News: 432nd Civil Affairs Battalion prepares for deployment to Afghanistan
Story by Staff Sgt. Amanda Smolinski
GREEN BAY, Wis. – The 432nd Civil Affairs Battalion soldiers are walking tall and proud as they begin their preparation for their nine-month deployment to Afghanistan where they will face a country under security and stability turmoil. This is the Battalion’s third deployment since 2003, but the first to support Operation Enduring Freedom. The Battalion completed two-weeks of training at the Army Reserve Center in Green Bay, Wis. before participating in a departure ceremony at the Kress Center March 5. Inside those two weeks, approximately 100 soldiers participated in training events such as a Combat Life Saver course, weapons training, and language training.
Sfc. Lance Steidl, the NCOIC for a Provincial Reconstruction Team, realizes the importance of acquiring certain skill sets for the mission. Steidl will be going on his third deployment and believes that “the training we receive at the mobilization site is good information, but it is also generic and can be applied to a soldier deploying anywhere in the world,” said Steidl. “Here at the Army Reserve Center, we focus on mission specific training that compliments what we receive at the mobilization site.”
Each soldier must be Combat Life Saver certified prior to deploying. The purpose of this additional duty is so that every soldier can provide basic first aid until the next echelon of care is available.
“The goal of this class was not only to teach our soldiers step by step procedures, but to help them understand why they would conduct the procedure,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew Smolinski, a medic in the Battalion. “We don’t expect every Soldier to understand complex medical procedures or terms, but our way of teaching has proven to be effective based on the feedback and performance we see – they understand it.”
Spc. Andrew Weinke from Green Bay, Wis., feels quite confident in his CLS skills. “Although this is my first time deploying, I have received this training before,” said Weinke, the Civil Military Operations Cell NCO for his PRT. “The training reinforces what I already know; it will allow for automatic responses [during a stressful event].“
Soldiers of the 432nd CA BN also conducted weapons training at the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay, Wis. NWTC has been partnering with the 432nd CA BN for the past three years by allowing them to train in their high quality facilities. It has been a prime location to also conduct mission specific training prior to deploying to a mobilization site.
Erik Walters, NWTC’s Range Technician explains that the campus is a non-profit organization with a sole purpose to provide education. “The more people we can assist in learning, we are meeting our goals,” said Walters.
The training opportunity that NWTC allows for even the most experienced soldiers is always beneficial. For veteran soldiers like Sgt. Corey Evenson from Manitowoc, Wis. who will be deploying for the third time, conducting weapons training at the facility reinforces basic weapon fundamentals and muscle memory. The training also allows him to connect with his team. “This training gives me the opportunity to see the strengths and weaknesses of soldiers on my team- where we can adjust and make changes.”
Although a deployment to a combat zone is “no stranger to” more than half of the Battalion, Lt. Col Thomas LaChance, who served as the Battalion Executive Officer, states, “One of the Battalion companies worked for the Baghdad PRT during our 2007-2008 deployment to Iraq, but this PRT mission in Afghanistan is different.” Lachance explains that this mission is unique in that instead of deploying as a traditional Battalion structured element, they will be assigned to twelve small PRTs throughout the eastern region of Afghanistan. Lachance will serve as a PRT commander during the mobilization.
PRTs were established in Afghanistan in 2002. PRTs are operated by a team of civilian representatives such as the U.S. Agency for International Development, Department of State and military leadership with a common goal to improve security, extend the reach of the Afghan government, and facilitate reconstruction in priority provinces.
Once the two-week training concluded, the University of Wisconsin Green Bay’s Kress Events Center hosted a departure ceremony for the 432nd CA BN. Speakers at the ceremony included U.S. Congressman Reid Ribble, representative of Wisconsin’s eighth Congressional District, Mayor of Green Bay James Schmitt, 432nd CA BN commander Lt. Col William Vaughn, and a local radio broadcaster who served as the Master of Ceremonies.
Several hundred family, friends, and community members drove to Green Bay to say goodbye to their soldier. The 432nd CA BN’s Family Readiness Group hosted a social event at the Army Reserve Center prior to the departure ceremony for families and friends to pick up a yellow ribbon and meet other families. The families wrote messages to their soldiers on the yellow ribbons which were tied to the fence outside of the Army Reserve Center representing their deployed soldier.
“My family lives two and a half hours away so they do not know the other soldier’s family members,” said Spc. Matthew Wissell, a Battalion medic and a PRT NCO. “I think a pre-deployment [FRG social] is a good opportunity because there are families who have been on one, two, or three deployments and understand communication issues and where to go for information…they can talk to other family members and learn from them.”
The 432nd CA BN will report to Camp Atterbury, Ind., to conduct mobilization training prior to deploying to Afghanistan this summer. Once the Battalion arrives in theater, “it is likely that the soldiers of this unit will not see each other until the end of the deployment; when we hope to have a happy reunion between all of us,” said Lachance.