Three of the highest ranking officers on Joint Base Lewis-McChord met with local news media last week to answer questions about a wide range of topics, including ethics training, the disability evaluation system and the rebalancing of I Corps troops to the Pacific Command.
Lieutenant General Robert B. Brown, I Corps commanding general, led a round-table discussion with reporters at Cougar Inn on Lewis Main, accompanied by Maj. Gen. Richard Thomas, Western Regional Medical Command commanding general and Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, I Corps deputy commanding general.
Brown opened the forum with a review of the shift in focus of I Corps operations from the Middle East to the Pacific region. Americas Corps has been supporting the nations wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for more than a decade.
Its very exciting, Brown said. We have two Stryker brigades that will be back over the next few months. They wont go back to Afghanistan for the first time in 11 years.
Training for and deployments to Southwest Asia will still occur Brown said, but theyll be for a much shorter time, from two weeks to a month. Certain units with unique skills will continue to deploy to Afghanistan, but at strengths significantly less than the average 10,000 troops JBLM has sent in previous years.
Brown said units from JBLM will work to become joint task force certified, meaning they will train with troops from other countries.
Our partners in the Pacific want help from us in training for (everything from) medical operations to counter-IED operations to basic infantry tasks to marksmanship, Buchanan said.
JBLM units will help foreign forces develop those skills while still training for combat, said I Corps Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell, but aside from training missions, U.S. troops will likely conduct security details and provide disaster and humanitarian assistance for U.S. Pacific Command.
In response to questions about recent international coverage of former Army general and CIA chief David Petraeus, Brown also discussed the significance of ethics training for general officers.
It is such news because 99.9 percent of general officers are doing the right thing and setting the right standards, Brown said. Were all human beings. Human beings make mistakes.
Brown also addressed the resilience and readiness campaign with which the Army is attending to the health of the force.
Weve been at war for 11 years and thats put a strain on our Soldiers and Families. Weve got to do a lot more to build resilience to be there to help Soldiers and Families, Brown said.
Early recognition of health-related signs and symptoms coming from deployment is an important part of the resilience effort, Thomas said.
Today we know more about pain management, post-concussive injuries and PTSD, so when these (service members) come back were getting them care and continuing that care, he said.
Buchanan said that there is more work being done on transition plans for those leaving military service, which includes helping service members navigate the transition from the military medical care systems to the Department of Veterans Affairs medical care system.
In the past we havent done a very good job moving (service members) from the military medical care system to the VA, Buchanan said. Its not just a matter of passing the ball and stepping back. Its ensuring that (service members) have the ball and have control of it moving forward.
Thomas agreed the handoff of service members care to the VA hasnt been a seamless process, but said he is encouraged by the reformation within the disability evaluation system.
Its more than making a bad system faster. Were actually making the legislative changes that help us make that transition smoother, Thomas said.
At JBLM, part of that transition required the recruitment of 26 new patient evaluation board liaison officers at Madigan Healthcare System. A reserve medical unit just arrived to further assist with the backlog of disability evaluations, Brown said.