Joining Forces Blog

  • Joining Forces Welcomes Colonel William T. Johnson

    On behalf of First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, we are pleased to welcome United States Army Colonel William T. Johnson as the new Executive Director of Joining Forces.

    We are thrilled to welcome Will aboard and are excited for him to continue the initiative’s work to support our Nation’s service members, veterans, and their families. Will succeeds Air Force Colonel Nicole Malachowski, who has returned to duty in the Pentagon after leading Joining Forces through a successful 5th anniversary year.

    Will is an Army Field Artillery Officer, and during his 23 years of service has completed a series of strategic and operational assignments, supporting operations in the Middle East, South West Asia, and Central Asia. He has three combat deployments; two in Iraq and one in Afghanistan where he served as a Battalion Commander. 

    Will has also served as an Army Congressional Fellow and as Deputy to the Army’s House Liaison Division, providing military-related assistance to all Members of the House of Representatives. Prior to his current position he also served as the North East United States and European Director on the Army Chief of Staff’s Soldier for Life Program. In that role he helped to connect Transitioning Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families to employment, educational, and healthcare opportunities through partnerships with federal, local, and state agencies, non-profits, Veteran and Military Service Organizations, and the private sector.

    Will holds a Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science from the University of Richmond, VA., where he was commissioned through  the school’s ROTC program in 1993. He also earned Masters Degrees in: Criminal Justice from Armstrong University, Legislative Affairs from The George Washington University, and National Resource Strategy from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University. Some of his awards and qualifications include the Bronze Star Medal (3rd award), the Meritorious Service Medal (6th award), the Presidential Unit Citation, the Combat Action Badge, the Airborne and Air Assault Badge, and the Ranger Tab.

    Will and his wife Jessy live in Virginia with their 9 year old son, Davis.

    Tina Tchen is an Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama. Sheila Nix is Deputy Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to Dr. Jill Biden.

  • Service to Nation: 225 Years Strong

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the U.S. Coast Guard's blog. See the original post here.

    Today, the U.S. Coast Guard celebrates 225 years of Service to Nation. Over the past 225 years, the service has grown and adapted to the changing needs of our Nation. As the Coast Guard looks to the future, we celebrate our legacy, partnerships and celebrate how far we have come as a service. Join us in celebrating the Coast Guard’s 225th birthday today and throughout the rest of the year using #CG225th!

    From the first lifesaving stations on the shores of Massachusetts where crewmen rowed small, wooden boats into overpowering surf in hopes of rescuing people from storm-battered ships to the Coast Guard’s newest, largest and most technologically advanced 418-foot national security cutters designed to conduct multiple Coast Guard missions around the world, the Coast Guard has been there.

  • Dr. Jill Biden Visits Military Families in Okinawa, Japan

    Dr. Jill Biden takes a photo with a group of Marines at Kadena Air Base

    Dr. Jill Biden takes a photo with a group of Marines during a USO BBQ and military families day, at Kadena Air Base, in Okinawa, Japan, July 23, 2015. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    Today, Dr. Biden attended a summertime block party hosted by the USO on Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan — the last stop of her whirlwind trip through Asia. During her remarks to the crowd of Air Force, Marine, Army, and Navy families, Dr. Biden expressed her gratitude — and described the unique challenges these families sometimes face. With the war in Iraq over, and operations in Afghanistan coming to a close, Dr. Biden stressed the need for the American people to understand that our military families are still serving all around the world.

    "With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down, it's easy for most Americans to forget that we still have men and women serving overseas, along with their families," Dr. Biden said. "No matter the challenge, all of you serve with honor and distinction."

    At the event, Dr. Biden also presented the Presidential Volunteer Service Award to military spouse and USO volunteer Niki Reed. Niki, who has lived on Okinawa for the past two and a half years, has been an essential volunteer for the Kadena USO, often stepping up to help out with events, and volunteering nearly full-time to support the mission of the USO.

    Rory Brosius is the Deputy Director of Joining Forces.

  • Prince Harry’s Invictus Games to Come to the United States

    Last autumn, as part of the Joining Forces Initiative, Dr. Jill Biden led a Presidential Delegation to the very first Invictus Games in London, England.

    Spearheaded by Prince Harry, the Invictus Games were an incredible, Olympic-style, adaptive sporting event for wounded, ill, and injured active-duty and veteran service members. During the closing ceremony of the games, Prince Harry noted that Invictus “shone a spotlight on the unconquerable character of servicemen and women and their families – their Invictus spirit.”

    That is why we're so pleased that today, Prince Harry announced the Invictus spirit will be showcased in the United States, when Orlando, Florida plays host to the 2nd Invictus Games in May 2016. Under the leadership of Ken Fisher, and hosted by the ESPN Wide World of Sports at Disney World, the United States will host athletes and their families from 13 countries in what is sure to be an inspiring event!

