To serve those in service: Family business has covered JBLM for 60 years

STEILACOOM, Wash. -- With more than 9,000 service members moving in and out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord every year, it's easy to feel like a stranger on one of the country's largest military bases.

But one company and one family has made it their mission to help.

The Ranger weekly newspaper out of Steilacoom, Washington has been on and around the base for 3,475 editions.

The paper covers everything from specific goings on in the military, to where active duty service members can look for houses. Even where service members new to the base can find a place to go out on Saturday night.

"There is nobody else who dedicates their paper and their platforms to JBLM," said the President of Northwest Military and The Ranger.

With the Ranger comes the Swarner family. Tom Swarner, Ken's father, came to work at the paper in 1964. He bought it five years later.

Ken has worked at the paper for as long as he can remember.

"Aside from college, I've been here my entire life," Ken said.

This past summer, a third generation of Swarner joined the team: Alex Swarner. An active member of the Washington Army National Guard, Alex has the unique perspective of knowing both what military members want and what businesses want to be in touch with veterans.

"I get to see both sides of it," Alex Swarner said. "I get to see the businesses that want to enter the military market. And then on the other side, I'm part of the military market."

Alex is helping with new technology and continuing to push The Ranger and Northwest Military's other publications into the digital age.

But change is nothing new for the Swarners. Like the media industry, the South Sound and JBLM seem in a constant state of flux.

The base has shrunk and grown from 15,000 members to around 40,000 at its current numbers. Traffic, housing and socializing are all things The Ranger specializes in -- trying to help those in uniform.

For people not in the military, Ken says, he knows things like increased traffic brought to the area from JBLM can be frustrating. Still, he said this area supports its troops like no other.

During the Gulf War, Ken said the community made an active effort to support military members that has continued today.

"The community really gets around these guys," Ken said.

As long as the base remains, there will be a need for a publication - and a family - that focuses on the community.

"I think people see us as their link to the new community," Swarner said. "I think it helps them feel more at home."