Junior Soldier brings 'First in Support' mentality to Immediate Response
August 26, 2013
ZAGREB, Croatia -- During a joint and coalition training exercise, in a room that is populated with colonels, sergeants major, staff level noncommissioned officers and field grade officers, sits a single private first class. She was soft spoken and new to the coalition environment, but she learns quickly and adapts to any task she is given. For three weeks, she showed the members of the simulated higher command what it means to be 'First in Support.'
Pfc. Karlea E. Henderson, a human resources specialist assigned to the 21st Theater Sustainment Command's 18th Engineer Brigade and a native of Susanville, Calif., is working as the lowest ranking and youngest member of the simulated 70th Infantry Division, the higher command during the Immediate Response 13 training exercise at the Croatian Training Simulation Center, Aug. 9 through 31.
This exercise is Henderson's first experience working with foreign military services and her first time working in a division level personnel section. During the three weeks, she met and worked alongside military members from Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, the United Kingdom, Montanegra and Herzigovina along with several U.S. Army units.
"This is very different from what I do everyday at the brigade," Henderson said. "I am learning so much about what is expected from a division personnel section working in this kind of environment. It's definitely a lot more responsibility."
Her responsibilities included receiving requests for information from subordinate level training audiences, casualty reports and personnel statistics from each country. These requests and reports represented simulated incidents and statistics that the multinational brigade and battalion level units were working together to overcome. If Henderson failed to retrieve one of these items, it could result in drastic consequences.
"I have worked on several joint and coalition exercises in Europe, Asia and the United States. When I arrive at an exercise like this I expect to see staff sergeants as the lowest ranking Soldiers. I was very surprised to see Pfc. Henderson as a member of my staff," said Lt. Col. Barbara P. Tucker, the deputy personnel officer for the Hawaii National Guard, the simulated 70th ID personnel officer and a native of Kapolei, Hawaii. "Henderson never failed and she never hesitated to ask the important questions to get the mission accomplished.
Henderson's ability to learn and her high level of motivation impressed both her officer in charge and her noncommissioned officer in charge.
"Henderson came to Immediate Respose 13 with a high level of motivation and if she was ever intimidated by the ranks in the room she never let it show," said Staff Sgt. Robert L. Gordon, the administrative NCOIC for the Hawaii National Guard officer branch, the simulated 70th ID admin NCOIC and a native of Houston. "I am very impressed with how quickly she learns and her potential for advancement."
After the exercise culminates, Henderson will return to the 18th Eng. Bde. in Schweinfurt, Germany. She will resume her normal duties as a brigade administrative clerk in charge of leave forms and finance issues. While she views her daily duties as necessary to the Army, she expressed her excitement at what awaits her at the next level.
"I learned a lot about what the future holds in my career field and the environments I might work in as I advance in my military career," said Henderson. "I am very grateful for this experience and the opportunity to work shoulder to shoulder with members of these great nations."
In the final days of the exercise, Tucker expressed how impressed she was with Henderson's performance and what the future looks like for this Soldier.
"I would gladly serve with Henderson again," Tucker said. "I see her becoming a great and motivated noncommissioned officer."