Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

September 6, 2017 at 6:59am

Horticulture vocational program on JBLM

Community service is the foundation of our military. Successful community service is dependent on strong partnerships within the local community.

The 508th Military Police Detention Battalion and the Northwestern Joint Regional Correctional Facility have partnered with Clover Park Technical College, in Lakewood, to support fellow community organizations including Thurston County Food Bank, Joint Base Lewis-McChord Fish and Wildlife and the Sustainability in Prisons Project in an effort to make an impact on the lives of those in our community.

Clover Park Technical College, accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, provides support for the horticulture vocational program within the correctional facility on JBLM. The horticulture vocational program provides community based education which supports rehabilitation and employment skills for the incarcerated to use upon release.

In doing so, individuals have the opportunity to give back to the local community by growing both crops and endangered prairie grasses.

The horticulture vocational program provides fresh vegetables to the Thurston County Food Bank year-round. These vegetables are grown through a combination of traditional farming, greenhouses, as well as aquaponics techniques which utilize fish to grow leafy greens indoors — even during the cool wet winter months here within the Pacific Northwest.

Crop yields range from 50 pounds a month in the winter to upward of 400 pounds month in peak summer. Annual deliveries of organic vegetables range from 6,000 pounds to upward of 10,000 pounds. The fresh vegetables are hand delivered by military police soldiers directly to the community through the Thurston County Food Bank.

The horticulture vocational program also dedicates outdoor growing space to endangered prairie grasses for their partnership with JBLM Fish and Wildlife and the Sustainability in Prisons Project. These community partners plant the seeds produced by these grasses in order to replenish local habitats with the intent of restoring healthy ecosystems and supporting native biodiversity.

The habitat generated from these efforts support a large number of rare, threatened and endangered plant and animal species. Outside of protecting our local community from an environmental perspective, efforts of this magnitude also save the installation approximately $250,000 annually in EPA fines.

The 508th MP Bn. and the Northwestern Joint Regional Correctional Facility have cultivated strong community partnerships in order to strive toward successful community service. The 508th MP Bn. and the Northwestern Joint Regional Correctional Facility will continue to increase supporting local partnership efforts in order to make the most impact on the lives of those within our community.

These partnerships are what make both our community and our military a success.

September 6, 2017 at 6:54am

JBLM hosted Joint Northwest Regional Warrior C.A.R.E.

Vickie LeBrun, of Great Falls, Montana, takes aim with an air rifle during the annual Joint Northwest Regional C.A.R.E. event on Lewis Main Monday. JBLM PAO photo

Air Force Master Sgt. Earla Webb, currently attached to the Air National Guard’s 165th Airlift Wing in Savannah, Ga., never thought she would be playing sports again after suffering several injuries from a deployment to Afghanistan in 2011.

As Webb participated in the third annual Joint Northwest Regional Warrior C.A.R.E. event Monday through Thursday at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Webb found herself being active again for the first time since her deployment.

In 2011, Webb suffered from injuries to the back and neck and also suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. She continues to struggle with chronic migraines and body pains, and she recently had foot surgery.

Webb was able to play wheelchair basketball at the McChord Field Fitness Center — a variation of the sport she played through her middle and high school years in Lake City, S.C.

“This is giving me the opportunity to get back to some of the things I used to do,” Webb said.

She also tried other activities, including wheelchair racing. All in all, she was able to find new ways to be as active as she was before 2011 — back to the kind of person who ran 6 to 8 miles per day.

“Seeing I can do the things I didn’t think I could, it gives me some hope,” Webb said. “This is giving me a new beginning in my life. This is my new start.”

Webb’s story was similar to more than 100 participants representing both the Army and the Air Force wounded warrior community. With the support from Madigan Army Medical Center’s Warrior Transition Battalion, the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program brought in ill and wounded service members and veterans from throughout the country to JBLM.

