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Archives: Nov. 2008


Battalion for wounded atop Army secretary’s agenda

Pete Geren reached into the inside pocket of his sport coat and pulled out four notecards.

The blue, palm-sized cards were filled with comments soldiers had told Geren, the Secretary of the Army: Praise of resources for wounded soldiers, complaints about the slow-moving bureaucracy that runs the process to determine medical fitness for duty.

Such feedback doesn’t always make it back to the Pentagon, he admits. Listening to real-world concerns of soldiers is one reason why Geren tours Army installations worldwide, including a stop at Fort Lewis on Tuesday.

"There are a lot of filters between individual soldiers and the office of the Secretary of the Army – or anybody at the Pentagon," he said. "Every trip is a chance to hear first-hand from soldiers: How are we supporting them? Are they getting what they need?"

The morning of Geren’s visit to Fort Lewis centered on the performance of the Warrior Transition Battalion, which was created about 18 months ago as part of an Army-wide approach to better recovery care in the wake of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center controversy. The evolution of the warrior transition units was "like changing tires on a moving vehicle," Geren said, but Fort Lewis has helped provide an example for the rest of the service.

"Fort Lewis has been one of the innovators and incubators for good ideas," he said. "… We look at Fort Lewis and Madigan and the leadership here as one of our best innovators in the Army."

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Secretary of the Army to visit Fort Lewis

Secretary of the Army Pete Geren will visit Fort Lewis tomorrow to receive updates on the family-care operations at the Warrior Transition Battalion and the Solider and Family Assistance Center.

Geren will also visit Madigan Army Medical Center, have lunch with soldiers from the 2nd Ranger Battalion and meet with Army spouses at the Fort Lewis Family Resource Center.

Want to know more? Click below to read the press release:

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Program helps link deployed soldiers, family members

Jennifer Day balanced her daughter on her lap, adjusted the microphone clipped to her collar and stared nervously into the cameras.

"What are we supposed to do?" she asked. "I’ve never done this before."

Kevin Mann, sitting behind a set of computer monitors, reassured her.

"Just relax," he said. "A lot of people watch these again and again, especially during the holidays. Just tell them what you’re feeling."

Mann counted down from three and pointed to Day, a 29-year-old Puyallup resident. On a monitor, the video feed faded from black to the image of Jennifer and her three children – 9-year-old Andrew, 7-year-old Sarah and 3-month-old Aubrey – waving.

Jennifer’s husband, Staff Sgt. Timothy Day, is deployed to Iraq with the Fort Lewis-based 51st Signal Battalion and won’t return until August. But through a national program called Operation Best Wishes, his family recorded a video that Timothy could watch online.

The national program made its stop at Fort Lewis on Friday, operating from an office in America’s Credit Union. Mann, a webcast producer who recorded, mixed and uploaded the videos, said about 35 families had signed up.

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A Thanksgiving meal for Fort Lewis’ wounded warriors

The holidays can be especially difficult for soldiers recovering from a major injury – even more so if they’re separated from their loved ones.

"For some people, this time of year is just tough," said Maj. Daniel Dudek, the executive officer for the Warrior Transition Battalion.

A charity that specializes in helping Washington’s service members made the holidays a little easier Friday. Operation Homefront Washington helped organize a Thanksgiving meal at Fort Lewis for the Warrior Transition Battalion.

Hundreds packed the main post chapel to feast on a spread that included turkey, ham, rolls, potato chips, mashed potatoes, baked beans, corn, green beans, fruit trays, stuffing and pies of every variety.

"We help all military families, but we have specific programs for the Warrior Transition Battalion," said Janice Buckley, the president of Operation Homefront Washington. "They’ve made exceptional sacrifices, and it’s a way to honor them."

The charity purchased the turkeys and donated the desserts – including about 125 pies – while family members brought the other side items. The meal began with prayers and songs. As the soldiers and their family members gave thanks, dozens more were quietly setting up the meal.

The feast followed.

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Seahawks support ‘deep in the heart of Taliban territory’

Apparently a brigade commander can’t talk a little long-distance football smack without prompting at least a few responses.

Yesterday I posted a comment from Col. Ronald Kapral, the 81st Brigade Combat Team commander. He discussed watching his beloved Dallas Cowboys on Armed Forces Network — and he made a not-so-thinly-veiled reference to the Boys’ chances of upending the Seahawks on Thanksgiving.

Another Washington National Guardsman took exception, lamenting Kapral’s "man-love" of America’s Team.

Lt. Col. Phil Osterli is working "deep in the heart of Taliban territory in western Afghanistan" and

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Duds can make quite a sound

You might hear some extra explosions coming from Fort Lewis this week. Have no worries: The post is clearing unexploded ordnance at artillery impact area this week.

The demolition on the duds will continue through Friday. Most of the cleanup will happen in the afternoons. And cloud cover – we’ve been seeing a lot of it lately – can amplify the blast noise.

Got a complaint? The public affairs hotline is (253) 967-0852.


There’s always time for football

Col. Ronald Kapral is more than 7,000 miles and nine time zones away from Dallas. But on Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys played their archrival Washington Redskins. And Kapral, the commander of the 81st Brigade Combat Team and a huge Cowboys fan, knows that any true fan of America’s Team doesn’t miss a game against the Skins.

The Armed Forces Network apparently saw the same value in the game. And Kapral awoke hours in Camp Ramadi to watch quarterback Tony Romo return after missing three games with a broken finger and rally the Cowboys to a 14-10 victory.

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