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Human Resources Modularity Tested in Iraq

The Army’s most recent transformation began in October 1999 when Chief of Staff of the Army General Eric K. Shinseki announced that the Army was developing plans to transform its Cold War organizations and equipment into a lighter, more responsive force to fill what was seen as a strategic gap in warfighting capabilities. However, it was not until 2003 that the adjutant general community offered Personnel Services Delivery Redesign (PSDR) as a solution to support the human resources (HR) area of the Army’s transformation effort.

When PSDR was implemented in 2006, the Army G–1, Lieutenant General Michael D. Rochelle, said that PSDR “impacts how we support our Soldiers in the operational force. It is a revolution in how we deliver support. It is the most significant change in our business we have seen in our careers.”

PSDR replaced the legacy structure that used multiple layers of paperwork that made personnel processing tedious, time-consuming, and slow. With PSDR, the personnel services battalions (PSBs) started to dissolve and were replaced by brigade S–1s with the capability of providing essential personnel services and personnel strength accounting.

Of particular note was the creation of HR companies that formed the foundation of the new standard requirements code (SRC) 12 (Adjutant General’s Corps) structure. Under the SRC 12 structure, HR elements deploy to theater and provide nonessential personnel services, including postal, casualty, and R5 (reception, replacement, return-to-duty, rest and recuperation, and redeployment). Multiple levels within the HR hierarchy provide technical oversight and guidance to SRC 12 units. The highest level in this hierarchy is at the human resources sustainment center (HRSC). Under the HRSC, embedded within the theater sustainment command, is the HR operations cell, which provides technical oversight to the HR support operations cells (HR SPOs) of the sustainment brigades.

In fiscal year 2006, the 15th PSB deployed to Iraq under the 15th Sustainment Brigade. Consequently, the new structures could not be tested until the 1st, 3d, and 7th Sustainment Brigades arrived in theater in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, beginning in fiscal year 2007. As suggested in Field Manual Interim (FMI) 4–93.2, The Sustainment Brigade, each of those brigades has attached its HR company to its special troops battalion. The 1st Sustainment Brigade has found this command relationship to be very effective.

Predeployment Coordination

The 1st Sustainment Brigade was activated on 15 February 2007, but the HR SPO did not become fully activated and staffed with its eight personnel until May. Originally, doctrine stated that 12 Soldiers would be in the HR SPO. However, the doctrine has since been modified, and the following eight positions remain:

  • Operations officer (O–4).
  • Plans and operations officer (O–3).
  • R5 and postal officer (O–3).
  • HR technician (W–2) (military occupational specialty [MOS] 420A).
  • Senior HR operations noncommissioned officer (NCO) (MOS 42A50).
  • R5 operations NCO (MOS 42A40).
  • Postal operations NCO (MOS 42A30).
  • Information systems NCO (MOS 42A30).

With key personnel in place, the first task in the predeployment planning process was to define the roles and responsibilities at each level, from the plans and operations cell to the HR company and its postal platoons, R5 teams, and casualty liaison teams. Unfortunately, being the first iteration of new modular HR doctrine, Field Manual (FM) 1–0, Human Resources Support, was painfully devoid of detailed data. The only thing that the HR SPO cell knew with any clarity was the basic structure.

Therefore, the HR SPO staff—all newly assigned to the brigade—read postal, casualty, and R5 regulations as they sought to understand their roles in relation to the bigger picture, the scope of support, and the units to be supported. Each section NCO cross-trained all of the other team members in his area of expertise. Everyone took both the casualty and mortuary affairs operations center training offered online. They also became familiar with Defense Casualty Information Processing System reports, postal regulatory guidelines, and ongoing theater R5 policies and procedures. The casualty and mortuary affairs training was one of the most beneficial because, as the 1st Sustainment Brigade deployed into theater, a member of the HR SPO was lost from the cell. However, because of the cross-training and information sharing, the HR SPO was able to continue its mission without a moment’s hesitation.

The special troops battalion (STB) commander and HR SPO representatives attended a mission readiness exercise at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and an HR conference at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. The 510th HR Company commander and first sergeant visited the STB at Fort Riley, Kansas, and the HR SPO and the STB command team returned the favor by visiting Soldiers of some of the postal platoons attending training at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. Initial contact was also made with the 15th PSB in Iraq, the 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command (ESC), and the 8th HRSC. Through these meetings and contacts, the HR SPO established the foundation for a good working relationship with elements at every level of the HR hierarchy. From these early engagements, we created a staff mission statement and an initial HR SPO standing operating procedure, along with all the point-of-contact information needed to get up and running quickly.


On 19 September 2007, the 1st Sustainment Brigade deployed to Iraq. One of the HR SPO cell’s first accomplishments after getting connectivity was attending an HR conference that occurred during our relief in place and transfer of authority (RIP/TOA). The conference was attended by members from various divisions of the 8th HRSC (postal operations, R5, casualty liaison team, and plans and operations), the 316th ESC HR SPO, and the 1st and 3d Sustainment Brigades’ HR SPOs.

