1,700 Soldiers made it home for the holidays
January 11, 2013
CAMP SHELBY, Miss. -- More than 1,700 Reserve Component Soldiers made it home for the holidays, thanks to the individually-focused demobilization process at Camp Shelby, Miss.
In early December, First Army Division East Soldiers assigned to the 177th Armored Brigade worked hand-in-hand with Camp Shelby staff to process the N.Y. and S.C. National Guard Soldiers redeploying from Kuwait and Afghanistan.
Preparation before they even began redeploying played a large role in ensuring Soldiers arrived home for the holidays. However, leaders at all levels agreed nothing would interfere with the demobilization process.
Before leaving theater, Col. Geoffrey Slack, the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team commander, stressed the importance of the process to Soldiers and their families, asking them to slow down and take full advantage of the individually based demobilization process.
"Take the time to demobilize, attend to every detail, ask every question, research every resource and save everything," Slack encouraged his Soldiers.
First Army has the responsibility of overseeing the demobilization process for all redeploying Reserve Component Soldiers. While getting Soldiers home for the holidays was a goal, it wasn't the primary one, explained Maj. Gen. Kevin Wendel, First Army Division East Commander. "They have done a tremendous job downrange; they deserve every opportunity to receive the benefits they have so honorably earned."
"The whole point is to get every individual Soldier reset into the Army Force Generation program," said Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Johnson, 177th's Demobilization Noncommissioned Officer in Charge. "This process resets Soldiers for future mission assignments."
The ARFORGEN program establishes a basis of preparation for scheduling both Active and Reserve unit's deployments.
"Demobilization is either the last act of mobilization or the first act of reset. I think it is equal parts of both efforts," Slack said. "If we fail in reset, we will make the rebuilding of our unit take longer and deny our state and our country the availability of this crucial Army asset."
"The biggest issue for a Soldier's return is medical processing," said Johnson.
Soldiers with injuries or illness must enter a Warrior Transition Unit or agree to an alternate path of care prior to being sent back home, said Johnson.
The largest group of Soldiers from the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat arrived at CSJFTC during the holidays, said Maj. Judi McKee-Sanders, Medical Readiness Officer for the 27th IBCT.
Throughout the demobilization, McKee-Sanders ensured accountability of Soldiers and monitored the brigade's overall medical readiness.
"I think it all went pretty well considering the holiday stresses," she said.
Six months prior to the unit's redeployment, 27th IBCT leaders began planning the demobilization, said McKee-Sanders.
"What we are looking at is Soldiers who have developed any injuries or illness down-range that didn't warrant being sent home. Identifying those Soldiers so when they arrive at the demobilization site they are handled as priority," is key, she said.
"We express our appreciation for all the support that Camp Shelby's Medical Task Force, the 177th, and all of the people here that helped this demobilization process," said McKee-Sanders.
"The Warrior Transition Units were so receptive and worked around-the-clock to help the Soldiers get to where they needed to be so they could return for the holidays," she said.
The 177th and CSJFTC had the resources and are able to facilitate Soldiers quickly due to their leadership being able to identify Soldiers who needed medical attention, said Johnson.
"The success is a conjoined effort with the staff here at Camp Shelby installation, the personnel with 177th, including the mission command and leadership from the 27th IBCT contributed in getting the Soldiers safely home for the holidays," said Johnson.
"We will be transitioning about 500 more Soldiers through the month of January," he said.
The 27th IBCT mobilized in January 2012 at Camp Shelby. The unit deployed in support of more than 25 different missions and locations throughout the Middle East.
"Our deployment was abundantly successful because we did what we get paid to do -- with honor and selfless sacrifice -- and succeeded in every mission we were assigned… Our team rose to the demands placed … and can return to their families, homes, and civilian careers in the firm knowledge they did their jobs as genuine American patriots," said Slack.
First Army Division East planners worked hard to ensure that, as missions changed, they had the correct trainers and situational exercises. One element of 27th IBCT deployed to Bahrain to provide security at the Bahrain Airport. First Army planners worked with officials at the Hattiesburg Airport to arrange for the unit to train there. Slack credited this level of detail with ensuring his Soldiers were prepared for every mission.
"I firmly believe we were provided world class training and support while at Camp Shelby and without that care, attention to detail, and the unyielding demand placed upon us to achieve -- and at time exceed the standard -- our price in casualties would have been far higher than it was. First Army-East served the 27th IBCT well, and we must all consider ourselves in debt to them for their splendid assistance," Slack said.