More than half of the soldiers in the Washington Army National Guard will report to Yakima, Washington, in early November for a drill weekend that includes an organization-level event called the Commanding General’s Run.
Joseph Siemandel, a spokesperson for the Washington National Guard, told Coffee or Die Magazine that the 3-mile run on Nov. 5 is part of the Rainier Stampede, a forcewide gathering that will serve as that month’s drill weekend.
According to Siemandel, at least 3,000 of the roughly 5,800 soldiers in the Washington Army National Guard will head to the Yakima Training Center, or YTC, on Nov. 5, just ahead of Veterans Day. The first event is a 10:25 a.m. full-formation run.
Guard members will report from across Washington — many of them bused in for the day — including from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, just outside of Tacoma, and from the Spokane region on the state’s far eastern side, Siemandel said. Yakima is about 150 miles from JBLM, and 200 from Spokane.
“The event will include the run, a meal, resource providers, leader-professional-development briefings, static displays, and music from our band,” Siemandel said.
While the run will be the first of its kind for the Washington Army National Guard, Siemandel said, “these types of events are not new to the military.”
Siemandel noted that the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg and the 7th Infantry Division at Joint Base Lewis-McChord hold all-hands runs and that the Arizona National Guard mustered about 4,000 troops inside Kino Sports Complex in Tucson, Arizona, in 2018.
“Not all participants will be coming from JBLM,” Siemandel said. “Some will be coming from other parts of the state. And not all will be required to attend the full slate of events.”
Soldiers who are already committed to training or Professional Military Education or have prior commitments that would excuse them from the drill weekend — once-a-month training for Guard members — can miss the Rainier Stampede, Siemandel said.
Siemandel said local commanders for each Guard unit will decide how soldiers will get to Yakima, including whether to use buses.
A few complaints about the run have circulated on social media. Twitter user @LethalityJane tweeted a screenshot on Oct. 7 of a Reddit post to r/army by Bobert5757, which has since been deleted from Reddit.
“That’s right ladies and gentledudes. All of the Washington Army National Guard will conduct PT together at Yakima Training Center during November drill,” the poster wrote. “Show time of 0300 for JBLM folks. Planning on a 12-15 hour [day] which will be roughly 36,000-45,000 man hours spent on a run.
“I will take a gin and tonic.”
Siemandel said that several claims in the post were inaccurate, including a claim of a nearly half-million-dollar transportation bill and the total number of participants.
“Transportation costs are estimated at $185,000,” Siemandel said. “It’s important to note that there are transportation costs associated with every drill weekend as we move soldiers to various training locations. For instance, in 2021, as the 81st Brigade prepared for a large mobilization, we spent on average $88,000 per month on transportation.”
Siemandel also provided Coffee or Die with a schedule of events for the day. Members will arrive at YTC between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. for a 10:15 a.m. mass formation. The Commanding General’s Run starts 10 minutes later and wraps up at noon, according to the schedule.
The day will also include lunch, resource booths, presentations by Washington Guard historians, and fitness and rock wall-climbing events, Siemandel said.
Brig. Gen. Dan Dent, the Washington Guard’s commanding general, will also use the event for professional development, Siemandel said.
Master sergeants, captains, and above will end their day with a two-hour-long leadership summit. “We have many new officers, noncommissioned officers, and warrant officers that have joined our ranks since the last leadership summit in January 2020,” Siemandel said.
Soldiers will be back on the road to their home stations by 4 p.m.
Siemandel said that the event would provide “unified purpose, direction, and motivation for all soldiers of the Washington Army National Guard,” but there’s also another motive behind the event.
Along with the day’s events, Siemandel said, bringing soldiers from across the state to one location tests the Guard’s ability to mobilize quickly. “It is critical to test this function in the event of a large-scale domestic response or a mass deployment of Washington Army National Guard personnel,” Siemandel said.