An Army site near Tacoma, Washington, that supported Vancouver Barracks training operations a century ago is now a spearhead for U.S. military power in the Pacific.
During a Wednesday visit, the senior Army officer at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, highlighted the continuing links between Vancouver, Washington, and the post once known as Fort Lewis.
Some of those links are people in uniform, Lt. Gen. Stephen R. Lanza said: "Our military represents society."
That's one reason Lanza was the featured speaker at the Rotary Club of Vancouver's noon meeting, he said.
"We want to be connected to the public we serve," Lanza told Rotarians at the Red Lion Hotel Vancouver at the Quay, and not "migrate away from the American public."
Lanza added that path to military service can be a two-way street. Each year, about 8,000 military personnel at Joint Base Lewis-McChord leave the service and re-enter civilian life.
"Forty to 50 percent of them stay in Washington," Lanza said. And, a large number of troops who were based elsewhere come to Washington to retire.
There also is a personal link. Lanza and Clark College President Bob Knight — former Vancouver Barracks commander — were classmates at the U.S. Military Academy, graduating in 1980.
"We were roommates for a semester," Knight said.
After the Rotary Club of Vancouver meeting and a visit to City Hall, Knight was part of a group that gave Lanza a tour of the west portion of Vancouver Barracks and the Marshall House.
Lanza commands the Army's I Corps, which is making the transition from more than a decade of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan to challenges in the Pacific.
We still have 32,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, but more attention is going toward America's key treaty partners in Asia.
"We haven't spent a lot of time with them," Lanza said.
"China continues to grow and challenge our allies," Lanza said, citing territorial issues in the South China Sea. "It's important to assure our allies that we are there for them."
Joint Base Lewis-McChord — with its 46,000 soldiers — will play a big role in that, Lanza said.
"We have a tremendous power-projection platform," thanks to the Air Force resources at McChord, as well as ports in Seattle and Tacoma that offer a path to the Pacific.
If it sounds like a teamwork approach among service branches, there is a good reason.
"All forces are shrinking," Lanza said, so they must work collaboratively.