At this conference, we were able to solidify the relationships that had begun in the continental United States. The event was necessary and proved to be a good beginning for the following reasons:

  • It allowed members of the deployed HR community to meet their counterparts and foster working relationships.
  • It afforded the members an opportunity to voice their concerns, issues, and questions and then allowed leaders to discuss it in an open forum.
  • Most importantly, it provided a common HR vision to all attendees.

Other outcomes of the conference included guidance from the 8th HRSC on the way ahead and a standardization of reports to be used by all sustainment brigades.

As discussions proceded, we soon realized that the makeup of the HR SPO had a couple of noticeable shortfalls and that each HR SPO had been embedded differently within its sustainment brigade or STB. The 1st Sustainment Brigade HR SPO was located in the STB and placed under the supervision of the STB commander, who was dual-hatted as the HR and financial management SPO. The 3d SB had placed most of its HR team members at the brigade SPO and one technician at the STB. Although the 7th Sustainment Brigade was not in theater at the time, we discovered that it was planning to leave its entire HR SPO at the brigade SPO.

The 1st Sustainment Brigade attached its HR company to the STB for command and control, although at the time doctrine stated that the STB should provide only administrative control for the HR company with retention of mission responsibilities and authority at the brigade level. This command relationship worked because it allowed the STB commander to have full control over the mission planning and execution of the HR company. The 1st Sustainment Brigade also retained its HR SPO under the STB because it provided the STB commander with the capabilities and expertise needed to more effectively employ his HR company.

After attending the conference, the 1st Sustainment Brigade HR SPO better understood the challenges it would face in the deployment. The biggest of these challenges arose from the fact that approximately 90 percent of the 510th HR Company elements had been deployed months before the arrival of the HR company headquarters. Since the 510th had to fall under the command and control of someone, it had been placed under the command and control of the 15th PSB. When the 1st Sustainment Brigade HR SPO arrived in theater, its leaders thought that they would conduct a RIP/TOA with the PSB. However, the PSB was waiting for the 510th HR Company headquarters, which was not scheduled to arrive in theater until the end of December 2007. This added layers of command and control that made the flow of information excruciatingly slow. The RIP/TOA process is designed for like units, which made the mixing of legacy and modular formations during the first few months particularly challenging for all.

Postal Operations

From the beginning, the biggest part of the 1st Sustainment Brigade HR mission was postal operations. Concurrent with the RIP/TOA challenges, all Army post offices (APOs) within the 1st Sustainment Brigade footprint were in the process of transferring their missions to KBR in the midst of the Christmas surge. The primary glitch in contracting postal services was that KBR arrived understaffed and largely undertrained to fulfill their postal mission. As if that wasn’t enough, the 1st Sustainment Brigade area of operations experienced a loss of air assets that had been used to deliver a significant portion of Soldiers’ mail.

Despite these challenges early on, the postal mission during the Christmas surge was executed with unprecedented success. Two key factors contributed. First, quick changes to the distribution plan provided increased frequency and capacity of ground logistics convoys throughout the various destinations. Second, the HR SPO decided to keep some postal platoons working in the contracted APOs to assist the contractors with the mission.

These measures prevented any mail delays in theater and significantly decreased the average time of receipt of mail from the continental United States from what was already a good 10 to 12 days (the military postal standard is 12 to 18 days) to consistently under 8 days. Even during the peak of the holiday surge and on Christmas Day, many Soldiers received packages in only 5 to 6 days. In addition to providing regular APO services, the 1st Sustainment Brigade also executed an average of 21 mobile postal missions a week to units dispersed to locations where a regular APO could not be established.

One of the nondoctrinal positions that the HRSC created to assist the sustainment brigades is the regional director. Regional directors are postal experts who assist the HR companies and postal platoons with resolution of issues and provide postal advice and technical guidance as needed. The regional directors are instrumental in the success of APO inspections because they go out on staff assistance visits and ensure that the APOs comply with the regulations. This needs to be an actual authorized position for the HRSC.


Personnel accountability is the most critical R5 task. The constant updating of the Deployed Theater Accountability System (DTAS) database as Soldiers move through the R5 process is supposed to allow near-real-time visibility of Soldier movement. The intent is to provide visibility of Soldiers as they move within the theater and record when they leave. In concept, this is a great idea. However, this process is not as well synchronized as intended.

The R5 teams were often undermanned when they arrived in theater and may not have operated at every key intratheater in-transit node. Even areas with an R5 team were not always able to capture all passengers going in and out of a particular aerial port of debarkation. FMI 1–0.02, Theater-Level Human Resources Support, says that R5 teams will coordinate lodging or transportation of Soldiers delayed while transiting. However, most units at division and brigade level felt the need to put liaison teams at the R5 nodes to manage R5 functions for their Soldiers. This begs the question: Are R5 teams fulfilling their intended roles? To ensure that the R5 teams are properly structured, resourced, and employed to their fullest potential, FMI 1–0.02 should provide clearer, more concise R5 team roles and responsibilities.

