GRAFENWÖHR TRAINING AREA, Germany — The first Army Reserve civil affairs unit to deploy to Afghanistan from a location outside the United States completed their mobilization readiness exercise culminating training event here Oct. 27 to Tuesday.
Soldiers from the 7th Civil Support Command’s Company D, 457th Civil Affairs Battalion, 361st CA Brigade, took part in the nearly two-week mobilization readiness exercise that consisted of core civil affairs classes, then Virtual Battle Space 2 simulator training prior to the culminating event.
“I think it’s gone well,” said Spc. Sara Batt, a Co. D team member. “There is a lot of prepping us for what we can expect when we go downrange.”
The 7th CSC Soldiers trained in several areas of civil affairs operations including nation assistance, support to civil administration, transition operations, consequence management, and synchronization of civil military operations.
During the mobilization readiness exercise, Soldiers also had the opportunity to interact with foreign-language speakers, who spoke Urdu, Dari and Pashto, the main native languages of Afghanistan.
Their role was to act as local Afghan villagers in vignette scenarios that simulated the different types of missions, tasks and challenges the company will face during their combat tour. Another important aspect of the training was recognizing and understanding local cultural and religious norms, such as female Soldiers wearing a head scarf when interacting with the local populace.
Vignette scenarios were determined by feedback from the civil affairs unit currently in theater that the unit will replace, said Sgt. Jason Enriquez, 1st Training Brigade, U.S. Army Civil Affairs Psychological Operations Command (Airborne), who mobilized from Fort Dix, N.J., to conduct the training.
“I think it’s great that we have face-to-face (interaction) with real interpreters,” said Sgt. 1st Class Larry Parker, team leader, