Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

July 13, 2017 at 2:19pm

Brig. Gen. John Tuohy to retire from service

Brig. Gen. John Tuohy (left) will retire in August and Col. Jeremy “Java” Horn will take his place as commander of the Washington Air National Guard. Courtesy photo

A message from Maj. Gen. Bret Daugherty, the adjutant general

All:

After nearly four decades of military service, Brig. Gen. John Tuohy will retire in August. Please help me congratulate him on a distinguished career and thank him for his invaluable contributions to our state, our nation and the Washington National Guard.

Following his active-duty service, Brig. Gen. Tuohy joined our organization in 1984 and has successfully filled many roles - to include federal human resource officer, JFHQ chief of staff and commander of the 194th Wing. Most recently, he has been Assistant Adjutant General-Air, commanding the 2,000 men and women of the Washington Air National Guard, while at the same time, leading our team at the Washington Youth Academy. Under his direction, both organizations have been recognized nationally - we are grateful for his leadership and success.

Brig. Gen. Tuohy will certainly be missed, but his tireless work to pioneer an initiative for a joint cyber training schoolhouse will likely leave us a lasting legacy. I wish him and his wife nothing but the best during retirement to include more time with their growing family and more adventures at their Idaho ranch.

Please help me welcome Col. Jeremy "Java" Horn as the next commander of the Washington Air National Guard. Java is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy who brought his extensive experience and enthusiasm to the Washington National Guard in 2009. He's helped lead the 194th Air Support Operations Group, commanded the 194th Wing and deployed to Afghanistan as a Joint Terminal Attack Controller. He was recently named our director of Joint Forces, coordinating all Washington Army and Air National Guard domestic response capabilities.

I'm confident in Col. Horn's ability to grow our organization and offer him my full support. He's known for his focused dedication, which will help us remain a leader in domestic response capabilities, cyber defense, and national security missions.

Again, please help me congratulate both Brig. Gen. Tuohy and Col. Horn as they begin this next chapter. Thank you both for your distinguished service and your selfless contributions to our organization, state and nation!

July 13, 2017 at 2:15pm

Special Forces soldiers carry the load

Soldiers from 4th Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), carry lumber up Granite Mountain to restore the storm shutters on the fire lookout tower July 7. Photo credit: Joseph Parrish

Most change of command ceremonies happen outside a battalion area with a formation, but the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 4th Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), changed it up by conducting its ceremony at the base of Granite Mountain before trekking 5,633 feet to the summit with 880 pounds of lumber for the U.S. Forestry Service.

The relationship between the U.S. Forestry Service and HHD was built at a previous endurance event, when HHD coordinated with the U.S. Forestry Service to use Granite Mountain as a training venue. During the initial coordination, HHD discovered that the Forestry Service needed to transport almost 1,000 pounds of lumber to the top of the mountain. HHD saw the opportunity to give back to the community by carrying the load, while also providing a challenging physical exercise for the soldiers, according to HHD commander, Capt. Wesley Wiblin.

The lumber will be used to restore the storm shutters on the fire lookout tower at the mountain's summit. The fire tower was built in 1956 and hasn't been renovated in the 61 years that it has been standing at the summit. Most of the Forestry Services Rangers are volunteers, and would have to make multiple trips up the mountain to get the lumber to the summit.

"They didn't know how they were going to get the lumber up to the fire tower, so the soldiers from HHD volunteering to help was amazing," said Chris Felsted, Forestry Service Park Ranger.

In total, 36 soldiers from HHD participated in the ascent. The Forestry Service packaged the lumber into 40-pound two-man carry loads. With water and food for the journey, plus the lumber, each soldier carried approximately 50 pounds up the 4.3-mile trail to the summit.

The trail is an incline all the way to the top, and the halfway mark turns into snow-packed terrain.

One soldier from HHD said the hike to the top was very challenging and really tested physical fitness, but that it was great to give back to the community and help the Forestry Service.

July 11, 2017 at 5:23pm

Veteran Career Fairs in the Washington Area, Aug. 15 & Aug 17

Hire G.I is hosting two amazing events in Aug - Sailors to the Workforce - Hiring Event on Tuesday, Aug. 15, & Warriors to the Workforce - Hiring Event on Thursday, Aug 17th presented by Allied Universal Protection.

