Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

Posts made in: January, 2018 (9) Currently Viewing: 1 - 9 of 9

January 4, 2018 at 2:50pm

Army scientists: Regrowing limbs could be the future for military medicine

Military researchers are studying how some animals, such as salamanders, are able to regrow limbs. The work is designed to help those with amputations regrow their own arms and legs. Photo credit: Heide Couch

For some animals, such as salamanders, regrowing a missing limb is a common healing process. But what if people could do the same? Could the future of treating amputations include soldiers regrowing their own muscle, bone, and nerve tissues?

"We're not quite there yet," said Army Lt. Col. David Saunders, extremity repair product manager for the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity, Fort Detrick, Maryland. "What we're trying to do is develop a toolkit for our trauma and reconstructive surgeons out of various regenerative medicine products as they emerge to improve long-term outcomes in function and form of injured extremities."

Saunders was part of a session focusing on the research being done on extremity regeneration, part of a larger theme of regenerative medicine at the Military Health System Research Symposium. Saunders said that while there's been amazing progress in the areas of using synthetic grafts to start the regrowth of muscle, nerve, vascular, and connective tissues, it's still not the same as the real thing. "We would like it to be as restorative as possible, resist infection ... and be durable," he said. "This is going to be implanted in young people who may go on to live another 60 to 70 years."

One researcher is using fillers to bridge the gap in damaged bones, hoping to figuratively bridge the gap between current regenerative techniques and the ideal: people regrowing lost limbs. Stephanie Shiels with the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, talked about her research to develop a synthetic bone gap filler that heals bones and reduces infection by infusing those grafts with a variety of anti-microbials.

"We know that it reduces infection," said Shiels. "Other things to consider include adding a bulking agent ... to help regenerate bone."

Other research focuses on regrowing muscle lost in traumatic injuries, as well as recovering nerves, or at least preserving them, for future use. But besides treating those deep tissue wounds, there's something a bit more on the surface that can impact troops: skin. The skin is known for its regenerative properties. Research is being conducted to help it do that job better and recover scar tissue.

Jason Brant with the University of Florida has turned to a mouse to help the military reduce scarring of injured soldiers. He said the African spiny mouse has evolved a capability to lose large parts of its skin when a predator tries to grab it, allowing the mouse to escape and live to recover. The mouse is able to recover scar-free in a relatively short amount of time, which is remarkable considering the amount and depth of tissue lost. Brant wants to know how the mouse is able to do that.

"Warfighters and civilians alike suffer large surface (cuts) and burns, and these result in medically and cosmetically problematic scars," said Brant. "The impacts of these scars ... are really staggering. The ability to develop effective therapies will have an enormous impact not only on the healthcare system but on the individuals as well."

He believes a certain protein in the mouse could be the key, but he's still trying to figure out how it could apply to humans.

Another way to reduce scarring involves the initial treating of wounds. Army Maj. Samuel Tahk, a research fellow with the Uniformed Services Health Consortium, passed around to attendees samples of biocompatible sponges he's investigating for their ability to promote skin healing, and thus, reduce scarring.

"It provides a scaffold to start regenerative growth," said Tahk. "This could simplify patient care and also reduce costs."

While the field of regenerating body parts is still new, Saunders believes it will be the future of wounded warrior care.

"Extremity wounds are increasingly survivable due to the implementation of body armor and damage control surgeries," he said. "(There are) many wonderful things emerging in the field of regenerative medicine to restore form and function to our wounded warfighters."

January 4, 2018 at 2:54pm

Air Force colonels nearing mandatory retirement can remain three more years

Soldiers receive certificates of retirement during a ceremony at Conmy Hall, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., Sept. 28, 2017. Photo credit: Pfc. Gabriel Silva

The Army is terminating the use of temporary early retirement authority, or TERA, for soldiers with less than 20, but at least 15 years of service.

"Since 2012, temporary early retirement authority has served as an effective tool for drawing down the Army's end strength," said Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper, in a memorandum released Dec. 15. "However, the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2017 increased Army end strength and we have ceased the drawdown."

With the drawdown ended, the Army has put in place a process to end the use of TERA earlier than originally planned, in a way to ensure a smooth transition, said Hank Minitrez, with the Army's Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-1.

Soldiers eligible for TERA must submit a request through their chain of command no later than Jan. 15. Commanders are required to expedite the applications, as the authority to approve TERA requests will expire Feb. 28.

