Returning soldiers
11:41 am
Mon September 12, 2011

Stung by criticism, JBLM focuses on returning Guardsmen

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – More than 26-hundred National Guard soldiers from Oregon, Idaho and Montana are returning home from a year long deployment to Iraq . Their first stop is Joint Base Lewis-McChord where last year guard members complained they were treated like second class soldiers.

Spc. Bryce Tuttle of the Idaho National Guard is fresh off a plane from Iraq and eager to see his family and friends in Boise.

“I’ve been gone almost two years now with all my training so I’m ready to get home,” Tuttle says.

But Tuttle also has a knee injury and he wants to see a specialist. So, he plans on sticking around to get it checked out thoroughly, he said.

In May of last year, injured Oregon Guard members complained they were rushed through this demobilization process and sent home without pay and without getting the surgeries or treatments they needed.

Now, top Lewis-McChord officials say they’ve overhauled the process of transitioning Northwest guardsmen home. Instead of a seven day turnaround, that timeline’s been doubled. Base leaders also tout same day MRIs and quickly scheduled surgeries when needed.

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, who blew the whistle last year, says he’s “encouraged.”

Northwest News Network