The Aug 15th event will take place at Best Western Silverdale Hotel | 3073 Bucklin Hill Rd, Silverdale WA. The Aug 17th event will be on the JBLM Base at the American Lake Conference Center. Both events are two-hours from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

The event is free for transitioning military personnel, veterans, National Guard members, and reserve members. Preregistration takes place at hiregi.com. Those that preregister receive a resume review and on-site interviews.

Hire G.I. is a regional career service company, specializing in Veteran Career Fairs, with many years of experience in connecting veteran job seekers with industry leading companies that are currently hiring. Their events provide opportunities to interview face to face with 25+ Fortune 500 and industry leading companies seeking talented, experienced and enthusiastic military candidates.? 

For more information on Hire GI, visit www.hiregi.com

July 10, 2017 at 3:00pm

JBLM athletes competing for Army

55th Combat Camera Sgt. 1st Class Heather Moran, from Joint Base Lewis McChord, takes aim with her air rifle during the shooting competition for the 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games at Chicago Saturday.

CHICAGO — Excitement filled the air as buses full of athletes rolled into the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place in downtown Chicago, escorted by Patriot Guard riders and American flags.

It was a fitting entrance for Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and the United States Special Operations Command service members hoping to represent their teams in a big way as they compete in wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball, track, field, cycling, swimming, shooting and archery at the 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games hosted by the United States Navy Saturday through July 14.

Thirty-eight athletes will be competing for Team Army. While many of the athletes flew into Chicago’s major airports, a few took the opportunity to enjoy an old-fashioned road trip.

Colonel Daniel Dudek, I Corps, and Sgt. 1st Class David Iuli, an Army veteran, drove 30 hours from Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Iuli admits he had initial concerns about the length of the trip, but after hitting the road with his Army teammate, the trek quickly became an adventure.

“It was fun and relaxing,” Iuli said, with a laugh. “Thanks to him (Dudek) and his history knowledge, I’m a Lewis and Clark buff now.”

“I loved it,” Dudek said. “Just watching the sun come up in Montana, and there’s still snow on a lot of the mountain tops. It’s so soothing.”

There are four Army representatives from JBLM. Joining Dudek and Iuli is Sgt. 1st Class Heather Moran and Spc. Maria Garcia from the Warrior Transition Battalion.

About 265 wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans representing teams from the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, U.S. Special Forces Command, United Kingdom and Australian Defense Force are competing in Chicago in shooting, archery, cycling, track and field, swimming, sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball.

Throughout the opening ceremonies Saturday, celebrities Blake Shelton, Kelly Clarkson and comedian Jon Stewart praised the service members for their resiliency and thanked them for their service.

Navy Chief Petty Officer Robin Elkington, Australian Defense Force, said the Australian team has felt welcomed by U.S. forces and by the City of Chicago.

“The Warrior Games is all about recovery and rehabilitation and eventually reintegration into our services and back into our normal lives,” Elkington said. “It’s beautiful and brilliant to see. I hope it really continues and that we can continue to be strong as allied nations.”

Kelly Clarkson opened the concert with “My Life Would Suck Without You.”

“I’m excited and honored to be here,” Clarkson said to the audience. “Thank you so much for your service. We are super honored. When I was told about Warrior Games, I was so inspired, and I’m just so excited to be a part of this and just thank you so much for having us here.”

As she readied the audience for “Piece By Piece,” she was overcome with emotion.

“Y’all are real heroes,” she said.

Blake Shelton closed the opening show at the Warrior Games.

“Happy Independence Day weekend!” Shelton said to the audience. “I hope you’re not going to get tired of me celebrating these military people I see out here in the audience tonight and their families. Thank you so much.”

Editor’s note: Shannon Collins, Department of Defense News Service, contributed to this story.

July 6, 2017 at 10:51am

Green Berets, units work and learn side-by-side

Members of the 1st Special Forces Group (A) conducted a Key Leader Engagement during training exercise Bayonet Focus 2017 at Yakima training center June 17. Photo credit: Sgt. Codie Mendenhall

What happens when you combine the Army's top Special Forces soldiers with a conventional unit? The result is an incredible learning opportunity - for both sides. Soldiers from the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team recently had this chance to work side-by-side with Green Berets in medical training.

For most people, the term "Green Beret" conjures up images from heart-pounding action movies. However, the true scope of work performed by Special Forces soldiers includes everything from unconventional warfare and special reconnaissance, to humanitarian assistance and peacekeeping missions. Partnering with conventional Army units is also another unique aspect of work for these Green Berets.

