By Sgt. Chad D. Nelson,September 20, 2010
FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, Iraq - The Task Force Marne Office of the Inspector General works as an an extension of the eyes, ears, voice and conscience of the commander. They ensure TF Marne units operate in compliance with Army regulations. In that spirit, the IG conducted a staff assistance visit, at Forward Operating Base Warrior, near Kirkuk, Iraq, Sept. 13-15. The 3rd Infantry Division and two brigades are slated for redeployment in the near future. One of the brigades is the 1st Advise and Assist Task Force, 1st Armored Division.
During preparations for redeployment, it can be very easy for a brigade-sized element to miss some important details. The IG's visit helped ensure everyone stays focused, which ensures all Soldiers will be taken care of before, during and after their redeployment. The IG team did this by visiting with each of 1/1 AD's three battalions for a day.
During their visit with the 1st Bn., 40th Inf., Sept. 13, the team spoke with everyone - from junior Soldiers to the brigade commander - to ensure unit members understood what measures were instituted to ensure they're taken care of.
"If you don't make sure systems are in place, it can all fall apart," said Lt. Col. Geoffery Ward, the Command IG for 3rd ID, about redeployment. The office of the IG refers to systems as simple plans of action that the battalion develops and follows to keep important aspects of redeployment in order. Therefore, and award tracking system was created to ensure Soldiers are recognized for their service in Iraq. After Soldiers redeploy and take their block leave, some might immediately PCS to another unit. In order to ensure these Soldiers receive their end of tour awards before they leave, a tracking system was set up by the battalion.
"We want everyone to receive their awards and evaluations," said Cpt. Korneliya Waters, the G-1 Human Resources Section officer in charge, and one of seven experts conducting the staff assistance visit.
Captain Waters spent her day talking with the battalion's leadership, making sure they were following their battalion's plan for tracking awards and evaluations. She made sure everything was in order, including checking the deadline for submissions and how many Soldiers still needed to be submitted for awards or evaluations.
While Cpt. Waters was conducting her sensing sessions, Chief Warrant Officer 4 James Scott, the asset visibility officer in charge, and Sgt. 1st Class Clifton Divine, the asset visibility noncommissioned officer in charge, both from G-4, 3rd Infantry Division, conducted sensing sessions of their own.
Along with receiving their awards and evaluations, Soldiers must concern themselves with their equipment, as it carries a hefty price tag. This is where the experts in the G-4 section step in.
"We're assisting [the command supply discipline program] to minimize [financial liability inspections of property loss] and loss of [organizational clothing and individual equipment]," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Scott. The asset visibility team did this by talking to all ranks of Soldiers over the course of the day.
During a meeting with junior enlisted Soldiers, CW4 Scott and Sgt. 1st Class Divine asked the Soldiers if their first line leaders were helping them inventory their gear, with the reminder that if they had lost something, they would have to pay for it.
"It can be hard for junior enlisted Soldiers to pay thousands of dollars for equipment they lost on deployment," said Sgt. 1st Class Divine. After talking to the junior enlisted Soldiers, the team talked to higher levels of command and checked their property books to make sure the battalion was on track for redeployment.
While the G-1 and G-4 section ensured the battalion was tracking awards and equipment, the office of the Division Surgeon and IG talked with Soldiers about their well being and mental health.
Major Jacob H. Richardson, the division psychiatrist, spoke with Soldiers, leaders and the chaplain to make sure the Soldiers themselves were being cared for during this hectic time.
"The intent is to see if [the Soldiers] know why it is so important to identify high-risk behavior," said Maj. Richardson.
After a year of working extremely long hours in high-stress environments, some Soldiers need to seek professional help from a mental health professional or a chaplain. Major Richardson was on hand to make sure Soldiers knew what options they had available to them if they needed to talk to someone.
Some Soldiers are stubborn and proud, though, and refuse to seek help due to the perceived stigma of weakness. During his sensing sessions, Maj. Richardson tried to discover why these stigmas exist and to encourage Soldiers to seek help in spite of what others might say or think.
The IG's staff assistance visit ensures brigade, battalion and company commanders, as well as senior and junior enlisted soldiers, are ahead of the curve when it comes to issuing awards and evaluations, identifying and taking care of at-risk and high-risk Soldiers, and minimizing the loss of equipment. With so many people operating independently of one another in all these areas, it can be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture.
"It's very helpful having an extra set of eyes around here," said Col. James Swift, brigade commander for 1st AAB, 1st AD.
This is exactly what the IG team provided: an extra set of eyes. The team's intent is not to establish new techniques, nor is it to conduct an official inspection. Each brigade has its own way to handle redeployment. The IG simply ensures everyone is complying with these unique processes, which will help mitigate problems back at the brigade's home station.
"We're identifying weaknesses in the system at all echelons of command," said Lt. Col. Ward, after having conducted sensing sessions with privates, platoon sergeants, leaders and company commanders. "We're trying to mitigate problems units might experience after redeployment."
"[The visit] does a lot of things, but - most importantly - it helps us refocus our efforts," said Lt. Col. Daniel Cormier, battalion commander for the 1/40th Inf.
Without the assistance of the IG, oversights by the brigade, battalion or company could have costly or life-threatening effects back home. If, for example, a first-line leader does not ensure his Soldiers are inventorying their gear in Iraq and making sure they pack everything, those Soldiers will be forced to pay for the equipment out of their pockets. Moreover, on a more serious note, if high-risk Soldiers aren't identified during redeployment or provided necessary moral support, they could cause serious harm to others or themselves after redeploying.
The IG team was satisfied with all aspects of 1/40th's readiness. They identified areas to maintain and provided the battalion commander with a short list of areas that could be improved, but, ultimately, the IG team is sure the battalion has all the systems that are needed to successfully redeploy.