One exception is for soldiers whose results from the fiscal 2017 promotion selection board will not be released until after Jan 15. They must submit a TERA request no later than 30 calendar days from the release of the board results. Once the request is received, authorities will have 45 calendar days to approve or deny the soldier's request.

Results from four fiscal 2017 officer boards have not yet been released, Minitrez said.

Along with ending TERA, the secretary's memo also terminated temporary changes to the minimum years of active commissioned service soldiers must have to retire as an officer. Since 2014, soldiers have needed only eight years commissioned service to retire as an officer, and now that minimum goes back to 10 years commissioned service (with a total of 20 years active federal service.)

Soldiers approved for TERA must retire no later than Sept. 1. Any changes in the effective date of retirement beyond Sept. 1 are not authorized, according to the memo.

January 11, 2018 at 11:07am

1-2 SBCT soldiers earn EIB

A soldier with 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team drags a simulated casualty to the finish line of Objective Bull Dec. 15, 2017, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Samuel Northrup

Through the darkness, the soldiers pushed forward toward their objective. Sweat was dripping off the chins of some, hitting the ground as each mile passed.

Their rucksacks seemed heavier with each passing step, their helmets weighing down like lead covers on their heads. They had to complete a full 12 miles before their trek was done.

Once they reached their destination, there was one more task at hand: each soldier had to treat a simulated casualty and carry him out on a litter.

This was the final event for the Expert Infantryman Badge testing that took place Dec. 11-15, 2017, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Out of the 324 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team soldiers who started the EIB testing, only 73 successfully completed all the required tasks and earned their badge -- making the attrition rate 78 percent.

"The test has evolved over the years," said Command Sgt. Maj. Walter A. Tagalicud, the I Corps command sergeant major. "It certainly differs from the one I participated in to earn my EIB in 1989. But, the spirit and intent remain. There is no greater individual training mechanism to building the fundamental warrior skills required in our profession, than the EIB."

There is a lot of train up to the EIB, said Spc. Tyler Conner, an infantryman with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment. Even if a soldier is not trying out for the EIB, the train up for the testing is valuable to see the right way of doing infantry tasks. When a soldier finally earns the EIB, it shows that they have honed their skills enough to be called an expert infantryman.

The EIB evaluation included an Army Physical Fitness Test, with a minimum score of 80 points in each event; day and night land navigation; medical, patrol, and weapons lanes; a 12-mile forced march, and Objective Bull (evaluate, apply a tourniquet to and transport a casualty).

"These crucial skills are the building blocks to our battle drills and collective gates," Tagalicud said. "The Expert Infantryman Badge is as much about the training, leading up to and through the testing, as it is about proving your mettle."

"Earning the EIB was one of the best experiences I had in the Army," said Sgt. Wilmar Belilla Lopez, a soldier with 2-3 Inf. "Being tactically and technically proficient is the core of being a soldier. When a soldier earns their EIB, it signifies they have achieved a level of proficiency all soldiers should strive for."

"The Greek Philosopher Heraclitus said, ‘Out of every 100 men, 10 shouldn't even be there, 80 are just targets, nine are the real fighters and we are lucky to have them -- for they make the battle. But the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back,' Tagalicud said while addressing the new EIB holders.

"You are that warrior. You infantrymen, you soldiers, you leaders and candidates are the one in a hundred," he said. "Many stepped forward to answer the question ‘am I good enough?' For you, the answer is a resounding yes!"

The EIB was developed in 1944 to represent the infantry's tough, hard-hitting role in combat and symbolize proficiency in infantry craft.

For the first EIB evaluation, 100 noncommissioned officers were selected to undergo three days of testing. When the testing was over, 10 NCOs remained. The remaining 10 were interviewed to determine the first Expert Infantryman.

On March 29, 1944, Tech. Sgt. Walter Bull was the first soldier to be awarded the EIB.

January 14, 2018 at 9:39am

JBLM's Operation Baby Shower Jan 20.

Tenzin McClung, 1 month, smiles for the camera as his mother Marisela McClung, of JBLM, left, and friend Gabrielle Peterman, of JBLM, right, during the 2017 Operation Baby Shower at the American Lake Conference Center on Lewis North. JBLM PAO photo

Whether you just had a baby or you’re waiting on the arrival of that special bundle of joy, Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation has a baby shower planned just for you.

Operation Baby Shower — a free event for new and expectant moms and dads and their children — will be at American Lake Conference Center, 8085 NCO Beach Road, Lewis North, Jan. 20 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

This is the seventh year JBLM has offered the event, which involves baby shower games, educational and pampering products and informational booths, door prizes, refreshments and more.

