Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s newest brigade commander might find himself wanting to be in three places at once over the next couple years.
Col. Philip Raymond, the new chief artillery officer for the 7th Infantry Division, has one job overseeing training and development for two cannon battalions at JBLM. He has another job doing the same thing for two more units based in Alaska.
His third job calls on him to keep his eyes trained on the Korean Peninsula. His headquarters would be among the first called up for combat missions if a conflict ever breaks out between North Korea and South Korea.
The geography sounds complicated, but Raymond insists it’s a straightforward assignment to train artillerymen in howitzer cannon battalions while aligning his “real world” focus to threats in Asia.
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He has been at JBLM for about six weeks. The 7th Infantry Division held a ceremony Thursday formally launching his headquarters.
Adding the 200-person headquarters is a rare bright spot for the local military community at a time when JBLM has been deactivating large units for the past two years in the Army’s postwar drawdown.
Raymond said his job is a “back to the future” style assignment that the Army is re-creating as it unwinds from the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His role is one that the Army set aside during the height of the wars but wants to use again now that soldiers are not locked into a cycle of deployments.
During the wars, artillery units often deployed as part of larger infantry brigades. The artillerymen typically set aside their big guns and conducted missions on foot, similar to infantrymen, patrolling villages and cities to gather information about insurgents.
“We did it for the right reasons, to go ahead and fight that war, but the dynamic is changing,” Raymond said.
Now, the artillery units could be called up for any number of missions that might require howitzers. Raymond’s role is to make sure they’re ready.
“We’re just lucky to have them living here with us,” said 7th Infantry Division Commander Maj. Gen. Terry Ferrell.
Raymond serves under Ferrell, but the name of the artillery headquarters reflects its relationship to U.S. forces in South Korea. Its formal name is the 2nd Infantry Division Artillery. The 2nd Infantry Division is based in South Korea.
His role gives him responsibility for artillery battalions assigned to JBLM’s two Stryker brigades, as well as to one assigned to a Stryker brigade and one assigned to paratrooper brigade based in Alaska.
Raymond’s division artillery command is separate from the17th Fires Brigade, which is another artillery headquarters at JBLM. The 17th Fires Brigade oversees two rocket battalions and an air defense battalion. It’s also led by a colonel and is part of the 7th Infantry Division.