Joint Base Lewis-McChord | KUOW News and Information

Joint Base Lewis-McChord

Steve and Sandy Swanson were in a festive mood. It was an early December day and their house was ready for Christmas.

“We already had our Christmas tree up,” Swanson remembers. “The house looked beautiful.”

But, then, a representative of the Navy knocked on the door of their home on top of a ridge on Whidbey Island,

“She walked in, and she seemed genuinely moved by the bad news she was going to have to tell us,” Swanson says.

Soldiers fire two rounds from their High Mobility Artillery Rocket systems at Yakima Training Center in 2011.
Flickr Photo/DVIDSHUB (CC BY 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/9MtxXi

The Army plans to practice firing its High Mobility Artillery Rocket System this week at Joint Base Lewis-McChord despite concern from neighbors about the impact of the noise.

Much of the feedback solicited by the Army from neighbors around the base was negative. Many said noise from the unarmed rockets would be disruptive to children, animals and people with post-traumatic stress disorder.  

Sunset on Sept. 13, 2012 in Seatac. The deep red color was caused by smoke from numerous forest fires buring in the Cascade Mountains.
Flickr Photo/Brett Curtiss CC BY 2.0 http://bit.ly/2au4fiI

It wasn’t the aroma of Tacoma on Tuesday.

It was the smoky smell of Seattle.

Not like barbecue, though. More like a light tree fumée.

Lisa Hallett holding a photo of her husband John
KUOW Photo/Kate Walters

Mile one: “Oh my God, the babies didn’t stop crying for the last hour and a half.”

Mile two: “I need to buy diapers, what am I going to make for dinner, there’s baby food stuck in the carpet, what am I going to do?”

Mile three and four: “All of a sudden the business and the high energy of that day to day life with young children, it starts to quiet down.”

Mile five: “It’s just quiet, there’s nothing.”

Mile six: “Oh shit, my husband died.”

U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, 7th Infantry Division come together for the first reenlistment of cavalry scout Kayci Landes in the Army at JBLM on May 4.
Coutesty of 16th Combat Aviation Brigade

A  soldier from Joint Base Lewis-McChord  will become the first woman in the Army to reenlist as a cavalry scout. 

Army cavalry scouts work in tanks and are the eyes and ears of the commander during battle. It’s a position that’s only recently been opened to women. 

Soldiers perform fast rope insertion certifications at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in January 2015.
Flickr Photo/CC BY NC SA 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/rakSmz

Joint Base Lewis-McChord is no longer considering a controversial proposal to land helicopters at seven wilderness sites around the state.

Officials at JBLM made the decision after receiving feedback from stakeholders and reading 2,350 comments from the public which were mostly negative. 

File photo of Bowe Bergdahl at his graduation from basic training with the Army.
Bergdahl family

The desertion case against Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will go to a full court-martial, his attorney said Monday.

Bergdahl walked away from his remote outpost in Afghanistan in 2009 and was captured by the Taliban.

Maj. Gen. Edward Dorman III says training for Chinese soldiers in Washington state can "build trust between the two countries. I think we reduce the potential for misunderstanding."
Courtesy of U.S. Army

Chinese soldiers have landed in Washington – but don’t be alarmed.

Eighty members of the People’s Liberation Army are in the state this week learning about disaster response. They’re working alongside troops from Joint Base Lewis McChord as well as personnel from the National Guard and state and federal agencies.

Andrew Holmes, a former soldier from Boise, is speaking out about his war crimes and his time in prison. He was the youngest member of what came to be known as the “kill team” from Washington’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

U.S. Army Capt. Jennifer Peace (right) and her wife, Debbie, with their youngest daughter at their home in Spanaway, Wash.
KUOW Photo/Patricia Murphy

Capt. Jennifer Peace walks into the room, a tall, thin woman in crisp uniform, with minimal makeup and trim brown hair.

But when soldiers call her ma’am, she has orders to correct them. They must call her sir.

The Army is deploying 200 soldiers to help fight wildfires that are burning through about 1.1 million acres across the Western United States. That's according to a press release from the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.

"It's been nine years since wildfire was so widespread all at once that active military troops joined firefighters battling blazes," NPR's Howard Berkes reports. "Four military C-130 cargo planes are also in use as air tankers."

Amidst further downsizing confirmed by the U.S. Army Thursday, the Washington National Guard got good news. The Guard’s 81st Armored Brigade announced it will shed its heavy tanks and armor to convert into a more nimble Stryker configuration.

Soldiers prepare for static-line jumps from Blackhawk helicopters at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in this photo dated June 17, 2015.
Flickr Photo/JBLM PAO (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Washington's Joint Base Lewis McChord will lose more than a thousand soldiers under a restructuring plan announced Thursday by the Defense Department. Local leaders say it could have been much worse.