In addition to the many activities of previous years, this year there will be a lactation consultant in attendance and 4-D ultrasound booth.

“There’s a lot of really cool stuff this year,” said Megan Braholli, recreation specialist in the Family and MWR special events office.

One booth alone will be giving out more than 100 gift bags, she said.

Guests will receive a passport page to get stamped at various booths at the event. When completed, the stamped passport is returned to the entrance booth for a chance to spin the wheel for one of several prizes.

JBLM’s Child, Youth and School Services has joined with Family and MWR to host the event and will have craft tables for small children at the event.

The event is primarily geared to new and expectant moms and their young children. All are welcome, but most child games and crafts will be geared to ages 4 and younger, Braholli said.

In addition to fun games and freebies, expect to learn some new tips for moms.

“It’s a free event with no RSVP and lots of fun stuff,” Braholli said. “If you’re a new mom, expect to reap the benefits of new information and the many booths of stuff you may not already know.”

January 18, 2018 at 11:41am

Mission made possible: Operation Proper Exit

Master Sgt. Leroy Petry and Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Tinney enjoy a light-hearted moment during Operation Proper Exit at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Dec. 5. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Tina Villalobos

Operation Proper Exit, an initiative of the Troops First Foundation, was facilitated by the 35th Infantry Division along with U.S. Army Central Command during its journey through Camps Arifjan and Buehring, while en route through the Middle East in early December.

Operation Proper Exit is a driving force for wounded warriors and Gold Star families to continue to work through the trauma they've faced and to help them find their path forward.

Normally, December is a time for closing doors on the outgoing year and opening up a fresh new year full of possibility. People make plans and resolutions to implement positive changes in their lives. But if the past year's door is unhinged, it can be hard to close it and look forward.

Rick Kell, a retired advertising executive, began visiting with wounded warriors at Walter Reed Medical Center in 2005, and over the next several years, he learned a great deal about the needs of these heroes. One recurring theme among them was the need to return to that place where fragments of their lives went missing, to put those pieces back together, and to leave -- this time, on their own terms, and make a "proper exit."

In August 2008, Kell and David Feherty co-founded the Troops First Foundation and incorporated it as a nonprofit organization. That same year, Ray Odierno, then commanding general in Iraq, approved OPE, and it became one of several Troops First Foundation initiatives. Now in its 10th year, and having completed more than 20 trips to the Middle East, with 10 trips to Iraq and 13 to Afghanistan, OPE has expanded to include Gold Star Families.

Master Sgt. (ret.) Leroy Petry, Medal of Honor recipient, formerly of D company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, lost his right hand to a grenade that was about to blow up next to his fellow troops in 2008. He had just been shot in both thighs, when he managed to grab the grenade and toss it away from his comrades. Although he has since retired from the military, Petry now serves as a member of the Troops First Foundation.

"I'm in phase two of the Army, taking care of veterans and our military the best way I can," said Petry. "Nothing inspires me more than coming over here and seeing you all."

Petry offered sound advice to current active-duty troops.

"I hear it every time I go to Afghanistan from some of the troops, ‘This isn't what I expected. There's not a lot of action. This isn't how I thought a war zone would be,'" said Petry. "And war has changed. The tempo has slowed down for U.S. troops. We're in that advisory role. I tell a lot of them, ‘Be careful what you wish for, because in the blink of an eye, that could all change.'"

Soldiers injured in battle or other situations sometimes wake up in a hospital, days or even weeks later, missing those pieces of their lives. In addition, the sense of having been ripped away from their fellow soldiers by force can leave them with feelings of guilt, anguish and anxiety. Their choice to contribute was taken from them, perhaps along with some or all of the functionality of their area of injury.

Cpl. Matthew Bradford, U.S. Marine Corps (ret.), now on his second OPE trip, expressed the benefit he gained from being able to return to the Middle East.

"What I experienced on that trip to Iraq in 2011, it really changed my life. I felt like when I got hurt here in 2007, part of me was still here in this country, and when I came back in 2011, I had to get it home. Life changed for me then," said Bradford. "I served in the Marine Corps from 2005 to 2012. I was severely injured in 2007. I lost both my legs and my vision when I stepped on an improvised explosive device. I got hurt on January 18, 2007, and I was at Bethesda on January 21, in an ICU coma for three weeks. I was 20 years old."

Some Americans don't think much about the ongoing wars, some are even oblivious - but for those who were injured in the fight, the wars can rage on. For some, getting up every morning or being able to sleep at night is a battle of its own, and the fight to do everyday things can be daunting. Others battle unseen scars which inhibit their ability to move forward and cope in healthy ways.

