By Sgt. Norman Smith
Portland Recruiting Battalion
May 9, 2018
PORTLAND, Ore. – Fifty Future Soldiers from the greater Portland metro area and Southwest Washington took a tour of Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma, Washington, recently.
A caravan of vehicles departed from Longview, Washington, to experience life on an Army base and be part of a mass swearing-in ceremony. Along with the Future Soldiers, about 16 of their friends and family from the greater Portland metro area took the tour of a series of hands-on presentations at the large military installation in Tacoma, Washington.
Throughout the course of the day, they had opportunities to observe what life as a Soldier will be like. Many of the military occupational specialties that these recruits were able to select from during their enlistment process were represented by personnel, static displays and interactive engagements at the base.
“A common misconception is that it will be like a video game,” said Staff Sgt. Tyson Weaver, 787th Ordnance Company.
The first stop of the day was a trial by fire with a seasoned Explosive Ordnance Disposal company. Soldiers of the 787th Ordnance Company EOD challenged the recruits to a series of training activities they designed to increase training proficiency in realistic scenarios. Recruits were faced with remote detonation, screen-oriented robotic maneuvering, and the effective donning of protective gear that can add upwards of 89 pounds to body weight.
According to Weaver, EOD technicians have only two and a half minutes to don the bomb suit, which is no easy task. The presentation also included a lesson on equipment testing. The takeaway was the methods that the Army has endeavored to protect its own in the dangerous negotiation of threats.
Joint Base Lewis-McChord is home to one of the Army’s “Warrior Zones”, which is an on-base recreational facility that served as the lunch destination. Located adjacent to a modern and extensive fitness center, it showed recruits how many amenities Soldiers have access to during their time on a base. They were able to spend a few minutes shooting pool and exploring the many entertainment options at the facility, such as advanced gaming computers and a small movie theater.
The afternoon was spent on aviation, as the convoy moved to Gray Army Airfield. Technicians from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment brought the Future Soldiers face-to-face with a small collection of their helicopters, providing them with details about their daily lives and allowing the recruits to climb around.
Capt. Trey Wheeler, commander of the Vancouver Recruiting Company, gathered his Future Soldiers in formation in front of a CH-47 Chinook and conducted a swearing-in ceremony for the entire group.
From the area of operations for 160th SOAR, the group advanced to a nearby hangar of Delta Company, 2-158 Attack Helicopter Battalion. Here, the Future Soldiers received a personal introduction to the AH-64 Apache by Wheeler. Although his current assignment places him in recruiting, Wheeler’s MOS is a 15A aviation officer who specializes in piloting the Apache. The recruits also had extensive interaction with several variations of the UH-60 Black Hawk.
Along with these scheduled events, the convoy toured through several major areas of the base and the recruits were able to enjoy a walk-through of a barracks facility.
Not all of the visitors to JBLM were Future Soldiers. Among those in the crowd who had not enlisted was a parent. Travis Paasch, of Toutle, Washington, was accompanying his son Taylor, who enlisted as a 15E an unmanned aircraft systems repairer. Paasch watched his son intently throughout the activities of the day.
As the activities drew to a close he said, “I feel very good about this.”