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Exercise hones personnel skills

By Maj. Karen Magruder, Triad Contributor

       Personnel operations may sound like alphabet soup to many people, but to the  AG (Adjutant General) Corps, the Army's personnel people, the acronyms mean systems to track soldiers, job skills, insurance, pay, promotions and other information critically important to troops.

Photo of Lt. Col. Iurie Gojii and Maj. Grigore Chirica, officers in the Moldovan Army, visiting with American soldiers running scanning stations for ID cards during Silver Scimitar.

Lt. Col. Iurie Gojii and Maj. Grigore Chirica, officers in the Moldovan Army, visit with American soldiers running scanning stations for ID cards during Silver Scimitar. (Photo by Maj. Karen Magruder)

      For soldiers participating in  Silver Scimitar, the Army's largest administrative personnel war game, the confusion melds into a well- orchestrated, functional system designed to care for America's soldiers.

      Phase I of Silver Scimitar included three days of ramp-up training.  For many soldiers the ramp-up phase was the only opportunity available for them to hone their personnel skills.

      For other soldiers, it was the opportunity to learn a new job in order to better serve the soldiers on the battlefield.

      It's been said that it takes beans and bullets to fight a war, which is true.  However, soldier morale creates the third leg of that important war-fighting triangle. 

      "Silver Scimitar offers a number of beneficial spinoffs, but one of the larger benefits is the opportunity to practice full-scale mobilization into a developed battlefield in a South West Asia scenario," said Col. Clyde Leavelle, commander, 3rd Personnel Command, Jackson, Miss., and exercise director.  "We work with a 250,000-name soldier database and test the personnel groups, reception center, companies and detachments.  This type of training reflects the challenges they will face if they are mobilized."

      This year's exercise faced some challenges when lightning damaged part of the computer network.  Although not planned, the outage could be indicative of the challenges faced on a real battlefield.


"Statistically, soldiers in the Army today get promoted, change jobs and/or units, and we find ourselves needing to reteach nearly 40 percent of the younger troops each year." 

Col. James Greenwood,
Deputy Commander
3rd Personnel Command

 

      "As Silver Scimitar exercise controllers, we input the personnel message play into Microsoft Outlook for time-phased distribution," said Sgt. Maj. Michael Graves, Illinois National Guard.  "When the network went down we began hand-delivering message play.  It also challenged us, as controllers, to see what messages had gone out before the outage.  We discovered that sending message play on automatic distribution over six different computers created tracking problems of its own."

      When the network returned to operation, hundreds of messages hit the units at once.

      "It could have been a bad situation, but since we are in a training environment, we sent a team down to some of the units to help respond to the work,"  Graves said.  "We used the messages as training tools and the soldiers caught up rapidly.  Additionally, the learning curve increased dramatically with the one-on-one additional instruction."

      Silver Scimitar is an annual exercise that's been held at Fort McCoy for three years.  Next year, the exercise may return to Fort McCoy or it may be held at remote sites around the country. Although Fort McCoy simulated the electronic network personnelists would face in a theater of war, the remote link up across the nation would also simulate the challenges of the remote battlefield. The down side of that challenge would be the loss of the "ramp-up" training time for the troops. 

      Some of the training includes combat lifesaver, Nuclear, Biological and Chemical, casualty reports, personnel replacements and a host of other classes.  This year's individual training boasted an increased attendance of nearly 35 percent before shifting to Phase II of Silver Scimitar and collective training at the units.

      "Statistically, soldiers in the Army today get promoted, change jobs and/or units, and we find ourselves needing to reteach nearly 40 percent of the younger troops each year," said Col. James Greenwood, deputy commander, 3rd Personnel Command.  "In addition, we need refresher training for several other soldiers."

      Because much of the personnel training requires system interaction rather than stand-alone-instruction, soldiers in the Reserve arena have difficulty training on personnel systems on drill weekends at home station.  One of the greatest strengths of Silver Scimitar is the learning environment that tests personnel soldiers to their maximum capacity and utilizes mistakes as learning opportunities.

      Each year Silver Scimitar pulls units from across the nation to simulate setting up personnel operations in a two-corps theater. 

      Future goals include spending more time on teaching better business methods. 

 (See related story.)

(Magruder is with the 3rd Personnel Command of Jackson, Miss.)

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