"I am constantly reminded about my injuries, every morning when I wake up and put my legs on and when I open my eyes up," said Bradford. "Then, you know, I think to myself, ‘Why be mad? Why be discouraged about ‘now you're a legless, blind amputee.' Go out and live your life to the fullest.' Because we live in the United States of America, we have the opportunity to live our lives to the fullest, and that's what I do, and I love every minute of it."

Bradford described his devotion to the Marine Corps as something he holds most sacred.

"That's who I am," said Bradford. "It's who I was in 2005, when I raised my right hand and stood on those yellow footprints. It's who I was in 2007 when I got blown up. It's who I am today, and who I will forever be. I'm very blessed to have (not only) had the opportunity to serve in the United States of America, but to have worn the uniform as a United States Marine, infantryman -- the best of the best."

Bradford persevered and re-enlisted in the Marine Corps to continue serving and devote himself to working with other wounded warriors.

"On April 7, 2010, I re-enlisted," said Bradford. "I was the first blind, double-amputee to do that. I was assigned to the Wounded Warrior Battalion East, at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Being assigned there and being around other wounded warriors, it's what I wanted to do."

According to Bradford, his active lifestyle allows him to continue to be a leader.

"Since 2007, I've participated in six Marine Corps Marathons, I've done six half marathons, I've done seven Spartan races," said Bradford. "In November, I completed my first ever trifecta, which is the sprint, the super, and the beast, all in one year. I learned in the Marine Corps and also in therapy, that if you lead by example, they will follow, and that's what I do. Everything that I learned in the Marine Corps has helped me to get through my recovery and it's everything that I still use today."

For Gold Star families who have lost loved ones to the war, accepting what happened -- how and why -- is a journey of its own, with pain and emptiness that lasts a lifetime.

These families gain a deeper understanding of their loved ones' military lives, beyond just seeing them in uniform. During their travels, Gold Star family members typically wear the uniform of their loved one's service. There are some stops along the way, where all OPE participants have an opportunity to address and interact with currently serving troops.

Diana Pike, a U.S. Army veteran and Gold Star family member, lost her son, Chief Cryptologic Technician (Technical) (EXW/IDW/SW) Christian M. Pike, when he died at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, in March 2013 from injuries sustained during combat in Afghanistan as a member of Echo Platoon, Seal Team Five, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. For his heroism in connection with combat operations against the enemy, Pike was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star with Valor. He had served more than 11 years in the Navy and had joined the special operations team in 2013.

Pike had followed in his mother's footsteps, as Diana Pike had served for more than a decade in the U.S. Army's cryptologic service and left the Army as a Sergeant 1st Class.

"Since Christian's death, I have been stagnate; not ‘living,' just being," said Pike. "I go to work every day and meet all my responsibilities, but I haven't been able to find joy in living. I believed that in being Christian's proxy and making his ‘Proper Exit,' I might be able to find solace and comfort in walking the path he walked, and gain a greater understanding of his presence in Afghanistan. Christian was very proud of his service and really believed in our participation in Afghanistan. I wanted to feel what Christian felt."

Going to the theater of operations where their loved one was killed allows Gold Star family members to gain a depth of understanding and perspective that could not be attained in any other way. While these families can never be made entirely whole, OPE may offer greater avenues of healing and acceptance, as it allows them to profoundly touch their loved ones' world.

Pike spoke of her OPE journey with the wounded warrior veterans who became her comrades.

"I have come to love and admire these men," said Pike. "Their mere presence lifted me up -- they are miraculous, inspirational men. They demonstrate their tenacity, love and spirit of service every day. They told their stories of victory, and how, after the worst days of their lives, they kept moving, rebuilt their lives to greater successes, greater love, and greater happiness."

Pike went on to describe her sentiments regarding the wounded warrior veteran participants she met during OPE.

"I believe these are men Christian would have loved and laughed with, as I love and have laughed with them," said Pike. "If you know these men, you know their stories and their joy for life. I couldn't thank them enough for the gift they have given me -- how can I be mired when these men shine? I cannot, it would be disrespectful. I love them for the joy they have given me, and these words fall shamefully short of the feelings I hold for them."

Wounded warrior veterans gain a sense of completion from OPE, as it bridges a gap in time and fills a void left by the circumstances of their injury and evacuation. These warriors and families can gain a sense of being back in control. The warriors come back to their area of operation and then leave it on their own terms. They are consciously present and in control from start to finish.

