Training improves POW reintegration
September 26, 2013
(Editor's Note: This is a two-part series focusing on Army South's mission to reintegrate government employees who are held against their will in foreign countries, and the role Fort Rucker plays to complete this mission.)
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (September 26, 2013) -- Soldiers, Families, local police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Army South received training Sept. 13-15 at Fort Rucker to further develop the military's reintegration efforts of Soldiers, contractors and civilians who are taken captive by America's enemies.
Army South, a major subordinate command of U.S. Army Forces Command and the Army component to Southern Command, has been partnering with Fort Rucker's Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training team for years to further Army South's training when it comes to reintegrating those who have been held against their will, a mission that's incredibly unique, according to Col. Gregory Maxton, Army South.
"People really don't think of what happens to people after captivity or that there is a unit assigned to this mission," he said. "There is a lot of work and effort that is put in to make sure that we can execute this mission, and there is no margin of error."
Army South's mission is to do surface-level to Phase 3 reintegration for any Soldier, and the unit has developed a reintegration plan that consists of many different types of teams, several of which train on Fort Rucker several times a year, according to Doug Sanders, director of personnel recovery.
"One of our teams is our initial reception party team. That is the team that goes and links up with a returnee as soon as he is released from captivity. They do the medical screening and the tactical brief," Sanders said.
"We have the debriefing teams that go with the returnee throughout the different phases of the reintegration process to do different things, like make sure we gather the intelligence we need from them, and more importantly to give them that decompression time that he or she needs," he continued.
"We also have Family assistance teams -- teams that go out to the Families as soon as their loved one is captured, and they work with the loved ones on how they are going to be engaged by the media, how they are going to provide the support to their loved one while they are being held in captivity and how we are going to provide support to them while their Soldier is held captive," said Sanders.
For the past several years, to train Army South's debriefers, Army South travels from Fort Sam Houston, Texas, to Fort Rucker to train with Soldiers who have recently undergone SERE training.
"Our debriefers really have to work with somebody that has been in some sort or captivity environment to feel the uniqueness of the debrief and to get the idea of how (different people or Soldiers) are going to do the story telling," he said.
Students who have just gone through their portion of training end up with Army South representatives and the unit does a no-kidding, real-life debrief of them.
"We gather all of the information, the lessons learned, document everything, and we go back and do follow alongs, which are great events for us because our debriefers get to work with a student that has really experienced captivity," said Sanders.
Sanders said that this type of training is also beneficial for the students because they get to apply several things they learned in school -- such as if they paid attention to their surroundings and if they can debrief Army South on those things.
He also said they would gain better visibility and better understanding of what they went through.
Though the students and Families are going to benefit, Maxton said the real focus of this training is for their teams to train with real Families and real Soldiers because the training is only available here at Fort Rucker.
There is a three-phase process that Army South uses to conduct its reintegration process, but the training done on the installation primarily consists of Phase 1 and 2.
"The first phase is when we first recover them and that lasts about 24 hours. Then we take them to the second-phase location, and that phase lasts for about 72-96 hours," said Sanders. "That is the decompression phase, where they get medical and psychological care. There they will get back into a circadian rhythm."
Army South works with the FBI closely because the government has to prosecute the hostage takers and it provides different types of assistance, said Sanders. So to receive the training, and observe to make sure that the things that Army South is doing will support the prosecution efforts against the hostage takers, FBI representatives attended as well.
"We train like this throughout the year, and we have several processes that we go through to develop our procedures. That way, when someone is released from captivity, we are ready and prepared to execute these procedures that we need to do that focus on the individual that is being returned," said Maxton. "And we wouldn't be so effectively trained if it wasn't with our partnership with Fort Rucker."
Army South continues to expand its training into Phase 3 on Fort Rucker, where Family Assistance Teams are deployed to the Family members of returnees.