When the two-person civil affairs team entered the courthouse to conduct their meeting with a local leader and provincial judge, they were instead confronted by a less-than-friendly group from the local populace. Most of the group wore their everyday work clothes, but there was one local dressed in the manner resembling a position of authority. She introduced herself as the provisional governess for the village.
The team announced that they were from the U.S. Embassy, and had scheduled this meeting to discuss problems in their region and especially in their community.
Immediately the group of citizens started shouting at the team, in what sounded like a mix of English and their native tongue, demanding action and assistance to solve their individual concerns.
This was a realistic-training scenario conducted in rural Camden N.C. by civil affairs teams based out of Fort Bragg. This incident could occur at any given moment, while deployed to any of the 26 countries where civil affairs teams operate in.
The teams train for more than six months to prepare and exercise knowledge and skill sets applied to support their varied mission when dealing with the local populace from countries they support and operate out of.
They will use their special skills to assist the U.S. Embassy staff to find ways to provide avenues of stability to the local populace of the country they will work with.
“This remote training exercise is the Super Bowl for these teams,” said Sgt. Maj. William M. Snyder II, 97th Civil Affairs Battalion operations NCO. “For six weeks, the teams have prepared for this exercise to finalize their training and now they get to use their skills in as close to real situations as we can provide them.”
The main challenge in setting up realistic training exercises is finding locations that closely resemble a region’s vulnerabilities, climate and social environment.
When deployed, the civil affairs teams are a direct conduit to the embassy and other government agencies that are structured to address the concerns of the populace. They are trained to listen, identify problem areas and forward the information to agencies that can provide assistance.
These exercises use role players to inject realistic situations to the civil affairs teams. The training in Camden, had role players who added a new twist. They were individuals selected for their language skill sets; having dialects of Khmer and Nepalese. This greatly enhanced the level of realism to the training.
“I was able to demonstrate my role as an embassy ambassador,” said Michael Renshaw, Camden County manager. “ I was able to calm down the confrontational situation by offering support to the populace, who themselves were role players, and allowing the civil affairs team to address the main concerns of the group. It was rewarding for me, but in the same way, afforded me the opportunity to be in the training situation with the team,” he said.
“I took the role of the provincial governess,” said Courtney S. Hull, an attorney at law from Elizabeth City, N.C. “I was the spokesperson, but when the other role players started shouting and making demands, for awhile it was disconcerting, but then I realized my role was part of the training. It was actually fun,” she said.
“This training, and the interactive nature of language, realism and real situations, is an invaluable venue to train our teams,” said Lt Col. Tom Matelski, commander, 97th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne). “It allows our Soldiers to hone their skills, but also allows us to support local communities in North Carolina.
In exchange for their time, the role players and local officials benefited by contributing to the defense of the nation.”
The training the teams receive is designed to enable them to more effectively build relationships with the people in the locations where deployed. The teams identify the types of problems that make a populace vulnerable, either physically or emotionally.
“We are continuing the focus from the previous secretary of defense through the support of the communities defense initiatives, “ said Matelski. “This initiative is focused on developing strong relationships with local communities (beyond local bases, stations and posts) that allowed the military to interact with the civilian community and maintain strong, patriotic support for the military. “
The 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne) and regional battalions, 91st, 92nd, 96th, 97th and 98th, organizes, trains, equips and deploys forces worldwide to conduct civil affairs operations.
For more information about the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade go to Civil Affairs Recruiting at http://www.bragg.army.mil/sorb/CA.htm.