Because of interactions with currently serving troops, participants also understand how much they are still a part of a larger military family. The camaraderie is tangible in the genuinely warm interactions wherever they go. OPE provides warriors and Gold Star family members an opportunity to see that a difference has been made in the theater of operation where these warrior veterans served.

Senior Airman (ret.) Aubrey Hand III was injured by a bomb on a route clearance mission. Despite the injury, Hand leads an active lifestyle that includes snowboarding and hand-cycling, hobbies he acquired after his injury.

"We had to go in and out the same road," said Hand. "They knew it. They put a couple of barrels into a culvert. So now I'm a below-knee amputee. Life is definitely different. Everybody that's here, everybody that's around me, everybody that supports the military, that's the only reason that I can do what I do now."

Staff Sgt. (ret.) Luke Cifka lost both of his legs on his second deployment, in Logar Province, Afghanistan, in 2013, when he stepped on a pressure plate improvised explosive, resulting in a bilateral above-knee amputation and having the bones in his hands broken.

"I tried out for the sniper effects and got picked up," said Cifka. "That's when I really fell in love with the Army. My favorite past time is that I like to shoot. I will never stop. Ever. When I was hurt, my hands were broken. Every bone in my hands was broken. I lost most of the feeling in the fingers and that created some problems for shooting. It was only because I had good leadership and good examples to follow, like Leroy (Petry) -- who came to visit me in the hospital that I was able to kind of channel that into recovery and get back and shoot, which is what I do now. I am a full-time firearms instructor."

Now on his first journey with OPE, Cifka shared his gratitude for the opportunity.

"I met Rick and some of the guys with Troops First several years ago," said Cifka. "When Rick asked me to come on this, I said ‘no.' I said ‘no' for about four years. I just wasn't there. I wasn't able to mentally get over that gap of going back into a war zone in a wheel chair."

But Kell continued to reach out to Cifka over the years.

"(Kell) kept at it. He kept taking guys back," said Cifka. "I am very grateful that they didn't give up on me. We've only been here a couple of hours and it is already making a difference."

January 18, 2018 at 11:46am

Armed with Secure Wi-Fi

A soldier from the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team sets up a Secure Wi-Fi Access Point in the brigade main command post during the unit’s training rotation at the National Training Center, at Fort Irwin, California, in April 2017. Photo credit: Amy Walker

In support of on-going efforts to make command posts more resilient, mobile and survivable, the Army is pushing to get Secure Wi-Fi to the field to help gain an operational edge against potential peer and near-peer adversaries.

Following the relocation of a command post on the battlefield, referred to as a "jump," Secure Wi-Fi enables critical network and mission command systems to come up online in minutes, versus waiting many hours for soldiers to wire a command post for network connectivity.

The 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, successfully piloted this Secure Wi-Fi capability for a second time during decisive action training at the National Training Center, or NTC, on Fort Irwin, California, which concluded in November 2017. During this realistic combat training event, the unit fought against a capable adversary and used Secure Wi-Fi extensively throughout its brigade command post to speed maneuver, provide continuity of mission command and remain a step ahead of enemy forces.

"The key benefit provided by Secure Wi-Fi is the velocity that it brings to (the set up of) my mission command systems," said Col. Michael Adams, commander of 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. "Near-peer adversaries are much more capable than enemies we trained against previously. In a decisive action training environment, (armed with Secure Wi-Fi), we are much faster and more mobile, and that equates to survivability."

The unit successfully used Secure Wi-Fi to provide untethered network connections to enable secure wireless voice, video and data exchange on more than 60 unclassified computers and 100 classified computers and mission command systems, such as Command Post Of the Future. At any given point during this event, there were at least 60 active Secure Wi-Fi users inside the brigade main command post, known as the Tactical Operations Center, or TOC, Adams said. The only wired systems that were not allowed to be wired were those Army mission command systems that were waiting to receive Army authority to operate on Secure Wi-Fi.

"The win was that once the Wi-Fi system was up, I could get everyone up at the same time across the entire staff," Adams said. "It's a colloquialism; many hands make light work, but it's also an ability to fuse the actions of the entire brigade combat team across all warfighting functions."

Similar to the Wi-Fi used in most homes, the Army's National Security Agency-accredited solution provides wireless network connectivity inside the command post, with added layers of security. Secure Wi-Fi is managed by the Army's Product Manager Network Modernization, assigned to Project Manager Tactical Network.

