CAMP VICTORY, Iraq - Good leaders make sure their troops are squared away before they roll outside the wire. They check for water, ammunition and protective equipment. They check the little things to prevent big problems. The also make sure their service members are squared away by verifying their personal information is current on their Isolated Personnel Report, that they have completed and understand the online Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training and that their personal locator beacons are properly registered No one wants to believe that they might find themselves separated and alone in a hostile environment, but if it happens, ISOPREP, PLBs and SERE are the tools they will need to help the U.S. military find them and bring them home. Leaders need to ensure that their soldiers keep those tools mission ready. "Our service members, DOD civilians and contractors across theater need to keep their guard up to avoid succumbing to any type of terrorist or insurgent act," said Air Force Lt. Col. Scott Pierce, director of the United States Forces-Iraq Personnel Recovery Coordination Cell. According to Pierce, every Department of Defense member who deploys to the Central Command area is required to have SERE level B training. Level A covers the Code of Conduct while level B teaches individuals how to avoid situations that might get them into trouble and gives them tools to resist if they are captured. Both levels have been rolled up into one online computer-based training program called SERE 100. "It's another tool to build a Warrior Ethos; to help each of us be more careful and vigilant in everyday activities," Pierce said. Leaders also need to make sure their people are squared are trained on and understand new tools being issued to service members who leave the wire. Personal locator beacons are commercial, off-the-shelf emergency beacons that can be registered to an individual and tracked by satellite when activated. Although they are primarily issued to units with missions outside the wire, Pierce said the intent is for everyone leaving the wire to carry a PLB. Terry Cothern, a field service representative with Logistics Management Engineering, said it's extremely important to register the beacons after they're issued. Once a PLB is activated, he said it only takes a couple minutes for the signal to reach Pierce's team in the PRCC. They contact the unit that the beacon is registered with to ensure that it's not a false activation. If a PLB isn't registered they won't be able to verify that someone is actually in trouble. "That's the problem with not registering the beacons," Pierce said. "If one goes off and we don't know who has it, we can't take action on it. We don't rescue beacons, we recover individuals. "That's why it's so critical that we have an accurately completed registration database and that the accountability is up to date," he said. According to Pierce, units who only send a few of their people out on missions at any one time can have the PLBs registered to the unit, and then sign them out to individuals as needed. However, individual service members operating in high-risk areas such as border regions should have one issued and registered by unit and name. Cothern said the beacons give troops on the ground a ray of hope if they find themselves isolated from friendly forces. "If they activate it, evade and escape, it will give friendlies a place to start looking," he said, adding that the beacons can be tracked to within 100 meters. Once it's determined that a person is truly isolated and in need of rescue, the PRCC pulls the individuals confidential ISOPREP and gives the individual's photo, physical description and authentication questions to recovery forces. Every American service member, DOD civilian or contractor in theater should remember filling out the ISOPREP form or the PRO-File survey online. It requires photographs for identification and involves listing everything from scars to shoe size to statements about the person's life. Pierce considers it to be one of the most important theater-entry requirements for deployers. "It's one stop shopping when it comes to knowing height, weight, scars and identifying features," he said. Although ISOPREPs are required before entering theater, leaders need to make sure their people update them with changes to important information like rank, next-of-kin, or identifying features such as new tattoos or scars. Since appearances can change over time in captivity, authentication questions based on personal history statements are the easiest and surest way to verify someone's identity, Pierce said. "The authentication piece is vital," he said, "because only that person has the answers to those questions." According to Army guidance, individuals can update their ISOPREP by either completing a new PRO-File survey through their DOD service portal, such as Army Knowledge Online, or by contacting the Personnel Recovery Office to update it in the Personnel Recovery Mission Software database. Although security in Iraq has improved, Pierce says the risk of being kidnapped is still considered to be high. He points out that ISOPREP, PLBs and SERE work together to give DOD personnel the best chance of recovery if they are isolated. -30-

Page last updated Sun July 4th, 2010 at 13:15