Through adaptive sports, the wounded warriors are learning different ways to be active. Finding a new way of doing something not only translates in sports but also in everyday life — which is a main goal for the overall C.A.R.E. event.

Casey Dockins, a medically retired Air Force first lieutenant, said it’s all about being able to focus on the “can” and less on the “can’t.” Dockins was injured by an improved explosive device in 2007 during a deployment to Iraq. He now has PTSD, a traumatic brain injury, damage to the spine and heart issues.

Speaking to the participants during the opening ceremony at Cowan Stadium on Monday, Dockins said they all had courage. Being part of a C.A.R.E. event means taking a step into the unknown — but not alone.

“Individually, you may seem invisible, but together, we can be invincible,” Dockins said. “We’re not broken; we’re just redesigned.”

The overall event featured more than just sports clinics with a few scrimmages at the end of the week. C.A.R.E. stands for Caregiver support, Adaptive and rehabilitative sports, Recovering mentorship and Employment and career readiness. The weeklong event also featured workshops revolving around music, journaling and transitioning from the military into the civilian world.

“In the end, our goal is to support them on their journey,” said Marsha Gonzales, branch chief of the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program.

Some participants are considering Warrior Games’ trials through their respective military branches — the path to qualify for the Department of Defense’s 2018 Warrior Games in June at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., or maybe the 2018 Invictus Games October 2018 in Sydney, Australia.

For many wounded warriors, learning how to be active despite injuries means more than any medal that can be won at those competitions.

“I don’t want to feel like a lot of pieces,” Webb said. “I want to be whole again.”

September 1, 2017 at 10:34am

Soldier with 5-20th Inf. is FORSCOM's NCO of the Year

Sgt. 1st Class Brenden Shannon, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, assesses and treats injuries on a mannequin at the 2017 Forces Command Best Warrior Competition at Fort Bragg, N.C., Aug. 23. Photo credit: Spc. Liem Huynh

For five days, Sgt. 1st Class Brenden Shannon woke up not knowing what was in store for him, but he had one goal: winning the 2017 U.S. Army Forces Command Best Warrior Competition at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

"Competition is key in any Army organization," said Shannon, the first sergeant of Company C, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team. "When we do our jobs in a combat scenario, we are competing against our enemy. It is about who has the best tactics, who is the most adaptable, who can think through whatever dilemma the enemy is presenting to us."

The first day began Aug. 20, with a combat-focused physical fitness test that included a one-mile run in the Army Combat Uniform and body armor, negotiating an obstacle, tire flips, an agility drill, a 240-pound dummy drag and more. He then completed a general Army knowledge quiz and a packing list layout.

"I enjoyed the fitness test," Shannon said as he chuckled. "It was a smoker."

The physical exertion did not stop. Day two brought an unknown distance ruck march over uneven terrain.

"A lot of people train for a twelve-miler, so they know how to pace themselves for that distance," Shannon said. "If it is six miles, you think it's easy and run the whole thing. When they give you an unknown distance, that is when you have to focus on the fundamentals of ruck marching such as making sure you are quick but not burning yourself out the whole time."

An M4 Rifle qualification came next, followed by an orienteering event.

At each orienteering point, there was a task that had to be accomplished, said Shannon. The first task for him was hand grenade fundamentals, then camouflage, correcting a malfunction on an M4 Rifle, loading a radio, weapons assembly, and finally a swim through McKellar's Pond.

Shannon and his fellow candidates had previously received a counter-IED class at Fort Bragg that focused on tactics during a dismounted patrol, which he later used on the third day's IED lane.

"We had civilian instructors for that portion," he said. "It was good information that I can retain and bring back to my organization."

That led up to the last event of that day: the confidence course. It consisted of obstacles such as the Confidence Climb, High Step Over, Tough One, Six Vaults, Weaver, Incline Wall, Low Belly Crawl and others.

The competition didn't slow down. Wednesday brought the medical lane where candidates had to demonstrate care under fire procedures and treat a simulated casualty.

