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West Pointer takes command of mobilization brigade at JBLM

By Spc. Adam L. Mathis Lt. Col. Steven Donnelly, left, congratulates his successor, Col. John Velliquette, who took command Aug. 1 of 1st JMB.

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The job of helping Soldiers prepare for deployment changed hands Aug. 1 on Joint Base Lewis-McChord when Col. John Velliquette Jr. assumed command of the 1st Joint Mobilization Brigade from Lt. Col. Steven Donnelly.

Velliquette steps into a crucial role for the base. The 1st JMB runs the Soldier Readiness Center, a hub for preparing service members for deployment. This brigade has mobilized more than 73,000 service members and demobilized 48,000 Soldiers.

"Without the efforts from the JMB, we could not have done what was asked of us," Col. Thomas Brittain, JBLM commander, said.

Velliquette is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., where he earned a bachelor of science degree in engineering management. He served on active duty for five years before transferring to the Washington Army National Guard and then the U.S. Army Reserve Corps. As a reserve officer, he deployed to Iraq, where he served as chief automated fingerprint identification officer, among other roles.

Velliquette's last unit, the 2214th Mobilization Support Battalion, accompanied him to his new assignment and became members of 1st JMB.

"The assignment's challenging because we're taking care of Soldiers during the mobilization and reintegration process," Velliquette said. "We've already established good working relationships with the Soldier Readiness Center at Waller Hall, and so just working with them has been a great experience so far. There are always challenges; we've worked through them so far, and we've tried to streamline the process even further."

Donnelly is an aviation branch officer, commissioned through the Reserve Officer Training Corps at Washington State University. He has held positions as an attack helicopter platoon leader, company commander, and a provost marshal, among others. When Donnelly took command of the 1st JMB, the unit was undergoing a major transition from helping Reserve component Soldiers deploying to active duty units.

"The change of mission from supporting reserve component to active component actually changed our daily requirements for the types of services that we provide because most active components who live here are self sufficient," Donnelly said. "So we went from providing housing, feeding, and transportation to simply providing (Soldier Readiness Processing) and the reintegration of the active component."

Velliquette's new assignment already presents challenges. Some Reserve Soldiers who work at the SRC as volunteers are being phased out by 2015. This year, Velliquette and his unit will face a 33 percent reduction in volunteers.

"Every job in the military is different, so this is unique in itself," Velliquette said. "All of my Soldiers - we're ready to do the mission."

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