How do commanders execute memorial operations during multidomain operations (MDO)? There are two key differences between MDO and the operational environment (OE) of the past two decades, the counterinsurgency mission set in Central Command. The two differences are scale and a contested OE.
Both the scale and, therefore, the casualties during MDO increase. Commanders must anticipate how to sufficiently execute a memorial ceremony after a mass casualty event where the casualties can number in the dozens or hundreds.
Contested OEs present risks to commands while they execute memorial ceremonies. The forward line of troops during MDO is dynamic. Additionally, a peer or near-peer adversary has advanced fires capabilities that can outrange our company trains and maneuver units. Commanders must consider how to conduct memorial ceremonies when friendly forces are under an enduring threat of further attrition.
Fallen Tactical Pause
Army Techniques Publication 1-05.02, Religious Support to Funerals and Memorial Events, states: “In an OE, chaplains prepare to conduct the ceremony outside, without power, and they consider the current security of the area. For planning purposes, chaplains determine what elements must be executed and balance them with the realities of the OE.”
Fallen tactical pauses (FTPs) are designed for execution at squad or platoon levels and include the three elements of remember, reflect, and refocus:
- Remember. Friends and colleagues of the fallen Soldiers make brief statements.
- Reflect. The chaplain speaks, sharing scripture, prayer, and thoughts for two to three minutes.
- Refocus. The squad or platoon sergeant refocuses the attention of those present on the successful completion of the mission and the imperative of continued diligent care for one another.
An FTP is a tactical pause and does not take the place of a memorial ceremony. It is just the beginning of honoring those who have died in combat while continuing to take the fight to the enemy. It is an opportunity to recognize the humanity of our Soldiers and the reality of sacrifice and loss in war. Commanders will execute memorial ceremonies at appropriate times, but during large-scale combat operations, there are few opportunities to conduct them. From beginning to end, an FTP takes no more than 15 minutes.
FTPs observe the sustainment principles of simplicity, survivability, and improvisation:
- FTPs exemplify simplicity in their execution, making it manageable for a unit to conduct them without requiring the resources for a full memorial ceremony.
- FTPs emphasize survivability in considering contested OEs, shortening the time of lengthy memorial ceremonies. For the fallen Soldiers, the efficiency of FTPs affords dignity with brevity.
- FTPs embrace improvisation, tailoring the need to honor the fallen with the concurrent and pressing need to refocus the survivors toward returning to the fight. It empowers the squad or platoon sergeant with the responsibility of galvanizing this focus for their Soldiers.
During Operation Saber Junction 22 at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) in Hohenfels, Germany, the 18th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion tested and rehearsed two iterations of an FTP. As the battalion chaplain, I ensured that we adapted and implemented this as a best practice from a previous combined training center (CTC) rotation at the Joint Readiness Training Center under the leadership of Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Ronny Fisher. Chaplain Fisher’s initiative motivated the battalion chaplains in the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division to refine and rehearse FTPs.
The observer controller/trainers (OC/Ts) from the Mustang team during our JMRC rotation observed our rehearsal of an FTP with 100 Soldiers. Chaplain (Capt.) Matthew Granahan, a JMRC OC/T chaplain, said “FTPs are an innovative and effective solution for executing memorial ceremonies in an MDO environment. Our team will take a close look at this as a best practice and communicate with other CTC locations regarding the applicability of FTPs in future rotations.”
The Need for Change
In 307 B.C.E., King Wu-Ling of Zhao said, “A talent for following the ways of yesterday is not sufficient to improve the world of today.”
As the Army sustainment community curates innovation oriented to building the Army of 2030, commanders at echelon and the Chaplain Corps must rethink executing memorial ceremonies in the next major conflict. An Army chaplain’s three core competencies are nurture the living, care for the wounded, and honor the fallen. Honoring the fallen also means maintaining a unit’s spiritual readiness. Field Manual 7-22, Holistic Health and Fitness, states: “Spiritual readiness develops the personal qualities a person needs in times of stress, hardship, and tragedy.” When Soldiers experience the loss of their brothers and sisters in arms, it is important to grieve with their unit, ideally under the care of their chaplain. FTPs balance the timeliness of memorial ceremonies when Soldiers need them the most while maintaining tactical postures as operations continue.
Chaplain (Capt.) Andrew Schmitz currently serves as the battalion chaplain for the 18th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 16th Sustainment Brigade, 21st Theater Sustainment Command, in Grafenwoehr, Germany. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and Religion from Olivet Nazarene University, and a Master of Divinity from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His military training courses include the Chaplain Assistant Advanced Individual Training and Combat Medical Ministry.
This content is published online in conjunction with the Winter 23 issue of Army Sustainment.