They then moved into the stress shoot, said Shannon, a native of Los Angeles, California. They carried water cans for approximately 150 meters and engaged popup targets. After engaging targets, they dragged a litter to the finish point and threw a smoke grenade.

After all the physical strain they were put through, the last day started with an Army Physical Fitness Test and concluded with an oral board.

"You learn a lot out as you prep for the boards," Shannon said. "I am a first sergeant who is digging back into those manuals and broadening my knowledge base. This self-development piece widens soldiers' scope of knowledge, which makes them more adaptable. This is emphasized in these competitions and these boards."

Shannon started at the 1-2 SBCT Noncommissioned Officer of the Quarter competition and has worked hard to compete in the 7th Infantry Division and I Corps levels. On Aug. 25, he earned the title of FORSCOM's NCO of the year.

"I felt great and I was a little surprised," said Shannon.

"Shannon is a very unique and well-balanced leader," said 1st Sgt. Adam Asclipiadis, the first sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 5-20th Inf. and Shannon's sponsor for the 7th ID NCO of the Quarter competition. "He is very standards-oriented and takes care of soldiers."

Shannon is probably one of the most selfless NCOs he has ever met, Asclipiadis said. Shannon is very passionate about doing his job and doing it well. He does not accept defeat or leave a job unfinished.

"The command team is extremely proud of Sgt. 1st Class Shannon, not only for his personal accomplishment, but also for showing all the soldiers within Ghost Brigade what the standard looks like," said Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Grant, the command sergeant major for 1-2 SBCT. "Leading by example, he is the epitome of our NCO Corps and he will be a force to reckon with at the Army NCO competition later this year."

Shannon will compete against his U.S. Army Reserve and National Guard counterparts at the Army Best Warrior Competition scheduled for Sept. 30 to Oct. 12 at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia.

September 1, 2017 at 10:18am

2017 5th Annual VA Mental Health Summit

When a servicemember, veteran and even one of their family members reaches out for help, they can oftentimes experience hearing what sounds like a hundred different responses when it comes to mental health assistance.

"As a provider, we state to our clients/patients that asking for help isn't a sign of weakness but a strength, and as providers, I feel at times, we need to remember that which we teach, and ask our fellow providers for help in areas that we don't know or have the answers for," said Shaida Houssein.

The 5th Annual VA Mental Health Summit was held Aug. 23 at the Puget Sound Industrial Excellence Center Apprenticeship & Education Center in Seattle.

The 2017 VA Mental Health Summit served to increase awareness of issues facing veterans and their family members, assist mental health providers and resources in becoming better educated about the kinds of services and resources that can best help veterans and their family members, establish connections with other service providers and, become better equipped in improving existing programs that serve veterans and their families.

Although the general themes are familiar, the method of the summit can always be improved.

This year, the required annual summit focused on improving mental health for resource providers working with servicemembers, was implemented in a new, innovating way with changes in the logistics and the topics discussed.

"Last year, summit attendees remained in the same room for the entire duration of the summit, and would listen to all the same speakers," said one of the event coordinators, panelists and project coordinator for Give an Hour, Shaida Houssein.  "This year, we incorporated breakout workshop sessions where attendees could choose two of the three breakout sessions to attend throughout the entire summit."

This allowed attendees to delve deeper on the summit's central topics while also allowing more opportunities of interactions and engagement to occur between VA and community providers.

"In the workshops, attendees were able to have in-depth conversations about access and resources that will improve the work they do with veterans and their loved ones," added Shaida.

This year's VA Mental Health Summit was planned by, put on by, and featured panelists from numerous local, state and federal organizations that have established themselves in the local mental health veteran community.

The 2017 Summit Steering Committee Members featured National Alliance 2 End Veteran Suicide (NA2EVS), Give an Hour, Washington Department of Veterans Affairs Behavioral Health Program, Veterans Training Support Center (VTSC), King County and the VA Puget Sound Healthcare System.

