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Establishing Modular Human Resources Operations in Iraq

In order to deploy to Iraq as a fully modular unit, the 3d Sustainment Brigade had to transform its human resources operations to make them modular as well. This represented a significant change in its human resources operational structure and procedures.

The concept of modular human resources operations was introduced to the 3d Sustainment Brigade in the summer of 2006 before it deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) 07–09. Changes in human resources support resulting from personnel services delivery redesign and transformation to modularity made the creation of the human resources operations cell in the sustainment brigade a key element in integrating postal, casualty liaison, and aerial passenger accountability operations. Predeployment training, preparation, and education at all levels proved critical in integrating the human resources operations cell into the logistics environment for OIF 07–09.

The Human Resources Combat Organization

Field Manual (FM) 1–0, Human Resources Support, states that the human resources company can be task-organized to either the brigade special troops battalion (STB) or the combat sustainment support battalion (CSSB) for command and control. The 3d Sustainment Brigade chose to task-organize the company under the STB because the 3d STB shared a similar command relationship with the 24th Finance Company in garrison at Fort Stewart, Georgia. The 3d STB took steps to form a relationship with the 101st Human Resources Company (organic to the 101st Sustainment Brigade) from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, in an effort to build a mutual understanding of operations and form the bond of a command relationship before deploying.

FM 1–0 also states that the human resources operations cell within the brigade support operations office (SPO) is to provide direct technical oversight to the human resources company that is task-organized to either a CSSB or STB in deployed operations. Although feasible, the technical channels as they were did not reflect the command and control relationships between the company, battalion, and brigade. The human resources company would be attached to the brigade STB for command and control during OIF 07–09. After further analysis, the brigade human resources operations cell was split between the STB and the brigade SPO to provide human resources technical expertise to both the company and the brigade.

Predeployment Training and Preparation

Since the human resources operations cell was a new element, it was unclear what type of training was needed to make the 3d Sustainment Brigade successful as the first completely modular sustainment brigade with a human resources company in theater. The Human Resources Management Qualification Course at the Adjutant General School at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, was determined to be the best source of individual education on personnel services delivery redesign and modularity. This course gave the human resources cell officer in charge and noncommissioned officer in charge a broad knowledge base of the changes in personnel support in a brigade-centric Army. The course provided insight into casualty reporting using the Defense Casualty Information Processing System and into maintaining personnel accountability using the Defense Theater Accountability System.

Attending the Postal Operations and Postal Supervisor Courses was also deemed necessary because of the high level of technical expertise required to oversee all levels of postal operations in theater. This education and the level of experience within the section led to a solid technical foundation for the first sustainment brigade human resources operations cell.

Collective training for the sustainment brigade had to change to reflect the new support responsibilities down range, which included the integration of human resources operations into training exercises. Changing the collective training proved difficult because of missing key elements and mission sets supported by the casualty liaison teams; reception, rest and recreation, return to duty, replacement, and redeployment (R5) teams; and postal platoons. The local training exercises were not sufficient to provide the human resources operations cell with real-world theater challenges.

Research within the adjutant general community led to the Silver Scimitar training exercise, hosted by the 3d Personnel Command (now the 3d Human Resources Sustainment Center) at Fort McClellan, Alabama. An annual training exercise for Army Reserve personnel and postal units, Silver Scimitar is a collective training experience for legacy personnel units on postal operations, casualty reporting, and personnel accountability in a simulated deployed environment. In the spring of 2007, legacy personnel battalions converted to modular human resources teams, creating a mixed training environment for Silver Scimitar and fostering an environment for learning the progression from legacy procedures to modular procedures. This experience proved to be beneficial to the 3d Sustainment Brigade’s human resources operations cell when it deployed.

Human Resources Operations in Iraq

In Iraq, the sustainment brigade SPO had a strong working relationship with the Multi-National Division-North (MND–N) G–4 based on the support provided to the brigade combat teams and operating bases within that division’s area of responsibility. Lines of communication were established between the human resources operations cell and the MND–N G–1 to formally gauge the adequacy of human resources support provided to units throughout the area of operations for casualty reporting, aerial personnel accountability, and Army Post Office services and mail delivery. Modularity caused a migration of these services from direct support (services to a specific element) to a more general support (services to a specific area) role in theater.
The human resources operations cell served as a liaison between the sustainment community and the human resources company. This relationship easily facilitated the management of human resources support based on the needs of the supported units as units relocated on the battlefield. Open lines of communication with the division G–1 allowed the sustainment brigade to ensure that information was shared in order to continually improve the level of support provided within the shared area of responsibility. This also gave the division a point of contact in order to directly affect or change human resources support as the dynamics of the battlefield changed over time.