Without wireless capability, establishing a network in a typical brigade command post takes many hours and requires dozens of boxes of expensive CAT 5 network cable that weigh hundreds of pounds. Every time a command post is jumped, the cables have to be cut, laid out, configured and plugged in, and often replaced because of damage and continual wear and tear. Protective flooring has to be laid over the wiring, making it difficult to troubleshoot network issues. Secure Wi-Fi can eliminate these hurdles since its small remote access points provide quick and easy network connections throughout the entire command post within minutes.

"Secure Wi-Fi also speeds our mission military decision making process," Adams said. "If I know that something is going on and I can get ahead of the enemy commander, then I can set the conditions so that he is fighting from a position of disadvantage. With Secure Wi-Fi, I gain an exponential increase in velocity, and the deeper the Wi-Fi capabilities in the formation, the more we are able to do."

To outmaneuver its near-peer adversary at the NTC, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, had to jump its brigade TOC several times during the realistic field exercise. These massive relocation efforts in the harsh terrain of the Mojave Desert were sometimes conducted in the dark of night, and because of mock threats of chemical and biological warfare, soldiers were required to wear protective gear, making it more difficult to set up and wire a large brigade command post. Secure Wi-Fi made it much easier and faster to set up the network (from hours to minutes) under these extreme conditions, and users were able to connect to the network and use their mission command systems earlier and stay connected longer prior to the next jump, Adams said.

"Without Wi-Fi, users were often waiting (depending on position or rank) for wire to be run," said Maj. Michael Donegan, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, communications officer (S6). "This proves wildly inefficient, as everyone on a TOC floor has an immediate and uniquely important job to accomplish. The ability to rapidly collaborate in planning is critical in order to defeat a near-peer threat. With the introduction of Wi-Fi, you don't have to choose or prioritize which users get access first."

Secure Wi-Fi decreased the brigade's TOC relocation time dramatically, with the unit able to be up on all Army mission command system services simultaneously much sooner after arriving on site. It also enabled the commander to set up the TOC in different configurations to support new locations or mission requirements without having to cut new lengths of wire, Donegan said.

"The ability to have a mobile command post and exercise mission command with Secure Wi-Fi continues to be a force multiplier," Donegan said.

Adams said he is looking forward to seeing Secure Wi-Fi eventually implemented at battalion-level command posts as well, to further increase his brigade's speed of maneuver. The Army has recently developed a smaller version that reduces the footprint of the server stacks by 60 percent, to support smaller echelon command posts requiring fewer users. The Army plans to demonstrate this small form factor Secure Wi-Fi capability during a risk reduction event in spring 2018 as a rapid acquisition initiative.

The Army continues to use soldier feedback from pilots, user juries and training events such as NTC rotations to continuously improve and provide the best capability possible, as part of an iterative process where lessons are always being learned and technology continuously is adapted to the way the Army needs to fight.

In December 2017, the Army issued a Command Post Directed Requirement, intended to enable experimentation and rapid prototyping to better inform command post requirements. The directed requirement is closely nested with the draft Command Post Integrated Infrastructure, or CPI2, capability development document, which would create a new program of record to provide mobile command post solutions to Corps, Division, and Brigade Combat Teams.

The directed requirement calls for the Army to leverage wireless technology capabilities to facilitate rapid connectivity and displacement. Secure Wi-Fi is proving to be a vital element in the Army's acquisition of new integrated expeditionary command posts solutions, said Lt. Col. Mark Henderson, the Product Manager for Network Modernization who manages Secure Wi-Fi for the Army. Henderson is a member of Project Manager Tactical Network, PEO C3T.

"Lack of mobility and agility are amongst the biggest factors making today's large command posts vulnerable in near peer threat environments," Henderson said. "Secure Wi-Fi increases mobility and operational flexibility, and better enables mission command so commanders can do what they do best -- fight and win!"

January 18, 2018 at 11:51am

201st EMIB hosts Martin Luther King, Jr. Day annual observance

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Khallid Shabazz, 7th Infantry Division’s chaplain, was the keynote-speaker at Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s annual observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Jan. 11, at Carey Theater. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Chris McCullough

The "Gryphon" 201st Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade hosted Joint Base Lewis-McChord's annual observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Jan. 11, at Carey Theater.

The observance's theme was "Your leadership is a sermon; be careful how you preach it," and Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Khallid Shabazz, 7th Infantry Division's chaplain, was the event's keynote-speaker.

During his address, Shabazz spoke to the Army's leaders in attendance.