Pfc. Brennan Stubb, an infantryman assigned to C Company, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, said that partnering with Special Forces during training "make us more prepared, and it changes things up from conventional Army training to get a different perspective."

Stubb and his fellow soldiers in the 2nd Infantry Division received advanced medical training from the Special Forces in first aid. The Green Berets also demonstrated improved techniques for placing injured soldiers on litters and skeds (stretchers that can be dragged along the ground.) While this specialized medical training is standard for the Green Berets, Stubb remarked how beneficial these skills will be for his unit in future training and deployed environments.

For their part, the conventional units also assisted the Special Forces with ground and air support during the training. Soldiers from the 2-2 SBCT provided logistical support to the Green Berets throughout their time at the Yakima Training Center.

For both the Special Forces and conventional units, the YTC provided an ideal environment for the training. "It's a good training venue for both organizations and because we both use it, it makes sense that we co-utilize the same area," according to one of the team leaders with the 1st Special Forces Group (A). The YTC featured a training environment similar to what soldiers might experience overseas, while also being conveniently located so that neither unit had to undertake the otherwise arduous travel to the Joint Readiness Center in Louisiana or the National Training Center in California.

Working side-by-side gave both the Green Berets and the 2-2 SBCT soldiers valuable experience that can carry over to future deployments. "They have a better idea of how we are organized and what our mission is," said the 1st SFG (A) team leader, referring to his 2-2 SBCT counterparts. "Specifically in a deployed environment there's so many lessons learned, command relationships, who's responsible for what, how to battle track each other and how to communicate - very basic things that can have a big impact down range."

July 6, 2017 at 10:37am

Soldiers test readiness during Dragon Week

Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), paddle through the Puget Sound during a competition as part of Dragon Week, held on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, June 29. Photo credit: Spc. Victor Richmond

Most Army units prepare for overseas contingencies by performing an Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise. This entails ensuring soldiers' paperwork is in order and going through the motions of a mock deployment. The soldiers of 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), pride themselves in unconventional training methods, and the unit's Dragon Week was no different.

"Dragon Week is a 3rd Battalion tradition that we have been unable to execute over the past few years because of our operational tempo," said the 3rd Battalion commander Lt. Col. Jason Clarke. "We wanted to get back to our roots and instill the sense of tradition that 1st SFG (A) has been great at for the past sixty years. Dragon Week stresses our soldiers both physically and mentally as they navigate their way through multiple tactical and technical challenges."

Due to the nature of their training and mission sets, Army Special Operations Forces are becoming leaders at redefining the readiness model, according to 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne). Not only are Special Operations Forces much smaller with a very high demand for services, but they experience an extremely high mission deployment rate. Those challenges make it difficult to maintain a sustained ready force, especially when teams operate in different phases of readiness.

By testing readiness at the higher level, 1st SFG (A) is proving readiness can occur outside of the team. To exercise this, 3rd Battalion personnel awoke to an early morning phone call with instructions to bring pertinent paperwork and equipment post-haste for an unknown mission. After the battalion's human resources section checked readiness packets, soldiers found themselves preparing for an airborne operation with a follow-on mission.

After landing safely, the teams representing every company in the battalion were given the first of 10 points to navigate to by staying off roads and using only a compass and a map. At each point they had to overcome physical and mental tasks prior to receiving their next point. The tasks ranged from assembling and disassembling heavy weapons to constructing a rope bridge and crossing an obstacle, to assembling a 300-piece Mickey Mouse puzzle for time.

There was very specific reasons for designing the training in such a way.

"We wanted to make it challenging but not to the point where it detracted from the espirit de corps and team building, said Capt. Mike Dutile, the battalion logistics officer and the officer in charge of planning the event. "If it was too bad, we would have lost the focus."

There were also real-world implications in the training set-up.

"Everything our teams were asked to do during Dragon Week was one hundred percent applicable towards our operations, whether a training event in Asia or a combat operation in Afghanistan or Syria," Clarke said.

Staff Sgt. Katie Whelan, a preventive medicine noncommissioned officer assigned to the battalion, supported the medical lane. Teams were required to self-administer tourniquets, inject IVs, and carry a teammate on a litter for time.

"A lot of the teams had soldiers who weren't trained as medics, but could complete the tasks," she said. "It was pretty impressive to see."

