Fort Lewis was proud to become the leader of the Army’s model Transformation Initiative process, which would serve as a model for change in the U.S. Army to create a new combat power. At the beginning of the new century, the two Fort Lewis brigades chosen (3/2d ID and 1/25th ID) to serve as models for Army transformation and the creation of two medium-weight, Initial Brigade Combat Teams (IBCT) started their new training models and equipment testing. With this new Stryker Transformation, brigades would become “plug and play” ready and be deployed anywhere in the world within 96 hours of initial notification. Eventually, more 2d ID brigades would stand up at Fort Lewis and complete the Stryker Transformation before the end of the decade.
With the terrorist events of 11 September 2001, the world and Fort Lewis entered a new era and century bringing new challenges and requirements. Assets were active in providing support for real world missions on the “Global War on Terrorism” (GWOT) with Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan, force protection Operation Noble Eagle (ONE) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) in Iraq. Fort Lewis supported I Corps’ implementation of a persistent individual Soldier readiness training and exercise schedule and an aggressive acceleration of the swiftest deployability dates of the new Stryker Brigade Combat Teams (SBCT’s) were also employed. From 2003, Fort Lewis had a central role in preparing units that deployed several times for 12 months or more rotations to either Iraq or Afghanistan to support the Global War on Terrorism.
In March – April 2003, 3d Brigade, 2d Infantry Division traveled to the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California and participated in an exercise dubbed Arrowhead Lightning I. After completion of its NTC rotation, its Stryker Combat Vehicles and other equipment were moved by land, sea, air, and rail to Fort Polk, Louisiana for Arrowhead Lightning II. In May 2003, the 3d Brigade, 2d Infantry Division completed a Certification Exercise (CERTEX) at the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) where it validated the Stryker vehicle concept to be a viable one. In November 2003, it became the first Stryker Brigade deployed for combat operations in support of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). The “Arrowhead” Brigade returned to Fort Lewis in November 2004 after a very successful rotation to OIF and was replaced by its sister brigade, the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (SBCT). In June 2006, the 3d Brigade, 2d Infantry Division (SBCT) left for a second year-long deployment in Iraq. Also in June 2006, the newly formed 4th Brigade, 2d Infantry Division (SBCT) stood up as the next brigade to undergo Stryker validation training.
The date 4 February 2004 marked the first time that I Corps command elements forward deployed in combat since the end of the Korean War. From February 2004 to January 2005, Task Force Olympia (TFO) deployed to Mosul, in northern Iraq in January 2004, where it assumed its mission from the 101st Airborne to form a headquarters to exercise command and control of all coalition and Iraqi forces in northern Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). The TFO included representatives from all three components of the U.S. Army (Active, Reserve and National guard), as well as U.S. Marine Corps and Australian officers. The HQs coordinated the efforts of both of the Army’s first two Stryker Brigade Combat Teams, attached engineers, civil affairs, signal, and other supporting units as well as, ultimately, more than 12,000 Iraqi security forces. The Iraqi security forces included four Civil Defense corps battalions, three Border Police battalions, several thousand members of the Iraq Facility Protection Security Forces and an Armed Forces battalion. After more than a year in Iraq, TFO handed over responsibility for northern Iraq to the Soldiers of Task Force Freedom and 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in February 2005.
For the first time since the Korean War, on 29 February 2009, LTG Charles Jacoby led the entire I Corps staff of 900 Soldiers and civilian employees to Iraq to replace XVIII Airborne Corps and assume duties as the Multi-National Corps – Iraq. During this period, Lieutenant General Jacoby was second in command under General Raymond Ordinero in Iraq. I Corps would return to Fort Lewis a year later in 2010, as the combat troops drew down from Iraq. In the meantime, as terrorism activity increased in Afghanistan, U.S. combat operations were augmented and Fort Lewis units took their turns to deploy and contribute to the region.
The Mission Support Element was created in 2008 to augment I Corps staff offices at the post when the Major Support Command/I Corps deployed in 2009. It would continue after I Corps’ return as a complementary operation.
The start of the new decade in 2010 marked a new way of Fort Lewis to operate and a new name change. On 1 February 2010, the Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) Headquarters came full circle when they became operational at the original post headquarters, Building #1010, formerly Building #1. Internal infrastructure support and duplication of Fort Lewis and McChord operations were consolidated and administered under the JBLM Headquarters.
With the beginning of the millennium, Fort Lewis entered a new era and century, bringing new challenges and requirements.