JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. – The M249 Squad Automatic Weapon came to life as Karissa Thompson shot targets in the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000. This was not another day of training for the soldiers on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, but an opportunity for members of the Puyallup Chamber of Commerce to bond with their military neighbors.
The 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team hosted members of the Puyallup/Sumner Chamber of Commerce Jan. 24, during a community connection event. The Chamber of Commerce visited JBLM in a continuing effort to show support for the post and gain a better understanding of the service members that live in the local area.
Col. Thomas Brittain, JBLM garrison commander, briefed the visiting Puyallup/Sumner Chamber of Commerce explaining how big and how involved the base is with surrounding cities, as well as the importance of the relationship between members of the community and service members.
“The soldiers need to know that the local business community is here to support them because it’s the soldiers who make the ultimate sacrifice and put their lives on the line for our country,” said Eric Kantor, chair of the Puyallup Military Affairs Committee for the Chamber of Commerce.
This was followed by a slideshow and video production of the brigade training at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., presented by Maj. Joseph Mason, 2nd Brigade spokesman. The presentation gave the Puyallup/Sumner Chamber of Commerce a glimpse into the lives of the soldiers in its partner unit and a few things the unit has done over the past year.
Throughout the past few years, 2nd Brigade and the city of Puyallup have had a mutually beneficial relationship through community outreach programs.
“During the holiday season members of the community participated in Operation Ham Grenade and Operation Turkey Drop where hams and turkeys were distributed to service members on JBLM,” said Kantor.
“We have also put together gift bags for newcomers to JBLM that include coupons to various businesses in the community to encourage soldiers to get out and about,” said Kantor.
The community connector project doesn’t flow in just one direction. Soldiers from the Lancer Brigade march in local parades, volunteer in the area and participate in events like Make a Difference Day.
“It’s a wonderful partnership because we, as business owners and individuals in the community, need the people from the base and the individuals from the base need us as well,” said Nina Burlingame, ambassador from the Chamber of Commerce, “It’s a great idea for us to get together and create a bond so everyone can flourish.”
During the visit, the Chamber of Commerce interacted with the Soldiers of the brigade and explored the Strykers they use during their missions. Not only did they get to explore the inside of a Stryker and have the systems explained to them, but they also got a chance to use the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000 and the Reconfigurable Vehicle Tactical Trainer. These are virtual training systems used by the military to enhance soldier’s skills before sending them to the field.
Some of the visitors had never seen what a soldier’s workday is like.
“Spending time with the soldiers here helps us understand where they are coming from,” said Burlingame. “When you have a background of what they have experienced it can help you learn how to provide services for what the Soldiers need and it’s fun.”
The visitors ate lunch with soldiers and airman at the 17th Fires Brigade Dining Facility before moving on to view parts of McChord Field and check out some of the Air Force’s equipment.
Over the years, the Community Connections Program has fostered goodwill between the residents of Puyallup and the members of the brigade. The bonds continue to grow through visits like this and those planned for the future.