The event's keynote speaker was Dr. David Ruskin from the VA Puget Sound Healthcare System who specializes in the Mental/Behavioral Health field.

Several breakout sessions, focused on central themes of Suicide Prevention, Access to Care and Family Services, were available for attendees to learn more about how to better serve veterans in their communities.

"As a panelist, it was helpful to hear directly from the community and VA providers of the existing gaps and barriers accessing mental healthcare services, and then, for me, to be able to harness that need into a goal priority for my community collaborative work and outreach in the upcoming year," said Shaida.

Creating a routine of mental wellness can be a tremendous benefit in looking at overall health.

"Wellness is achieved when individuals are looking after themselves (self-care), enjoying life (leisure), and contributing to the social and economic fabric of their communities (productivity)," said Shaida.  "Overall wellness involves paying attention to one's emotional well-being, and it reminds us that one's emotional well-being is just as important as our physical well-being."

Providing a conference where everyone learns to "speak the same language," is pretty typical, however, the 2017 Mental Health Summit continuously reiterated the theme of teamwork.

"You are not alone ... And with that, there are others in your field that one can collaborate with," said National Alliance 2 End Veteran Suicide (NA2EVS) founder, Rod Wittmier.  "The acronym TEAM remains very important to us all ... Together. Everyone. Achieves. Miracles."

It takes a "TEAM" effort to effectively better serve the veterans in one's community.

"Helping an individual can be an arduous and time-consuming task to take on, but the rewards have the potential to be so great (saving lives)," said Shaida.  "Many individuals assume they need to be a mental health provider to make a difference to an individual with a mental health disorder, but truly it just takes seizing the opportunity to reach out and touch (i.e. asking questions, simple acts of kindness)."

"For veterans, we need to reach in and not wait for them to reach out, and give them the hope that they can still be a contribution in their life and other's lives."

To learn more about this summit or to become involved with next year's summit, please contact Laura Merritt at Laura.Merritt2@va.gov.

September 1, 2017 at 10:09am

Make a "max impact"

Former Seattle Seahawks Ricardo Lockette helps to spread the word and sign promotional outreach cards for the brand new “Max Impact” TBI Mobile Application. Photo credit: WDVA

Of the 600,000 veterans who call Washington State home, it is estimated that one in five has some level of a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

TBI is an alteration in brain function, or other evidence of brain pathology, caused by an external force. Examples of external forces are falls, exposure to blasts, being hit in the head, sudden and violent change in air pressure and more.

"Brain injury happens every nine seconds in the United States," said Washington Department of Veterans Affairs (WDVA) TBI program manager Dan Overton. "Although most of those are considered mild (also called a concussion), about ten to fifteen percent of people, even with a concussion, are going to have ongoing chronic symptoms."

The WDVA has launched the Max Impact Traumatic Brain Injury Mobile Application aimed at empowering veterans, family, friends and caregivers of veterans living with the effects of TBI.

"This app is a suite of tools that is really designed to try and empower the individual to take control of (his or her) own symptoms," Overton said. "Max Impact has a suite of tools designed to try and help veterans and their families understand their symptoms, where they are coming from, and what they can do about them."

MAX is like a virtual service dog designed to help veterans who have experienced a TBI.

Veterans can use a free screening tool to determine whether symptoms may be related to a TBI, be connected with area providers who can help, learn how to manage symptoms and better relax, and connect with other veterans with TBIs all from the safety of their own home.  

It can be hard for individuals to determine whether symptoms are related to TBI and often, symptoms are attributed to other issues such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. The app is a tool that can help veterans seek treatment for TBI or learn how to better manage TBI symptoms.

Max Impact is designed for family members and resource providers as well.

