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Archives: June 2013

June
25th

JBLM to lose a Stryker brigade and more soldiers in coming years

Joint Base Lewis-McChord will lose about 4,500 positions for active-duty soldiers over the next few years as the Army reduces its overall strength coming out of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a briefing given this morning to Puget Sound congressmen.

Defense officials today told Rep. Denny Heck, D-Olympia, that the Army plans to deactivate Lewis-McChord’s 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. That unit contains about 4,000 soldiers, about 1,000 of whom are finishing a deployment in Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province.

Heck was told the Army also would close or reduce other units at Lewis-McChord. The Army in January released

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June
20th

JBLM using outreach and discipline to address rising numbers of military sex assaults

A fast-developing sexual assault prevention program at Joint Base Lewis-McChord has the Army mustering up new victim advocates, spreading a “zero tolerance” message down the ranks and cracking down on misbehavior in the barracks.

It’s intended to reverse a rising number of reported military sexual assaults across the Armed Forces that is fraying relationships among service members and causing lawmakers to consider changes to the Army’s justice system.

“When you have sexual assault in the military, it breaks down the fabric of trust in our organization,” said Maj. Gen. Stephen Lanza, who this week canceled training activities

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June
19th

After mothballing armory, National Guard returning to Pierce County with new readiness center

4:10 p.m. update: Wait, wait there’s more.

The state Military Department is budgeting $33.6 million for this project, with the Army setting aside about $27 million and the state contributing $6.6 million.

These details came to light when State Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, called. She helped the state Military Department find the Buckley location and she views the readiness center as a vital addition to that community’s economy.

“This is so big for Buckley,” she said.

1:20 p.m. update: The National Guard might select a site outside of Tacoma for the readiness center it plans to build, a National Guard

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June
13th

Yes, yes I did suffer a gaping flesh wound while doing yoga in Baghdad

Ever since my story about an Army Special Operations unit summiting Mount Adams last month was published, friends and readers ask, “Did you really do that with them?”

That’s when I stand a little straighter, smile, and say, “Yeah, I kept up with the guys.”

The guys are an elite team from Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The summit stands at 12,276 feet. The hike called for about 7,000 feet of elevation gain over two days with temperatures dropping into the low 20s. I had reason to be proud.

What I don’t tell my skeptical friends is that I spent the

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June
12th

DOD IG wants more tests on Boeing-made sub-hunting jets before Navy pays for full production

A new Defense Department Inspector General report urges the Navy to slow down on its purchases of a submarine-hunting jet that Boeing manufactures in the Puget Sound.

The Inspector General wants the Navy to supervise more testing to ensure that P-8A Poseidon jets will reach a required 25-year lifespan “without succumbing to structural fatigue” before committing to a  full-rate production contract. The IG says the Navy had planned to consider that contract next month.

So far, the Navy has ordered 24 P-8A jets and it has begun assigning them to Naval Air Station Jacksonville in Florida. Over time, the

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June
11th

Top military brass not ready to release service-wide behavioral health review spurred by Madigan complaints

Defense leaders still can’t give Sen. Patty Murray a deadline for when they plan to wrap up a service-wide review of military behavioral health programs more than a year after they first committed to her request.

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta launched the cross-service review last year following complaints from patients at Madigan Army Medical Center who had diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder changed for reasons they could not understand.

Since then, the Army has released plans to standardize its behavioral health programs. The cross-service review remains incomplete.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told Murray during his

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June
10th

Clover Park schools on JBLM safe from defense furloughs but bracing for cuts to come

Joint Base Lewis-McChord is getting one break that most other military installations are not receiving this year in the Pentagon’s plan to furlough its civilian workforce for 11 days this summer

Lewis-McChord’s schools are staying open full time despite the furloughs because they’re managed by Lakewood’s CloverParkSchool District.

Elsewhere, the Defense Department plans to shut schools on military bases for five days this fall so employees can take their unpaid days off.

We’re publishing more about Lewis-McChord’s furlough plan in Tuesday’s newspaper. The base has more than 10,000 civilian employees who generally will be compelled to take Fridays

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June
7th

Soldier from Olympia recovering at Walter Reed from critical wounds in Afghanistan

Sgt. Luke Cifka left for Afghanistan this past spring determined to return home to his wife and infant son.

He’s back in the states with family, but not in the way he wanted.

The 26-year-old soldier from Olympia suffered critical injuries during a patrol in Logar Province on May 31. He’s at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland at the beginning of what his wife describes as a “long road ahead” of rehabilitation.

“We’re very, super, super lucky that as serious as his injuries are, he’s still alive,” said his wife, Kait Cifka, 23. The family did not

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