“Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the graduates of Civil Affairs class 003-16 and the newest members of the Civil Affairs Family,” said the Master of Ceremony.
And with that announcement, a room of cadre, Soldiers, Family members and loved ones erupted in cheers.
“Today marks the final event for these men and women sitting up front. The culmination of nearly two years of work. Men and women who pushed themselves physically and mentally to achieve the very high standards for this course,” said Lt. Col John M. R. Wilcox, Commander, 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group (Airborne).
Seventy-five officers and noncommissioned officers gathered together July 28 to celebrate the completion of 43 weeks of training.
“I found it (the Course) to be academically challenging. It is definitely rigorous. It’s definitely not for just ‘Joe’ on the street who wants to change his job. It’s not something to be taken lightly,” one Civil Affairs graduate explained.
“I was not finding fulfillment in being an 11-Bravo and I knew that I could contribute more to national security and defense and I wanted to do something more meaningful with my service,” he continued.
The Civil Affairs Qualification Course involves language, regional training, Civil Affairs branch training and concludes in Operation Sluss-Tiller, a three week field exercise which demands use of all of the skills Soldiers have learned during the CAQC.
“We are the sole force in the United States Army that concentrates on the population. As wars become more population-centric and the insurgents have retreated to population centers as a means of masking their movements and their activities, having a force like Civil Affairs is absolutely critical to informing the commanders, letting them know the nature of those insurgencies,” explained Wilcox.
“(Civil Affairs Soldiers are) currently deployed to 56 countries around the world … quite literally the sun never sets on the Civil Affairs regiment,” he said.
The guest speaker, Col. Jason C. Slider, commander, 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne) took a moment during his commencement speech to pay homage to the Families in attendance.
“Our Families not only provide us with support, love and motivation, but they too have made a voluntary commitment to confidently and quietly support us and our nation in the security of the American people,” explained Slider.
The spouse of one of the new graduates described the impact of this career choice on her husband.
“I think it will make him happier because he will be out of the place he was. He will, hopefully, if everything goes well at Special Operations Combat Medic course, he will be doing medical stuff, which he loves, so it will make him an all-around happier person,” she explained.
Another graduate described telling his wife that he was making the change from piloting now retired Kiowa helicopters to a career in Civil Affairs.
“I told her that this was what I wanted to do … I think she was overall happy with it because she knew it was something I was pretty passionate about.”
Support from and contributions made by Families are honored and valued according to Wilcox.
“Without the support of our Family members … it’s absolutely impossible for us to do our job effectively downrange, so we need to recognize our Families as part of this team and recognize their contribution to the fight as well because often those go unnoticed,” he said.
Graduates are now full-fledged members of the Special Operations Community. Some will report directly to their new units and some will continue to train to fill specific and integral roles within the regiment in the future.