"A family member can say, "I wonder if John has a traumatic brain injury?" and then can actually go through the screening tool steps and detail that John was in a car accident, that he was knocked out, and confirm that John may indeed have a traumatic brain injury," Overton said.  "From there, they can find out, ‘What does it mean?' ‘What exactly is a brain injury?' ‘Is it a concussion versus a brain injury?' ‘Are they going to get better?' What are some of the symptoms because of their brain injury?' And if they can understand all of that, then they can understand why this person is behaving the way (he or she is)."

Many times, especially for those with TBI, it can be easy to become overwhelmed with all of the resources available.

"What we try to do is boil things down (through) all the resources to those the veteran is really specifically needing," Overton explained. "Too much information, too many steps, and we're going to lose that person ... if you choose a particular provider in your county, Max Impact pops up (with) an auto dialer to connect the veteran to (specific resources), including crisis lines, which is an extremely important piece."

Along with available TBI resources, Max Impact also features breathing and stretching exercises, games to assist with memory problems and much more.

"Max Impact has the potential to empower and help somebody in all kinds of ways," Overton continued.  "In terms of their emotional health, in terms of their physical health, in terms of finding providers, in terms of being able to understand behavior more ... this app is designed to help!"

Lastly, there should not be any concern with personal information being shared or with anyone finding out that users have a TBI.

"The app is completely anonymous," Overton assured.  "Nobody is going to be data mining anything, and no user will ever need any special permissions."

The Max Impact Mobile App is available to download at no cost from iTunes and the Google Play Store. Search for it as one word, "MaxImpact" or use the following links:

iTunes:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/max-impact/id1266331417?ls=1&mt=8

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=gov.wa.dva.maximpact

For more information about the WDVA TBI Program, to learn how to be listed as a TBI provider, or to share information about an event where you would like the WDVA to educate attendees about the Max Impact app, visit dva.wa.gov/benefits/traumatic-brain-injury-tbi or contact Overton at danielo@dva.wa.gov or 360.725.2223.

August 31, 2017 at 9:48am

Grueling spur ride tests troops' grit

Soldiers with 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, perform team push-ups during a spur lane Aug. 23 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. John Pantalici

Soldiers of 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, earned their spurs at the conclusion of a spur ride Aug. 24 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

The spur ride, conducted Aug. 22-24, was an event that tested the physical capabilities and basic warrior tasks and battle drills of the soldiers involved. Out of the approximately 150 spur ride applicants, only 64 soldiers earned their spurs.

The spur ride candidates consisted of new troops, often known as shave tails, who wanted to earn their silver spurs. Spurs come in two colors: gold and silver. To earn their gold spurs, a soldier must be with a cavalry unit while deployed. The silver spurs are earned during the ceremony after completing a spur ride.

"It is all about trying to get the new troops to better their basic cavalrymen skills and come out feeling like they accomplished something that was truly worth it," said Lt. Col. Andrew B. Dixon, the 1-14th squadron commander.

The spur ride began Aug. 22, with candidates undergoing a multitude of events such as an Army physical fitness test, a minimum of 70 percent in each event (push-ups, sit-ups and a two-mile run) is required to pass; a packing list layout, layout infractions were punished with exercises such as flutter kicks and burpees; an obstacle course; a day and night land navigation course with an airlift transporting the soldiers to the night land navigation course.

They continued on with little or no sleep working in teams through the eight different spur lanes that consisted of demonstrating their basic knowledge of weapons, medical techniques and more. It was a high-stress environment that put their skills to the test.

Finally, the grueling 12-mile ruck march. Troops who have survived this long earn their spurs.

The troops got to experience tradition, honor and value throughout a course that cultivates esprit de corps and they earn their position within a cavalry unit, said Spc. Jaylnnd Scott, a motor transport operator and a spur-holder with 1-14th Cav.

The troops weren't just given a set of spurs, Dixon said. They did something very challenging to earn them and they will model the professionalism it took to get there and encourage others to push themselves to higher levels of expertise in their craft.

August 29, 2017 at 6:18am

Base donates nearly $68K of food

JBLM Public Works Soldiers participating in Exercise Mobility Guardian load donations onto a truck for the Emergency Food Network near Hangar 7 at McChord Field Aug. 2.

