Senior leaders from the Department of the Army heard from elected officials, veterans and citizens alike about the local impact on possible Army force reductions during a community listening session Jan. 21 at Clover Park Technical College’s McGavick Center. The Army is in the process of reducing active-duty end-strength from 562,000 Soldiers in 2012 to 490,000 this year, with further reductions under consideration.
Building a community alongside the military in Washington state was the reoccurring argument to keep service members at JBLM.
“What we are doing at JBLM is not being done anywhere else in the nation,” said Alfie Alvarado-Ramos, director of Washington Department of Veterans Affairs. “This is the service members for life mentality.”
Recently, Amazon opened a large distribution center in DuPont in hopes of employing a number of veterans and military family members.
“Roughly 50 percent of my city’s population is tied to the military,” Michael Grayum, mayor of DuPont, said. “There are jobs here for them. We should not reduce personnel of JBLM but take into consideration the recent expansions surrounding communities have done…we could and would handle more.”
After several generations of working together, the Nisqually Indian Tribe of Washington is proud of its bond with their JBLM neighbors.
“We have a “long-term relationship (with JBLM) where we are working together for benefits to both parties,” said Cynthia Iyall, chairwoman for the Nisqually Indian Tribe of Washington. “We are very close neighbors with JBLM. We want to continue being able to collaborate with them and we don’t want any reductions to JBLM — I am saying that in the most respectful and forceful way possible.”
Ron Harding, mayor for Yelm, said one out of eight of their 9,000 residents are active-duty military members.
“We have worked hard to create a community that supports what the Army does,” Harding said. “We’re your extended family.”
As the mayor of Lacey and a small business owner, Mayor Andy Ryder said the proposed drawdown would affect 7,700 off-base households and nearly 800 households in the Lacey area.
“It would have a disastrous impact on the housing market in Lacey as well as surrounding military communities,” he said.
Dr. Joyce Loveday, vice president at Clover Park Technical College, said the college provides skills and training to help families and military members’ transition into family-wage jobs.
“This could affect $1.8 million from our college alone,” Loveday said. “The JBLM presence here is supported by CPTC and other institutions in this state. We create an educational advancement for the military.”
However, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said the Pacific Northwest has more than the obvious factors, such as location, infrastructure and ports to offer to the military.
“What I really think we have is soft power,” Inslee said. “We have an unsurpassed relationship between the state, military families and organizations that allow them to succeed. We have the best in the nation when it comes to cultural affiliation between families and communities in the state of Washington. We embrace military families and are the first in the nation to make provisions for care for military families who have members with developmental disabilities.”
Inslee said Washington provides numerous academic opportunities specific to the military to help them transition from military to civilian life.
“We work together to uniquely prepare service members as they transition out with pre- employment training to get them ready,” Inslee said. “We understand the culture within which you are operating and it is important. We can proudly say not just geographic advantages, it is a cultural asset here. One in nine adults in Washington state are veterans. They are family in our state. We support the military mission.”