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Northwest Guardian staff

Published: 01:27PM December 17th, 2015

With ongoing unit training, improvements to the base, deployments, homecomings and new resources and events to keep service members and family members entertained, 2015 was an eventful year at Joint Base Lewis-

McChord. JBLM leaders also coordinated several engagements with foreign allies to strengthen international partnerships and enhance coordination on the battlefield.

For the third year in a row, JBLM was named an Army Community of Excellence. A symbolic and functional Unity Bridge officially joined Lewis Main to McChord Field, as the base operated in harmony. Autumn brought with it a powerful wind storm that downed limbs and trees.

Perhaps the highlight of the year was the opening of the new Lewis North Athletic Complex, A $14-million dollar facility that JBLM service members, their families and other members of the installation community will enjoy for years to come.

Through it all, the Northwest Guardian staff had the privilege to tell the stories of the Soldiers, Airmen, family members and civilians that make JBLM a great place to live, work and play.


NCO SHARP Summit: Joint Base Lewis-

McChord became the first Army installation to host a Noncommissioned Officers Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Summit Jan. 9 at the McChord Field Chapel Support Center.

The summit provided a forum for NCOs in a variety of leadership positions to discuss victim services, offender accountability and share best practices in combating sexual harassment and sexual assault.

State of the Union: A JBLM hero and wounded warrior sat in the viewing box with first lady Michelle Obama during President Barack Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address to the nation Jan. 20. Retired Army Staff Sgt. Jason Gibson attended the address after receiving an invitation from the president.


Junior leaders discuss future: Junior leaders from across JBLM gathered to offer feedback on the Army profession and Army ethic during the Junior Leader Army Profession Symposium at JBLM Feb. 2. The two-day event, hosted by I Corps and facilitated by the Center for Army Profession and Ethic, focused on small, group breakout sessions attended by active-duty, National Guard and Reserve Soldiers, as well as Army civilians.

CAPE serves as the proponent for the Army profession, the Army ethic and character development of Army professionals.

Aerial porters return: Eight Air Force Reserve Airmen from the 36th and 86th Aerial Port Squadrons, and an active-duty Airman from the 62nd Aerial Port Squadron returned Feb. 5 from their deployment supporting Air Force operations in Senegal for Operation United Assistance.

About 15 air transportation specialists from the 446th Airlift Wing have been in Dakar, Senegal, in West Africa, since Nov. 8, 2014, to support ground personnel for the campaign against Ebola, Operation United Assistance.


IMCOM firefighter award: A JBLM firefighter was chosen as one of nine for the Department of Defense Fire and Emergency Service Awards. Airman 1st Class James Salazar of the 627th Civil Engineer Squadron, was selected as the 2014 military firefighter to receive the IMCOM Fire and Emergency Service Award. Salazar is the third consecutive Air Force firefighter from JBLM to win the Army Major Command’s award.

Between life and death: Specialist Amanda Dillard, 47th Combat Support Hospital, was driving home after work when she spotted a wrecked, smoking truck down an embankment next to East Gate Road. She received the Soldier’s Medal in a ceremony March 6 for assisting Andrew Klakken at the accident site.

Klakken, a civilian working at Madigan Army Medical Center, had just finished a long shift and fell asleep while driving home. He hit a tree going about 50 miles-per-hour.

U.S., India forge alliance: Senior leaders and planners from the Indian army, U.S. Army Pacific, Special Operations Command, and the Department of the Army, met at JBLM to discuss future bilateral engagements between the two countries during the 19th Executive Steering Group March 11 to 13.

The Indian army-U.S. Army Pacific Executive Steering Group represented a key venue for information exchange and agreements to enhance engagements between the Indian and United States’ ground forces.


Caregiver honored: Jessica Nagy, a caregiver at Lewis North Child Development Center for the past seven years, used her training to save the life of a 2-year-old child who was choking on a toy April 15. Former Joint Base Commander Col. H. Charles Hodges Jr. presented the Joint Base Commander’s coin and a box of Almond Roca to the quick-

thinking caregiver.

Gold Star Wives Day: The 2015 National Gold Star Wives Day theme of “Remember and Honor” was showcased during an Inspirational Appreciation Luncheon April 10 at the Lewis Main Chapel by the support given to the Gold Star Wives in attendance.

