|Redesigned Personnel Service Support in
|by Captain Jean Anne P. Deakyne
Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) 07–09 ushers
in the true test of the Army’s personnel services delivery
redesign (PSDR) on a theater-wide scale. For the first time
since the inception of PSDR, all deployed brigade headquarters
will have the organic essential personnel service (EPS) capabilities
that previously resided in the personnel services battalions
(PSBs) of the legacy divisions.
PSDR is the Army human resources community’s component
of Army transformation. Under the redesign, the core of personnel
service support (PSS) is moving to brigade and battalion S–1
sections. [Under PSDR, “PSS” will be referred
to as “EPS.” “PSS” is used for legacy
units like the 15th PSB.] This new structure—creating
brigade S–1s that are as adaptive and self-sufficient
as the brigades they are charged to support—sounds good
in briefings, and the Army has manned and equipped brigades
to succeed in their PSS mission. Yet, while the PSDR machine
is already in motion, the question remains: How do we train
our S–1 Soldiers to execute this new concept?
The 15th PSB of the 15th Sustainment Brigade is responsible
for performing the newest function (“manning”)
of the Army’s new sustainment brigade formation. It
is also one of two remaining legacy PSBs deployed to the Iraqi
theater of operations. So the 15th PSB has a unique operational
perspective on how brigades that are now transforming under
PSDR can develop strategies for successfully providing EPS
while deployed in a theater, even though they lack the safety
net of area support personnel detachments and the benefit
of years of lessons learned.
The 15th PSB is, in effect, acting as the “training
wheels” for PSDR, providing both a fall-back organization
for performing PSS and subject matter expertise for the newly
developed human resources operations cells of the sustainment
operations (SPO) sections. The 15th PSB thus allows brigade
combat teams (BCTs) to tackle these tough challenges posed
by a new human resources configuration: the systems and equipment
are technical, Active and Reserve component Soldiers are integrated
as never before, and the distances between supporters and
supported populations make the execution of EPS difficult.
In spite of these challenges, the 15th PSB determined four
advance planning training factors, gained from hard lessons
learned and victories won, that make supporting the force
more efficient in the Iraqi theater of operations. Here is
our guide to success.
clerk for the 376th
Personnel Services Battalion sorts through mail.
Develop Reserve Component Experts
The best thing that could have happened to the 15th PSB’s
deployed task organization was the incorporation of U.S. Army
Reserve (USAR) personnel units into our formation. Detachment
4, 847th PSB, and Detachment 5, 376th PSB, provided a wealth
of USAR technical expertise that we were able to use across
the battalion, especially in the areas of PSS and personnel
Active component units with brigade S–1s that have undergone
PSDR likely will not be so fortunate as to have resident USAR
or Army National Guard (ARNG) subject matter experts (though
a number of BCT S–1s will be responsible for ensuring
that ARNG and USAR units that fall under their deployed task
organizations receive the same level of EPS as Active Army
units). The key to ensuring success in supporting ARNG and
USAR units is learning how to support ARNG and USAR Soldiers
before deployment and understanding how ARNG and USAR promotions,
evaluations, and other personnel actions differ from Active
Army EPS. Brigade S–1s also must gain access to, and
understand how to operate, the Regional Level Application
Software (RLAS) and the Reserve Component Automation System
(RCAS), which are the ARNG and USAR equivalents of the Electronic
Military Personnel Office (eMILPO).
The 15th PSB’s personnel service centers used RLAS as
the primary database for providing PSS to ARNG and USAR Soldiers
on an area support basis. RLAS is a software application developed
to provide the USAR with a client-server, Web-enabled application
for managing personnel and resources. RLAS contains four modules:
personnel, training, finance, and RLAS support. RLAS interfaces
with the Standard Army Financial System for processing financial
data, the Training Assessment Module for processing training
data, the Defense Joint Military System for processing pay
transactions, and the Retirement Points Accounting System
for tracking retirement points. Information contained in the
databases of the USAR’s 14 regional support commands
is transferred electronically to the U.S. Army Reserve Command,
then sent on to external systems. The RLAS personnel module
is the only module required to assist in updating records
in a deployed theater and, like other Army personnel management
databases, requires several weeks to process user account
RLAS does have intheater connectivity issues, which the 15th
PSB worked to help resolve. RLAS routinely fails to connect
through Citrix Web and Virtual Private Networking avenues
from Iraq. The “workaround” solution in place
at this time is that all RLAS updates are requested through
the 3d Personnel Command in Kuwait, which has no difficulty
bridging back to the continental United States (CONUS). A
theater point of contact for RLAS is available by calling
DSN 318–430–6065 or sending an email message to
15th Personnel Services Battalion’s Emergency
Operations Noncommissioned Officer in Charge
accounts for personnel after a react-to-indirect
fire drill at Camp Liberty, Iraq.
