Staying connected to 16th Combat Aviation Brigade

City of University Place keeps contact with deployed brigade in Afghanistan

By Kim Thompson on April 9, 2014

The Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) Community Connector Program, which was developed by the I Corps Commanding General's program, has been connecting local Puget Sound communities with specific units from JBLM since March 2000. The key goals of the program are to increase interaction between JBLM and local communities, create awareness and understanding of the U.S. Army and JBLM, and to develop and maintain strong and positive overall community partnerships.  Unit commanders attend chamber of commerce, city council and other civic meetings; in turn, the Community Connector Units host local leaders at JBLM.

The city of University Place has been honored to be connected with the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB) - the largest aviation brigade in the U.S. Army - since 2011. Through the program, not only has the community connected with the brigade, it has also created cherished and special bonds, friendships and support systems that will carry far into the future.

It's with that very spirit that the city wishes to recognize and support the brigade's soldiers, who recently deployed to Afghanistan for the remainder of the year, and its families. According to University Place Mayor Denise McCluskey, the city has some very special plans to support the troops during their absence.

The 16th CAB will provide the city with a special display case that will be installed in the University Place City Hall building. There will be items and photographs that tell the brigade's story.

"In the case, we will have things that came back from Afghanistan, such as rugs and artifacts," McCluskey said. "We will also have a digital frame that depicts the helicopters and other photos. The display will continue to evolve and change to keep people's interest and to tell (the 16th CAB's) story.

"We will also establish a ‘timeline' to go within the case to show when (the brigade) will be coming back from deployment."

The display will be available for viewing at City Hall in the coming weeks.

Staying connected

McCluskey, along with the city council and other community members, has remained connected to military spouses and their children to ensure that the support link remains strong. Along with University Place City Council Member Caroline Bellecci and others in the community, the mayor is making plans to support and interact with the spouses and families during the brigade's deployment. The city will partner with the Captain Meriwether Lewis subchapter of the Association of the U.S. Army, along with the 16th CAB, to coordinate a health and welfare event this fall. The event will allow spouses and families to have a day of fun and relaxation.

Additionally, the city is in the process of planning a parade and special event for when the troops return from deployment. The event is currently slated for January 2015.

The University Place community can help out, too. The city will set up a special mailbox on the display case so community members can deposit letters of support and encouragement to servicemembers overseas. The city will collect all of the deposited letters and have a mailing in May and again in November. McCluskey would love to see those mailboxes filled to the brim.

"University Place is their ‘home away from home,'" she said. "A letter from ‘home' is special; knowing what's going on in their neck of the woods is great.

"Kids can send drawings, too. We want to get them a lot of letters. In fact, I'd love to see each person get at least six letters or more to open!"

After following the 16th CAB for three years and getting to know the families, McClusky feels a strong bond and admires those who serve.

"These guys ensure our peace and freedom," she said. "We take for granted having an infrastructure that is not damaged and that we can grow opportunities in a free manner. They protect us from harm."

To learn more about the letter project, display case and other upcoming events, email Mayor Denise McCluskey at To find out more about the 16th CAB and the JBLM Community Connector Program, visit the 16th CAB's website and JBLM's Community Connector site.