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Priorities for 2012 focus on JBLM servicemembers and facilities

JBLM Garrison Commander, Col. Thomas Brittain briefs I Corps Commanding General LT. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, area commanding officers, and Pierce County Mayors, during the Commanding General's Community Connector VTC Breakfast Nov. 22. Jim Bryant/JBLM PAO

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Through Congressional budget battles over military spending and political wranglings over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Joint Base Lewis-McChord will continue to support the allied mission in Afghanistan, upgrade its infrastructure, drive resilience initiatives and develop staff efficiencies, Col. Thomas Brittain said Nov. 22 after the I Corps commanding general's video visit with local civic leaders.

Brittain took the floor to update all those present about JBLM priorities. for the coming year.

Behavioral health initiatives focused on stopping suicides, an active duty partnership with a local nonprofit and mandatory transition classes for Soldiers leaving the military were just some of the highlights base leadership shared with South Sound mayors and retired general officers and senior NCOs Nov. 22 during a Community Connections breakfast.

Troop movementsThe 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division is deploying its troops to Afghanistan to fight under the International Security Assistance Force.

The brigade will meet a familiar face downrange. Lieutenant General Mike Scaparrotti, I Corps commanding general is serving as the commanding general of ISAF Joint Command, which includes about 450 JBLM-based I Corps Soldiers currently deployed to Afghanistan

The drawdown in Iraq brings five units home by the end of this year, and seven units including the 593rd Sustainment Brigade headquarters, scheduled to deploy to the Middle East but now to get a respite, said I Corps Operations Chief Col. Gordy Flowers.

Garrison upgrades

Don't expect the fences and roads that are torn down right now to be back in place next year.

The garrison will continue investing in road maintenance to improve the below-ground infrastructure that includes water pipes and power lines - some which haven't been upgraded since the base first opened in 1917.

"Some short-term pain for long-term gain," said JBLM Garrison Commander Col. Tommy Brittain.

Pendleton Avenue is getting a major overhaul as construction crews will work through 2012 expanding the road from two lanes to four.

This will give drivers better access to traverse the base from Madigan Healthcare System to 41st Division Drive near the Exchange.

Brittain would like to get more money to create a four-lane Pendleton Avenue all the way to the Steilacoom/DuPont gate.

The Garrison is also working with the state Department of Transportation to secure funding to complete a study on putting a freeway interchange at the Nisqually River Bridge.

Eliminating suicides

Vicky Duffy wants to see the day when Soldiers stop taking their lives and start getting the help they need. To aid in that effort, she oversees a Suicide Prevention

Task Force that uses a multidisciplinary approach to reducing servicemembers' stress and suicidal ideation.

The Task Force brings together individuals from different areas throughout the base to discuss strategy and proven tactics that can save Soldiers' lives.

"We bring behavioral health staff, medical staff, unit commanders, corps and garrison staff together to discuss exactly that," Duffy told the community members.

"We've taken extensive services, put them together and collaborate so it's easier for people to understand what services they can utilize, how they can utilize them, when to go to the services and how best we can meet the needs of those services for our Soldiers."

Veterans initiatives

The Department of the Army has directed that 50,000 Soldiers be cut from the ranks in five years. Both separated Soldiers and retirees are eligible for unemployment benefits, which cost the Army $600 million last year.

Veterans currently have a higher unemployment rate than non-veterans, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. JBLM wants to help reduce the unemployment burden for taxpayers and help its transitioning Soldiers get jobs when they leave the service.

Command Sergeant Major Daniel Verbeke announced the rollout of a partnership between the base and Seattle-based nonprofit Hire America's Heroes, which works with private companies to get jobs for servicemembers.

Soldiers getting out of the Army can go through Hire America's Heroes to spend a day or two visiting those companies and seeing firsthand what a civilian job they might want to do looks like, Verbeke said.

"If we know that we are releasing Soldiers outside to the civilian populace and by mandate, reducing by 50,000, then there are potentially 50,000 more employees," Verbeke said.

Fixing redundancies

Reducing program redundancies while identifying those programs that are a priority to maintain servicemembers and their Families' quality of life remain uppermost in the leaderships' minds.

I Corps Rear Commanding General Maj. Gen. Lloyd Miles said that every major subordinate command has set up programs at JBLM and he has directed his stasff and the garrison staff to review those programs and policies to find the duplications.

"We are figuring out where those duplications exist and make recommendations to higher headquarters," Miles said.

Brittain said the Garrison is looking at ways to collaborate with the local communities surrounding the installation.

"We are looking at where those partnerships can be maintained where we can get the work done and maintain that level of service," he said.


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