"Leaders, when I think about Martin Luther King's dream, I think about you and I and our rank and our position and our influence over people's lives ... what a responsibility you have," said Shabazz. "You have been given charge of a human being to nurture, to cultivate, to grow, to enhance their lives to the benefit of your unit and our nation."

Throughout his address, Shabazz discussed how King was -- and still is -- one of the most influential leaders of our time, and he examined how King treated those he encountered. Shabazz also discussed how this was important to soldiers today, and concluded his dedication to King by challenging all Army leadership to treat their soldiers, regardless of race, sex, gender, or background, with dignity and respect, invoking King's "I have a dream speech" -- one of King's most recognized speeches that was a defining moment of the civil rights movement.

"I have a dream today that our internal readiness would be congruent with our external readiness," Shabazz said. "I have a dream today that we will defend our soldiers in times of trouble like we defend our nation in its times of distress. I have a dream today that everybody that wears this uniform no matter what their condition will have a leader attached to them to show them some dignity and respect. I have a dream today that we will honor the least among us and that your leadership will become a sermon and that your sermon is preached with dignity and respect."

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was officially designated an American federal holiday Nov. 2, 1983, to mark the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., one of America's most prominent Civil Rights leaders of the 1960s. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around King's birthday, Jan. 15.

In an essay penned by King's widow, Coretta Scott King, found on the King Center's website, she said about the day, "the King Holiday honors the life and contributions of America's greatest champion of racial justice and equality, the leader who not only dreamed of a color-blind society, but who also lead a movement that achieved historic reforms to help make it a reality."

The ceremony concluded with remarks by 201st EMIB commander, Col. Todd Berry.

January 25, 2018 at 11:37am

Trump signs executive order to improve mental health resources

President Trump meeting with veterans. Photo credit: YouTube

Transitioning servicemembers and veterans can now receive up to a year of mental healthcare from the Veterans Affairs Department after discharge from the service, according to an executive order President Donald Trump signed Jan. 9.

The order, "Supporting Our Veterans During Their Transition From Uniformed Service to Civilian Life," directs the Defense, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security departments to develop a joint action plan to ensure the 60 percent of new veterans who now do not qualify for enrollment in healthcare -- primarily because of a lack of verified service connection related to the medical issue at hand -- will receive treatment and access to services for mental healthcare for one year following their separation from service.

"We look forward to continuing our partnership with the VA to ensure veterans who have served our country continue to receive the important mental healthcare and services they need and deserve," said Defense Secretary James Mattis.

"We want them to get the highest care and the care that they so richly deserve, and I've been working very hard on that with (VA Secretary David Shulkin) and with everybody," Trump said. "It's something that is a top priority. We will not rest until all of America's great veterans receive the care they've earned through their incredible service and sacrifice to our country."

Shulkin noted that as servicemembers transition to veteran status, they face higher risk of suicide and mental health difficulties.

"During this critical phase, many transitioning servicemembers may not qualify for enrollment in healthcare," he said. "The focus of this executive order is to coordinate federal assets to close that gap."

Three Departments

The three departments will work to expand mental health programs and other resources to new veterans in the year following departure from uniformed service, including eliminating prior time limits and to:

  • Expand peer community outreach and group sessions in the VA Whole Health initiative from 18 Whole Health flagship facilities to all facilities. Whole Health includes wellness and establishing individual health goals.
  • Extend DoD's "Be There Peer Support Call and Outreach Center" services to provide peer support for veterans in the year following separation from uniformed service.
  • Expand the DoD's Military OneSource, which offers resources to active-duty members, to include services to separating servicemembers to one year beyond service separation.

Serving Their Country

"The Department of Homeland Security is where many veterans find a second opportunity to serve their country -- nearly 28 percent of our workforce has served in the Armed Forces, in addition to the 49,000 active-duty members of the United States Coast Guard," said Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

"This critically important executive order will provide our servicemembers with the support they need as they transition to civilian life," she said. "These dedicated men and women have put their lives on the line to protect our nation and our American way of life, and we owe them a debt we can never repay. We look forward to working with the VA and DoD to implement the President's (executive order)."

In signing this executive order, Shulkin said, the President has provided "clear guidance to further ensure our veterans and their families know that we are focusing on ways to improve their ability to move forward and achieve their goals in life after service." 

January 25, 2018 at 11:57am

West Coast military police brigades embrace unity to increase lethality, readiness

Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 508th Military Police Detention Battalion, battle the fog while trying to zero and qualify on their assigned weapons last week on Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo credit: 2nd Lt. Brian Rawlins

Two military police brigades located on America's West Coast -- one Army Reserve and one active-duty -- have begun a partnership to better prepare their soldiers for war.

