JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
Mission and Installation Contracting Command leaders at the headquarters, brigade and battalion levels joined key stakeholders from the Army Human Resources Command and directorate of emergency services virtually March 5 to examine new Army guidance and rehearse critical steps in an event of an absentee Soldier.
The rehearsal of concept drill follows the December announcement by the Army secretary regarding a new policy on missing Soldiers as well as expectations and responsibilities of unit commanders and Army law enforcement when a Soldier fails to report for duty.
The MICC Operations Directorate led the ROC drill, which included the command teams from the MICC, 419th and 418th Contracting Support Brigades and 901st and 904th Contracting Battalions as well as representatives from the HRC Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Division at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and Fort Stewart Directorate of Emergency Services in Georgia.
“The ROC drill was built upon an Army absent Soldier flowchart depicting actions to be taken by unit commanders, unit personnel staff, public affairs officers, directorates of emergency services, and human resources command at a minimum,” said Master Sgt. Enrique Torres, MICC Operations Directorate NCO.
Due to the complexity of reporting, Torres broke down the flowchart to rehearse two scenarios in which a Soldier is determined to be voluntarily absent and involuntarily absent from their assigned unit or designated place of duty.
The first scenario followed a timeline in which a commander could not determine the whereabouts of a Soldier but discovered the burden of proof indicated a voluntary absence, proceeding to that Soldier being identified as absent without leave and subsequent procedures taken as outlined by Army regulation.
The second, more complex scenario involved decisions and actions of a Soldier found to be involuntarily absent after their whereabouts could not be determined by their commander and a voluntary absence lacked a burden of proof.
Participants at the various echelons discussed individual actions to be taken along a strict timeline and learned how those actions are interwoven with other reporting procedures by representatives with casualty and mortuary affairs along with installation emergency services.
“I was extremely impressed with the amount of time and attention to detail that Torres put into the event. Having the ability to reach out to so many people in one event was imperative as it afforded everyone the opportunity to collaborate, ask questions or raise concerns that they may have,” said Andy Newbrough, a line of duty analyst with the Human Resource Command Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Division. “This also provided the opportunity for everyone to walk away with a better understanding regarding the absence unknown and duty status whereabouts unknown process.”
Newbrough is responsible for coordinating and managing all absence unknown and duty status whereabouts unknown cases for the Army. Upon identification of a Soldier as duty status whereabouts unknown by a commander, he monitors and advises on all aspects of the process until receipt of the investigation by the Human Resources Command.
“Being familiar and having an understanding of the casualty process before needing it is crucial due to the fact that this could be considered a perishable skill,” Newbrough said. “I relate the casualty process to maintenance as most people don’t provide it a great deal of thought until they need it. The Army and casualty mortuary affairs branch is dedicated to providing continued support to the forces in the field.”
Torres explained that key tasks achieved during the ROC drill included becoming familiar with policies and regulations governing reporting of personnel in duty status missing, absent-unknown, absent without leave, and duty status whereabouts unknown; identifying and discussing actions required at the onset of reporting a Soldier as absent unknown duty status; ensuring assigned human resources personnel to understand reporting requirements and personnel actions; and identifying necessary points of contact.