News: Three countries, One mission: Civil Affairs
Story by Capt. Saska Ball
FORT PICKETT, Va. — U.S. Army Reserve soldiers from two civil affairs units, the 401st and 422nd Civil Affairs Battalions, got the opportunity to train with members of the Canadian Army Reserve and the Royal Marines Reserve commandos during a training event held here at Fort Pickett, Va., March 4-8, 2013.
The training event, Exercise Southern Raider 13, is a scenario-based operation conducted in an enhanced training environment created using the most current operational doctrine executed by the United Nations and coalition forces.
Ex SR 13 marks the fifth time units from the 37 Canadian Brigade Group have participated in the event and the first for the Royal Marines British Commandos. United States Army Civil Affairs & Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) civil affairs units have always provided support but this year was a first for these two specific units.
“We are taking one of our tactical companies, Bravo Company, and using them to directly support the 37 CBG and their mission,” said Lt. Col. Rob Cooley, Commander of the 422, based in Greensboro, N.C. “We’ve been working with them over the past year to develop the scenarios and exercise.”
The role of the 401, located in Webster N.Y., is to provide Observer/Controller Trainers for the exercise. Ex SR 13 serves as the culmination training event for 2012/2013 training year for the 37 CBG, evaluating them on their essential battle task standards for offensive operations in an urban environment, as well as evaluating the 422, on their mission essential task lists during their annual training.
Unlike the Canadian and U.S. troops attending the event for validation purposes, the three Marines — two sergeants and one major — from the Royal Marines Reserve commandos have a different reason for being a part of this joint coalition exercise.
“We’re here to learn from the Canadians and Americans because our Civil Affairs is a fairly new organization,” said Sgt. Mark Conway, with the Royal Marines Reserves London. “We’ve come on to see how they run their operations, their Civil Military Operations Center, and how they get on the ground and do their job.”
During the daily operations Conway, along with CA teams from 422 are attached to an infantry unit. Their role is to serve as the cultural experts in a given area to mitigate civil interference while an operation is conducted in a populated area.
“Our specific mission today was that we were attached to an infantry group. We were to follow them in and play a supporting role to help them deal with all the civilians in the village so they could just move through, focusing on their mission,” said Spc. Flint German, civil affairs specialist with B/422 CA Bn., “And also to advise them on certain white target lists, like churches, schools, stuff like that, to stay away from certain things in the village to minimize collateral damage.”
Civil Affairs soldiers are the field commander’s link to the civil authorities in his area of operation, often specializing in public administration, health and welfare, public safety, and economics. They coordinate with a nation’s people and local authorities to identify and fix an area’s needs during war or natural disaster. The coordination the civil affairs teams do relieves the combatant commander of having to adjust his focus to non-kinetic objectives.
Acronyms and nomenclature may be different since there are representatives from three different countries involved in executing civil affairs activities yet there is very little difference in terms of gear, capabilities, organization, tactics, techniques and procedures. A common language is being spoken and understood by all for mission success.
“Two years ago I would have never believed we were at this point,” said Canadian Warrant Officer Les Webber, an influence activity OC/T with the Land Forces Atlantic Area. “This exercise shows how three countries with very little notice can come together and fulfill the functions. If we had to go overseas in a multi-national combined unit, that everything we do is almost parallel to transition, whether we had a British lead, an American lead, or a Canadian lead, it doesn’t matter. Everyone falls in, no egos are hurt.”