News: Chaplains Train during Patriot Warrior 2014
Story by Master Sgt. Francisco Govea
FORT MCCOY, WIS. - It is an unfortunate reality that the 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. 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 has one such team comprised of U.S. Army Soldiers from the 311th Quartermaster Company, Mortuary Affairs, U.S. Army Reserve (USAR) Center Aguadilla, Puerto Rico., U.S. Air Force Chaplain Maj. Jeff Cooper, an Individual Mobilization Augmentee (IMA) attached to the 55th Wing, Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, and U.S Air Force Chaplain Capt. Norman Jones, IMA attached to the 20th Fighter Wing, Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina. 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 practice conducting a ramp ceremony at the Young Air Assault Strip during exercise Patriot Warrior 2014 at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.
This joint team of Soldiers and Airmen participated in a simulated dignified transfer during Patriot Warrior. Despite the unpredictable nature of a training environment -- the 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 Chaplain Jones. According to Chaplain Cooper the training emphasized how important communication is between mortuary affairs, chaplains, and the fallen warrior's unit.
U.S. Army Sgt. Alan Rodriguez, 311th Quartermaster Company, said, "training in a joint environment is important." Exercise Patriot
Warrior allows Soldiers the opportunity to train with the 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 Sgt. Rodriguez. Joint training helps build trust and understanding between the different branches of the U.S. military.
As Chaplains of America's war fighters, 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 Chaplain Maj. Cooper
At the conclusion of exercise Patriot Warrior, the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force will have another team trained and ready to execute
this solemn duty and bring our fallen warriors home.