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Tag: Fort Lewis


Lewis-McChord: A welcome new partnership

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Goodbye Fort Lewis. So long, McChord Air Force Base.

As of this month, the South Sound’s two immense military installations have fused into Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The Air Force and Army have officially tied the knot. The motto on the combined base’s logo emphasizes the partnership: “Soldiers and airmen defending America.”

The “new” arrangement harks back to the past, locally and nationally. What is now McChord Air Field once belonged to the Army, just as the Air Force itself was once a part of the Army. The repackaged Joint Base Lewis-McChord would seem a logical arrangement to those who served there before McChord (and the Air Force) won independence in 1947.

Independence can be overrated, though. The merger of McChord and Fort Lewis is part of a broader effort to restructure military installations in ways that make sense in light of limited budgets, evolving missions and the need for far greater coordination among the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

The independence of those four branches has always bred problems. For example, the Army’s Black Hawk helicopters were once equipped with radios that couldn’t communicate with the radios on the Air Force’s F-15 fighters. That wouldn’t have happened if enough people had been talking to each other.
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Distress in the Army: A hidden enemy

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

President Obama’s decision on deploying more troops to Afghanistan has been complicated by an ugly reality: suicide.

In recent years, the Army has struggled with growing numbers of soldiers who’ve taken their own lives. The numbers spell out the problem starkly. In 2005, the Army’s suicide rate per 100,000 soldiers was 12.7. In 2006, it rose to 15.3. In 2007, 16.8. In 2008 it hit 20.2.

That 2008 figure crossed a disturbing threshold. It was the first time since the Vietnam War era that the suicide rate among soldiers exceeded the rate among their civilian counterparts.

This might not seem remarkable, given the often harsh conditions of military life. But prospective soldiers are screened – in recruitment and in training – for their capacity to cope with those conditions. Going into active duty, their mental health is much better, on average, than that of their civilian peers. Something is deeply amiss when the comparison goes upside down.

The obvious explanation is war. Combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan run as long as 15 months, and many soldiers don’t get enough down time between deployments. Combat leads to stress disorders and depression as reliably as rain leads to wetness.
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Fort Lewis forces pay high price for war

For many Americans, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are far off in the distance, with little impact on their own lives. But here in the South Sound, they resonate as clearly as the sound of artillery during training exercises and as visibly as the transport planes that fly overhead.

Because of the presence of Fort Lewis, few other places in America so deeply feel the weight of war and know the cost of it. The single deadliest day so far for our forces was Monday, when eight Stryker soldiers were killed in two separate roadside bomb attacks in Afghanistan.

On Wednesday, they and 10 other Americans came home. President Obama was at Dover Air Force Base, Del. – the first time a president has been present when remains of fallen military arrived. Read more »


Fort Lewis pays steep price in Afghanistan

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

For Fort Lewis, it’s been a heart-breaking two weeks. In that short time, at least seven of its soldiers have been killed by Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.

Their deaths are part of a much larger picture. The war in Afghanistan – long a sideshow to Iraq – has become tougher and bloodier than at any time been since the Taliban were driven from power almost eight years ago. The United States and its NATO allies have seen their casualty rates jump sharply in recent months.

It’s not that the Taliban have suddenly become a vastly more formidable fighting force. If anything, the contrary is true. The allies are suffering more combat deaths because they are engaging the insurgents more aggressively.

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