Every soldier knows it. The words are woven into the Warrior Ethos: Never leave a fallen comrade.
Soldiers of the 1st “Ironhorse” Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, learned what it takes to keep that promise during company-level evacuation and recovery team training from Aug. 23 to Sept. 6.
The Ironhorse Brigade’s 115th “Muleskinner” Brigade Support Battalion trained and certified CLEAR Teams for each company across the brigade.
Wearing blue latex gloves and slowly walking in single-arm intervals, trainees crossed a fabricated battlefield searching for remains. What they found were cardboard cutouts dressed as soldiers, fake identification cards and medical training dummies, but the training was far more realistic.
CLEAR Team instructor Staff Sgt. Reginald Alexander, a computer/detection systems repairer with Muleskinner battalion, watched closely as students identified, categorized and collected items, demonstrating their ability to perform as a team.
As one soldier attempted to recover cardboard remains, Alexander could be heard in the background saying, “Keep in mind that is someone’s loved one. Treat him with respect.”
Listening to Alexander’s advice, the soldier grabbed a partner, and the two-man team secured the cardboard remains and carefully placed them into a body bag.
After all remains and personal property were gathered and properly documented, the trainees carried the items off the makeshift battlefield.
“That’s one additional duty I hope I never have to do,” one soldier said as they moved back to the classroom.
Throughout the course, Alexander stressed the importance of paying attention to detail when locating, documenting and securing personnel and their equipment to ensure safe delivery to the mortuary affairs collection point.
“Some gave little, and some gave all,” Alexander said. “For the ones that gave all, it’s important to try to get the remains back to the families as soon as possible, and a lot of the members in the class recognize that.”
Without training, soldiers slated to perform CLEAR Team duties could make many mistakes.
“I probably wouldn’t have recorded any personal effects down properly,” said Pfc. Steven Bivins, an infantryman assigned to 2nd “Lancer” Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment. “I definitely wouldn’t have (written) serial numbers for the money. I would have probably loaded it up like it was cargo.”
“I probably would have been totally overwhelmed by how much paperwork goes into the process and how detailed you have to be when recording what’s on a casualty,” said Pfc. Jacobs Delargy, an infantryman with the Lancer battalion.
CLEAR Team training is a requirement for unit commanders. Each recovery team is required to have one noncommissioned officer and four soldiers.