Casualty Operations evolve to meet current, future needs
Sgt. 1st Class Melanie Torres, of New Boston, Texas (left), and Spc. Letrice Reynolds, of Dallas, Texas, of the 350th Human Resources Company, launch into casualty operations for day one of the culminating training event for Silver Scimitar. During the CTE, Soldiers work through a series of scenarios simulating company level to theater level operations. Diverse scenarios inserted into the exercise by observer/controllers require Soldiers to work out personnel and other issues with their counterparts in other sections. The experience at Silver Scimitar provides the only hands-on training HR Soldiers receive prior to deployment. (photo by Sgt. David Turner, 214th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

FORT DEVENS, Mass. -- In the community of human resources professionals who provide essential services to troops on the battlefield, perhaps none are more critical than casualty operations specialists. They track casualties from the front lines all the way until the casualties exit theater, and the work they do goes far beyond that.

To carry out their responsibilities, they must stay up-to-date on Army doctrine and current procedures. For HR Soldiers preparing for upcoming deployments, Silver Scimitar 2012, a U.S. Army Reserve Command-sponsored, multi-component training exercise, gave them the chance to hone skills for an ever-changing environment.

"We have a huge responsibility," said Staff Sgt. Atavis Taylor, a human resources specialist with the 14th Human Resources Sustainment Center, based at Fort Bragg, N.C. During Silver Scimitar 2012, Taylor and Chief Warrant Officer Stacy Malloy teach a course in casualty operations to human resources Soldiers from all components: active Army, Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve.

"We're [providing quality assurance and quality control for] the reports that are going to basically tell the story for the families as to what happened to their loved ones," said Taylor.

"We have to get that story right," said Malloy.

While the 14th HRSC is currently deployed to Kuwait, 14 of their Soldiers are participating in Silver Scimitar 2012 as trainers, sharing their expertise and experiences with the Soldiers training here, some of whom will replace them in theater.

"We always teach schoolhouse doctrine first," said Malloy. "That's the baseline; it gets us to war and it get us home. But we also want to teach reality, how it's really being done on the battlefield.

"Over the years casualty operations have evolved, and what doctrine teaches, doesn't look the same downrange," Malloy added.

Malloy and Taylor have both had multiple tours of duty in combat, and have taken part in Silver Scimitar several times. By participating as instructors, Malloy and Taylor not only get to train their future counterparts, but have a hand in developing the exercise. That helps influence the future of HR doctrine.

Chief Warrant Officer Cynthia Johnson-Owens, a casualty operations division human resources technician with the 8th HRSC, based at Ft. Shafter, Hawaii, said she appreciated getting such fresh and relevant training. She and her Soldiers are preparing to replace the 14th HRSC in Kuwait.

"It's very beneficial to have them come back and train us on what's going on," Johnson-Owens said. "You don't ever get away from the guidance on how it's done, but it's just in how it's done; that's what they bring to us."

Lt. Col. David Housh, chief of senior leader training at the Soldier Support Institute at Fort Jackson, S.C., said training is in a constant state of development.

"We are all sustainers, so we are constantly evolving," Housh said.

Housh and other subject matter experts from a variety of fields helped provide the complete picture during the exercise. The SSI is the home of the Adjutant General corps, and lessons learned in-theater often help update the training they provide for HR Soldiers.

For Housh, seeing Soldiers refresh their knowledge of AG doctrine is satisfying; it not only reinforces what they've learned, but brings it into sharp focus.

"It's amazing," said Housh. "When we can get to that level, people say 'I didn't know that - now I got it.' That light bulb goes on [and] we love it."

Page last updated Sun January 29th, 2012 at 00:00