VIPAVA, Slovenia - During the expected chaos of combat, Marines are unfortunately killed without regard to their rank or military status. The casualties, when pronounced ‘killed in action’ are removed from the battlefield and returned to their respective families by a group of highly trained Marines who specialize in the processing of human remains.
Marines with Personnel Retrieval and Processing Company, 4th Marine Logistics Group, Marine Forces Reserve, from Atlanta, Georgia, demonstrated to Slovenian soldiers the meticulous process of how they retrieve and process the physical remains of fallen Marines in a deployed environment as part of exercise Immediate Response 2014 here, Aug. 20 and 21.
Immediate Response 2014 is a command post and tactical field training exercise that involves more than 900 personnel primarily from the U.S., Slovenian and Croatian armed forces, with contingents from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Denmark, Hungary, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and the United Kingdom. During the exercise, these partner nations join forces to aid in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief after a simulated earthquake scenario.
The mission of mortuary affairs is to process and send home the bodies and belongings of Marines who have given their lives on the battlefield. They document everything that the Marine is carrying or wearing, put them in a transfer case, solemnly wrap a U.S. flag around it and send them back to their families.
“What we do is vital to the Marine Corps because it has to be done and Marines take care of their own,” said Lance Cpl. Johnny Alston, a team member with PRP. “Without us here, nobody would be able to process the heroes who have sacrificed all.”
Slovenia has contributed significantly to the war in Afghanistan, and the U.S. military appreciates an ongoing, close relationship with the Slovenian and Croatian militaries. While the PRP Marines are already trained on the personnel recovery process, the Slovenian soldiers are not familiar with how the U.S. specifically conducts mortuary affairs.
“I have been deployed to Afghanistan with Marines before,” Sgt. 1st Class Matevz Scheicher, a weapons specialist with the Slovenian Army. “Getting to train with them again whether it is a combat scenario or PRP, I feel like I’m welcome again. We’re brothers.”
On the first day, the Marines gave classes to the Slovenians to give them the basic procedures they needed to know before demonstrating their knowledge in a training scenario.
During the second day, the Marines and Slovenian solders created a simulated morgue and asked other Marines to be role players who were killed in action. The Slovenian soldiers seamlessly completed the entire process from start to finish.
“Training here in Slovenia gives [the Marines] a chance to train alongside the soldiers from our partner nations,” said Lance Cpl. Andrew Weber, a team member with PRP. “All the countries involved get the chance to expose each other to how we conduct things. In my opinion, this is bigger than just you and me, bigger than the Marines; it’s a worldwide partnership.”
Working together as one team helps prepare the U.S., Slovenia and its partner nations, to operate successfully in a joint, multinational, interagency, and integrated environment in situations such as a natural disaster.
This work, Reserve Marines demonstrate personnel recovery methods to Slovenian soldiers, by Cpl Codey Underwood, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.