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Category: Military


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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Army Pacific commander hints at Stryker review, but says downsizing could have a light touch in the region

A new interview from the top Army commander in the Pacific raises some interesting questions about how the Pentagon’s plans for its Stryker brigades as it draws down it forces over the next few years.

Lt. Gen. Frank Wiercinski suggested to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that the Army might not need a Stryker brigade in Hawaii when it has three at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and one in Alaska.

“We have three additional Stryker brigades at Fort Lewis that we didn’t have 10 years ago,” Wiercinski told the newspaper. “That’s a lot of Stryker brigades.”

(The Star-Advertiser has  a pay

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Plan your Memorial Day observances with this look at the weekend’s events

A busy weekend of Memorial Day events is just around the corner in Pierce and Thurston counties. Here’s a look at the weekend’s ceremonies culled from community groups, Joint Base Lewis-McChord and the Washington Department of Veterans Affairs.


  • Key Peninsula Veterans Aisle of Honor, 1 p.m., VaughnBayCemetery, the cemetery is located at the corner of 100th Street Kp N and 186th Avenue Kp N, Vaughn. 253-884 9852. Signs will be posted from State Route 302. The formal ceremony begins about 1 p.m., but flags will be on display from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Yelm Cemetery Memorial Day

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Sgt. John Russell sentenced to life without parole for killing five at Baghdad clinic

An Army judge on Thursday handed down the toughest sentence he could to a soldier who murdered five fellow service members at a Baghdad combat stress clinic four years ago.

Sgt. John Russell will serve life without parole for shooting to death two care providers, two patients and an escort at the clinic in Baghdad’s Camp Liberty on May 11, 2009.

“You are not a monster,” Army Judge Col. David Conn said at Russell’s sentencing, according to Reuters. “But you have knowingly and deliberately done incredibly monstrous things.”

“Sgt. Russell, you have forced many to drink from a bitter cup.

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JBLM’s wartime growth was fifth fastest across entire military, new GAO report shows

A new report from the Government Accountability Office shows that the number of civilian and military employees at Joint Base Lewis-McChord has increased by almost 64 percent since 2006, a pace that marked the fifth-fastest clip for any domestic military installation.

The base added about 20,600 civilian and military employees in that period, giving it a payroll of some 52,800 service members and civilians as of last year.

Lewis-McChord caught the attention of the GAO for a report looking at military bases that added or lost significant numbers of service members in the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure round.

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Australian two star visits JBLM to tell troops “It’s good to have you back” on watch in the Pacific

An Australian two-star general is visiting Joint Base Lewis-McChord this week with a message about the Army’s reinvigorated focus on the Pacific.

“It’s good to have you back,” said Maj. Gen. Rick Burr.

Burr is making the rounds in the Northwest as the deputy commanding general for U.S. Army Pacific in Hawaii. It’s a new position, and it’s intended to be reserved for Australians in the years ahead.

U.S. Army Pacific leads about 60,000 soldiers in Hawaii, Alaska, South Korea and at Lewis-McChord. It answers to the Defense Department’s Pacific Command under Adm. Samuel Locklear.

Burr’s position is one of

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South Sound DOD employees still facing furloughs, but new plan calls for fewer unpaid days off

Thousands of Defense Department employees in Pierce and Thurston counties are still facing the likelihood of unpaid time off this summer, but not as much as the Pentagon initially proposed.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Tuesday released a plan requiring about 680,000 civilian employees across the country to take 11 furlough days through the end of September.

The furloughs are scheduled to begin July 8 unless Congress allocates money to prevent the spending reduction, meaning workers will take off about one day a week for three months.

That’s down from an initial Pentagon furlough proposal that would have mandated 22

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Sergeant who killed five troops at Baghdad clinic grew paranoid in weeks leading up to slayings

Sgt. John Russell grew increasingly paranoid in the days before he killed five fellow U.S. service members at a Baghdad combat stress clinic, soldiers who knew him testified today.

His belief that his unit was trying to kick him out of the Army was one of the reasons his commander, Capt. Mark Natale, referred him to counseling instead of disciplining him for an insubordinate, expletive laden outburst in early May 2009.

If he could go back to that moment, Natale would not be so generous.

“If I would’ve known what I know now, I probably would have zip-tied his (butt)

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