JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - A former I Corps deputy commanding general and chief of staff was named civilian aide to the secretary of the Army two weeks ago in a ceremony at the Pentagon.

James M. Collins, a retired Army Reserve major general, was invested by Secretary of the Army John McHugh as a special advocate for the Army representing Washington state. In an Army press release, Collins said he would be the Army's advocate throughout the state.

"In this role ... I will have access both to Army leaders and to community leaders from business, professional and government spheres," Collins said. "Initially I will be contacting leaders in each arena to learn their interests and to determine how I might add value to their work."

The nation's current business makes the role of civilian aide acutely important, said the Army press release that announced the appointment.

"Being a CASA during a time of war is a critically important duty," said Joyce E. Morrow, administrative assistant to the secretary of the Army, who administered the oath of office to Collins.

"With the United States at war it is essential for our citizens to remain engaged and support our military men and women who are doing the heavy lifting," Collins said. "The CASA in each geography serves as a volunteer. This role provides an opportunity for me to speak with audiences in Washington state on behalf of the Army. I consider it a privilege to help educate and inform the public on the needs and abilities of their Army."

Each state and the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands and American Samoa have one or more CASAs appointed to provide a vital link between the Army and the communities for which they serve. CASAs are usually business or civic leaders who possess a keen interest in the welfare of the Army and their communities.

Collins said he believes the time he spent at (the former) Fort Lewis as deputy commanding general and chief of staff of I Corps will help him execute his new responsibilities. It was his last assignment before he retired in 2005.

"Having served as a uniformed leader in the Army during the current war, I have a reasonable understanding of our abilities and the needs of those men and women who serve," Collins said. "I have remained connected to the military community by attendance at events and through my reading and personal study. As a result, I have a good baseline understanding of the current Army. I believe that understanding will facilitate my research and communication with leaders in Washington state regarding their Army."

Collins has 22 years of experience with the Weyerhaeuser Company, serving most recently as vice president for procurement and energy. He earned a bachelor of science in business administration from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville and a master of arts in social sciences from Pacific Lutheran University.

He is a founding board member for Hire America's Heroes, a nonprofit corporation designed to improve access to corporate jobs for transitioning military service members, veterans and military family members.

Don Kramer is a reporter with the Northwest Guardian, Joint Base Lewis-McChord's weekly newspaper.