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Home » Camp Guernsey operations staff rises to the challenge

Camp Guernsey operations staff rises to the challenge

Camp Guernsey Joint Training Center’s training site’s operations section greeted thousands of Army National Guard troops from Wyoming, Arkansas and South Dakota in June.

Guernsey operations staff
Sgt. Felicia Staman, the packet manager at Camp Guernsey’s Training Site, and administrative assistant Jen Merlino, track numbers and troop movement at the facility during fires by the 142nd Field Artillery Regiment of the Arkansas Army National Guard at Operation Western Strike on June 14, 2018. Camp Guernsey averaged more than 2,300 personnel on the ground each day of the exercise. (Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Frank Marquez)

The visiting soldiers set an attendance record at Camp Guernsey. Helping the units get through their annual training was a big job for anyone, especially this section’s small staff.

Tracking the large numbers, Sgt. Felicia Staman and Jen Merlino had their hands full with exercises Western Strike, from June 1-22, and Golden Coyote, from June 11-30.

The 142nd Field Artillery Brigade, based in Arkansas – complete with units from two other states – arrived first, followed by four battalions from South Dakota.

On any given day during the training, the average number of personnel on the ground in Guernsey was more than 2,300 troops.

Staman, the packet manager, and Merlino, who assisted her, used a computer program called Range Facility Management Support System, or RFMSS (pronounced riff-mass), to “get the training packets out to logistics, the ranges, and other departments for scheduling” so the units could focus on getting to work. Staman admitted that the packet process is aging, but that Wyoming has gotten good at it.

“The RFMSS, which has been around for a few years, is what we need for customers who are from out of state,” Staman said. “To them, the system is user friendly. They are used to it.”

Just inside training site’s front door, Tabitha ‘Tabby’ Keefer and Linda Dawkins sat at the fires desk. Each works four 10-hour shifts; they overlap on Wednesday with Keefer starting the week on Sunday. Keefer, who has worked five years there says “it’s different, every day.” They are usually the first friendly faces the troops see when they arrive.

“We check in all the units,” Keefer said, as she counted off a litany of tasks that come with the tall order. “We tell them where they can go and can’t go—surface danger zones, areas where troops cannot be while other troops, usually troops on the move, lob ordnance overhead.”

Keefer and Dawkins distribute maps and radios to unit leaders, tools for tracking movement. They also dispatched emergency crews to put out fires usually caused by the sparks from hot weapons systems. Risk factors also included inclement weather and flooding. They keep nearby Platte County Fire Department and Wyoming’s Joint Operations Center apprised of developments, while simultaneously logging each event. “We dispatch for fires, medevacs, and take all incoming calls. All the lost souls call us,” Keefer said.

Aside from a small fire caused by an illumination round, and a few other small smokers, “June has gone very smooth considering the numbers on the ground,” Keefer said.

Despite the seriousness of the job, the pair kept things light. “Working with Tabby. She has more fires. We have a running joke that I put out the memo for no fires on my watch,” Dawkins said.

Dawkins added that the Arkansas brigade has been really good to work with. She appreciated their Southern hospitality and gentle nature. “They’re patient and not so pushy.”