At night, the teams established patrol bases and waited until morning before continuing with small unit tactics and patrolling. The teams also participated in maritime operations at Solo Point involving paddling a boat 1,000 meters to recover a soldier and then returning to shore. From there, they moved to a weapons range to finish with a stress shoot.

Clarke stressed the fact that every echelon the staff played a part in the overall success of Dragon Week, from running the command post, coordinating communications between all units, manning the opposition force, conducting intelligence collection, and acting as roll players to add degrees of realism to the exercise. The joint training included an airman - specializing in Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape - helped train soldiers to escape from various restraints.

"The amount of support to conduct Dragon Week is almost as high as the operators going through the exercise," Clarke said. "Our support soldiers are just as important as our operators to ensure mission success."

June 29, 2017 at 2:17pm

1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) celebrates 60th anniversary

A soldier assigned to 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) carries a log of wood during the Group’s 60th anniversary round-robin training event at Joint Base Lewis-McChord June 23. Photo credit: Maj. Alexandra Weiskopf

The soldiers of 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) celebrated their 60th anniversary through living history June 23 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Over 100 leaders were joined by 1st SFG (A) veterans from each of the decades since 1st SFG (A) existed. Together, the soldiers were divided into teams rucking between six points, each point representing a decade of 1st SFG (A). At the points, the teams were quizzed in historical trivia by veterans. Those answering questions correctly were rewarded by removing weight from their rucksacks. Those who failed to provide a correct answer, however, were forced to carry a teammate on a litter to the next location.

"This is a momentous occasion for 1st Special Forces Group, which activated sixty years ago in Okinawa, Japan," said Col. Guillaume Beaurpere, 1st SFG (A) commander. "We could have celebrated with an airborne operation or a formal dining in. Instead, we took the opportunity to bring in living history and train side-by-side with those who came before us. Our anniversary is about the warriors in 1st Special Forces Group and the warriors that came before."

"With soldiers across Asia, we're in a ‘back to the future' situation in which we're being asked to do things these heroes have already done," he continued. "We asked them to share their history and are benefitting from their experience. If we miss the opportunity to learn from these national treasures, we miss on a great opportunity."

At one of the points Michael Mickelson, a Vietnam-era veteran, noted the biggest difference between Green Berets today and during the Vietnam-era is the manner in which they communicate with their families. During Vietnam, he said, soldiers calling home had to use Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for a retransmission site, and wives had to learn radio phrases like "over" and "out" to speak with their loved-ones.

Dennis Guiler served in the 46th Special Forces Company from 1969-1970 in Thailand while attached to the Central Intelligence Agency. He recalled conducting long range reconnaissance operations into Laos and Cambodia. "We could not even heat our food, for fear of detection," Guiler said. "Since we couldn't add hot water to the dehydrated meals, we ate them dry, and they didn't swell up until they hit our stomachs."

Guiler said packing light and moving fast was important.

"We trained the indigenous forces to travel with us. We followed the intel leads wherever they led us," he said.

"There were so few Green Berets back then, we got a lot of stares when we came through regular airports," he said. "We were so small. We were a true band of brothers."

"We are proud of you for carrying on our legacy," he told the current members of 1st SFG (A). "We tried to do our best so you could follow in our footsteps."

As part of the anniversary festivities, the 1st SFG (A) conducted its annual organizational and family day at Shoreline Park, JBLM, the day prior to the anniversary celebration. The two days of celebrations provided the opportunity for the group's most senior veterans and forbearers to attend.

Eugene Gutierrez, Jr., a World War II veteran of the First Special Service Force, from whom the 1st SFG (A) draws its lineage, flew in from McAllen, Texas.

"I am humbled to be with such a great group of men," Gutierrez said. "I feel like our experiences in World War II laid the foundation for how you all operate, so on behalf of everyone who served in the First Special Service Force in 1942, we are so proud of you men. It is great to be here, but even greater to be an American."

Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Dewey Simpson, a former member of the Group, and his wife, Carolyn, flew in from North Carolina to share Simpson's history. He explained the history of the Green Beret and the significance of the 1st SFG (A) flash - gold to represent the unit's affiliation with Asia inside a black border representing mourning for President John F. Kennedy, who is responsible for authorizing the Green Beret.

"Joining the Army was the greatest thing that ever happened to me," Simpson said. "These are my men, and it's good to see what they're doing and what they're going to do."

Following the round-robin training, the team conducted a dining out to further celebrate the unit's history.

