By Kimberly Gearhart, USAG Schweinfurt Public AffairsAugust 15, 2008
SCHWEINFURT, Germany - It's a familiar sight in Schweinfurt: buses line up in front of the battalions then Soldiers lugging duffle bags and body armor pour out and load up for a trip to Grafenwoehr or Hohenfels training areas. The 172nd Separate Infantry Brigade, the Blackhawk Brigade, is preparing to deploy.
No less important to Blackhawk battle readiness is the training and preparation of a robust rear-detachment command.
Enter Lt. Col. Eric Stetson and Task Force Shield.
"We will officially activate on the fourth and fifth of September," Stetson said, noting the need for two separate rear-detachment "teams," necessitated by the brigade's split footprint in Grafenwoehr and Schweinfurt.
Shield's overall command falls to Stetson, who will also oversee the day-to-day operations of Team Grafenwoehr.
"A deputy commander-yet to be named-will maintain a small staff here to assist the battalion delta companies and assist in command and control for Task Force Shield," Stetson said. Nominations for the deputy commander are underway, but other Shield cadre have been identified, and are in training now.
"Our first official training function was all the way back in April. We've been putting the cadre through specific training courses ever since," Stetson said. He went on to note that the task of training the rear-detachment is complicated by the fact that the remainder of the brigade is currently away for training.
"While they are down in Grafenwoehr, or on block leave, the rear-d is back here taking care of family and Soldier issues, in addition to going through training to prepare them for the upcoming deployment," Stetson added.
Luckily for the Soldiers on Rear-D, there are several helping agencies throughout the two garrisons which have experience with deployed communities. As part of their training, TF Shield cadre are taken around to the various agencies in their area and introduced to the key players in the community. U.S. Army Garrison Schweinfurt Army Community Service and the American Red Cross are two agencies heavily involved with supporting rear-detachment commands.
"We have the experience, because we've been there before," said Cheryl Dean, Schweinfurt Red Cross station manager. Dean and her counterpart in Grafenwoehr, Jason Marshall, have both served deployed communities before and in fact have both been deployed in their jobs.
"For the last deployment, I was in Baghdad and he was in Balad," Dean said.
TF Shield will not hurt for experience within its ranks, either. Cadre selection is exclusive, and every assigned Soldier has been hand-selected for the task.
"We try to select a person who has been to combat, is familiar with (their community), demonstrates maturity of judgment, and is a 'can-do' kind of person," Stetson said, acknowledging that rear-detachment operations often have a reputation for being a place to stick people who cannot deploy.
"Sometimes they are non-deployable, but if they cannot fulfill the role, they are not in a cadre position. It is painful for the command to leave these people behind, because they would have otherwise been a great asset downrange," he said.
This week, TF Shield cadre are participating in rehearsals to prepare for deployment-related emergencies such as injury and casualty notifications.
"We will continue to train and prepare up until the brigade deploys, and beyond," Stetson said.