Bremerton-Olympic Peninsula Council Navy League of the US

Oct 16: NL Tour Joint Base Lewis McChord


On a sunny and warm Thursday October 16, 2014 ten Navy Leaguers (and one dog!) assembled at the visitor center at Joint Base Lewis McCord (JBLM) for a tour of parts of both the Air Force and Army sides of the base.

JBLM originated as Camp Lewis in 1917, later becoming Fort Lewis. McChord Field was established in 1940 and became McChord Air Force Base in 1948. Fort Lewis was joined with McChord AFB to become JBLM in 2010, resulting in operational efficiencies and economy.

On the Air Force side out first stop was at 62nd Airlift Wing, 8th Airlift Squadron, Air Mobility Command. This unit is assigned 48 C-17 four engine transport aircraft. Each is large enough to hold two full size tractor trailers side by side. The C-17 was originally designed to be able to carry the M-1 Abrams tank. Although we were not able to get up close to one we did observe several nearby on the flight line. Very impressive. The primary mission of the 62nd AW is to move cargo around the world. They also support the National Science Foundation, provide aero medical evacuation, transport nuclear weapons (none at JBLM), more all of the President’s vehicles, helicopters and related material, humanitarian relief, etc. Combat airlifts keep convoys off the road. Precision air drops are possible through use of GPS steerable parachutes. This unit is always doing something, somewhere.

Next we visited the outside display of the air museum where attack bombers, fighter/interceptors, cargo/transport, search/rescue and trainer aircraft of WW II to current day are on display. Prominent are the C-124 and C-141 transports, and best was the opportunity go inside the C-141.

Lunch at an Air Force dining facility was followed by a visit to an historic Fort Lewis building where we received a briefing about the history of the base and current day operations. Interestingly then Lt Col Dwight Eisenhower had an office next door to where we were meeting prior to WW II. There are many Army units, most commanded by I Corps, one of the Army’s contingency corps which stays prepared to deploy world wide at a moment’s notice. Stryker Brigade combat teams are included and we were next given a close up look at Stryker armored fighting vehicles.

 Stryker vehicles, named for two unrelated MOH recipients with the same last name from WW II and Viet Nam, are built by General Dynamics. There are 10 variations but they are all 8 wheeled and share a common Caterpillar engine, transmission, and hydraulics…all of which simplifies maintenance. One type deploys a stabilized cannon, another a 120mm mortar. There is a medical version, another for command and a reconnaissance vehicle, to name some. The special suspension provides a smooth ride on a rough road at 60 MPH. All are very impressive.

From time to time Stryker vehicles are given a general rebuild at Anniston Army Depot and then some are sent to a General Dynamics team at JBLM for further rebuild and refit.   It was this unit that gave us the hands on-and in-tour…very much appreciated.

End of tour time got us headed off base and back on the road home. Our sincere thanks to the personnel at JBLM for their informative and warm welcome. A great tour. And thanks to Byron Faber for getting it all arranged. – Norm Marten