In compliance with the Army’s Food Donation Policy, more than 40,000 pounds of food residuals worth nearly $68,000 was donated this summer by units from Joint Base Lewis-McChord to the Emergency Food Network — a charitable nonprofit food bank that gives to 68 food pantries, hot meal sites and shelters located primarily in Tacoma and Pierce County.

In accordance with the Army regulations, EFN applied for and was certified eligible this year by the Department of Defense to provide logistical support for collecting JBLM’s donated food. Command Sergeant Major Richard Mulryan, JBLM garrison command sergeant major, described the effort as an honest, viable benefit the installation provides the community.

“There’s a benefit to the community, (and) then there’s a benefit to the military,” he said. “The money we would have paid to send all that food out in waste trucks, we can now re-target to other training opportunities, to other resources that we may need; it’s a reallocation of assets.”

After the two-week Bayonet Focus 2017 exercise at Yakima Training Center in June led by the 7th Infantry Division, more than 33,000 pounds of food was donated. According to Paul Stabbert, EFN’s director of operations, the donations made quite an impact in the Yakima Valley area.

“It was amazing to see the variety of food given,” he said.

Stabbert estimated about 5,000 people were fed from the excess food worth about $57,000. The Army also saved the more than $100 per ton charge it pays for solid waste disposal at Yakima — $1,700 saved.

According to the Army’s Food Donation Procedures memo from 2014, wherever feasible, the Army is committed to food donation programs which route excess food to recovery and distribution. At JBLM, there is a standard operating procedure for estimating how much food to order and prepare. Even though no extra food is purchased, sometimes food is left unused that would otherwise be disposed of.

JBLM currently collects and composts about 1,000 tons of food per year, according to James Lee, solid waste program manager and qualified recycling program manager with JBLM’s Directorate of Public Works. His office estimates that at least 25 percent, or 250 tons, of the yearly amount is suitable for donation.

Food purchased by the Army cannot be sold. Donating food to EFN is cost-effective solid waste diversion, Lee said.

“If we don’t get (excess food) to EFN, it goes to the compost pile or the dumpster,” he said. “We’re maxed out; we’re only permitted to off-handle so many tons per year, and we’re right at that. If I get another significant amount of food, we’re going to have to divert it to the landfill.”

The value of residual food is redeemed by not having to dispose of it and placing it in the hands of the needy, Lee said.

JBLM’s food donation program is saving the Army money, preserving the value of taxpayer dollars and reducing the amount of food waste on JBLM and YTC, but it’s also addressing food insecurity — a widespread problem in the South Puget Sound area, according to EFN.

In 2016, 1.3 million visits were made to food programs in Pierce County. EFN estimates that one out of every seven people in Washington struggles with hunger. Nearly 15 million pounds of food was donated by EFN in 2016 to the food programs it serves.

“We know for sure that of the tens of thousands of people that show up at the pantries the kitchens out there, a fair amount of those are young military service members,” Lee said. “I was a E-4 in the Army, and I have shown up at the food bank — I’ve been that guy standing in line a long time ago.”

According to Lee, the visual of young military families standing in line while JBLM composts and landfills thousands of tons of perfect edible food was intolerable to JBLM officials, and the partnership with EFN took shape.

Most recently, more than 7,000 pounds of field residual food generated during Exercise Mobility Guardian July 31 to Aug. 12, valued at more than $12,000, was transported to the EFN.

“If the food would have been disposed of as municipal solid waste, it would have filled at least six to eight garbage dumpsters,” Lee said.

August 25, 2017 at 10:15am

1st SFG (A) partner with Seahawks

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll signs a soldier’s football on the final day of training camp at the Virginia Mason Athletic Complex in Renton, Aug. 16. Photo credit: Sgt. Joseph Parrish

Soldiers of the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) spent their Wednesday as the honored guests of the Seattle Seahawks on the final day of the Seahawks pre-season training camp.

