peace-keeping trip to Haiti, Lowenberg got the call that would bring him back to Washington State.

"I clearly remember it was a two o'clock on a Friday afternoon, with a change of command ceremony already scheduled for noon the following Monday, no announcement had been made and I didn't think I was a serious candidate for adjutant general," said Lowenberg. "I didn't put a lot of thought into it, and my receptionist called back to my office and said Governor Locke is on the phone, and I am thinking he is going to tell me who he picked."

The offer to be the adjutant general came as a shock for Lowenberg.

"I hadn't even talked to my law partners about a change in career, so we had a quick huddle and it was something you follow your heart in."

On Sept. 13, 1999, Lowenberg became the adjutant general.

"I remember mostly the feeling of responsibility for getting it right and setting the tone right from the beginning," said Lowenberg. "Until that point only one Air National Guardsman had served as the adjutant general."

Lowenberg took the position with a great focus. In 1995, the Washington Military Department took over responsibility for Emergency Management. Not only would Lowenberg be the adjutant general, he also was the director of Emergency Management and the homeland security advisor to the governor.

"At the time, the Guard was very much, militarily, a strategic reserve. But because of the other part of the Military Department portfolio, our Emergency Management oversight for state and local agencies -- because of our access to intelligence information -- what shaped my perspective from the earliest days was -- long before I became adjutant general -- we had gone a decade with terrorist activities that came close to home."

Right away, Lowenberg helped Locke stand up a statewide committee on terrorism. He realized that the Guard could have a bigger role to play in global defense and counter-terrorism.

While in Montana to attend a meeting with national emergency management directors, Lowenberg learned of the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001.

In the public eye, National Guardsmen began standing armed at airports across the country, providing security and reassuring passengers. Behind the scenes the Guard was also beefing up operations overseas. In November 2003, more than 3,000 members of the 81st Brigade Combat Team reported for active-duty service at Fort Lewis to begin training for a deployment to Iraq.

"I anticipated the deployment of every element of our force; I didn't anticipate this was going to be a short-term engagement," Lowenberg recalled. "But you prepare for the worst and gladly accept anything less than that, but you always think big and plan for that."

After a short train-up period during the winter of 2004, 3,000 Washingtonians in the 81st Brigade Combat Team mobilized and spent 2004 and part of 2005 in Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia supporting Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

At home, Lowenberg oversaw the morphing of the Western Air Defense Sector, which has grown significantly since 2001, and worked heavily at the national level to see the creation of the 10th Civil Support Team.

Another significant contribution during the early years of Lowenberg's tenure as the adjutant general was the state partnership program agreement with Washington and the Kingdom of Thailand.

"Washington is the most heavily trade dependent state in the nation, especially with Asia," said Lowenberg.

During Lowenberg's tenure as the adjutant general, he also saw the creation of the 194th Wing, and increased the focus of the Air National Guard in Washington to include cyber warfare and defense.

As the 81st Brigade Combat Team returned in 2005, Lowenberg watched multiple units from the Washington National Guard deploy and redeploy to and from the Middle East.

"At one point we had more than sixty percent of the end strength of the Washington Army National Guard deployed out of the country," Lowenberg said. "We, as a Guard, had to adapt so we could still respond quickly to a domestic emergency."

As the adjutant general, Lowenberg would watch as more than 12,000 citizen-soldiers and airmen deployed overseas to Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

"One of my biggest regrets was not getting into theater more and visiting the troops, the rigorous schedule of being adjutant general kept me here."

Deployments not only kept the Guard busy from 2003 to 2009, the National Guard was also responding to multiple state emergencies, including floods, fires, snow storms and national emergencies such as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita as well as supporting multiple Olympic games in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Vancouver, B.C.

In March 2008, Lowenberg along with Gov. Chris Gregoire and Congressman Norm Dicks, broke ground on a 17,000-square-foot facility in Bremerton for the Washington Youth Academy. Even after retiring from service in 2012, Lowenberg stayed active with the Washington Youth Academy, was active with the Youth Academy's foundation, and was on stage in December 2016 to congratulate the 2,000th graduate of the program.

One of the last impacts that Lowenberg made during his tenure as the adjutant general was the standing up of the Washington National Guard Homeland Response Force.

"We need to be able to deploy anywhere, and be prepared to deploy anywhere around the world," Lowenberg said.

In August 2011, the Washington National Guard's Homeland Response Force was certified, becoming the second in the nation and ready to support Federal Emergency Management Agency Region 10 during large-scale disasters. They would be tested less than 20 months later when called to respond to the State Route 530 landslide in Oso.

On July 28, 2012, Lowenberg retired from the Washington National Guard passing the torch to Daugherty.

"General Lowenberg has been an invaluable advisor and confidant to me since the day I became Governor," Gregoire said in a 2012 release. "His leadership at the state and national level on military issues, homeland security and domestic preparedness are second to none. He deserves a wonderful retirement, but he will be sorely missed."

Lowenberg was the second longest-serving adjutant general since the Washington Territorial Militia was first fielded in 1855. His time in office was second only to Maj. Gen. Maurice Thompson, a Washington National Guard icon who served for nearly half a century in the Guard; 27 of those years as adjutant general.

"I want to be remembered as someone that took care of the troops, never backed down from a challenge and loved everything he did," said Lowenberg.

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