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I Corps updates retired GOs/CSMs at annual luncheon

Northwest Guardian

Published: 11:32AM January 31st, 2013
I Corps updates retired GOs/CSMs at annual luncheon

Scott Hansen/Northwest Guardian

Retired general officers and command sergeants major living in local communities convened at the McChord Field Collocated Club Jan. 25 to hear a Joint Base Lewis-McChord operational update from Lt. Gen. Robert Brown, I Corps commanding general, and other JBLM senior leaders.

The annual gathering enhances the relationship between JBLM and its neighbors, since the area surrounding the installation is home to a large contingent of retired military leaders who are members of veterans’ groups and other military-affiliated clubs, said Col. James Danna, I Corps executive officer.

“A lot of them have ties to organizations that also support Soldiers, Airmen and their families,” Danna said. Brown shared the Army’s plans to rebalance I Corps resources to Southeast Asia for security and joint training purposes by partnering with Pacific partners to maintain peace and stability in the region.

“It’s a very exciting time. Seven of the world’s 10 largest armies are in the Pacific,” Brown said. “I Corps will be supporting the Pacific Command commander with a force that is ready to meet the need.”

With troops combat-tested in Iraq and Afghanistan, I Corps will bring experience to future training as partners in task force exercises in the Pacific with the Philippines, Thailand, India and Australia.

Brown said senior military leaders have taken into account the force’s recent sacrifices: while the rebalance may require more frequent exercises, the time service members are away from home will be shorter. Forces will train for days or weeks instead of months and there is no proposal to permanently station forces in the region.

There is an ongoing assessment for an Armywide troop drawdown. Brown said some installations could lose about a brigade’s worth of troops, though there is no decision yet about JBLM troop strength. Financial constraints will account for interruptions to some JBLM projects. More than 180 civilian guard positions have given way to military gate guards at the installation’s entrances. Boulevard construction on Jackson-Pendleton avenues from the Madigan Gate to the DuPont Gate has felt the impact as well. The ongoing road construction from 4th Division Drive and Colorado Ave through to 7th Street near the I Corps Headquarters will be completed. However, the remainder of the project through to the DuPont Gate will wait until it is funded in later years.

“Expectations have to adjust,” Col. Valerie Hasberrry, JBLM deputy commander, said. “We may have to look at some of the things we’ve been able to do over the last several years and look at changing hours or reducing some of those services.”

But budget tightening has not eliminated success stories. Phase I construction of a new JBLM wastewater treatment facility is approved. Phase II of the long-range project would allow JBLM to achieve its long-term goal to be one of the first local institutions with zero waste discharge into the Puget Sound.

JBLM lodging will be privatized, with Rainier Inn on Lewis Main rebranding to become a Holiday Inn by spring 2013, and Candlewood Suites taking the place of Evergreen Inn on McChord Field within five years. Hasberry said rates and service will remain the same.

A virtual campaign focusing on medical and personnel readiness will kick off Monday at JBLM. The “Ready and Resilient” program centers on strengthening health and resiliency and preventing illness and injury. The website, www.army.mil/readyandresilient, is a list of continuously updated resources for service members, accessible from personal computers or kiosks at Madigan Army Medical Center and Waller Hall.

“We want to get information to the (service members) the way they get information — through technology.” Brown said.

Attendees appeared to take the budget news in stride. Retired Sgt. Maj. James Woods said despite the serious updates, he found the general tone of the presentations was positive.

“Events like this are fantastic. It gives the command the ability to let us know what’s going on and gives us the opportunity to provide them with feedback,” Woods said. “Everyone is so enthusiastic.”