When the more than 3,000 people from the Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Servicemembers from various allied nations gather at McChord Field July 24-29 for the 2011 edition of Air Mobility Rodeo, the local community will be right there to welcome them.

Local chambers of commerce are in the midst of putting the final touches on different welcome events to celebrate and cheer on the home teams, and make the foreign Rodeo teams feel welcome.

While the barbecues and mixers are private events not open to the public, many local business leaders get the opportunity to feel like they are a part of the mobility contest while showing a collective excitement for the event.

"It's just another way for us to show our support," said Carlene Joseph, vice president of community development for Harborstone Credit Union who's also an honorary command chief for both the 62nd and 446th Airlift Wings. "We want Rodeo to keep coming back to McChord. It gives the local economy a real shot in the arm."

The festivities kick off July 22, as the Lacey Chamber is hosting a celebration at Heritage Hill for the McChord Field active-duty and Reserve home teams. The event is the chamber's first foray into sponsoring Rodeo events.

The Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber is hosting a reception at the Foss Waterway Seaport on July 22 for the McChord home teams as well.

And the Lakewood Chamber is hosting a welcome party July 23 for the home team as well as international teams at the LeMay's Marymount ranch house in Spanaway.

For chamber members and those who are ardent supporters of military events and activities at McChord Field, the barbecues present an opportunity to visit with past McChord wing commanders and even welcome back members from foreign Rodeo teams that have competed in the past.

"We really get to wrap our arms around the competitors," Joseph said. "The whole idea behind the LeMay event is to give the international team members a real taste of the area. They always get a kick out of all the classic cars at the site. It's quite a draw."

The Pierce Military Business Alliance will also host a commanders' picnic on the base during the Rodeo.

On the night of June 29, the Thurston County Fairgrounds was the backdrop for the start of a beautiful friendship between the Soldiers of the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT), the city of Lacey, the North Thurston Public School District and the Lacey Chamber of Commerce.

The meet and greet event, called the Arrowhead Adopt-A-Company program, was sponsored and coordinated by the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) Lacey subchapter and allowed leadership of the various companies and batteries of the 3rd SBCT to meet with representatives from the businesses they'd been paired with.

"You may drive by JBLM ... slowly, because we clog up the roads," joked Col. Charles R. Webster, the 3rd SBCT commander. "But we hope this will allow you to learn what we do inside of the gates."

The program links businesses with companies in the brigade in the hope that they form a long-term relationship that can be reciprocal in nature.


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From baby bibs and bumper sets to princess and prom dresses, Army spouse Erin Montgomery can craft a custom outfit out of almost anything.

Her home-based specialty sewing business, Sweet Pea Children's Boutique, was officially launched in January. But Montgomery, who lives on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, has been sewing for years. She started as a child with her grandmother, she said, who taught her how to use a sewing machine. "I was always interested in the process of putting things together and making pretty things," she said.

Following rave reviews of daughter Amanda's prom dress last year, Montgomery, who also works as a part-time chiropractic assistant at Avenue to Wellness in Tacoma, decided to set up shop to help supplement her income. She started a Facebook page for the burgeoning business (www.facebook.com/SweetPeaChildrensBoutique), developed business cards and built clientele through word of mouth.

The enterprise also helps Montgomery stay busy while her husband, Sgt. Michael Montgomery, is deployed to Afghanistan as a mechanic with 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne).  The couple has been married eight years and has nine children between them, though only two, daughter Amanda, 18, and son Scott, 17, are still living at home.

In addition to custom clothes and baby items like crib bumpers and diaper stackers, Montgomery also creates one-of-a-kind memory quilts. These unique quilts are made with photographs printed onto special fabric paper, which is then sewn directly into the material. Unlike with iron-on photographs, Montgomery's quilts do not fade or wash out, she said.

Montgomery offers a military discount for all of her merchandise, including 10-percent off all memory quilts. Prices on custom clothing vary depending on the material and difficulty of the design. "I don't see it as a talent," Montgomery said of her sewing skills. "It's like following any other recipe. You follow the directions and at the end you have the finished product."

For more information, visit the Sweet Pea Facebook page, call (253) 304-8181 or e-mail Montgomery at


The Department of Defense announced today the availability to participate in a new pilot program that provides an avenue for information technology professionals to exchange best practices with the private sector.

Authorized by the fiscal 2010 National Defense Authorization Act, the Information Technology Exchange Program (ITEP) pilot permits the DoD to assign information technology civilian employees to private sector organizations and to accept information technology employees from the private sector.

"The Defense Department recognizes that sharing information and leveraging best practices are critical components of education and continuous learning," said Teri Takai, DoD Chief Information Officer. "Under this collaborative learning venture, DoD and private industry organizations have a unique opportunity to share best practices through the exchange of high performing information technology professionals in areas such as service oriented architectures and cyber security. ITEP provides an opportunity for both industry and DoD to learn from each other -- to enhance employees' IT competencies and technical skills."