    Dr. Jill Biden congratulates wheelchair basketball players at the Invictus Games in London, UK, September 13, 2014. (Photo by James Pan, State Department)

    Dr. Jill Biden awards medals to US Team swimmers after winning the silver at the Invictus Games in London, UK, September 14, 2014. (Photo by James Pan, State Department)

    Colonel (select) Nicole Malachowski, USAF, is the Executive Director of Joining Forces. Ms. Rory Brosius is the Deputy Director of Joining Forces. Lieutenant Commander Kate Higgins-Bloom, USCG, is a White House Fellow at Joining Forces.

  • The First Lady Celebrates Military Families Stationed in Italy

    Michelle Obama delivers remarks at U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza

    First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks during a Joining Forces Initiative event at U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza in Vicenza, Italy, June 19, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

    Today the First Lady and her daughters, Malia Obama and Sasha Obama, and her mother, Marion Robinson, visited the military service members and families stationed at U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza, Italy. Knowing that children of military families face unique challenges when their parents are deployed, the First Lady began her visit by meeting with the children of service members. This portion of the event was part of “Books on Bases,” a partnership between Disney and Blue Star Families aimed at positively impacting the lives of military children through the power of reading. Mrs. Obama and her daughters met with more than 300 military-related children and read them two books. The First Lady and the Garrison Commander, Colonel Robert Menist, shared a book titled Don’t Play with Your Food, while Sasha and Malia Obama read the children Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great. This fun and engaging event, featuring Mickey Mouse himself, focused on the positive power reading can have on the children’s outlook on life during times of parental separation. In addition, each child in Grades 1-3 went home with a selection of books donated by Disney.

    First Lady Michelle Obama and Malia Obama help serve ice cream to military families

    First Lady Michelle Obama and Malia Obama help serve ice cream to military families as part of a Joining Forces Initiative event at U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza in Vicenza, Italy, June 19, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

    Next, the First Lady and her family participated in a base-wide barbecue hosted by the USO. During her remarks to the audience, the First Lady personally thanked the military service members and families in attendance for their service to our country and reminded them that their sacrifices have not gone unnoticed by the American people. Then, the First Lady and her family volunteered to help serve food to the troops and families in attendance. It was a wonderful opportunity for the members of the U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza and their families to relax together, enjoy great food and music, and be reminded that the American people are grateful for their service overseas.

    First Lady Michelle Obama surprises a baby shower in Italy

    First Lady Michelle Obama surprises new mothers and mothers-to-be during a Joining Forces Initiative surprise baby shower and discussion about the opportunities and challenges of raising military families while stationed overseas, at U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza in Vicenza, Italy, June 19, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

    Finally, the First Lady surprised 28 soon-to-be and new moms with a fantastic baby shower. The expectant parents were overjoyed to learn that a roundtable discussion with Mrs. Obama was actually an Operation Shower baby shower. Each family received a box of gifts for their new baby, and gift cards from Operation Shower. The women were also treated to a "shopping spree" of clothing, accessories, and beauty products hosted by GLAM4GOOD, a fashion and beauty initiative. Of note, this was Operation Shower’s 60th baby shower, and their first overseas event. The First Lady was excited to celebrate with these military spouses. While some of these soon-to-be fathers won’t be there for Father’s Day, the First Lady wanted to ensure these new moms were treated to a day they’ll never forget. Once the shock of the surprise sunk in, the expectant and new moms were able to share their thoughts on life as a military family overseas and even exchanged some parenting advice with the First Lady.

    Nicole Malachowski is the Executive Director of Joining Forces.

  • Dr. Jill Biden Sponsors and Christens the USS Gabrielle Giffords

    On Saturday in Mobile, Alabama, Dr. Jill Biden took part in the christening ceremony for the USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10). The ship is named after former Congresswoman and Navy spouse Gabby Giffords. In the words of Dr. Jill Biden, Gabby is part of “an incredible military family, who gives true meaning to the ideals of honor, courage, and commitment.” Dr. Biden, a proud military mom herself, was asked to be the ship’s sponsor. 

    Dr. Jill Biden Christens the USS Giffords

    Dr. Jill Biden breaks a champagne bottle across the bow of the future USS GABRIELLE GIFFORDS (LCS 10) during the ship's christening ceremony held Saturday, June 13, at the Austal USA Shipyard in Mobile, AL. Watching Dr. Biden christen the ship are, from left: Mr. Craig Perciavalle, President, Austal USA; CAPT Mark Kelly, USN (Ret); and his wife and the ship's namesake, the Honorable Gabrielle Giffords, former U.S. Representative, Arizona's 8th District. June 13, 2015. (Official White House Photo by SSGC Public Affairs Officer David Stoltz)