By Staff Sgt. Kenneth Pawlak, 16th Mobile Public Affairs DetachmentJanuary 28, 2014
The mayor's cell plays an important role in the success of any military training exercise. They have to ensure everyone participating has a place to sleep, food to eat and transportation to get to work.
To that end, the Operational Contract Support Joint Exercise 2014 mayor's cell has in-processed more than 500 service members, Department of Defense civilians and coalition forces onto Fort Bliss, Texas, from Jan. 6-14.
"The mayor's cell does everything they need for life support, so the trainees can focus on their training," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Patty Troutman, mayor cell operations noncommissioned officer for OCSJX-14. "We take care of their barracks room, provide linen, provide a vehicle so they can attend training, and provide a shuttle service when a vehicle is not available."
As soon as someone walks into the mayor's cell, they are greeted at the front door and start their in-processing at the first table. Then they move to the next table and sign for a barracks room and receive linen.
Next, they make a turn and sign up for the ice breaker social. If they are an officer-in-charge they sign for a vehicle at the next table. At the last table, they are given information about sexual assault, suicide awareness and religious information.
Going through all six stations with speed and efficiency has become a point of pride for many of the staff.
"We have been able to process people through the cell very quickly, maybe no more than 15 minutes," said Army Lt. Col. Sylvia Farmer, mayor of OCSJX-14. "They can get settled into their rooms and make sure everything is fixed prior to training, so their mind can be focused on their training."
During OCSJX-14, service members and civilians will be able to challenge each other through joint exercises. One challenge everyone must learn about is sexual assault, which is why everyone must see Shirley Herwig, sexual assault coordinator with the Mission and Installation Contracting Command at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
"This is a diverse exercise; we have people here from all branches… people from Britain and Canada," said Herwig. "This training exercise will provide an opportunity for them to learn different skills from each other."
"In-processing has gone pretty smoothly, only hiccups are when we didn't know someone's flight schedule," said Senior Airman Wyatt Williams, mayor cell operations. "We have been able to adjust as the schedule changes; we go with the flow."
Even during the busiest times, the mayor's cell was able to handle the logistics of picking people up from the airport and in-processing them.
"We had our biggest day on Sunday: we processed over 200 people," said Troutman. "It went very well for that many people. We ran two shuttles with three baggage vehicles to the airport, the Airmen working with us were fantastic; they made it happen."
The polar vortex may have rearranged flights, but it could not stop the mayor's cell ability to adapt by maintaining a crew of eight personnel at the airport until everyone reported.
"The weather has caused a minor setback," said Herwig. "A lot of flights had to be rescheduled so some people took longer to get here but we have a crew at the airport 24 hours a day waiting to pick people up."
The mayor's cell job does not end after everyone has been in-processed. The staff will take people to sick call, handle work orders on the barracks and shuttle people to training sites throughout OCSJX-14.
"Life support is a daily challenge, the biggest is the maintenance of the barracks," said Troutman. "Keys get stuck, broken or lost … that challenge is not in our control."
The staff of the mayor's cell did not want a logistical nightmare of people worrying about their room, food or transportation but wanted them to focus on the objective of the OCSJX-14, which is to grow the next generation of operational contracting support leaders.
"We want them to remember their training, not go back saying it was a bad training exercise because their room had no heat or water," said Farmer. "We want them to go away saying they've learned plenty from this exercise, they met other contacts and learned new processes and techniques that will help them."