Conduct Realistic PSS and Soldier Skills Training
Combat training centers (CTCs) and field training exercises (FTXs) are notoriously
ineffective at evaluating PSS systems. The brigade S–1 is responsible
for ensuring that his section is trained to support the force as it will fight
in a forward-deployed environment. Although CTC rotations may provide dedicated
time to exercise critical systems, BCT S–1s must develop a separate
validation method to ensure that the S–1 team is ready to support.
The biggest hurdle for training PSS Soldiers is the competing requirements
of training for war while continuing to support the force. The 15th PSB developed
two methods to accomplish both missions, with no degradation in quality of
service. First, we decentralized PSS by pushing traditional PSB-level functions
down as close to the supported unit as possible (which is a fundamental tenant
of PSDR). Second, we rotated the remaining PSS missions that could not be
accomplished at the BCT level among the remaining PSB Soldiers (we called
this “PSS Time”) while providing predictable blocks of time for
personnel detachment commanders to focus on training Soldier skills (we called
this “Prime Time Training”).
As the 15th PSB prepared for deployment in support of OIF 06–08, we
frontloaded forward area support teams (FASTs) to organic 1st Cavalry Division
brigades located in our deployed area of responsibility. The BCTs integrated,
trained, and validated the FASTs, with technical oversight provided by the
PSB, over a 3-month period in the following phases—
- Phase I. Access to and proficiency in operating personnel systems,
including eMILPO, RLAS, the Enlisted Distribution and Assignment System, and the
Total Officer Personnel Management Information System.
- Phase II. Testing of supervisory knowledge and technical skills.
- Phase III. Sustained ability to successfully perform all PSB-level functions while physically located at the brigade S1.
- Phase IV. CTC validation (in conjunction with brigade rotations to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, or the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana).
- Phase V. Brigade S1 feedback and outbrief.
We ensured that the Soldiers who remained within the PSB’s deployed formation met and
exceeded the standard for competence in all Army Forces Command- and division-mandated
predeployment tasks. In the 6 months of ramping up for deployment, we conducted detachment-level
training exercises, culminating in a battalion-level FTX and convoy live-fire exercise, both
focusing on deployed Soldier skills. Detachments rotated responsibility for remaining PSS
missions with “prime time training” in blocks of 30 days; this meant that the remaining personnel
detachments had 60 dedicated days of Soldier skills training over a 90-day period. Both PSS and
deployed Soldier skills training were successes, with tough, realistic, scenario-driven external
evaluations executed by both senior PSS noncommissioned officers (NCOs) and combat arms experts
drawn from units within our garrison’s supported population.
The net result was a forward-deployed force that could operate as both FASTs embedded with legacy maneuver brigades
and PSB Soldiers operating on an area support basis. This force was trained, ready, and combat-tested in
react-to-contact battle drills ranging from indirect fire to unexploded ordnance.
training during a battalion field training
exercise prepared the Soldiers of the 15th
Personnel Services Battalion for deployment
of OIF 06–08.
Emphasize CAC and ID Tag Machine Training
Few S–1s have operated in a deployed theater under PSDR. Few S–1s
have executed the mission of producing common access cards (CACs) or identification
(ID) tags while forward deployed. Success in this mission, again, lies in
system access and technical proficiency. Beyond systems access and training,
are a host of issues unique to the deployed theater. Here are some issues
affecting CACs and ID tags and sources of assistance.
CACs. The Defense Enrollment Eligibility System (DEERS) goes down
periodically throughout the day because of server outages at the local, theater,
levels. The causes and estimated down-times vary and often are unpredictable.
For CONUS-based connectivity issues, users should contact the DEERS/RAPIDS
[Real-time Automated Personnel Identification System] Assistance Center at
(800–372–7437) or at DSN 312–698–5000.
CAC printers occasionally malfunction and produce defective cards in which
the photo or information is misaligned. For printer-related issues, contact
Assistance Center at 1–800–3RAPIDS (800–372–7437) or at DSN: 312–698–5000.
Personnel issuing CACs sometimes are not fully trained on the methods for
correcting individual records that have discrepancies. The Defense Manpower
Support Office conducts DEERS record research when discrepancies are found
in a service member’s DEERS record. The main switchboard number at the office
for assistance is 831–583–2500 or DSN 878–3261,–2659,
Most Department of Defense (DOD) contractors and civilians receive their CAC
support on an area support basis. Information on policy-related questions
on CAC service to DOD contractors and civilians is available from the theater
personnel advisor at DSN 318–822–4908.
