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November 21, 2013 at 11:07am

Words & Photos: JBLM Santa's Castle Ruck March with the 555th Engineer Brigade

Spc. Robert Powell, 14th Engineer Battalion, got into the spirit of the season for a 2.6 mile walk from the 555th Engineer Brigade Headquarters to the American Lake Conference Center. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

It was cold and dark this morning on Able Field behind the 555th Engineer Brigade's headquarters at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

But the lights, the music and the spirit were bright and warm.

"We are a giving organization," Col. Nicholas Katers said before beginning the 2.6-mile Santa's Castle Ruck March that ended at the American Lake Conference Center.

"We are giving back to our own."

>>> Santa Claus, also known as Spc. Andrew Cuadrado, led the 15th Annual 555thEngineer Brigade Santa's Castle Ruck March featured more than 1,000 soldiers delivering over 2,500 toys for distribution to children. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

The festive march supports Santa's Castle, an organization that has provided gifts to the children of Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, activated National Guard and Reservist families experiencing financial difficulty.

Last year Santa's Castle provided gifts to almost 2,000 children in more than 800 families.

>>> Pfc. Dylan Lake's red and green chemical lights helped light the way for the Santa's Castle Ruck March. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

"This is an awesome event, a time to give to those who may not have anything for Christmas," Spc. Alex Wilhelm said.

"We are the largest contributor of gifts to Santa's Castle, and we are proud of that."

Each soldier bought and contributed at least one gift to Santa's Castle. Many gave more.

"I bought one of my favorite toys as a little girl," Spc. Tiffany Johnson said as she pulled out a Barbie doll.

"I hope this makes some little girl happy."

>>> Spc. Alex Wilhelm, 110th Chemical Engineers Battalion, was all smiles after completing the Santa's Castle Ruck March. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

>>> Col. Nicholas Katers, commander, 555th Engineer Brigade, and CSM Kevin Bryan lead over 1000 soldiers on the Santa's Castle Ruck March this morning. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

>>> Capt. Jamie Matthews holds Fedora after the completing the 2.6 mile march from the "Triple Nickel's" headquarters to the American Lake Conference Center. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

>>> Attired for the Christmas Season, soldiers attached to the 555th Engineer Brigade bought and contributed over 2500 toys to Santa's Castle. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

See Also

Santa needs your help

November 5, 2013 at 10:57pm

Hot Shop Heroes: Healing with Fire: From the fire emerges healing

With Connor McClelland's encouragement, Staff Sgt. Bruce Kandle blows glass while Staff Sgt. Jennifer Cox watches. Both Warrior Transition Battalion soldiers are taking part in the Museum of Glass' Hot Shop Heroes program. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

In his play Prometheus Bound, Aeschylus (525 B.C.) writes that Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to the human race in order to create civilizations.

For his act, Prometheus was bound to a mountain from which he eventually escaped.

But the gift he gave humanity keeps on giving.

The Museum of Glass located in downtown Tacoma has partnered with Joint Base Lewis-McChord's Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB) to host a Hot Shop Heroes: Healing with Fire program that allows soldiers the opportunity to develop self-confidence and physical skills as they transition back to active duty or civilian life.

"It is about collaboration, camaraderie and support," Joanna Sikes, the museum's director of external affairs, said.

"These soldiers are working within a circle of peers in an exciting and dangerous environment who have never lost sight of the mission."

Molten glass, 2100-degree heat and teamwork on the part of a dozen soldiers is what photographer J.M. Simpson captured tonight.

>>> Spc. Cory Owens, Spc. Tony Truong and Sgt. Ronnie Bernardo, Warrior Transition Battalion, make glass beads as part of the Hot Shop Heroes: Healing with Fire hosted by the Museum of Glass.

>>> Hot Shop Heroes: Healing with Fire hosted by the Museum of Glass works with JBLM Soldiers in building life skills for a successful return to active duty or transition to civilian life.

>>> Sgt. Lee O'Guin and Maj. Kathleen Steele watch as Sgt. Austin Baker creates a cup from molten glass.

>>> Spc. Tong Truong, Warrior Transition Battalion, looks closely at different pieces of green glass before melting it.

>>> Staff Sgt. Bruce Kandle watches as a molten piece of glass is rolled at the end of a punty, a rod used to blow the glass into a desired shape.

>>> Artist Patricia Davidson works with Spc. Cory Owens and Sgt. Ronnie Bernardo as they learn to create glass beads.

See Also

JBLM Warrior Transition Battalion teams with Museum of Glass on pilot program

November 5, 2013 at 10:56am

JBLM commander Col. Charles Hodges to speak at South Sound Military and Communities Partnership Forum

Col. H. Charles Hodges Jr. took command of Joint Base Lewis-McChord Aug. 7 during a ceremony. Photo credit: Sgt. Christopher M. Gaylord

Col. Charles Hodges, the commander of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, will be the keynote speaker at a 2-and-a-half-hour forum in Tacoma Thursday, Nov. 14 about  the challenges facing the military base and the region.

Hodges' 30-minute talk is titled, "Realization: Local impacts of the sequestration and the draw down."

After Hodges' speech, a panel that includes city council members from Lakewood and Lacey and a regional director will discus solutions to I-5 traffic through JBLM, which is often in gridlock at peak commuter times.


October 28, 2013 at 11:41am

Military receive free tickets to PLU vs. UPS football game Saturday

Are you ready for some football? Photo courtesy of Facebook

As a way of saying thanks for their service, Pacific Lutheran University is inviting the troops - active and retired - to attend PLU's final home game of the season free Saturday, Nov. 2.

It's an early Veteran Day's appreciation moment.

"With our close proximity to JBLM, we wanted to do something to recognize our veterans," said Tyler Scott, PLU's sports information director. "We wanted to do something to recognize our veterans in our last home game of the year."

PLU's last home game of the season will be Saturday against rival University of Puget Sound. Kickoff is at 12:30 p.m. at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup. They anticipate handing out 1,000 tickets.

"Just come to the game and get the tickets," Scott said. "Show your military ID and you get in."


October 4, 2013 at 12:15pm

C Troop, 8th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment give back ... again

Members of C Troop, 8th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment raised about $400 to buy a bicycle for a member of the Young Business Men group, a non-profit that works with disadvantaged young men. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

It's amazing what a little bit of community connection can do.

Almost two months ago, C Troop, 8th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment hosted the Young Business Men (YBM) group, a non-profit organization that works with high-risk male youths in an effort to avoid the negative influences of inner-city life.

"I want to recondition the mindset of some of these young men," Athrettis Brown, the organization's founder, said at the time as 17 young men participated alongside the unit's soldiers in physical training.

"It's great to come to this base and see what success looks like.  I like the ‘togetherness' I feel out here."

Togetherness is a two-way street.

Driving home one recent evening, 2Lt. Alex Harris noticed and recognized a young man walking down the side of the road.


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