News: Human resources: A gateway to deployment
Story by Sgt. Edward Eagerton
CAMP DENALI, Alaska – Six soldiers with the 49th Theater Gateway’s personnel accountability team, Alaska Army National Guard, returned from exercise Silver Scimitar held at Fort Devens, Mass., in March, with the training and knowledge they need before their scheduled deployment to Kuwait in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Silver Scimitar is a human resources centric exercise designed to train soldiers on how to properly and effectively operate a theater gateway in a combat zone. Theater gateways are the entry and exit points with which all personnel must pass before moving on to their respective areas of operation.
“It was an opportunity for us to validate ourselves before we go downrange for our deployment,” said Lt. Col. Don Mercer, director of the 49th Theater Gateway, Alaska Army National Guard.
Approximately 350 soldiers, composed of active-duty Army, Army Reserves and National Guard, were in attendance for the exercise, explained Mercer.
The training consisted of a week of classroom instruction and a second week of culminating exercises, which tested the soldiers in their abilities to manage the flow of service members moving in and out of theater. Every person and piece of equipment moving through the gateway must be accounted for.
“The overview for everybody is accountability,” said Sgt. Joseph Staunches, a transportation management coordinator with the 49th Theater Gateway, Alaska Army National Guard. “When you get in to theater, you see the gateway team first. They scan you in. That’s when you’ve got boots on the ground. You start getting paid the separation pay, hazardous duty pay, active duty pay. They give you the low down on what to do, what not to do, what to wear and where to go.”
Aside from the training itself, another benefit of the exercise was that it allowed different units that will be working together overseas to train together before deploying.
The 49th Theater Gateway will be the command and control of the operation while deployed, said Mercer. The rest of the staff will be augmented by the soldiers from other units.
“The most valuable part of the training was meeting everybody,” Staunches said. “Everybody who was there will either be in theater before we get there, or some will be coming after us. Developing the relationship prior to that was the most important thing.”
The 49th Theater Gateway is scheduled to deploy in September.