On the morning of Aug. 16, nearly 100 soldiers boarded charter buses on Joint Base Lewis McChord and headed to the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton to watch the Seattle Seahawks practice.

The visit to the Seahawks practice was the first of many community engagements between the two as they have partnered for the upcoming season. In 2012, the Seahawks partnered with the Army, and rotated partnership with each military service through last year. This season, the Seahawks chose the 1st SFG (A).

At training camp, the soldiers were greeted by Seahawks staff and given wristbands granting them special access to watch the Seahawks practice. The soldiers were staged in a roped-off area usually reserved for the players' families.

"It's amazing because this isn't typical for us to get invited to something like this, so for them to reach out and have us come here and treat us so great is amazing," said Sgt. Shaimaya Dawson, a 1st SFG (A) human resource specialist.

Soldiers enjoyed food and drinks as players began filtering out onto the practice field. At the sight of the mixture of green and maroon berets, many of the Seahawks players stopped for conversation, autographs and even selfies.

Due to the nature of the unconventional warfare and the regional alignment mission of the 1st SFG (A), many of its Green Berets spend the majority of their careers at JBLM while living in the surrounding communities, making them larger fans than typical military personnel who often move.

"I'm a huge Seahawks fan -- my wife, my kids, we're all Seahawks fans," said Master Sgt. Ed Hall, who has been a member of the 1st SFG (A) and Washington resident for more than 14 years.

Halfway through the practice, the soldiers were invited to walk on to the field and stand on the sideline to watch the rest of practice.

"Being so close to the action made us feel their intensity," said Staff Sgt. Katie Whelan, a 1st SFG (A) healthcare specialist.

Soldiers stood directly behind the team, able to peer through the massive wall of players to catch glimpses of the action on the field.

When head coach Pete Carroll signaled practice to end, he beckoned the soldiers to join the team in a huddle at the center of the field.

At the center of the huddle, in the mass of soldiers and players, Carroll said, "We respect the heck out of you and love the heck out of you guys and wish we could be like you."

Carroll called team leader, Richard Sherman, to join him at the center of the huddle. Sherman also expressed his gratitude to the soldiers.

"Thank you all for what you do and thanks for being here today," said Sherman before instructing everyone to shout "Seahawks!" at the count of three.

The soldiers and players talked, shook hands, and took pictures with each other. Some of the team's star players diligently signed autographs until every soldier wanting one received a signed item.

Quarterback Russell Wilson said, "It's an honor to have the men and women who serve and make a difference and allow us to play the great game of football and we couldn't do it without them."

As part of the season-long partnership, many of the Seahawks players and coaches are slated to visit the 1st SFG (A) headquarters in September. And, the Seahawks will be featuring soldiers and veterans from the 1st SFG (A) at games throughout the season to include their Salute to Service game in November.

August 25, 2017 at 9:56am

Preparing soldiers on JBLM for future Korea missions

Participants in a vehicle operator’s class on Joint Base Lewis-McChord learn about the parts under the hood of a Humvee. Photo credit: Spc. Erica Earl

For the first time, soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord held a military vehicle operators' course specifically designed for driving in Korea for I Corps soldiers Aug. 14-18.

JBLM has a course that licenses drivers for the operation of non-tactical vehicles from transportation motor pools in Korea, but this is the first class here to license drivers to operate tactical vehicles in Korea.

The course is designed to prepare soldiers to drive during future missions in Korea by certifying and licensing them to drive military vehicles, such as Humvees and light medium tactical vehicles, both stateside and in Korea without needing a separate licensing course upon arrival in the host nation.

It was organized with command support from United States Forces-Korea and led by Mauricio Martinez, a master driver from the 8th Army Safety Office in Yongsan Garrison, South Korea. Fifteen soldiers recently completed the pilot course.

Martinez said the course is essential to readiness for overseas exercises.

