News: Civil affairs unit strives for greater impact in Delta region
Story by Sgt. Erick Yates
BLYTHEVILLE, Ark. - A Little Rock, Ark., Army civil affairs battalion goes beyond its city limits to have a substantial reach and impact in surrounding Mississippi Delta communities. Through Innovative Readiness Training, this particular civil affairs unit helped bring free limited medical services to underserved communities in the Delta region in July and August.
Starting with the Mississippi Medical Project which started in July, the 431st Civil Affairs Battalion assisted in being the driving force of this mission with the 4224th U.S. Army Hospital. Lt. Col. David Meyer, battalion commander of the 431st, did some negotiations with the 4224th before the project kicked off by explaining what his unit could provide in support of this mission.
“I linked up with the 4224th to meet and explain to them how civil affairs could be value added to the mission,” said Meyer. As a medical unit, the 4224th should be able to focus on the medical support they are trying to provide, while the civil affairs aspect fills in that gap between the military, civilian government and civilian populace in order to enhance the mission, Meyer said.
“We were very much in tune for setting the medical personnel up for success,” said Meyer, as he described the detailing logistics his civil affairs teams performed for preparation of the MMP.
Charlie and Delta companies of the 431st, located in Millington, Tenn., played strategic roles in the planning stages of the MMP by helping to host planning conferences so the medical personnel could have a base to work from as they began to organize the mission, Meyer said.
The other active role the 431st provided to the medical personnel was the establishing of meetings with key civic leaders for the purpose of helping the medical teams achieve a strong setup once the MMP began.
Capt. Christian Martinez, of the 7214th Medical Support Unit, was the officer in charge of operations at the Hayti, Mo., medical site during the August four state mission. He gave a rundown of the operations while his team was in Hayti. “Pretty much I helped reach out to the community for resources that could be donated to the site and used for the dentistry, medical and wellness services,” said Martinez. The Army provided resources, but additional resources were still needed in order to make the operation function in a strong capacity, Martinez said.
Providing medical services at the clinic was a core part of the mission, but there was also another. Working with 431st was also essential to ensure success of the mission, Martinez said. The civil affairs team assisted in bringing back additional resources to the clinic and also brought back necessary information about the community and residents in order to help the clinic perform and serve better, he said.
As the days wound down toward the last mission you could get a sense of the hard work, effort and camaraderie that went into pulling this event together. Together the two missions offered civil affairs training that proved to be a just payoff, but the other benefit the civil affairs Soldiers received from this mission was the opportunity to take their skill set and help reach into the participating communities by giving back to those who are underserved.
“What gets the Soldiers excited about the job that they do is helping people,” said Meyer. Being able to play a role in helping to assist with the limited medical services provided to these communities is a big aspect he said.
“This works great for us,” said Major Richard Snodgrass, company commander for Alpha Company. This is training that you just can’t replicate he said.
“Everyone here has looked at this as a huge blessing,” said Pfc. Rebekah Munday, a civil affairs Soldier with the 431st, whose team was tasked to work in Hayti, Mo.
“Being able to do this felt great”, said Elanora Booth, a senior citizen and Hayti resident. You don’t have to worry about saving money to get glasses by participating in this, Booth said, who came to the clinic for an eye exam. When asked if she was worried about waiting long, booth said, she was not worried.
It goes without saying that the impact for providing these services to hard hit economic communities is significant. The 431st tracked the progress of the services by comprising an impact report that showed the data for the services completed during the August four state mission. The total impact savings in dollars for services provided revealed at the end of the mission a final total that broke the million dollar mark.
With this type of impact, Myer is hoping to continue building a relationship with the Delta Regional Authority, the main organization that supports the IRT missions in the area with the goal of promoting economic development.
With the completion of these missions, this civil affairs unit plans to do more than just focus on the goal of bridging the military civilian gap for upcoming IRT missions.
The hope is to continue to improve and learn from the training now that it is known their unit is becoming a relied upon asset for IRT missions in the area, said Meyer.
“We were even contacted by the IRT manager for the United States Army Reserve Command about participating in a mission later this year,” Meyer said.
As the August mission came to an end, it became clear that the impact for this mission was more than just civil affairs training. It seemed to teach that creating a local impact can be just as powerful a tool as a global one.
This operation provided a chance for Soldiers to take the skills they learned and give back to some of their hometown people, said Snodgrass.