FORT LEWIS -- On Sept. 17, Command Sgt. Maj. James P. Wills, U.S. Army Reserve Command Sergeant Major visited Army Reserve soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) to emphasize Army programs offered to reservists.

His visit included a meeting with leaders from the 104th Training Division, a 5k "Salmon Run" and a town hall meeting with soldiers and Airmen from JBLM.

Wills first spoke to members of the 104th Training Division about issues important to the Army Reserve such as training and financial excellence, having a strategic vision for generating force, total Army integration, and the importance of developing great leaders to carry the Army forward.

"What the 104th does is an awesome mission because it's all about leadership," said Wills. "It's all about growing tomorrow's leaders and I don't think that there's anything more that you can do for the Army that's more important."

There were a lot of acronyms and big numbers used, but leaders were informed about changes to the Army Reserve including a new program for combat medics to directly obtain their paramedic certifications and changes to Army University which allows soldiers to use their Army training to obtain a Master's Degree. Soldiers can find out more information by visiting armyu.army.mil or by speaking to their education counselor.

"The emphasis on leadership in today's Army Reserve is crucial," said Wills. "The boss [Lt. Gen. Luckey] has put a new spin and focus on leadership where he feels no matter what the challenges are, if leadership is engaged we can execute and get through whatever the challenges are ahead of us. I think we're in a good time for the Army Reserve."

Salmon Run

Next up was the Salmon Run, an annual event held by JBLM Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) in which participants are encouraged to wear to pink, like a Chinook salmon, a keystone species in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States that "runs" up the Snake and Columbia rivers each year to lay their spawn. A 1k "smolt run," 5k and 12k events were offered. Participants enjoyed delicious baked salmon at the end of the event. The participants included people from all walks of life, branches, and backgrounds. Wills ran the race with soldiers of the 301st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade (MEB) as a way to challenge leaders to make sure that every soldier is able to finish the race.

"I'm taking on the challenge of making sure that our soldiers cross the finish line," said Wills. "So I want to make sure that we convey the message clearly to our leadership that we've got to build confidence in our soldiers to make sure that they're able to cross the finish line."

Town Hall

Concluding his visit to JBLM, Wills held a town tall at the Schwab Army Reserve center, where he laid out what changes are coming to the Army Reserve and answered questions from soldiers in attendance.

"It's a great opportunity for us to have someone of such experience and significant leadership to speak to soldiers at all levels," said Ms. Catrina Hanley, Command Executive Officer for the 104th Training Division. "This is a once in a career opportunity for most soldiers to be standing in front of the command sergeant major of the Army Reserve and have their voices be heard."

Wills' key points of discussion included Federal Tuition Assistance, a program that pays for Soldiers' civilian education, opportunities to use military training for college credit, and the paramedic certifications available for combat medics (68W). More information about those programs can be found on the Army's education website, goarmyed.com.

Two programs that Wills emphasized during the town hall were Fort Family and the Army Reserve Private-Public Partnership (P3O). P3O is a program developed by the Army Reserve that connects Reservists with employers who are hiring and also offer opportunities and training to apply their leadership skills. Fort Family is a free suite of resources available at any time to Army Reserve soldiers and their families offering support in everything from emergency loans, counseling services and youth programs. More information can be found by visiting arfp.org and usar.amil.mil/P3.

This marks the second time this year Wills visited JBLM. Earlier this year he visited the 301st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade and the 1-214th General Support Aviation Battalion, a visit that included a flyby of Mount Rainer in a CH-47 Chinook.

"Every time I come here it's a great opportunity for the soldiers and myself," concluded Wills. "I learn a lot and I see the commitment and enthusiasm in our young soldiers."