N.M. Soldiers train for worst-case scenario
August 7, 2012
CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. (Aug. 7, 2012) -- They found the Soldier in his bed, an empty bottle of pills in his hand, and a note filled with a liturgy of lost hopes, "I hate this place, I hate my life, I hate ... "
For the Soldier, everything was over. For the unit members he left behind, the work was just beginning. What happens after a Soldier dies isn't pleasant, but units must be prepared to take appropriate actions, especially if the unit's mission is mortuary affairs.
Fortunately, the scene Soldiers walked in on was a scenario. Dealing with the aftermath of the suicide was part of the realistic training provided by the 205th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East to the Soldiers of the 615th Transportation Battalion of Springer, N.M., mobilizing at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center, Ind.
"It's very, very beneficial to actually take part, plan, and prepare for something like that in order to be able to give any Soldier, no matter the situation, the dignity, honor, and respect that they deserve," said Sgt. Athea Yazzie, a mortuary affairs specialist with the battalion, which will deploy to the Sinai Peninsula as part of the Multi-National Forces and Observers, or MFO.
As part of the training the Soldiers processed the remains, created a casualty feeder card, transport the Soldier's remains to the Airport, and held a memorial service, added Yazzie, who also deployed to Iraq as a truck driver in 2003 with the 720th Transportation Company from Las Vegas, N.M.
"I didn't what to go through an exercise or go through some campaign or some other cookie cutter operations order that had no relevance to what we will be doing in theater," explained Lt. Col. Louis Herrera, of Questa, N.M., battalion commander. "There is no MTOE that fits this mission; you have to bring together several MOSs [military occupational specialties], different specialties, to actually fulfill what is called the deployment manning document to make this a operational mission to support the MFO."
MFOs supervise the implementation of the security provisions of the Egyptian-Isaeli Treaty of Peace and ensures no one violates the terms. This includes operation of check points, reconnaissance patrols, and observation posts along the international boundaries, access to the Strait of Tiran, and periodic verification of the provisions of the treaty. The MFO mission requires units to be prepared for every eventuality. Training with real-life scenarios puts the mission in a context Soldiers better understand, even if the training is outside their normal military duties, said Herrera.
Spc. Christopher Fiorito, of Albuquerque N.M., agreed the real-life scenarios provided powerful training opportunities.
"We were put in our sections and given scenarios," said Fiorito. "They taught us what we were supposed to do, who we needed to push the information out to, or what information we needed to put on the timelines or add to the trackers. We also learned to follow up and check to make sure people where getting the updates."
Fiorito said the on-the-spot corrections by the trainers helped him learn quickly and keep things running smoothly.
To address the mission's unique needs, the 205th sent representatives to New Mexico to discuss their deployment mission and determine the unit's needs before arriving in theater, Herrera added. Many times, First Army Division East units begin working with the mobilizing unit up to a year prior to the deployment. This allows tailored training to fit individual unit missions.
One of Herrera's concerns was nurturing staff integration and team leadership, he said.
Nearly 70 percent of the battalion's Soldiers had to be retrained and reclassified to fill the mission's needs. Not only did the training need to train the Soldiers for the unique mission, it needed to train them to work as a team, Herrera added.
It was something the 205th took seriously.
"You became a unit here," Col. John F. Dunleavy, commander of the 205th told the Soldiers during their final training day. "Mistakes are a great way to learn,; it's better that you make them here, than there."
Herrera said the brigade's transparency and attitudes were a breath of fresh air.
"A lot of forward planning went into this training," Herrera said.
The Multinational Force & Observers is an independent international organization, headquartered in Rome, with peacekeeping responsibilities in the Sinai. The origins of the MFO lie in Annex I to the 1979 Treaty of Peace between Egypt and Israel, in which the parties undertook to request the United Nations to provide a force and observers to supervise the implementation of the treaty.
When it did not prove possible to obtain Security Council approval for the stationing of a UN peacekeeping force in the Sinai, the parties negotiated a Protocol in 1981 establishing the MFO "as an alternative" to the envisioned UN force.
The 205th Infantry Brigade trains and validates Army National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers for deployment or other contingency operations and is subordinate to First Army Division East, at Fort Meade, Md. The brigade also trains units of the active Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, along with selected members of the interagency and intergovernmental departments and United States partner nations.