PHOENIX, Ariz. – Every mobilization for soldiers of the U.S. Army Reserve is bound to have a few surprises from discovering your squad mate of the past three years snores loud enough to wake everyone or the soldier from the back rank is actually a talented guitarist.
The mobilization for Bravo Company of the 492nd Civil Affairs Battalion, 351st Civil Affairs Command, a U.S. Army Reserve unit, based in Phoenix is no different, only briefly into their mobilization as they prepare to deploy to Afghanistan, they have faced some genuine surprises.
Bravo Company’s original company commander, Capt. Gregory Larson, suffered a broken back from an auto accident in late July. Larson is recovering well, but the injury prevented him deploying with unit. The abrupt change of leadership has created challenges that have allowed the non-commissioned officers of the unit to assume a prominent leadership role through their mobilization training.
The change in leadership during this early phase of the company’s mobilization training has demanded that the non-commissioned officers like acting first sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Kevin H. Cook and Staff Sgt. Dorothy J. Booth ensure their soldiers are trained to same standard, while a new commander can be found.
As a civilian, Booth, a resident of Surprise, Ariz., is a fire inspector for the city of Phoenix. She is in charge of a program that inspects recycling yards, junk yards, pallet yards, “anything that burns big and ugly in the city of Phoenix. We’re trying to make sure they’re in compliance with the [fire] code,” said Booth.
The Avondale, Ariz., resident, Cook is also the training non-commissioned officer for the 492nd CA Bn., 351st Civil Affairs Command, in addition to his first sergeant duties with Bravo Company. Both non-commissioned officers are used to planning and taking charge.
Civil Affairs has a very unique role in modern combat. These specialized units go into the civilian populace of war or disaster-torn areas, identify and assess the needs of the populace. This is in an effort to build goodwill and confidence of the local civilian populace. Bravo Company is one of these unique units.
In its current state, Bravo Company was only brought together in August and it has been surprising how fast the soldiers have turned it into a cohesive unit.
“Everybody’s really bonded,” said Cook.
The unit is early in their mobilization and is currently in a phase where they train at home station, close to their family, in Phoenix. After the home station training the unit will then go to the Region Training Center at Fort McCoy, Wis. The final phase of their training before their expected yearlong deployment to Afghanistan will be at Joint Base McGuire-Dix, N.J.
Cook is taking the deployment in stride. He identified his biggest challenge so far as, trying to figure out how to tell his two daughters that he will be leaving for a year on this deployment.
“We were given a pretty good checklist of the warrior tasks and METL [mission essential training task list] tasks for civil affairs,” said Booth, “we’ve actually had a lot of CA [Civil Affairs] training.”
Booth said that she is confident that the training will prepare her and her soldiers well to do their jobs while deployed.
“The best advice I could give is to talk to people, because I never deployed, talk to the people that have deployed,” said Cook. “Learn from what they have done.”