"As the Group Command Sergeant Major, I am the caretaker of our legacy," said Command Sgt. Maj. Tony Labrec, 1st SFG (A). "Our history is being lost, and the sixtieth anniversary is giving us the opportunity to re-claim the story of 1st Group. The heroes that came before us sacrificed for our nation; they sacrificed for us."

June 29, 2017 at 1:23pm

Laser weapons bring advantages to the battlefield

Matthew Ketner, branch chief of the High Energy Laser Controls and Integration Directorate, shows the effects of laser hits on materials during Lab Day in the Pentagon, May 18. Photo credit: David Vergun

The Army and Navy are increasingly incorporating laser weapons on a limited number of platforms and training exercises, according to Matthew Ketner, branch chief of the High Energy Laser Controls and Integration Directorate at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, Virginia.

Ketner spoke on these emerging laser technologies last month during Lab Day at the Pentagon.

For its part, the Navy placed a 30-kilowatt laser onboard the USS Ponce, an amphibious transport dock ship, in 2014. The laser has been tested extensively and is authorized for defensive use.

The Army, meanwhile, is testing lasers to bring down unmanned aerial vehicles, according to Ketner.

In one training instance, a 10-kilowatt laser was placed on a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck and tested during a Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in April 2016. The laser successfully shot down a number of unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as UAVs.

In February and March of this year, the U.S. Army Space and Missile Command shot down a number of UAVs with a five-kilowatt laser mounted on a Stryker during the Hard Kill Challenge at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

The purpose of the Hard Kill Challenge "was to assess and look at technology ... to do a ‘hard-kill' shoot down of Group 1 (UAVs) and inform decision-makers on the current state of technology and how it can deal with single and multiple targets," said Adam Aberle, SMDC High Energy Laser Division technology development and demonstration lead.

The Army recognizes that high energy lasers have the potential to be a low-cost, effective complement to kinetic energy, he said. Lasers have the potential to be more effective at addressing rocket, artillery, mortar, or RAM threats, as well as unmanned aircraft systems and cruise missiles.

On the plus side, lasers are silent and invisible to the human eye and are thus hard to detect by the enemy, Ketner said.

Also, a laser has a near-perfectly straight trajectory, unlike the arc of an artillery round, which allows the laser to be much more accurate in finding its target.

Ketner also pointed out that a laser beam can also be scaled to the object in question, as he showcased a display of items that were hit by a laser. The objects included steel plating, aluminum, copper, carbon fiber and Kevlar. Other display items included a fried circuit board, a destroyed fixed-wing UAV and quadcopter, all victims of the laser beam.

The power of the beam can be adjusted for any material, he said. There's even a non-lethal adjustment for human targets.

So far, lasers have taken out cruise missiles, mortars, and other projectiles during testing, Ketner said.

One downside, he noted, is that lasers take a lot of energy and have difficulty penetrating haze, dust, smoke and materials with anti-laser coatings. But overall, lasers remain a valuable tool in the military's arsenal. "Unlike a traditional gun," Ketner said, "lasers don't run out of bullets."

June 28, 2017 at 5:43pm

DIVARTY masses guns first time in 14 years

Soldiers of 2nd Infantry Division Artillery prepare to fire their M777 Howitzer at a target during the DIVARTY Mass Fire exercise June 10 at Yakima Training Center. Photo courtesy of 7th Infantry Division

In 2003, Pfc. Jesse Kobussen, a field artillery fire direction specialist, was processing mass fire missions at Rodriquez Live Fire Complex, South Korea, for 2nd Infantry Division Artillery. This would be the last time the DIVARTY would control fires for multiple artillery battalions before its deactivation Nov. 30, 2006.

But on June 10, Sgt. 1st Class Kobussen sat again in the DIVARTY Fire Control Center as the senior fire direction specialist - controlling fires for multiple field artillery battalions for the first time since 2003.

DIVARTY, based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, orchestrated the massing of 33 M777 Howitzers from three field artillery battalions, including one Washington Army National Guard unit, while conducting Force Field Artillery Headquarters training at the Yakima Training Center. This was the first time since the DIVARTY's reactivation Sept. 25, 2014, the fire control team has demonstrated this critical capability required by the 2ID commander.

"It is truly awesome when you see thirty-three cannons mass on a single target," said Kobussen. "That destructive power shakes the earth for miles and shows the lethality of the DIVARTY."

