Fort McCoy News May 23, 2014

Chaplains, team train as part of Patriot Warrior, CSTX

4th Combat Camera Squadron

FORT MCCOY, Wis. — It is an unfortunate reality that men and women of America's fighting forces die on the battlefield. In the spirit of leave no man behind, the U.S. military makes every effort to return those fallen warriors to their Families with the utmost dignity and respect.

Photo for chaplain article
Air Force Chaplain (Capt.) Norman Jones and Soldiers from the 311th Quartermaster Company conduct a simulated ramp ceremony at the Young Air Assault Strip during Exercise Patriot Warrior at Fort McCoy.

As part of this process, military tradition and protocol is embodied by a team of service members tasked to escort and handle the casket during transport.

Exercise Patriot Warrior, part of the Combat Support Training Exercise (CSTX) here, has one such team comprised of Army Soldiers from the 311th Quartermaster Company, Mortuary Affairs, U.S. Army Reserve (USAR) Center, Aguadilla, Puerto Rico; Air Force Chaplain (Maj.) Jeff Cooper, an individual mobilization augmentee (IMA) attached to the 55th Wing, Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., and Air Force Chaplain (Capt.) Norman Jones, IMA attached to the 20th Fighter Wing, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C.

A U.S. military chaplain's duty is to minister to the spiritual needs of military personnel and to honor the fallen. The primary duty of a U. S. Army mortuary affairs Soldier is to perform recovery, collection, evacuation, establishment of tentative identification, escort and temporary burial of fallen service members of all branches.

Together they practiced conducting a ramp ceremony at the Young Air Assault Strip during CSTX here.

This joint team of Soldiers and Airmen participated in a simulated dignified transfer ceremony. Despite the unpredictable nature of a training environment, participants were able to overcome obstacles such as unpredictable weather and a shortage in trained personnel. The training continued as planned and concluded positively for all involved.

"The significance in honoring a fallen warrior is so important, it demands that we do it right, and that requires practice," said Jones.

According to Cooper, the training emphasized the importance of communication between mortuary affairs, chaplains and the fallen warrior's unit.

Sgt. Alan Rodriguez, 311th Quartermaster Company, said, "Training in a joint environment is important."

Exercise Patriot Warrior allowed Soldiers the opportunity to train with Airmen on a C-130J Super Hercules and a C-17 Globemaster III.

"The Soldiers don't always get this opportunity back home in Puerto Rico," said Rodriguez. "Joint training helps build trust and understanding between the different branches of the U.S. military."

As chaplains of America's warfighters, they also receive valuable experience and understanding from these training events.

"This training allows me to evaluate and improve my execution of the ceremony," said Cooper.

At the conclusion of Exercise Patriot Warrior, the Army and Air Force have another team trained and ready to execute this solemn duty and bring our fallen warriors home.