By SSG Caitlyn rneJanuary 6, 2019
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- As Soldiers of the 101st Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade and United States Forces-Afghanistan operate within the Middle East, the 101st RSSB foreign claims team stands ready to support them. Their mission is to ensure that all foreign claims made, in relation to potential property damages caused by USFOR-A operations, are efficiently and thoroughly handled. The team walks a fine line between representing USFOR-A and 101st RSSB operations and paying out valid foreign claims filed by local nationals.
Spc. Jacob Robinson, native of Greenwood, Indiana, and paralegal specialist for the 101st RSSB and USFOR-A, further explained the foreign claims process and the steps taken to pay those claims out.
"The foreign claims process begins with the intake of any documentation or photographs presented to patrol teams in the Parwan province," stated Robinson. "Those patrol teams then present the evidence to myself and Capt. Jeri D'Aurelio, the foreign claims commissioner for the 101st RSSB and USFOR-A, as well as Spc. Chantel Hawley, native of Missola, Montana, and paralegal specialist for the 101st RSSB; together we make up the foreign claims team. Once we have receive any claims, myself or Capt. D'Aurelio have translators review descriptions of damage to property that the local nationals allege was caused by our Coalition Forces counterparts."
Robinson explained that after being reviewed by translators; the claims team begins an investigation to determine claim validity. If the claim is unfounded, a document is drafted stating the reasoning why, and the claimant is notified via telephone. If the claim is valid, and approved by the foreign claims commissioner, the claimant is invited back to Bagram so both parties can negotiate what will be paid toward confirmed damages.
"Once an amount is agreed upon, we process the paperwork through USARCS (U.S. Army Claims Service)," said Robinson. "Once they approve the claim, we process the paperwork through the finance office located here on Bagram and call the claimant to set up a time when we distribute the funds and complete the claim."
Robinson advocated for the effectiveness of the foreign claims mission, stating that it is a vital part of the overall sustainment process and mission in Afghanistan.
"The claims mission makes a huge impact on the local nationals and our relationship with [our Afghan partners]," Robinson said. "If Coalition Forces [cause any damage] we need to make it right … This provides stability and a better more wholesome relationship with Afghanistan."
Robinson's supervisor, Staff Sgt. Dalisha Mayberry, native of Lake Arthur, Louisiana, and senior paralegal NCOIC for the 101st RSSB, added to Robinson's explanation of the impact the foreign claims process has on sustainment operations within the CJOA-A.
"Our brigade personnel (Spc. Robinson and I) are providing support to the USFOR-A claims mission," said Mayberry. "While outside the scope of our duties in the brigade, we have supported the division's mission, filling a gap. The [101st RSSB] is branched out over the entire CJOA-A, in which everyone has a unique mission set while supporting the theater. This creates risk and the possibility of tort claims. The tort claim process allows local nationals the ability to request compensation for any damages to persons or property caused by the United States Armed Forces."
Robinson is the acting noncommissioned officer in charge for the foreign claims team and has not only risen to the role but also made improvements to the claims process.
"The claims team and I have implemented new rules and policy by only accepting paper documentation onto Bagram first, before allowing the local nationals on the FOB," stated Robinson. "Once we verify the claim, we contact the claimant by phone and ask them to come back for further interviewing. I also created a new tracker for our claims teams; it allows us to make adjustments, input notes, and timelines for both paying out or denying claims them, making process easier to track and interpret."
Mayberry commended her Soldier's efforts and advancements while deployed, improving not only the effectiveness of the mission, but also bettering himself through professional development.
"I am proud of the work Spc. Robinson has been doing throughout the deployment," Mayberry said. "Upon arriving into theater, he was tasked to be the NCOIC of the Bagram Airfield (BAF) Legal Assistance Office (LAO). The BAF LAO supports BAF while also providing remote support to all outlying Forward Operating Bases. They have gone on Legal Assistance Rodeos in order to execute items that cannot be done remotely. In addition to Spc. Robinson's daily duty assignment, he has managed the claims mission for USFOR-A. He recently earned his promotable status, and I can't wait to see him put on well-deserved stripes."