News: Mission calls Soldiers to Horn of Africa
Story by Wayne Cook
ASA-Dix Public Affairs
FORT DIX, N.J. - When community building is the mission, United States Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command relies on Army Support Activity-Dix to provide the real estate and resources to train its Reserve personnel.
Soldiers from Charlie Company of the 418th Civil Affairs Battalion were put through the paces by trainers on Range 86 Feb. 19. Training specialists from the 1st Training Brigade, USACAPOC used civilian-on-the-battlefield role players to run scenarios that tested the diplomacy skills of the Soldiers from Belton, Mo.
Master Sgt. Duane Ross, a resident of Atlanta and the operations and training noncommissioned officer-in-charge of 1st Training Brigade, USACAPOC said civil affairs Soldiers normally participate in two areas of operation. They are economic growth, and political strengthening.
The Soldiers help to build on the local economy by identifying services in the area that need maintenance or reconstruction and by teaching sound trade and industry principles through markets, business and agriculture. The second area is the mentoring, coordinating and mediating with local and regional political leaders to strengthen the governing establishment.
Sgt. Julie Vosilus, 418th Civil Affairs specialist, who is a Food and Drug Administration investigator from Lansing, Kan., in her civilian life, said the lane engagements were very applicable to the mission the company will face in Africa.
"The role players were really involved and authentic. Our main mission will be counter-insurgency, but we will focus on meeting the locals and helping them to support their needs," she said.
"We are headed into a new environment on the Horn of Africa. The mission is more civil affairs focused and I am looking forward to getting into theater. We have a lot of exciting missions we will be going on. We've reached that point where the training has been great but we're ready to get on with the mission," said Vosilus.
Civil affairs Soldiers engage in many different projects in their missions overseas. Building relationships with the local populace and village leaders is priority number one, as trust between the military and the residents is paramount.
Helping to build or reconstruct infrastructure like roadways, wells, power supply centers, hospitals, schools and other projects keeps the Soldiers more than busy. Also, providing a source of information and assistance in medical needs, education and agriculture are a few more avenues in which they can assist the locals.
One particular exercise the 418th participated in had a civil affairs team negotiate with a village elder, played by a COB role player, over the purchase of a parcel of land for the construction of a medical facility.
The Soldiers displayed their diplomatic skills as they were able to reach a deal on the property while assuring the villagers that the facility would be available to meet everyone's needs.
"The Soldiers in the 418th are really pretty good at what they do. We try to enhance their abilities by training them by sharing our [the trainer's] experiences from our tours of duty in Africa. We want them to make their mistakes here during training so they won't make them on their missions," said Staff Sgt. Rob Overmeyer, a resident of Broken Arrow, Okla., with 1st Training Bde., USACAPOC.
According to Staff Sgt. Ralph Souders from Grapevine, Texas, the training for him and his fellow Soldiers in Charlie Company has gone as smooth as silk from home station all the way through ASA-Dix.
"What we are going through is similar to what I experienced my first go around four years ago when I was over there. We didn't have a lot of hostilities to deal with and we're hoping it's more of the same this time around," Souder said.