Casualty Liaison Team

The 1st Sustainment Brigade was originally sourced with five casualty liaison teams (CLTs), but three were attached to Multi-National Division-Baghdad, Multi-National Division-Central, and Multi-National Corps-Iraq. The fourth CLT was reassigned to fulfill a different HR function outside the brigade. The remaining 1st Sustainment Brigade CLT consisted of five Soldiers who did much more than their doctrinal role. Once a casualty arrived at the combat support hospital, a CLT member interviewed the patient to get his vital information. This information was then entered into the Defense Casualty Information Processing System and sent to the necessary agencies within 3 hours.

While the patient was at the hospital, a CLT member entered a progress report every 2 hours. Once a determination was made as to whether the casualty would be medically evaluated or returned to duty, the CLT member submitted an additional report and contacted the Soldier’s unit to coordinate pickup of the Soldier. The biggest issue in the CLT realm is the inability to rotate the teams with those in the division casualty cell to prevent combat stress that often affects Soldiers in these roles.

Recommended Changes

The HR SPO, the R5, and the CLT need defined missions. The HR SPO needs a better defined role at each level to preclude the duplication of duties that is currently happening in theater. The R5 and CLT plans and operations sections should be combined at the company level, and the sustainment brigade HR operations cell should be renamed as the HR SPO, with specific roles and responsibilities defined for each element.

The existing command and control relationship does not follow doctrine. In the 1st Sustainment Brigade, the HR company is placed under the STB for command and control because the STB commander has the authority and ability to provide more command emphasis and mission focus to the HR company. Doctrine should be changed to reflect this command and control relationship.

The casualty platoon consists of a platoon headquarters (with just a platoon leader and platoon sergeant) and one or more “plug-and-play” CLTs. In practice, this means that the platoon leader and platoon sergeant may not have a home-station platoon to lead or train every day and, if they do, likely will not deploy with it. The 1st Sustainment Brigade had a casualty platoon that was from one Active component unit while its 5 subordinate teams were from 4 different Reserve component units. That required 6 separate unit requirement forms with 6 separate unit identification codes deploying at different times from 5 different locations to build 1 platoon of 27 Soldiers.

The HR company has no subordinate detachment command structure and, therefore, no reduction in the span of control for the HR company commander. This lack of detachment makes it difficult for the HR company to account for property, provide Uniform Code of Military Justice authority, or groom junior adjutant general captains to keep them competitive with their peers in other branches. A captain subordinate command should be established under the HR company. Similarly, since the CLT and R5 missions employ the same MOS (without the F4 and F5 postal additional skill identifiers), a single, larger, multifunctional, and multicapable HR operations platoon would further reduce span of control, simplify force structure, and increase mission flexibility.

The primary missions of the HR operations cell’s R5, CLT, and postal sections are executed during deployment. The HR SPO garrison mission is to train and prepare for upcoming deployments. The CLT, R5, and postal sections have no mission in garrison. All other garrison functions are executed by the Army Installation Management Command and the brigade or battalion S–1s. This lack of garrison mission causes great angst among adjutant general professionals. What kind of deployment training should be conducted? If stabilization of units is 12 to 24 months before redeployment, is the garrison mission of training and preparing for deployment sufficient for an HR SPO?

Eight Soldiers are authorized for the HR SPO. The requirement should be changed to five Soldiers:

  • One O–3 or O–4 to serve as the officer in charge.
  • One W–2 to serve as the plans and operations officer or technician.
  • One E–7 or E–8 to serve as the overall NCO in charge and casualty NCO.
  • Two E–5s or E–6s to serve as the R5 and postal NCOs.

The 1st Sustainment Brigade leaders firmly believe that the success of the HR mission can be attributed to the fact that the HR SPO was placed under the STB. The STB is indeed organic to the brigade, and the brigade staff is assigned to the STB through the headquarters and headquarters company. The two are neither organizationally nor physically separated as they are in a combat sustainment support battalion. Therefore, the STB commander can operate (along with the HR SPO) as the brigade staff officer when collaborating with adjacent and higher organizations, while concurrently serving as the commander responsible for the HR mission. This arrangement has provided more synergy and an enhanced unity of effort than could be attained if the STB merely had administrative control.

Captain Xarhya Wulf is the battalion adjutant for the 1st Sustainment Brigade Special Troops Battalion. She was the human resources operations cell plans and operations and postal operations officer-in-charge and the casualty and R5 officer-in-charge for the 1st Sustainment Brigade when she wrote this article. She holds an M.A. degree in human resource management from Webster University. She is graduate of the Adjutant General Officer Basic Course, Adjutant General Captains Career Course, and the Human Resources Management Course.