A still from the trailer for "Kill Team."
YouTube

Marcie Sillman talks with filmmaker Dan Krauss about his new documentary, "The Kill Team." The film features the story of Private Adam Winfield, who attempted to warn the military of war crimes against innocent civilians in Afghanistan. He later plead guilty to involvement in a killing and was sentenced for three years in prison.

Smoking tobacco
Flickr Photo/Laurence Currie-Clark (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Washington state considers raising the minimum age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21 -- the highest in the country. Plus: deflated footballs, deflated employment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Seattle’s cutest mobster and a sad farewell to talking about the Kalakala ferry. 

Bill Radke’s guests this week include KUOW reporter Deborah Wang, Crosscut’s Knute Berger, Jonathan Martin of the Seattle Times and KUOW reporter Patricia Murphy.

File photo of Joint Base Lewis-McChord headquarters.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

It was standing room only at times as around 500 people turned out to voice their concerns to Army leaders about possible cuts at Joint Base Lewis-McChord Wednesday night. 

The base has more than 27,000 active duty soldiers and 13,000 civilians. The cuts as proposed would eliminate up to 90,000 positions worldwide. For JBLM, that could mean up to 11,000 soldiers and civilians out of work.

Officials at JBLM say the cuts will likely happen this fall after a decision by the Army in late summer.

Sixteen people being monitored at Joint Base Lewis-McChord for the Ebola virus have been cleared by medical personnel.  

The 15 service members and one civilian returned last month from a mission to Liberia in support of Operation United Assistance. 

The group celebrated Thanksgiving in isolation during their 21 days of controlled monitoring.  They were checked twice daily for signs of the virus by Army medical personnel.

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Seattle is one of five bases nationwide that will keep troops returning from West Africa in a controlled monitoring environment for 21 days after they return.

(Stephen Brashear/AP Images for U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

Thousands of veterans and service members preparing to leave the military are expected at Joint Base Lewis-McChord this week for a three-day summit.

The Army Surgeon General Thursday suspended the commander in charge of Army hospitals in 20 western states.

Washington Congressman Denny Heck said the Department of Health and Human Services is no longer seeking facilities for temporary shelters for refugee children at Washington’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Heck, who represents the 10th Congressional District which includes JBLM, said he trusts the department to make the right decisions about what facilities are best for the refugee children, but adds that he will continue to push for what he calls common sense, comprehensive immigration reform.

AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool

Hundreds of immigrant children held at the southern border could be moved to a military base near Tacoma.

Federal and local officials plan to discuss the option Wednesday.

Marcie Sillman talks with Joint Base Lewis-McChord's transition services manager, Robin Baker, about the programs the base offers to help veterans transition to civilian life. Also, we hear from Sgt. Richard Larimer about his upcoming entrance into the civilian sector for the first time.

A preliminary military hearing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington continues today to determine whether then-staff sergeant (now sergeant first class) Michael Barbera should face a court-martial in the March 2007 slayings of two unarmed Iraqi brothers.

The brothers were herding cattle in Diyala Province, near where Barbera’s Army reconnaissance team was hiding. Prosecutors say the boys posed no threat, but that Barbera went down on one knee, pointed his rifle, and killed them anyway.

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Ross Reynolds speaks with Adam Ashton, military reporter for the Tacoma News Tribune, about the Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's proposed Pentagon budget cuts and how it would impact local military communities.

Masooma, pictured with her children, recounted the events of pre-dawn March 11, 2012 when she says a U.S. soldier rampaged through two villages killing 16 people, mostly children. Staff Sergeant Robert Bales pleaded guilty to the massacre.
AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus

The Department of Defense has denied a request by reporters for information about Staff Sergeant Robert Bales’ murder of 16 Afghan civilians.

KUOW Photo/Patricia Murphy

A new program in Lacey, Wash., gives soldiers training and a career track in software development after discharge from the Army.

Three Washington-based soldiers are in jail after the stabbing death of a fellow soldier over the weekend. The arrests came after the person who allegedly wielded the knife sought medical treatment for a cut to his hand.

Police say the murder happened off base following an exchange of words between two groups of Joint Base Lewis-McChord servicemen. A roadside confrontation seemed to end peacefully once everyone realized they were fellow soldiers.

It was jarring for survivors and witnesses of the 2012 attack by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales on two villages in Afghanistan to come to the U.S. to testify at his trial this month, translator Ahmad Shafi tells Morning Edition.

They were at Washington State's Joint Base Lewis-McChord — a place much different than their homes in Kandahar. What's more, the U.S. military's system of justice was strange to them.

A military jury has sentenced Robert Bales, the U.S. Army staff sergeant who admitted to killing 16 Afghan civilians in 2012, to life in prison without parole. During the punishment hearings held this week, Bales was confronted by family members of victims and people who survived the attacks of March 11, 2012.

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