ID tags. Though manual ID machines are authorized on unit modification tables
of organization and equipment, automated machines provide a more reliable and
efficient means of producing ID tags. The good news is that many BCTs fall in
on automated ID tag machines that were purchased in country and will remain as
theater-provided equipment. Manual machines, if properly maintained and serviced,
continue to be the best means of servicing outlying locations, where moving or
maintaining an automated ID tag machine is not feasible. Manual machines should
be used to supplement automated machines.
S–1 personnel should have user’s manuals for automated machines;
most service issues can be resolved at the unit level as outlined in the manuals.
The most common issues that cannot be resolved by the user are broken keyboard
port connections and misalignment of the mechanical drum.
The manufacturer for most manual and automated ID tag machines in the Army
inventory is Card Imaging Master (CIM). For maintenance issues related to
CIM ID tag machines,
users should contact the Technical Division Manager at 1–305–639–3040
(extension 308) or CIM USA Inc. by calling 1–305–639–3040 or
Personnel Services Battalion S–3 gives a block
of instruction on emerging PSS systems in a forward-deployed
theater of operations.
Train and Resource for Decentralized EPS
One of the unforeseen challenges of fielding redesigned BCT
S–1s in a forward theater of operations was how to provide
EPS to task-organized outlying units at and below the company
level. PSDR provides for manning and equipping brigade and
battalion S–1s, but it does not provide for servicing
the outlying company or detachment located at a patrol base
or strong point. Most of this problem is supposed to be mitigated—in
theory—by the Internet, using digital senders and email
as means of transmitting evaluations, promotions, and actions
between geographically dispersed units and their supporting
However, several problems undercut this solution. Connectivity
was unreliable, scanners and digital senders broke down, Soldiers
conducting patrols day in and day out did not rank providing
their own PSS as a priority, and certain elements of PSS,
including CAC production and CAC personal identification number
(PIN) resets, required a Soldier to be physically present
to perform the service. Decentralizing support was the most
viable solution. Conducting regular PSS “rodeos” (as
the 1st Cavalry Division calls them) to outlying units brings
PSS to the Soldier, without taking the Soldier away from the
The 15th PSB, as a part of the 1st Cavalry Division, employed
the rodeo concept during OIF 2 as a method of bringing postal
support to units that were located away from Army post offices.
Soldiers convoyed by ground and air from their locations at
forward operating bases (FOBs) to locations where Soldiers
needed support, bringing all of the equipment needed to conduct
outbound postal parcel operations, and provided service for
periods that usually lasted no longer than 24 hours. These
rodeos continued through OIF 05–07.
When the 15th PSB deployed in support of OIF 06–08,
we incorporated PSS into the services provided to units located
outside the scope of our area support PSS centers. These services
included CAC and ID tag production; CAC PIN resets; Department
of Defense Form 93, Record of Emergency Data, and Servicemen’s
Group Life Insurance (SGLV) updates; and promotions assistance.
During most rodeos, we partnered with finance agencies in
order to conduct cash disbursements, pay inquiries, and allotment
changes. Teams of four PSS Soldiers traveled with two Tuff
bins, including a complete, deployable CAC system, two laptop
computers, a printer, and associated supplies. These missions
enhanced PSS to Soldiers in a geographically dispersed area
of operations, reduced the need for Soldiers to “get
on the road” (and possibly face combat operations) in
order to conduct routine PSS, resulted in faster processing
of personnel actions, and increased overall operational effectiveness.
Has the Army trained our functional area 43 (human resource
management) majors or branch-detailed officers or junior Adjutant
General’s Corps captains how to lead the charge to make
PSDR work on the battlefield, in spite of not fully mission
capable equipment, sporadic Internet connectivity, and geographic
dispersion? Probably not, but, in all fairness, the Army has
had a lot going on lately. Experience, lessons learned, and
thinking outside of doctrine will train us to make PSDR work.
Whether or not the Army’s human resources community
passes this test depends largely on the brigade S–1
and on the S–1’s ability to support more Soldiers
more effectively and across more areas of operations.
Captain Jean Anne P. Deakyne is the Battalion S–3 of the 15th Personnel
Services Battalion (PSB), 15th Sustainment Brigade. She commanded a detachment
of the 15th PSB and served as a brigade S–1 in the 1st Cavalry Division
during Operation Iraqi Freedom 2. She holds a B.A. degree in political science
from the University of Texas at Arlington and is a graduate of the Adjutant General
Officer Basic Course, the Adjutant General Captains Career Course, and the Combined
Arms and Services Staff School.