News: Obama’s civilian-surge plan comes to life at Camp Atterbury National Deployment Center may follow success
Story by Spc. John Crosby
CAMP ATTERBURY JOINT MANEUVER TRAINING CENTER, Ind. — As the effects of President Barack Obama’s plan to drawdown troops in Iraq and shift fighting forces to Afghanistan become reality, the military’s need for civilian expertise in theater is becoming more apparent. In addition to the troop surge in Afghanistan, Obama has implemented a civilian surge, supplementing the military with teams of subject matter experts in a variety of fields such as security, agribusiness and logistics from several U.S. government agencies including the Department of Homeland Security, Department of State and the Department of Defense.
These teams hold an array of specialty missions such as theater-wide maintenance of equipment, rebuilding infrastructure and setting up systems for maintaining stability. In order to operate in theater, the teams require a military escort to provide security as well as a DoD crash course to prepare the teams by teaching them the rules in theater, culture and language differences and security risks within their area of operations.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced last December in a speech about the civilian surge that, "We’ve also required all of our civilians to train at Camp Atterbury in Indiana, where our military [reconstruction team] members train, so that we can, from the very beginning, start integrating our civilian-military forces."
The task of preparing these civilians for employment in a combat zone is currently underway at the Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center in the form of several trial programs. The trial programs are geared to shift focus from preparing Soldiers for combat, to creating a mobilization process aimed at civilians, giving them the most comprehensive, relevant and cost-and-time efficient training course possible.
More than 70,000 personnel have been trained for deployment at Camp Atterbury since 2003, making it a prime platform to produce these training programs. Experience gained in conducting these trial courses could eventually lead to Camp Atterbury developing into a National Deployment Center for civilians in addition to a military personnel mobilization hub.
"Not only can we train you, but based on our knowledge and skills from seven years of mobilizing Soldiers, we can push you into the right theater, fully equipped and fully trained to do your mission," said the Deputy Commander of the Camp Atterbury and Muscatatuck Center for Complex Operations, Col. Barry Richmond.
Creating a system aimed at civilian entities presents several challenges, understandably, as the military has set procedures, means of communicating and techniques that differ from each different civilian governmental department. Programs need to be tailored to specific units, their missions and for where the unit is deploying.
The civilian mobilization-training program will have some consistencies with the required training provided to a Soldier as well as some differences. For example, a non-combatant civilian will not require the same classes and field training as a combat Soldier. A civilian does not have the same medical and dental benefits systems, legal preparation or financial pay systems in place for deployment as a Soldier does.
Camp Atterbury officials along with third party contracting agencies such as McKeller Corporation are working together through trial and error to smooth out a format to organize and implement a streamlined system for deploying civilians.
"It’s learning all of these differences and putting it in the right sequence so that it runs as smoothly as our military deployment process does," said CAMCCO Project Officer Lt. Col. Bill Welcher, adding that they can prepare Soldiers for deployment in no time. "Basically, we are trying to put a process together that will allow us to do the same thing for a civilian. It has been quite a learning experience."
Essentially, the trainers are, in turn, being trained by the hands-on experience in working with each of the trial mobilizations of deploying civilian units.
One such unit, mechanics with the Army Material Command, completed training at Camp Atterbury last week and deployed to Iraq last Friday. The unit, comprised of DoD civilians from Army Depots in Tobyhana, Pa., Red River, Texas, and Anniston, Ala., will cover down on a brigade combat team in Iraq and work as a maintenance section.
"I’ve never seen a better place that is more willing to take and tailor things and change for somebody else," said Army Material Command Operations Officer, DoD Civilian James Deloach. "My first impression of the military was the attitude that they already had a system in place and weren’t willing to make any changes. You know, that attitude of ‘This is our process, this is how we do it here in the military, this is how things are going to stay.’
Deloach said the difference in his perception of the military and the relationship with his new military partners were like day and night.
"I am so totally pleased with the [Camp Atterbury staff]. Their mindset was, ‘What do we need to do, let’s figure this out, let’s make it work.’ That has been their attitude since day one."
The measure of the success of these programs will determine the future of Camp Atterbury and its development into a National Deployment Center. Current programs in place may produce as many as 17,000 civilians next year according to Deloach.
CAMCCO looks forward to the future, working to evolve a formula for deployment excellence so that it may have a hand in molding tomorrow on today’s battlefield.
"We are trying to create a training environment that has the benefit of a military partner, without being dumped into the military training machine," said Richmond. "We are creating a neutral environment where civilian personnel can come and feel comfortable about training."
This work, Obama’s civilian-surge plan comes to life at Camp Atterbury National Deployment Center may follow success, by John Crosby, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.