"If we go to war, there's going to be all three (Army) components involved, no matter what," said Col. John Hafley, commander of the 11th Military Police Brigade, an Army Reserve unit headquartered in Los Alamitos, California.

Their active-duty counterparts in Washington State agreed that building relationships now is vital.

"Our Army and our nation expect one capability from us, whatever your specialty may be. They're not really concerned when we deploy ... what component that's from. If you embrace that now, it reduces the learning curve once you're down range," said Command Sgt. Maj. Brian Flom, the command sergeant major of the 42nd MP Brigade, active-duty, located on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

In early January, the 11th MP Brigade invited the active-duty MP leadership to attend their Yearly Training Brief, which is a major planning meeting involving their battalions to discuss training plans for the coming year. Both parties appreciated their attendance, and the 42nd leadership also mentioned how impressed they were by the commitment to duty by their Army Reserve counterpart.

"These (leaders) are putting in their 40 to 60 hours in their normal jobs and they're putting in another 10 to 20 hours a week, minimum, on their (military) leadership ... so hats off for what they do," said Col. Thomas Russell-Tutty, commander of the 42nd MP Brigade.

Though there are national training exercises that combine all three components year-round, it's rare to find units with similar specialties who commit to a long-term relationship that extends beyond scheduled training events. Typically, when those exercises are over, each unit goes its separate way.

"(By doing this,) we become familiar with how we operate, and it just makes operations in a combat environment that much smoother," said Flom.

Because many Army units -- including military police -- are "modular," they can be plugged into any Army hierarchy during a deployment. That means an Army Reserve brigade deployed overseas will likely be in command of active-duty and National Guard units. The same is true the other way around.

"We've got to grow together and work together (now) because at the end of the day, on our uniform it says U.S. Army. It doesn't say Army National Guard. It doesn't say Army Reserve. It says U.S. Army," said Command Sgt. Maj. Winsome Laos, the 11th MP Brigade's command sergeant major.

The training emphasis for both MP forces is to function in austere locations with possible compromised communication technology. The envisioned fight is not against insurgent forces, but against what the Army calls "near peer" enemies, structured and equipped similarly to America's own military.

"We have the same strategic challenges (as the active-duty units). At the end, we're both trying to attain the same results, and that's to have a ready force," said Laos.

Though both are brigades, they have structural and experiential differences that add to one another's span of knowledge. For example, the 11th MP Brigade is located in California, but two of its four battalions are in Texas and Arizona. The 42nd MP Brigade has all of its units on JBLM, responsible for maintaining law and order on base, securing prisoners at a military detention facility, and training their soldiers for combat environments. Their active-duty soldiers perform their functional specialty every day. Army Reserve MPs can benefit from active-duty partners for their day-to-day military experience, while also providing knowledge from their own civilian careers.

"There's a hundred different ways to solve a problem, and every unit, every organization, whether you're military or civilian, over time, you kind of get stove-piped into how you look at problems and how you solve them. Just by working with other units and other soldiers that have seen different things, it widens your perspective, opens up your parameter on how you look at a problem in big and small things," said Russell-Tutty.

Besides active-duty experience, their installation at JBLM has 91,000 acres of land to offer, with facilities that include both urban and field environments. The 42nd can also provide real-world military detention training at the prison they manage. In return, the Army Reserve MPs will provide coaches and trainers for an upcoming Warfighter exercise, a certification requirement for active-duty MPs.

"Training with those soldiers at all levels is a golden opportunity," said Hafley. "My focused training (is) on units of action."

But even if neither unit deploys soon, this partnership helps both components in their overall readiness.

"I think the best part about the partnership is we're able to share experiences, lessons learned, tactics, techniques and procedures of how to tackle not just tactical but operational, and sometimes commanding problems ... it's great," said Russell-Tutty.

In addition to exchanging training support, the 11th MP Brigade is expected to gain an Army Reserve battalion and company at JBLM in the near future. Even though both brigades are on the West Coast, 1,100 miles of roadway separate them. Having the active-duty brigade nearby would provide local support to those Army Reserve units at JBLM.

Additionally, the National Guard owns the 49th MP Brigade in Fairfield, California, which has been involved with both of the other two components in the past. Right now, the partnership is still young, but it could grow to include all three components as their companies and battalions train together in the long term.

"When we are deployed, when our nation calls us to battle, wherever that might be, you have all three compos working together ... so we need to start working early," said Russell-Tutty.

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