By Staff Sgt. Nicole Dykstra, 99th Regional Support Command Public Affairs August 25, 2011
FORT DEVENS, Mass. (Aug. 22, 2011) -- "If the Infantry is the backbone of the Army, our human resources Soldiers are the heart and soul," said Master Sgt. Porter Washington, top NCO of Personnel, Programs, Resources, Manpower Division at the National Guard Bureau.
More than 360 active-duty, Reserve and National Guard Soldiers representing 17 states and the Virgin Islands arrived at Fort Devens, Mass., for Silver Scimitar "Lite", a collective training event for human resources Soldiers held Aug 5-17.
"The skills of an HR Soldier are perishable," said Col. Denise Gaines-Edmond, Silver Scimitar director. "That's why this training is so important; we can sharpen those skills before they have to use them in theatre."
Silver Scimitar "Lite" is a multi-component, multi-echelon, company-level HR training exercise. The training prepares units to conduct HR missions within every theatre of operations and equips Soldiers with skills to handle the technical personnel challenges that occur in a major theatre of war. Beyond providing Soldiers with realistic war-time experience and knowledge of HR functions ahead of deployment, the event is also an opportunity for HR Soldiers to build relationships with their G-1 counterparts from other components. During Silver Scimitar and Silver Scimitar "Lite", HR professionals from each component can share best practices and begin working together as they will during a wartime mission.
The exercises are held twice a year and consist of nine days of training. The first five days are composed of classroom instruction and hands-on practical exercises, guided by the most knowledgeable subject-matter experts in the HR community, said Washington. The final four days comprise the combat training exercise, during which the Soldiers are expected to perform their respective duties while being exposed to the stresses of a combat environment.
"Unlike many 'text book' exercises which are outdated as soon as they are published, we have the good fortune to have not just recently deployed Soldiers as subject-matter experts, but also have currently deployed troops who come over specifically for the exercise to bring back current operational practices with them," said Maj. Gen. William D. Razz Waff, commanding general of the 99th Regional Support Command and senior mission commander of Fort Devens.
"Additionally, the SMEs are not just Soldiers, but from whatever service can provide the information. In one case we had a Navy lieutenant who is currently deployed who was present for the exercise as a SME, and her insights and assistance were critical for the Soldiers in attendance," Waff said.
In the instruction portion of Silver Scimitar, Adjutant General's Corps Soldiers are divided by their specialty: personnel accountability, casualty liaison, or postal services. Particular attention is given to the different mission-specific operating systems used by each of the personnel teams, an opportunity not always available at the units' home stations. In addition, the Soldiers in training benefit from the guidance and lessons learned from AG Soldiers who have gone before them.
Following the instructional and hands-on training, the combat training exercise takes place outdoors in tents. Soldiers set up functioning offices, including a full-service post office, and react to situations or issues injected by the staff. One inject required the Soldiers to identify and react to a suicide bomber who strolled into the work area; another involved an irate high-ranking officer who demanded an exemption to certain postal regulations. Soldiers also prepared casualty reports for deceased comrades, reacted to a mass-casualty event and conducted postal inspections while others kept accountability on units traveling in and out of theatre on R&R;flights.
"While they are not in harm's way here, we try to make the combat portion of the exercise as real as possible, as if they are in harm's way," said Washington. "We keep them in constant motion and try to mimic the OPTEMPO they can expect in theatre."
Gaines-Edmond understands that support Soldiers do not receive the same recognition as the archetypical infantrymen that most Americans associate with the Army, but she stresses their importance to the overall mission.
"If those Soldiers you see on television -- the ones kicking down doors or on patrol -- don't have the confidence that their family is being taken care of, that their pay is being deposited on time, that mail is being delivered, they are not going to have their head in the game to be able to carry out the mission," said Gaines-Edmond.
The 99th RSC acts as a "virtual installation" that provides world-class Base Operations support to more than 50,000 Army Reserve Soldiers, 400 units and 300 facilities for the entire Northeast Region from Maine to Virginia for the Army Reserve in order to give warrior-citizens and their Families the finest care, support, services and training.
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