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East side civic leaders tour JBLM

Northwest Guardian

Published: 04:36PM June 12th, 2014

While more than 150 miles separates Selah and Yakima from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the three communities find a close connection through the Yakima Training Center.

To help strengthen that relationship, Yakima and Selah community leaders toured the base at the invitation of Col. H. Charles Hodges Jr., JBLM commander.

The visitors got a first-hand look at the day-to-day operations on JBLM during their tour June 6.

The representatives from Yakima and Selah included John Gawlik, Selah mayor; Micah Cawley, Yakima mayor; David Kelly, Selah city administrator; Dominic Rizzi, Yakima police chief and Richard Hayes, Selah police chief.

Hodges, deputy commander Col. Anthony Davit, Command Sgt, Maj. Kevin Bryan, YTC Command Sgt. Maj. Jonathan White and Lt. Col. Darrell O’Steen, YTC commander, accompanied them.

The visit allowed the two groups to better understand the training center’s impact on JBLM and the Yakima Valley.

The Yakima Training Center sits on 327,000 acres northeast of Yakima and Selah in the Central Washington high desert area.

“JBLM would not exist without Yakima, or it would be so small because we couldn’t support large-scale training,” Hodges said. “So we are in a long-term relationship.”

The tour took the group to the Engagement Skill Trainer simulator and the Reconfigurable Vehicle Tactical Trainer on Lewis North, Stone Education Center on Lewis Main and inside a C-17 Globemaster III at McChord Field.

John “Mike” Peppers, director of the Mission Training Complex, guided the tour at the engagement simulator and the vehicle trainer, explaining how different types of training affect the Yakima area.

“A lot of what they do on this side of the mountain is to get ready for your side of the mountain,” Pepper said.

While touring the Stone Education Center, community leaders learned about the challenges service members often face upon transitioning out of the military and into the workforce.

“I would like to partner with the Yakima Valley about employing Soldiers, whether it’s through law enforcement or trades,” Hodges said.

Rizzi said he was especially interested in recruiting veterans for his city’s police force.

“Coming here gives us a great opportunity to work with the military to try and get some of these good Soldiers,” he said. “We’re constantly recruiting — we’re short probably eight officers now and as I said in there, we’re having a hard time finding quality candidates.”

Cawley was especially motivated to strengthen the relationship between the city of Yakima and JBLM.

“There are a lot of opportunities through the Yakima Training Center, through the Yakima Valley to create new partnerships that connect JBLM to Yakima,” Cawley said.

He plans to head back to Yakima and find ways to partner with large companies and local government officials to find ways to support the training center and service members.

“We already have a community that loves our veterans and loves our service members,” Crawley said. “If we can find ways to help them and bring them to Yakima and help us grow, it will improve a lot of different things.”