JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD (AP) — The U.S. Army announced plans Thursday to improve discipline at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, an installation that has been linked to a string of recent violence.
Army Secretary John McHugh said a layer of management will be added in a reorganization that will bring a new division headquarters to the troubled base.
McHugh said the move was largely in response to the massive growth Lewis-McChord has seen over the past decade. But he also acknowledged a recent string of high-profile cases and indicated that stronger oversight might have assisted in containing those issues.
“Would it have helped?” McHugh said. “I suspect it would because you’d have better control of good order and discipline.”
Lewis-McChord soldiers have been connected to several recent shooting deaths. Four were convicted in the deliberate thrill killings of three Afghan civilians in 2010. Another has been accused of massacring 17 Afghan civilians earlier this year. And authorities have said a Lewis-McChord veteran shot and killed a Mount Rainier National Park ranger earlier this year.
Meanwhile, the base has been undergoing a review of the handling of post-traumatic stress disorder cases. Medical screeners at Madigan Army Medical Center have reversed hundreds of PTSD diagnoses of soldiers since 2007.
Over the past nine years, Lewis-McChord has added some 15,000 soldiers and 22,000 family members. Other large Army posts, such as Fort Bragg in North Carolina, have the more intensive management that is coming to Lewis-McChord, McHugh said.
“We feel that it’s more than appropriate for JBLM to have that kind of command structure as well,” McHugh said.
He said the division headquarters will be focused on training, equipping and developing soldiers while also maintaining good order and discipline.
The new structure will be activated in October. McHugh said he expects a two-star general will be named in the coming weeks.