FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- U.S. Army South's Personnel Recovery Coordination Cell (PRCC), part of the command's G-3 (operations) directorate, received best practice recognition from the Department of the Army and was recently designated as the executive agent for planning, leading and coordinating reintegration efforts Army-wide.
Last March, DA conducted an assessment of Army South's personnel recovery office and this year named it as an Army best practice program.
Reintegration is a process that begins when service members, civilians or contractors return after being separated from friendly forces. Reintegration is a proven process that provides recovered personnel with the necessary tools to effectively resume normal professional, family, and community activities, with minimal physical and emotional complications.
Since 2003, Army South has planned, rehearsed and participated in the reintegration efforts of six personnel, who have either been held as hostages, went missing or were separated from friendly forces.
Army South was originally designated by the commander of U.S. Southern Command and also DA to execute post captivity reintegration responsibilities. With the successful establishment of the program here, Army South, working with Joint Base San Antonio, is also being considered as the primary DoD location for all services.
The U.S. Navy formally designated Joint Base San Antonio and Brooke Army Medical Center as one of its reintegration locations for its service members and asked for Army South's assistance during a future reintegration mission.
"Army South being designated as the DA executive agent for planning, leading and coordinating reintegration efforts is a testament to our hard work, our training methodology and having successfully executed this operation four times before," said Doug B. Sanders, director of Army South's PRCC.
In addition to leading reintegration efforts, Army South's primary mission as the Army service component command for SOUTHCOM is to conduct theater security cooperation to enhance hemispheric security and stability, and build partner nation capacity. Army South is also prepared to deploy and conduct contingency operations in its area of responsibility. Army South's AOR is Central and South America, and the Caribbean.
Army South's PRCC is also responsible for pre-deployment training of personnel travelling in the AOR. Army South was the first Army command with a full-time PRCC staff dedicated to leading an organized approach to reintegrating personnel, said Sanders.
The PRCC staff first executed a reintegration operation in August 2007, when an American (Department of the Army) contractor held in Ethiopia for almost three months was returned to friendly forces. The second time was in 2008 when Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell, Army contractors who were held in captivity in Colombia for more than five years, were returned.
The third reunion took place in 2010 when a DA Army civilian held in captivity for two months in Iraq was returned safely.
In January of this year Army South's PRCC assisted with the successful reintegration of a U.S. airman, who was kidnapped and held in Venezuela.
Army South's PRCC conducts formal reintegration training for the staff and all joint and interagency organizations involved in the process at least twice a year here. In addition, the PRCC incorporates training scenarios into Army South and SOUTHCOM exercises.
The training includes family assistance teams, medical personnel, public affairs officers, security specialists, chaplains, attorneys, logisticians, personnel, finance, federal bureau investigators, State department representatives, government contractors, DoD civilians and joint military personnel from Lackland Air Force Base and Fort Sam Houston.
According to Sanders, the process takes place in three major phases and is based on Joint Publication 3-50, Personnel Recovery doctrine as well as DoD and Army personnel recovery regulations and policies.
Phase one, called, accepting custody (originally called initial phase) starts when personnel are returned to U.S. control. An individual recovered in this phase receives an initial medical examination and a psychological assessment.
The second phase, called decompression, is when the returnee receives additional specific medical care, formal debriefings and thorough psychological decompression therapy at a major military medical facility as needed.
The third and last phase is called transition (originally called home phase) and begins with a Yellow Ribbon Ceremony. During this phase a returnee is formally reunited with family members and is reintroduced publicly to society. If the individual is reintegrated at Joint Base San Antonio, this phase is programmed to take place at the San Antonio Military Medical Center here (formerly known as Brooke Army Medical Center).
During the third phase and Yellow Ribbon Ceremony, members of the media may have the opportunity to receive information about the medical care the returnee received at SAMMC. In addition, military and government specialists or reintegration leaders may discuss the returnee's captivity status and progress.
According to Sanders, the success of Army South's program has led to replications throughout DoD at other major facilities and commands. Army South's PRCC is responsible for advising and leading other commands on reintegration.
Sanders has been running the fully-staffed PRCC office under Army South's G-3 since its inception and has become DoD and the Army's in-resident expert on reintegration efforts. As a result of his work and the recognized success of the program and his staff, Army South continues to be the designated consultant for lessons learned for DoD.
"Personnel recovery has always been a priority mission for DoD with the long-standing belief to never leave a fallen comrade," said Sanders. "The PRCC builds on this long-standing tradition by providing the planned and established phases for the returnees to move through for proper reintegration into society and with their family members."
Army South's next scheduled formal PRCC training will take place here June 26-28.