CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait – Senior leadership from the 352nd Civil Affairs Command visited Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, to meet with deployed personnel and top U.S. Army Central leadership March 13.
Brig. Gen. Alan L. Stolte, commanding general of the 352nd CACOM, and Command Sgt. Maj. Earl Rocca, 352nd CACOM Command sergeant major, spoke with soldiers from Detachments 53 and 57, to get a firsthand report on their mission status. Additionally, it was also a priority for Stolte to meet with USARCENT leadership here, after a previous visit to Shaw Air Force Base, S.C.
“We’re really trying to shape the way that 352nd CACOM engages with USARCENT and how we are supporting [USARCENT commanding general, Gen. James Terry]; in particular, with his theater security cooperation efforts, which are very important. We can bring value added with those lines efforts,” said Stolte.
Civil affairs soldiers are typically engaged in helping with national or regional emergencies, supporting reconstitution or reconstruction activities and fostering dialogue between civilian aid and relief agencies and the local populace. Largely non-kinetic, Rocca said they are force multipliers.
“Civil affairs is about building relationships. The more relationships you have with people, the more of a positive image you can create. We are over here to improve, maintain and develop American relations with the people in this region,” said Rocca. “We go out there, make contact with people, develop relationships with individuals and try to make sure that they have the best view of Americans and the U.S. Army.”
It is this type of support that Stolte sees lining up to the mission goals of USARCENT.
“We’re here to help champion civil military operations for the USARCENT commander and his shaping operations in the [area of responsibility]. We’re absolutely critical to that because we bring value added to his security cooperation program, and we can do things to help him achieve his goals and agendas,” said Stolte.
Another benefit to the visit, for the leadership and deployed personnel, was discussing the challenges and successes of the mission here.
“It’s good for senior leadership to visit because there is often a disconnect [between us and them] because of distance and even conversation with the use of technology, is not the same as getting feedback face-to-face,” said Master Sgt. Joshua Bacon, 57th Detachment noncommissioned officer in charge. “It’s important for them to come over here and engage us face-to-face to get an idea of what’s going on here on the ground.”
Bacon and the other soldiers in his unit were originally slated to deploy to Afghanistan to operate as a civil affairs planning team in Regional Command-South; however, once they arrived at their premobilization site, they were informed that their mission would change. As a five-person team, they have worked to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Army in their own civil affairs training program and with integrating non-lethal options into their battle plans.
“We have a very talented team, with a lot of experience. Our commander has done multiple tours and our two majors have five tours between them. Even though we have been given a different mission, we have grabbed hold of it and taken ownership of it and done pretty good things,” said Bacon.
The senior leadership was also impressed by the accomplishments and fluidity of the soldiers – although, they said that they expect as much from a civil affairs-trained group of soldiers.
“[Civil affairs] soldiers are a lot more adaptable to different types of missions, and that’s why I think they are uniquely skilled in being able to turn on a moment’s notice from one mission to another one,” said Rocca. “We’re all very attuned to culture. Be it Army culture, Kuwaiti culture, Afghani culture. We realize from the very beginning of training as a civil affairs soldier, changes in culture, from one type to another, can be very, very subtle or it can be very, very distinct. Being able to bridge gap and navigate that area and find niche and appeal to that person you are talking to or that group of people you are talking to – it makes you very, very flexible.”
“To come over and see the kind of job these soldiers are doing, it’s personally and professionally very gratifying,” Rocca said.
The 352nd CACOM leadership will take the lessons learned from this visit and apply it to the training current units are receiving. They said it was their expectation that they will maintain the high level of skill and expertise when supporting USARCENT going forward.