Thirty members of the Tahoma Chapter, Gold Star Wives of America, based locally, were honored by I Corps chaplains and leadership at the event.


Soldier receives Silver Star: Sergeant First Class Earl Plumlee, 1st Special Forces Group, was award the Silver Star at an awards ceremony May 1 at the group’s Memorial Wall on JBLM for his actions in a 2013 attack in Afghanistan. Major General Kenneth R. Dahl, I Corps deputy commanding general, presided over the ceremony, where the details of the attack were told as well as how Plumlee literally jumped into action at Forward Operating Base Ghazni, in Afghanistan.

Unity Bridge opens: A year after construction crews began moving dirt, the joint base connector, Unity Bridge, is ready to open at JBLM. Unity Bridge — linking Lewis Main and McChord Field — opened May 4. The road officially joins the two areas to create a true, joint base without having to exit the base or pass through another security gate.

7th ID deploys: An element of about 70 Soldiers from the 7th Infantry Division headquarters deployed to Afghanistan for up to a year as part of the Train, Advise and Assist Command-South mission. The ceremony at JBLM May 19, with family, friends and retired service members, celebrated the deployment within a division which hasn’t deployed since 1989. The 7th ID will take over for the 1st Cavalry Division in southern Afghanistan.

Memorial dedicated: 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division honored its fallen with a dedication of the unit’s new memorial at JBLM’s Memorial Park May 30. The monument’s twin stone towers bear the names of 56 Soldiers who died while deployed to Afghanistan with 2nd Bde., 2nd Inf. Div. and its predecessor, the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.


Pride event: To celebrate June being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month under a special observance, the JBLM Equal Employment Office oversaw the Color Our World with Pride event June 17 at the Club at McChord Field. The event was hosted by 446th Airlift Wing Commander Col. Scott L. McLaughlin.

The guest speaker was Maj. Gen. Patricia A. Rose, Air Force Materiel Command director of logistics, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

JBLM earns bronze award: For the third consecutive year, JBLM was honored at the 2015 Army Communities of Excellence Awards during a special ceremony June 23 at The Pentagon Auditorium in Washington, D.C. JBLM received the Army active-component Bronze award for its efforts. In addition to the distinction this year, JBLM also received a check for $30,000.

New 62 AW commander: Airmen and Soldiers, civic leaders and honorary commanders, family members and friends of JBLM welcomed the new commander of the 62nd Airlift Wing, Col. Leonard Kosinski, during a change of command ceremony June 26. Kosinski took over command for the wing from Col. David Kumashiro.


A fabulous fourth: There were funnel cakes, cherry snow-cones, faces painted red, white and blue, exhilarating carnival rides and plenty of entertainment for the masses during JBLM’s Freedom Fest celebration July 4. Military and civilian families gathered at the base to celebrate the Fourth of July with one another. The event hosted food and vendor booths, the Classic Chassis Car Show and live music.

Force reduction: JBLM is scheduled to lose 1,251 Soldiers as part of an Armywide force structure reduction of 40,000 Soldiers and 17,000 civilians by the end of fiscal 2018, the Army announced July 8. The reduction of force structure will take the Army from 490,000 to 450,000 Soldiers.

The 1,251 Soldier reductions at JBLM will include the elimination of four companies, a battalion and a reduction of Soldiers from various Army headquarters across the base.

I Corps DFAC closes: I Corps announced in early June that the historic I Corps dining facility would close after the lunch meal July 10 in order to better use the space and save money. In existence since 1938, the building is part of JBLM’s history and originally served the 15th Infantry Regiment during World War II. For 77 years, meals have been served every week to service members. It was the last old-style, historic dining facility on JBLM.


Hiker injured in bear attack: A hiker and his 15-year-old son wandered into the wrong place at the wrong time Aug. 1 at Training Area 15, near the East Gate Extension on Lewis Main. The two startled a black bear on the trail resulting in the animal attacking the man before the bear was scared away.

The man called 911 on his cell phone and was able to drive to a nearby medical facility to get treatment — scratches, lacerations and puncture wounds on his arms, legs and face. His son was not injured.

