News: Senior Defense Personnel Join the Effort in Afghanistan
Story by Staff Sgt. David Bruce
BUTLERVILLE, Ind. — Combined, the Department of Defense and the service branches have over 700,000 civilian employees that attend to the infrastructure that maintains the U.S. military. While much of the NATO mission has been to train Afghan security forces, a new program has been developed to help build the infrastructure of host nations security ministries by tapping this pool of experienced employees.
Senior Department of Defense civilian employees recently concluded training at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, Ind., in preparation for deployment to Afghanistan later this year as part of the Ministry of Defense Advisor program.
The program is a seven-week course designed to give these volunteers the tools necessary to help the Afghan Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior build their capacity to sustain a professional and accountable security apparatus, said Kelly Uribe, director of the Ministry of Defense Advisors program.
“The program is designed to take DOD civilians and partner them with their counterparts at foreign ministries of defense,” said Uribe.
The advisors receive seven weeks of pre-deployment training. The first five weeks of training are in Washington D.C. and cover academic subjects such as language and cultural training.
The students then come to Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center and Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Indiana for the final two weeks. At Camp Atterbury they are issued individual equipment such as sleeping bags, water systems, clothing and boots. They also go through all the same processes that deploying soldiers must endure; medical and dental screenings, legal briefings, finance paperwork. They also receive weapons familiarization with a sidearm.
At Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, they get additional language training in Dari, situational awareness briefings, and they learn how to work with a personnel security detail. The final capstone is a series of training exercises that simulate meetings with various Afghans portraying defense and interior ministers.
“From my perspective, the training they get here at Muscatatuck during these two weeks is vital because they put together all the skills that they have learned, take all that knowledge and apply it and to practice and to work with the Afghan people. It’s really invaluable,” said Uribe. “The facilities at Muscatatuck are really world-class and in many ways truly simulate the environment the advisors are going to experience on the ground.”
This is the second class of advisors and will deploy to Afghanistan in March. Further deployments will occur on a cyclical basis, until the target of 102 advisors have been deployed to assist with the NATO training mission.
Like the U.S. military, these advisors are volunteers for this program, said Uribe. They also share the same commitment to the country as their uniformed counterparts. “The civilians are vital to the security transition that will happen in Afghanistan. The civilians bring a special component to the mission that the military and contractors can’t bring. These are experts.”
Each of these advisors will bring years of experience to help the Afghan ministries establish their long-term capability and accountability.
The program was established in 2010 by the directive of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, said Frank DiGiovanni, director of training, readiness and strategy for the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
“The goal is to look at long-term capacity building for the security ministries,” said DiGiovanni. “Their job is to help their partner in Afghanistan be able to be self-sufficient in the long run, so as we transition our active involvement to one where the Afghans are standing on their own, they are pretty much able to do that,” he said.
According to DiGiovanni, the advisors are seen as an invaluable asset by the commanders in Afghanistan by bringing these new capabilities to the U.S. mission there.
According to MODA student Erik Leklem, senior advisor for strategy and policy for the Afghan Ministry of Defense, establishing civilian control of the military is one of the foundations of democracy.
“What we’ve tried to work on with the Afghan people is to make sure that, in their government structure, its representative of the people; one of the foundation stones of democracy is to have civilian control of the military. That’s really what a big part of the ministerial mission is about, establishing a civilian control and oversight over the military for the Afghan people”