It’s not every day that a three-star general comes to visit with the editorial board. Lt. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., who commands both Fort Lewis and I Corps, dropped by Tuesday with the fort’s garrison commander, Col. Cindy Murphy. She handles the post’s day-to-day operations and is playing a major role in the upcoming merger of Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base into Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Jacoby said he wanted to touch bases with the ed board before he leaves Sunday for I Corps’ one-year deployment to Iraq, where it will be managing U.S. combat operations. The fort has been in the news recently – and not in a good way – and he wanted the chance to talk about it.
He said the South Sound community should know that fort officials take very seriously the drug overdose death last month of 16-year-old Leah King in a barracks.
“It hit us all very hard,” said Jacoby. “Tens of thousands of soldiers serve honorably, and the community can trust them. A small minority dishonors themselves and their comrades.
“The people of Pierce County need to know they have a good neighbor (in Fort Lewis), a concerned neighbor.”
The military wants its soldier to have a social life and to be able “to carve out a little space, a sanctuary in their barracks. They deserve that.” But he said it can be a balancing act to also provide a safe, secure environment at the same time.
King’s presence in the barracks was a violation of fort rules, he said, and “we have upgraded execution of barracks visitation policy.” I interpreted that to mean that those in charge of checking visitors into and out of barracks are now being more vigilant.
Also, “There’s been an intensive review of gate access procedures,” he said, noting that “we are now checking trunks.” (Base neighbors report seeing young women climbing into the trunks of soldiers’ cars in order to sneak on post.)
“I’ve personally talked to our gate force,” Jacoby said. “We are specifically looking to protect minors.”