By David Poe, Northwest GuardianMarch 26, 2012
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. (March 26, 2012)-- The Army's second highest-ranking officer arrived Friday with a group of Army senior staff members at Joint Base Lewis-McChord to ensure its leaders had every available resource at its disposal.
Gen. Lloyd Austin III, vice chief of staff of the Army, said his intent was to ensure I Corps and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, or JBLM, could continue providing the highest-level services to the growing installation. He praised the support JBLM and I Corps provide for more than 42,000 service members and their families.
Austin and other senior Army officials spoke to the press following a daylong visit to the Pacific Northwest joint base. The visit was his first since he became vice chief Jan. 31, succeeding retired Gen. Peter Chiarelli.
"(JBLM) is a phenomenal installation and the Soldiers, Airmen, civilians and family members who live and work here are truly outstanding," Austin said.
He said the visit also served to highlight Department of the Army's support for JBLM's health care provider, Madigan Healthcare System.
"We met with leaders and others -- the goal being to find ways we, at Headquarters, Department of the Army, may be able to further assist them in their efforts to effectively address the challenges and stressors you would expect a force that's been fighting two wars for more than a decade to be experiencing," he said.
Austin commanded U.S. Forces-Iraq from September 2010 through the completion of Operation New Dawn last December, and previously commanded the 10th Mountain Division as part of Combined Joint Task Force 180 in Operation Enduring Freedom.
Austin's group from Washington included Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler III; Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho, surgeon general of the Army; Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick, deputy chief of staff of the Army G1; and others.
Also in attendance was Lt. Gen. Michael Ferriter, commander of U.S. Army Installation Management Command.
Some highlights of the visit included a stop at Madigan Army Medical Center, or MAMC. Austin and Horoho met with senior and key hospital leadership, learned about the facility's innovative approaches to holistic fitness and reaffirmed the Pentagon's dedication to medical missions there.
Austin said one example of that dedication to troops was MAMC's $52 million Warrior Transition Barracks, which opened its doors in 2011 and serves approximately 400 wounded warriors.
Horoho commanded MAMC from 2008 to 2009 as well as Western Regional Medical Command here at JBLM through 2010.
Chandler, the Army's senior enlisted Soldier, held sensing sessions with noncommissioned officers, or NCOs, and junior-enlisted Soldiers to talk about successes and ways the Army can continue to support troops at JBLM.
"I met with 70 Soldiers who've deployed more than (a combined) 100 times in their military careers," Chandler said. "That's a testament to their resilience and their families' resilience.
"Overall the Soldiers are very satisfied with their chains of command, and the fact that they trust their leaders is a testament to their leaders' concerns for their well being. Do we have things we want to continue to improve? Yes; that's part of what the Army is. We want to be better each and every day, but the young men and women I met are highly motivated. The overwhelming majority of them wanted to stay here and re-enlisted at Joint Base Lewis-McChord -- I think that's a testament to the outstanding leadership at JBLM."
Bostick also met with targeted Army populations. He visited with junior and mid-level officers stationed at JBLM to touch base and learn about their concerns and gather best practices.
Meetings didn't end with the JBLM community. Austin, Chandler and their staffs lunched with Sen. Patty Murray, Reps. Norm Dicks and Adam Smith, of Washington's 6th and 9th Districts respectively, and staff members from Sen. Maria Cantwell's office, to reaffirm their shared advocacy of service members and their families in the Pacific Northwest.
Austin reiterated JBLM Soldiers' dedication to duty under solid leadership, as reflected in reenlistment rates that rival and sometimes surpass other Army-led posts across the service. To date, approximately 114,000 service members have deployed from JBLM since 2001.
"The fact is our nation has been at war now for more than a decade," he said, "and yet, in spite of the high operational tempo and, in many cases, multiple deployments in support of operations around the world, ours remains a highly-trained and incredibly resilient force."