Lessons Learned in Theater

As the first completely modular sustainment brigade in theater, the 3d Sustainment Brigade hosted a human resources summit in November 2007 to present lessons learned to the other sustainment brigades and to synchronize this effort with the 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command and the 8th Human Resources Sustainment Center. By capitalizing on the technical expertise that remained in the personnel services battalion and theater-level input from the 8th Human Resources Sustainment Center, the summit enabled critical discussions about the differences between doctrine and theater operations. The 3d Sustainment Brigade proposed standardized reporting procedures for the Defense Casualty Information Processing System reports generated by the casualty liaison team, passengers who were processed through the aerial ports of debarkation and embarkation, and postal personnel. These reporting standards were adopted by the 316th ESC as the theater standard for human resources reporting for all sustainment brigades.

A major challenge in theater was the arrival of the human resources company headquarters after all of its teams and platoons had completed their reliefs in place and transfers of authority. The headquarters element should have deployed in advance of its teams and platoons in order to establish the command and control and technical channels and to refine reporting requirements to higher headquarters. A legacy personnel services battalion remained in theater to receive each casualty liaison team, R5 team, postal platoon, and plans and operations section that would be task-organized to the human resources company. However, reporting procedures were already in place and a technical relationship was established without any input from the company commander because the headquarters was the last element to arrive in theater.

Under the modular concept, the 101st Human Resources Company headquarters deployed without its plans and operations section or any of the detachments and teams that it had habitual relationships with at Fort Campbell. Instead, the company, which was made up of detachments and teams from a variety of human resources units from across the continental United States and Europe, fell in on the plans and operations section of the 502nd Human Resources Company.

Training Needs

Deploying to Iraq to form a team out of these dispersed elements that had never trained together presented several challenges. Most notably, neither the 3d Sustainment Brigade STB nor the 101st Human Resources Company could determine the level of training that each team or platoon had received. By contrast, deploying an organic company has the benefits of an established command and control relationship and the team cohesiveness that develops when units train and operate collectively.

Predeployment training, collectively and individually, should be based on the theater common operating picture. Human resources professionals at all levels must become familiar with sustainment brigade support operations, such as understanding how to coordinate transportation for mail movement and the relationships among the movement control team, the Air Force, and the R5 teams in the aerial passenger mission. The human resources cell gained a working knowledge of these processes during predeployment training exercises, but it did not gain a complete appreciation for all of the agencies involved in conducting successful human resources operations until after they arrived in theater.

Predeployment training should include providing mission oversight to contractors on the battlefield. During OIF 07–09, the missions of six Army Post Offices in the 3d Sustainment Brigade area of support were partially transferred to KBR under the Logistics Civilian Augmentation Program contract. In order to provide continuous oversight, human resources personnel had to be trained on the roles and limitations of contractors in the workplace and certified in contract oversight. Contracting officer’s representative (COR) training was not a part of the predeployment training validation. This certification was available in theater; however, the CORs involved in human resources functions such as postal operations should obtain this training well before arriving in the area of operations. Education on the management of contractors should be incorporated into the predeployment training process in order to provide oversight to this portion of the human resources mission immediately upon arrival into theater. Smooth human resources operations depend on competent CORs.

The 3d Sustainment Brigade officially assumed its mission in June 2007. Within 8 months, human resources support transitioned from a personnel services battalion of over 400 personnel supporting 12 locations in theater to a modular human resources company of just over 200 personnel responsible for the same 12 locations. Army Post Office contracting allowed almost 60 percent of the postal Soldiers to be reassigned in support of other human resources missions in the 3d Sustainment Brigade area of support.

Contracting in other areas of the human resources support mission would further increase the need for CORs within the human resources company and affect the force structure management of future human resources teams in theater. As the mission continues to change in theater, information must be shared in order to understand and integrate realistic human resources operations in the deployment training of the sustainment community.

Captain Shaunarey Amos was the support operations human resources plans and operations officer for the 3d Sustainment Brigade, 3d Infantry Division, in Operation Iraqi Freedom 07–09. She holds a B.A. degree in history from Morris College and is pursuing an M.A. degree in human resources management from Webster University. She is a graduate of the Adjutant General Officer Basic Course.