"Driving in a foreign country poses risks, and we have to make sure we are meeting the standards," Martinez said.

The 40-hour course includes classroom and hands-on instruction. Topics covered include understanding the driving regulations in America and Korea and installing snow chains in preparation for Korea's harsh winters. The hands-on portion includes operating vehicles through a course that simulates events such as sudden braking and parking in tight spaces.

The course also includes information on unique driving customs and courtesies in Korea that Americans may not be familiar with.

"In the Army, there is high potential to travel all over the world to cultures we are not familiar with," Martinez said. "We are responsible to adjust, which includes driving patterns."

Spc. Tyler Mosley, a course participant assigned to Signal Intelligence and Sustainment Company, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, I Corps, said it is important to be familiar with a host nation's driving standards before arriving there.

"This course is valuable because it goes over the regulations in Korea and the differences there," Mosley said. "Some people might not think driving overseas is that different, but in Korea it's cramped, and they have different laws and different methods of driving."

Martinez held a course the first week of August to train 12 master drivers to teach the USFK operator's class once he heads back to Korea.

Sgt. Oscar Matsomoto, a master driver assigned to SIS Co., and an instructor for the newly added course, said training beforehand saves valuable mission time once soldiers are in Korea.

"For the first time we can qualify all of I Corps on site, so they arrive in Korea ready to drive," Matsomoto said.

Matsomoto said the course this year was made possible by partnering with the 8th Army Safety Office in Korea to get the necessary training to teach the course.

"We had a requirement to fulfill, but we didn't have the help needed to put up the project until now," he said.

Matsumoto said he wants to instruct as many soldiers as possible before the end of the year.

"I want to see about one hundred soldiers licensed," he said.

Matsumoto said there are plans to hold a class in mid-September and another in mid-October.

August 25, 2017 at 9:29am

1st SFG (A) children dominate the Kids Qualification Course

A 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) child climbs an obstacle during the Kid’s Q Course on Joint Base Lewis-McChord Aug. 17. Photo credit: Sgt. Brandon Welsh

The Army Special Forces Qualification course, or "Q Course," is commonly considered some of the most rigorous training in the military. Passing the entire course can take up to two years and upon graduation, soldiers earn the title "Green Beret."

In an event modeled after Special Forces Qualification course, the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) children took part in the 9th annual Kids Q Course on Joint Base Lewis-McChord Aug. 17.

Bridget Manalo, the Family Readiness Support Assistant for 2nd Battalion, 1st SFG (A), said, "The former 2nd Battalion commander, Lt. Col. Brian Petit, came up with the idea nine years ago and it's been going on ever since with 2nd Battalion hosting."

Over 200 children of all ages competed with their parents cheering alongside, running through the seven events.

Some of the events included a zip line, an obstacle course, a mud crawl, barricade jumping, and an Army physical fitness test.

"This is great; it gives the children the opportunity to bond with their fathers and experience a little bit of what they go through every day," said Rachael, one of the parents. "It's so much fun watching them have a good time out here."

The Special Forces Charitable Trust donated over $6,000 for the event to provide T-shirts, food and a Jurassic-themed bounce house that had obstacles to climb inside.

"This is all for the families so the children can have a fun day with their fathers while they're here at home, and it's a great event to strengthen that bond between the families," said David Guernsey, the Special Forces Charitable Trust executive director.

Guernsey and Manalo agreed that the soldiers' families are an integral support network.

"The kids learned teamwork, and that with the help of their family, they can climb any wall and overcome any obstacle," Manalo said.

The parents helped, cheered and motivated their children as they tackled the variety of challenging obstacles. The children received a certificate of completion at an award ceremony and lunch following the event.

"It was a great event for the children of our deployed soldiers because it brought them closer to their fathers who aren't here," said Sgt. 1st Class Adam, a 2nd battalion Special Forces sergeant.

Editor's note: Due to the mission of Special Forces soldiers, some members of the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) prefer not to use their full names.

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