FORT DEVENS, Mass. -- Human Resources professionals affect every Soldier on the battlefield, whether it's through payroll, awards, casualty reports, movement in and out of theater, or just delivering the mail. Silver Scimitar, a U.S. Army Reserve Command-sponsored, two-week training event held here annually, gives HR Soldiers the training and expertise to provide those services so crucial to sustaining the fight.

"There's no other source for the [Adjutant General Corps] community to train for their wartime mission, and that's what we provide for them," said Exercise Director Col. Robert Kay, 3rd Human Resources Sustainment Center. His unit has been tasked this year to provide command and control for the exercise.

To prepare for that mission, HR Soldiers are provided not only with the newest doctrine and core-competency training, but also with seasoned military and civilian instructors from different DoD and government agencies. It's that experience which makes the training more relevant, said Kay. "We make it tangible; we make it a real-life event," he said.

This year, Silver Scimitar brings together over 500 human resources Soldiers from 22 different units with trainers and experts from a variety of backgrounds and areas of expertise. It's a multi-echelon, multi-component exercise that prepares HR Soldiers to provide theater-level sustainment from the ground up for troops supporting operations around the world. These Soldiers work at every level of the command structure, from companies up to the theater level and across components, serving active duty Soldiers, as well as U.S. Army Reserve and Army National Guard troops. HR Soldiers learn to use a variety of skills in a complex battlefield environment, and to blend them seamlessly across all levels of operations.

It also reflects the changing nature of the Army and its need to adapt to current wartime conditions. Begun in the mid-1980s as an annual training event for U.S. Army Reserve personnel units, explained Kay, Silver Scimitar has recently morphed into a pre-deployment training event that incorporates both doctrine and current operational knowledge for all components. Major changes in the event began around 2007, when active duty and Army National Guard units began participating in the exercise. Under the Army's transformation, HR Soldiers became part of a larger sustainment community, brought closer by prolonged wars in two separate theaters.

Col. Steve Shea, commander of the 14th Human Resources Sustainment Center, an active-duty unit based in Fort Bragg, N.C., and currently deployed in Kuwait, brought 20 of his Soldiers to the exercise this year. They are participating as trainers and sharing their valuable deployment experience with Soldiers who will replace his units in the near future. Despite the different components and command structures participating in the exercise, he said, they need to work together closely given the current battlefield environment.

"Right now it's really a seamless transition, whether it's active, Guard or Reserve," said Shea. "That's one of the great things about Silver Scimitar … it's run all by HR professionals." Units preparing to deploy can meet and learn from the units they may be replacing soon, helping smooth the transition to theater.

"They're kind of doing their left-seat, right-seat right now," said Shea. "When they hit the ground, they already have an idea who their counterpart is, who they're working with, what to expect, and what kind of preparatory work they can do on this side before they actually deploy and hit the sandbox. In the HR world, it's all about relationships and relationship building," he said.

Silver Scimitar isn't just a chance for HR Soldiers to network and share ideas and experience. After a week's worth of doctrinal training and focus on collective tasks, HR units participate in a culminating training event, which closely simulates their actual duties on the battlefield. Teams practice processing casualty reports, moving Soldiers on and off the battlefield, handling personnel issues, and even running a mock post office operation.

It's during this time the HR Soldier sees the benefit of this unique form of training, said Kay, because they apply the doctrine, using the knowledge and advice they gained from the trainers and subject-matter experts.

"It's a 'crawl-walk-run' process," said Kay, and the final event pulls it all together. "That's part of the beauty of this beast … at the end of the day, they walk away with a better working knowledge."

Up to now, said Kay, Silver Scimitar has been a "handshake agreement" among the active duty, Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve, and with the close-working relationships developed, they've made it a success. Now, he said, the HR community is working to certify Silver Scimitar as the premiere exercise to validate training for deploying HR units. Just as combat troops use the National Training Center and the Joint Readiness Training Center to validate combat arms and combat support units, he hopes Silver Scimitar will soon do the same.

"We would like to see Silver Scimitar go into that kind of a realm as a big Army -- not an Army Reserve, not a National Guard -- but as a big Army mission," he said. Shea agreed it would be beneficial for Silver Scimitar to fulfill that role. "This is really the JRTC and the NTC for the HR professionals," he said.

Page last updated Sat January 28th, 2012 at 00:00