Junior Soldier brings ‘First in Support’ mentality to Immediate Response

Story and photo by Staff Sgt. Alexander A. Burnett
21st Theater Sustainment Command Public Affairs

ZAGREB, Croatia — During a joint and coalition training exercise, in a room that was populated with colonels, sergeants major, staff level NCOs and field grade officers, sat a single private first class. She was soft spoken and new to the coalition environment, but she learned quickly and adapted to any task she was given. For three weeks, she showed the members of the simulated higher command what it means to be “First in Support.”

Pfc. Karlea E. Henderson, a human resources specialist assigned to the 21st Theater Sustainment Command’s 18th Engineer Brigade, is working as the lowest ranking and youngest member of the simulated 70th Infantry Division, the higher command during the Immediate Response 13 training exercise at the Croatian Training Simulation Center Aug. 9 through 31.

Ten Soldiers from Kaiserslautern, Baumholder and Schweinfurt traveled to Croatia to take part in the 19-day exercise.

U.S. Army Pfc. Karlea E. Henderson (right), a human resources specialist assigned to the 21st Theater Sustainment Command’s 18th Engineer Brigade acting as a personnel clerk for the simulated 70th Infantry Division higher command, and Croatian army Maj. Ruzica Pavic Kevric, a medical practitioner specializing in occupational and sports medicine at the Croatian Institute for Aviation Medicine, the simulated 70 ID medical officer, review a casualty report during the Operation Immediate Response 13 training exercise Aug. 26.

U.S. Army Pfc. Karlea E. Henderson (right), a human resources specialist assigned to the 21st Theater Sustainment Command’s 18th Engineer Brigade acting as a personnel clerk for the simulated 70th Infantry Division higher command, and Croatian army Maj. Ruzica Pavic Kevric, a medical practitioner specializing in occupational and sports medicine at the Croatian Institute for Aviation Medicine, the simulated 70 ID medical officer, review a casualty report during the Operation Immediate Response 13 training exercise Aug. 26.

This exercise was Henderson’s first experience working with foreign military services and her first time working in a division-level personnel section. During the three weeks, she met and worked alongside military members from Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, the United Kingdom, Montenegro and Herzegovina, as well as with several U.S. Army units.

“This is very different from what I do everyday at the brigade,” Henderson said. “I am learning so much about what is expected from a division personnel section working in this kind of environment. It’s definitely a lot more responsibility.”

Her responsibilities included receiving requests for information from subordinate level training audiences, casualty reports and personnel statistics from each country. These requests and reports represented simulated incidents and statistics that the multinational brigade and battalion level units were working together to overcome. If Henderson had failed to retrieve one of these items, it could have resulted in drastic consequences.

“I have worked on several joint and coalition exercises in Europe, Asia and the United States. When I arrive at an exercise like this I expect to see staff sergeants as the lowest ranking Soldiers. I was very surprised to see Pfc. Henderson as a member of my staff,” said Lt. Col. Barbara P. Tucker, the deputy personnel officer for the Hawaii National Guard, the simulated 70th ID personnel officer. “Henderson never failed, and she never hesitated to ask the important questions to get the mission accomplished.”

Henderson’s ability to learn and her high level of motivation impressed both her officer in charge and her NCO in charge.

“Henderson came to Immediate Response 13 with a high level of motivation, and if she was ever intimidated by the ranks in the room she never let it show,” said Staff Sgt. Robert L. Gordon, the administrative NCOIC for the Hawaii National Guard officer branch, the simulated 70th ID admin NCOIC. “I am very impressed with how quickly she learns and her potential for advancement.”

After the exercise culminates, Henderson will return to the 18th Eng. Bde. in Schweinfurt, Germany. She will resume her normal duties as a brigade administrative clerk in charge of leave forms and finance issues. While she views her daily duties as necessary to the Army, she expressed her excitement at what awaits her at the next level.

“I learned a lot about what the future holds in my career field and the environments I might work in as I advance in my military career,” Henderson said. “I am very grateful for this experience and the opportunity to work shoulder-to-shoulder with members of these great nations.”

In the final days of the exercise, Tucker expressed how impressed she was with Henderson’s performance and what the future looks like for this Soldier.

“I would gladly serve with Henderson again,” Tucker said. “I see her becoming a great and
motivated noncommissioned officer.”

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