News: US, Egyptian military leaders discuss military support to civilian authorities
Story by Staff Sgt. Jacob Boyer
FORT MEADE, Md. - U.S. and Egyptian civil affairs and military information support operations leaders shared ideas and best practices during an information exchange June 2-9 at Fort Meade, Md.
The 2012 Egypt-United States Military Information Exchange, hosted by the 352nd Civil Affairs Command (Airborne), 3rd Army/Army Central Command and the 2nd Psychological Operations Group, focused on support to civil authorities and disaster response. Five members of the Egyptian military, led by Egyptian Navy Commodore Alaa Eldin Mokhtar Abouzeid, Egypt’s deputy chief of civil affairs and psychological operations, attended.
The theater security cooperation effort was an opportunity to strengthen the ties between the two militaries, said Brig. Gen. Burley, commander of the 352nd CACOM. TSC is an important mission for the CACOM, which is regionally aligned with the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, he said.
“It’s absolutely vital,” he said. “As we complete an era of persistent conflict with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and fighting al-Qaida across four continents, we need to make sure that on the other side of this that we reinforce our relationships with our allies. This week’s information exchange is a key part of that strategy.”
The week was characterized by briefings on a wide range of topics that evolved into discussions between those involved, said Lt. Col. Bert Robbins, an operations officer with USARCENT Civil-Military Operations.
“It’s been a very open discussion,” he said. “That was our intent. It’s been very clear from the beginning that it really wasn’t a class. There are presentations with the intent of generating discussions. We want to know how they do it. They want to know how we do it.”
Both militaries brought lessons for each other to those discussions. Burley, who has a background in MISO, said he was surprised by the level at which Egypt’s MISO component operates.
“The level of sophistication of Egyptian military information support operations surprised everyone,” he said. “Their understanding is extremely sophisticated. The questions they asked showed the breadth of their knowledge and intelligence.”
Robbins pointed to a discussion of civil-military operations centers as an example of the discussions that were generated.
“We just had a briefing on CMOCs: how we bring the military and civilian components together to answer a humanitarian need,” he said. “We had probably 20 minutes of discussion after the presentation. The Egyptians were comfortable enough to open up and they were able and willing to discuss their perspectives.”
In addition to a variety of CA and MISO topics, the Egyptian delegation traveled to the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Army Research Institute to discuss civil support with the agencies that would direct those missions. Abouzeid said his delegation got important information from those briefings.
“I believe those types of organizations are supporting elements for CA and psychological operations people,” he said. “It’s important to know how they work, who they work for and what they need when they connect to the military. How are we going to coordinate our work in the future? Are there opportunities for us to help them or them to help us in our work? They are the most famous organizations in the U.S. concerning crisis management and dealing with whatever conflicts there are. This is important to us.”
Both the 352nd CACOM and the 2nd POG are U.S. Army Reserve units. Abouzeid said that while Egypt handles its reserve elements differently from the U.S., he saw value to the way the Army Reserve does business.
“I see two things,” he said. “You keep your civilian jobs. This is a good thing. You also give soldiers time to take care of things with their families. We don’t have that kind of thing in Egypt. The reserve is full time. The only difference is the amount of time they serve in the military. Egyptian reservists work every day. I believe the reserve system in the U.S. is very good.”
Burley said the reservists who attended the event impressed his Egyptian counterparts.
“I think one of the things that may have surprised them a little was the knowledge and sophistication of our reserve soldiers. Their civilian expertise often comes into play in demonstrating their military skills. A great example was some of our MISO soldiers who bring marketing and sales skills to use in psychological operations or MISO.”
Burley said that beyond the information that was shared between the two militaries, his goal for the week was to foster relationships between them.
“My primary goal was to build interpersonal relationships between our staff, myself and our Egyptian counterparts,” he said. “More important than anything you could teach or talk about is the ability to understand each other and know there is someone in your counterpart nation that you can reach out to if you have a question or an issue or need some assistance. I think we were superbly successful in that.”
With a military relationship that goes back more than 30 years, events like this help keep the bonds tight, Burley said.
“One of the things I learned from them is the interest of the Egyptian military in an even stronger regional partnership,” he said. “We’ve had a long relationship over the past 30 years of cooperation between them and us, but they are interested in even stronger ties now in a time when the Middle East is still trying to decide what the future will look like.”