Joint Base Lewis-McChord

JBLM PAO / Flickr

More than 8,000 service members at Joint Base Lewis-McChord will be leaving the military in each of the next few years as the military draws down its force levels. The base is aiming to help them find work, and this week it’s holding its biggest ever jobs summit

Port of Tacoma

A team of economists at the University of Puget Sound say strength in military spending and port traffic will help lift Pierce County’s economy this year.

LAKEWOOD, Wash. – Washington Senator Patty Murray has introduced legislation to overhaul the mental health system for war veterans. The move comes in the wake of a scandal at Washington’s Madigan Army Hospital. Doctors there incorrectly told dozens of soldiers they didn’t suffer from PTSD. One of those soldiers was Richard Kellar.

Richard Kellar has entered year six of his fight to regain his life after getting blown up in Iraq. Doctors had to re-attach his nose. He has a Traumatic Brain Injury. And then there are the emotional wounds of war. Flashbacks, nightmares, insomnia.

“Heartbreaking” and “Preventable.” That’s how the mother of an Army helicopter pilot describes the midair crash that killed her son and three others last December. It happened during a nighttime training exercise at Washington’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord. A report released this week finds that commanders knew about radar and radio limitations in the training area where the crash happened. But apparently those communication gaps went unresolved – despite other near misses.

For the first time, the U.S. Army is confirming it was a midair collision that brought down two helicopters last December at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The results of an internal investigation into the crash that killed four pilots was released Monday. It blames pilot error, not a mechanical failure.

The two Kiowa Warrior reconnaissance helicopters were on a nighttime training mission last December 12th. According to the investigation, one of the helicopters flew directly into the side of the second chopper bringing both aircraft to the ground.

Flickr

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. — Joint Base Lewis-McChord says an anti-tank weapon that was found at a home in Pierce County is not from the Army base.

A U.S. official says Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who had been stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, will be charged with 17 counts of murder in the massacre of Afghan villagers.

It has also come to light that Bales was accused in a second incident involving alcohol and violence.

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. — A top military commander speaking at the base of the soldier suspected of killing 16 Afghan civilians says the Army is adequately dealing with mental health and other issues related to multiple deployments.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – A Lieutenant Colonel from Joint Base Lewis-McChord has been charged with threatening to kill his girlfriend, his estranged wife and his Army boss. The allegations come just days after another Lewis-McChord soldier was accused of a murderous attack on Afghan civilians.

Lt. Col Robert Underwood is charged with three counts of felony harassment. According to court documents, he recently told his daughter he was “going to do something crazy and it would be on the news.”

The Army is investigating whether the cost of care and benefits is influencing the diagnosis of soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder at Madigan Army Medical Center.

U.S. Army

THURSTON COUNTY, Wash. – The Army isn’t saying yet whether a mid-air collision caused the crash of two reconnaissance helicopters at a training area on Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The accident Monday night killed four Washington-based Army aviators.

Police in Lakewood, Wash., are investigating the apparent suicides of two soldiers from the nearby Joint Base Lewis-McChord in recent weeks. In both cases, police say the soldiers shot themselves in the presence of someone else.

Adrian Wolf

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Wildlife biologists are employing a little trickery to stop the downward spiral of a rare grassland bird in Western Washington. On Friday, biologists took eggs from healthier larks in Oregon and swapping them into western Washington nests, hoping the lark mothers don't notice.

Courtesy Washington State Patrol

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Three Washington-based soldiers have been killed in high-speed motorcycle accidents since April. And it turns out all three were riding the same model of high performance bike. The Washington State Patrol says the accidents were horrific and avoidable.

United States Marine Corps

Officials at Joint Base Lewis-McChord are hopeful they're making progress against the stigma that keeps some soldiers from getting help for mental health issues.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Here's a soldier's tale. Bill Surwillo deploys to Afghanistan. Nearly a quarter of his platoon is killed. He comes home with PTSD. He turns to marijuana and spice – a synthetic version of the drug – to relax. The Army kicks him out and takes away his GI Bill. Is this fair?

US Navy / Chief Intelligence Specialist Louis Fellerman

Washington state senators Wednesday praised Northwest chopper pilots for flying a celebrated mission that no one can confirm they were on. That would be the mission that killed Osama bin Laden.