New JBLM commander: The new JBLM commander officially took the reins during a change of command ceremony Aug. 5. Colonel Daniel S. Morgan took over command from Col. H. Charles Hodges Jr. inside Hangar 9 on McChord Field.

7th ID welcomes new leader: For the fourth time in their careers, Maj. Gen. Terry Ferrell and Maj. Gen. Thomas James exchanged smiles and handshakes, with one walking away with a new position. James took command of the 14,000 Soldiers in the 7th ID from Ferrell during a ceremony Aug. 18 on Watkins Field at JBLM.

Ferrell and James previously handed over the reins of command to each other three other times at the company, brigade and command chief of staff levels.

17th FA troops fight wildfires: For the first time since 2006, active-duty Soldiers assisted in wildfire efforts at home. Two hundred Soldiers from the 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Field Artillery Brigade deployed Aug. 22 to combat the wildfires at the Colville Fire Complex, near Colville, Wash.

An additional 50 Soldiers from the brigade were also deployed in support and administrative duties.

High winds pack punch: Four people were injured during a windstorm Aug. 29 when multiple trees and limbs fell near a parking lot at Shoreline Park and along a triathlon course on JBLM. All four people were transported to Madigan Army Medical Center. Hundreds of large limbs and more than 30 trees fell around the base causing power outages and street closures.


Unit adopts new moniker: following a ceremony Sept. 15 on JBLM, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division officially reflagged to 1st Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division marking the end of a long chapter in the unit’s history and a new beginning for the 1st Bde., 2nd Inf. Div. which was inactivated in Korea earlier this year. The reflagging was the culmination of a week of various events designed to honor the brigade’s long history.


JBLM family honored: The Pogoncheff family was recognized Oct. 12 by the Association of United States Army as the National Volunteer Family of the Year during the AUSA annual meeting in Washington, D.C. The family was recognized with a cash prize and gift basket courtesy of AUSA and Health Net.

New sports complex opens: On JBLM, the number of recreation fields has decreased for the better half of the past decade as more base housing, hangars and other buildings were constructed in support of installation growth. This led to a decreased number of opportunities for recreation.

On Oct. 30, that trend changed with the grand opening of the Lewis North Athletic Complex, a $14-million project that is expected to bring more opportunities for intramural leagues, tournaments and other events for JBLM service members, their families and other members of the installation community.


NASA studies weather: The NASA DC-8, a unique flying laboratory started taking off from JBLM Nov. 10 to study the weather through a multitude of instruments attached to the bottom. The data gathered is all part of the Olympic Mountain Experiment.

Nations work together: Units from across JBLM welcomed the Peoples Republic of China’s People’s Liberation Army as it played host to the 11th iteration of the Disaster Management Exchange from Nov. 18 to 21. The exchange was a bilateral training exercise between the Peoples Republic of China’s People’s Liberation Army and U.S. Army Pacific that focused on humanitarian aid and disaster response missions, all while improving U.S. and Chinese military interoperability.

WRMC commander: Major General Thomas R. Tempel Jr. relinquished command of the Western Regional Medical Command to incoming commander Col. Christopher A. Gruber during a ceremony at JBLM Nov. 24. The ceremony was officiated by Maj. Gen. Barbara R. Holcomb, deputy commanding general, U.S. Army Medical Command.


Twelve seek ‘Rising Star’ title: Specialist Chyanna Dresden, from the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade at JBLM participated in the “2015 Operation Rising Star” in the Army’s worldwide competition. Operation Rising Star is performed in the Fort Sam Houston Theatre in front of a live audience and taped for broadcast on Fans and critics selected or eliminated all but the best through online viewing and voting.

17th FA in Japan: For the Soldiers of the 17th Field Artillery Brigade, months of hard work and preparation culminated with the execution of Yama Sakura 69 from Dec. 5 to 10. This meant conducting split operations between a team in Japan and the brigade headquarters at JBLM.

Since 1982, Yama Sakura has been an annual, bilateral command post exercise that simulates Japanese-U.S. military operations required to defend Japan. Every winter, one of five regional Japan Ground Self-

Defense Force armies is joined by U.S. Pacific Command to conduct the exercise in Japan.