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Army nonprofit celebrates JBLM family, South Sound general who helped veterans find jobs

Retired Maj. Gen. James Collins is an advocate for efforts to reduce unemployment among veterans and is the civilian aide to the secretary of the Army representing Washington State.
Retired Maj. Gen. James Collins is an advocate for efforts to reduce unemployment among veterans and is the civilian aide to the secretary of the Army representing Washington State. Staff photographer

A national nonprofit organization that advocates for the Army has recognized a Joint Base Lewis-McChord family for its volunteer work and a retired general from Steilacoom who spurred efforts to help Iraq and Afghanistan veterans find careers after leaving the military.

Maj. Gen. James Collins received the Rudder Medal from the Association of the United States Army, an award that recognizes Army leaders who make a difference in integrating active-duty and Reserve formations.

It’s named after Maj. Gen. James Rudder, a celebrated World War II officer who led an Army Ranger battalion in a key attack scaling the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc to destroy German artillery positions in the D-Day landings.

Rudder’s unit, the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, is now based at JBLM.

“I’m very honored to be the recipient of award named for such heroic feats of what those soldiers did,” Collins said.

He is a former Army Reserve officer and Weyerhaeuser executive who served as the deputy commanding general at JBLM’s I Corps early in the Iraq War.

At JBLM, Collins helped the Army prepare units for deployments and participated in several foreign military exercises.

Since retiring, Collins helped launched Hire America’s Heroes, a nonprofit organization that works to connect veterans with jobs and which is supported by some of the largest businesses in the Puget Sound region.

He’s also the civilian aide to the secretary of the Army in Washington state, a position that calls on him to advise senior Army leaders about military issues in the Northwest.

AUSA also recognized another South Sound military family at the annual conference in Washington, D.C., where Collins received the Rudder medal.

It bestowed a volunteer family of the year award to JBLM’s Sgt. Blagoy Pogoncheff; his wife, Stacie; and their three children.

Stacie Pogoncheff volunteers several days a week at a JBLM office that supports military families with special needs.

She and her husband, a military police officer, also are involved in family readiness groups, school sports teams and Cub Scouts on base.

In addition, the family volunteers for the Special Olympics events each summer at JBLM.

“We believe in paying it forward,” Stacie and Blagoy Pogoncheff told an AUSA writer. “Many people helped us when our son was born at 24 weeks. Volunteering is the best way we know how to give back.

“We may not have a lot of money, but time is something we can freely give.”

Adam Ashton: 253-597-8646

adam.ashton@thenewstribune.com

@TNTMilitary

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