DIVARTY routinely participates in 2ID exercises, such as Operation Key Resolve, Operation Ulchi Freedom Guardian and division-level warfighting exercises. Their ability to integrate fires with maneuver and set conditions for maneuver commanders has proven critical to the success of 2ID missions.

"Re-establishing and training on this critical capability after some fourteen years clearly demonstrates the lethality and the significant role the DIVARTYs have in a Decisive Action battle," said Col. David Pierce, 2ID Artillery commander. "The Force Field Artillery HQs can control multiple field artillery battalions and effectively mass onto a single target simultaneously and instantly destroy the adversary, creating that marked battlefield advantage for our brigade combat teams."

Soldiers of DIVARTY stand ready now to support their Republic of Korea partners. Kobussen and the soldiers of DIVARTY have proven they can effectively control the field artillery fight, mass all indirect fires on enemy targets and are prepared to take the fight to the enemy.

June 22, 2017 at 3:03pm

Canadian general bids farewell to I Corps

Canadian Brig. Gen. Dany Fortin, the outgoing I Corps deputy commanding general for operations, addresses the audience during a Courage Honors Ceremony on Joint Base Lewis-McChord June 13. Photo credit: Sgt. Youtoy Martin

After completing a two-year assignment as I Corps' Deputy Commanding General for Operations, Canadian Brig. Gen. Dany Fortin and his wife Madeleine Collin, are headed north, back to their home country.

Members of I Corps said goodbye to Fortin during a brief ceremony June 13 at Joint Base Lewis McChord.

"It's a bitter sweet day for all of us at I Corps as Brig. Gen. Fortin and his wife Madeline return to Canada as Dany continues to assume roles of greater responsibility in his Army," said Lt. Gen. Gary Volesky, I Corp commanding general, during his remarks. "I would like to extend a special thanks to our teammates in Canada for continuing to send us their best officers to serve in America's I Corps, and Brig. Gen. Fortin is a shining example of this."

Fortin said Canadian general officers have been embedding in I Corps since 2008. His predecessors, he said, paved the way for success in his assignment as the I Corps DCG-O.

"They have established this relationship with the Corps," Fortin said. "Regardless of who the commander or key staff are, there is a bit of institutional memory here."

Fortin said the assignment was an honor and great learning experience.

He came to I Corps as a newly promoted general and within a month he was off to his first training exercise with the Corps headquarters, one of many in his tenure throughout the Pacific Region.

"It is an incredible privilege to have been selected by my country to come here, and a tremendous opportunity to develop my warfighting skills," Fortin said. "I never would have had that opportunity to work at that level of warfighting in Canada and have so many repetitions, which I've had over the course of my two-year assignment."

Fortin said he fostered and shared great relationships with his American teammates and quickly found himself feeling like a fully-integrated member of the unit despite being a member of a foreign military.

At times, he said, he forgot he was a Canadian officer and not a member of the U.S. military.

"I believed in being a part of the team that is the U.S. Army, and adding value to the training and readiness," said Fortin.

One of Fortin's goals while assigned to I Corps, was to develop his skills and master his craft as warfighter.

On many occasions, former I Corps Commanding General Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza, called on him to lead the team on several exercises to provide guidance on his behalf, commanding the Corps during command post exercises. Experiences Fortin said he might not have had in his native country.

"It's not that I wouldn't have been entrusted with that responsibility back home, but I would not have had that kind of opportunity back home to work at that level," Fortin said.

Fortin said his time at JBLM led not only to professional opportunities, but to the development of treasured relationships.

When he arrived at JBLM he and his wife knew no one, he said. But he soon met people who he would come to see as great friends and neighbors who welcomed and accepted him as a member of the team and the community.

"Two-years later, as we are about to leave, we have so many good friends from the Corps and across JBLM and we will miss them," said Fortin. "We've learned a great deal from this experience not just professionally but personally. We learned a great deal being here on base with great friends and we look forward to reconnecting with them as we go the four-winds."

In two-weeks, Fortin and his wife will celebrate their 24th wedding anniversary on the road, as he said they often do. They look forward to his next assignment in Canada, which brings them closer to family.

Fortin said this was the first time they had to be away from their daughter Gabrielle, who stayed home in Quebec, Canada, some 3,000 miles away to attend college.

"Being so far from our daughter was particularly harder for my wife, than me as it often is," said Fortin. "We look forward to reconnecting; we will only be about four hours from her and other family in my next assignment."

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