This much we know: Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma is home to a battalion of the U.S. Army's "Night Stalkers." That's an elite helicopter unit that flies commando and combat rescue missions.

U.S. Army

He was the sole survivor of a massive roadside bomb in Afghanistan that killed seven of his comrades and their interpreter. Now, Corporal Roger Scherf, Jr. has also died, the victim of a car accident on an icy highway.

Rolling Stone magazine has published several more grisly photographs related to the war crimes case unfolding at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

The release comes just one week after a German magazine was the first to publish photos. The Army had sought to keep the pictures under wraps for fear they could trigger a backlash against U.S. troops.

Last week’s photographs showed soldiers posing with a dead Afghan named Gul Mudin. Rolling Stone now reports he was an unarmed 15-year old boy, the first of three victims allegedly killed by members of a rogue platoon from Western Washington.

U.S. Army

It was a surreal scene last August 27th in downtown Salt Lake City. A soldier - AWOL from his base in Western Washington - emerged from an underground parking lot. He was dressed head-to-toe in combat gear and carrying a rifle.

Seconds later the soldier was dead. Now, an internal Army investigation has found shortcomings in how the case was handled. The family of Specialist Brandon Barrett blames the Army for not intervening sooner.

Ted S. Warren / AP

Construction at Joint Base Lewis-McChord would increase further if Congress adopts President Obama's 2012 budget proposal.

The News Tribune reports that the spending plan released Monday would set aside more than $300 million for construction at the base south of Tacoma, up from about $172 million in the 2011 budget proposal Congress has yet to approve.

Making headlines around the Northwest this morning:

  • Feds Need to Help I-5 Mess near Lewis-McChord Base
  • Bellevue Business Giant Resigns Over Eastside Light Rail
  • Election Day for Pierce Transit, Some Schools

 

Pentagon Should Help Fix JBLM Traffic Mess: Report

A new report on the impact of military bases to their local communities recommends the Pentagon pony up for traffic improvements - including I-5 upgrades - along Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The National Research Council study is detailed by reporter Adam Ashton in The News Tribune:

The report shows that the U.S. military is spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year to improve Lewis-McChord, but not on off-base roadwork. The military spent $1.8 billion on capital projects at the base over the past three years, and it plans to spend another $2 billion over the next five.

AP

Making headlines around the Northwest this morning:

  • Prison Guard's Memorial Tomorrow
  • Pierce County Misses Out on Thousands in Census Count
  • Seattle Planning for Memorial to Native Woodcarver

 

Service for Officer Jayme Biendl on Tuesday

Thousands of mourners are expected at Everett's Comcast Center tomorrow for Officer Jayme Biendl's memorial. The Monroe Correctional Center guard was killed two weeks ago in the prison's chapel. An inmate, serving a three-strikes felony life term remains the prime suspect. The Herald of Everett reports the service will touch many lives, and many Snohomish County communities:

A motorcade is planned, with the route visiting the Monroe Correctional Complex where Biendl worked and then heading into Everett on U.S. 2. That journey is expected to last from about 10:30 am. to noon.

Making headlines this morning around the Northwest:

  • Prison guard death first in 30 years
  • Details on Anti-War Protester Spying 
  • Suicide Prevention Fence for Olympia I-5 Bridge

 

Monroe Guard's Death

Shock and sadness over the murder of a Monroe Reformatory guard dominate western Washington headlines.  Jayme Biendl was killed late Saturday night while on duty in the prison chapel. An inmate - three-strikes  lifer Byron Scherf - is the lone suspect. 

US Army

There's been a significant development in the case of five Washington-based soldiers accused of killing unarmed Afghan civilians last year. The Washington Post reports a plea deal has been struck with one of the key defendants. But an Army spokesman cautions nothing's been finalized. 

The Post, citing an anonymous source, says Specialist Jeremy Morlock has agreed to a deal that would spare him the possibility of life in prison.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Was there a breakdown of leadership in the 5th Stryker Brigade from Joint Base Lewis-McChord? That question is central to a month-old Army review that’s just now coming to light. It’s the latest development in the case against a dozen soldiers recently back from Afghanistan – including five who’ve been charged with murder.

US Army

Private First Class Andrew Holmes of Boise joined the Army the day he turned 18. That was two years ago. By his 19th birthday he was fighting in Afghanistan. But he turned 20 this past August locked-up in an Army brig in Western Washington.