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NEWS | Jan. 19, 2016

Memorandum of Agreement increases training opportunities for 1st MSC

By Maj. Ruth Castro

Army Reserve Soldiers possess unique skills and capabilities that often times are skills that organizations are seeking. The 1st Mission Support Command (MSC) understands that it is sometimes difficult for Soldiers to get real world, hands on training that will help them stay proficient in their skills and prepare them for future deployments.


Mortuary Affairs is one of those units that often times find it challenging to get hands on training with human remains during battle assembly or annual training.  Working with Veteran Affairs, the 1st MSC was able to create a solution that would help mitigate this training obstacle while simultaneously assisting the VA through a memorandum of agreement. The agreement between the 1st MSC and Department of Veteran Affairs was signed on January 14, 2016 by Brig. Gen. Jose R. Burgos, 1st MSC Commanding General and Mr. Dewayne Hamlin, Veteran Affairs Director.


This agreement formulates a training relationship between the 246th Quartermaster Company (Mortuary Affairs) and 311th Quartermaster Company (Mortuary Affairs) with the Veterans Affairs Administration in Puerto Rico.


"This is the first memorandum of agreement (MOA) that we have that provides real-world, hands on training to our mortuary affairs Soldiers," said Burgos. "We are tentatively drafting a MOA with the Centro Medico Forensic Science Department."


The VA morgue is responsible for the proper processing of the deceased according to VA policies and regulations and the 1st MSC has two Reserve Mortuary Affairs (MA) Companies in Puerto Rico with experienced personnel trained in morgues outside of Puerto Rico.  This training relationship will be beneficial to both organizations as it gives the MA Soldiers the opportunity to work with actual human remains while participating in daily morgue operations.


"I believe that allowing our trained Soldiers to assist these organizations will be an excellent opportunity for all parties. Our Soldiers will continue their training in the MA field and provide the needed help that these organizations need," said Burgos.


The memorandum of agreement clearly states the roles and responsibilities of each organization.  All Soldiers working at the VA Morgue will have to comply with all VA training requirements, specific facility rules, policies and applicable instructions.


"This is a great opportunity for my Soldiers to get hands on experience," said Capt. Armando L. Pantoja, Commander of the 246th QM CO (MA). "During our Annual Training we will work in conjunction with the VA at their morgue. Working with human remains will allow us to properly train for any upcoming deployment missions we may have. We do have mannequins that we

train with but it is not the most realistic training."


This memorandum will be reviewed and updated on a yearly basis. Working closely with the VA in this capacity will also strengthen the ties between the 1st MSC, the VA and the community.