FORT GREGG-ADAMS, Va. — Planning and coordination among many stakeholders even before conflict is essential to getting Prisoner of War policy correct, said a former strategic planner for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
Army Maj. Devon C. Collins, who serves in the Studies, Analysis and Gaming Division, DDSA, J-8, Joint Staff, was the guest speaker for the installation’s National POW/MIA Recognition Day luncheon. She was formerly a strategic planner in the DPAA, which has a mission to provide the fullest possible accounting for missing American personnel to their families and the nation.
Collins has a Master of Arts degree in History from the Ohio State University for which she studied the experiences of British POWs in World War II. She is working on a dissertation, titled “Prisoners of War: Conceptions, Organizations and Lessons Learned in the British Government, 1914-1922.”
The British faced the same “debilitating issues” as modern countries do today, she said. Taking care of captured Soldiers requires a lot of cooperation between different organizations – including family members of Soldiers – even prior to a war breaking out, she said.
There are many competing priorities - practical, cultural and legal concerns – that complicate the fate of captured Soldiers, Collins said. Because of the nature and scope of a POW mission, there are a wide range of organizational structures needed to make the administration of captured Soldiers run efficiently.
“It is imperative, then to promote attention prior to conflict,” she said.
Military planners must consider the implications of killed or missing Soldiers. But there are others who have a role to play.
“Independent organizations should continue advocating, demanding the government and military give it the attention it deserves,” Collins said.
“The difficulty … is not simply in getting all the stakeholders to work together in a unified manner … but ensuring the blueprints of the activity are already determined,” she added.
Collins traced the handling of war prisoners back to Roman days, describing how they had been killed or turned into slaves in eras gone by. It was not until in the 20th Century that the term “Prisoner of War” came to be used, she added.
In World War I, most countries struggled to administer prisoners of war, she said.
Between the world wars, governments worked together to establish POW procedures.
However, during World War II, not every country followed them. For example, prisoners in British and Americans camps tended to fair well, Collins said, but Nazi Germany and Japan provided a stark contrast of violence and brutality.
Even with more modern rules in place, changes in strategy can change how prisoners are captured and treated, she said. For example, in the Vietnam War, there were changes in strategy from Gen. William Westmoreland to Gen. Creighton Abrams to Vietnamization.
Before Collins’ remarks, Fort Gregg-Adams leaders also spoke at the luncheon.
“Today, 81,388 remain unaccounted for from all our conflicts since World War II,” said Maj. Gen. Mark T. Simerly, commanding general of U.S. Army Combined Arms Support Command and Fort Gregg-Adams.
The country shows a commitment and depth of effort in trying to identify and bring all those service members back home, he said. The nation will never forget and never stop seeking their return.
“We honor so many people who have experienced loss and doubt and who our nation has an obligation to,” Simerly said.
National POW/MIA Recognition Day was established in 1979 through a proclamation signed by President Jimmy Carter. Since then, every president has issued an annual proclamation commemorating that day.
“That’s something that we can value and be proud of in our nation – that we will not leave anybody behind,” said Col. James D. Hoyman, the Fort Gregg-Adams garrison commander.
Click the link for more about the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency: https://www.dpaa.mil/