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Operation Joint Endeavor – An NCO Perspective

SSG Randy E. Posey & SGT Cedric T. Riggins
Quartermaster Professional Bulletin – Summer 1996

Peace enforcement operations: a new term in the Quartermaster dictionary. Quartermasters have had some opportunities to define and explore this new support concept. With the Army’s focus changing from forward presence to force projection, Quartermaster soldiers have played exciting roles. These roles are defining and strengthening soldier skills. Combat service support (CSS) soldiers can and do support operations anywhere in the world from stateside disasters such as Hurricane Andrew and the Oklahoma City terrorist bombing to overseas military operations in Somalia, Haiti and most recently, Bosnia-Herzegovina. The following is a brief summary of the deployment of 14 CSS soldiers in the 54th Quartermaster Company (Mortuary Affairs), some of the
first soldiers into Bosnia-Herzegovina:

The 54th Quartermaster Company (Mortuary Affairs) detachment left Fort Lee, VA, on 15 Dec 96 bound for Ramstein, Germany. Upon arrival, we were met by other mortuary affairs soldiers. We drew additional cold weather equipment and mortuary affairs supplies. In addition to our own equipment, we received two high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles (HMMWV), one 2 1/2-ton truck, one 5-ton truck with flatbed trailer, two refrigerator units loaded with mortuary supplies, and radiology equipment (X-ray machine).

Last December, about 20,000 US soldiers became part of the 60,000-member implementation force of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in the Balkans. The NATO forces and the logisticians supporting them took command and control of the Balkan theater from the United Nations Protection Force. Looking at the force projection of US soldiers assigned for this mission in part of the former Yugoslavia, we developed some objectives: to search, recover, process and prepare for evacuation of all deceased US personnel and their accompanying personal effects. Also, our mission included separating the non-US deceased and returning the remains (after processing)
over to the appropriate country’s representative.

Mortuary affairs personnel at the theater mortuary evacuation point (TMEP), located on Tuzla Air Base, Bosnia-Herzegovina, received, processed and then evacuated the remains to Germany. Processing included completion of identification records, photography, screening of personal effects, and screening for unexploded ordnance. Transportation documents were coordinated with US Air Force personnel. Finally, an escort from the TMEP accompanied each remains to Germany. Remains processed at the TMEP were sent to the US Army Memorial Affairs Activity-Europe, Landstuhl, Germany.

As part of a one-of-a-kind unit and a unique military occupational specialty, we deploy to support multiple missions, sometimes well ahead of the main combat forces. Our experience has taught us time and time again that noncommissioned officers (NCOs) are responsible for training soldiers. Our unit has been very fortunate, never losing any soldiers in peace or war. We attribute this not to luck, but to dedication on the NCOs’ part and the soldiers’ dedication to their special mission.

About the authors

SSG Randy E. Posey graduated from Alcorn State University in Lorman, Mississippi, with a bachelor of science degree in special education and learning disabilities. He also is a graduate of the Mortuary Affairs Course at Fort Lee, Virginia. He is Platoon Sergeant, 3d Platoon, 54th Quartermaster Company (Mortuary Affairs) at Fort Lee. His deployments include Bosnia and Croatia. His previous duty assignments include Section Chief, 2/7 Field Artillery, Fort Drum, New York.

SGT Cedric T. Riggins graduated from high school in New Jersey and joined the US Army in 1987. He is a graduate of the Mortuary Affairs Course at Fort Lee, Virginia. He has served at Fort Ord, California, and also in Germany. He is Platoon Sergeant, 2d Platoon, 54th Quartermaster Company (Mortuary Affairs), Fort Lee. Since assignment to Fort Lee, he also has served as a Squad Leader and as the Retention Noncommissioned Officer.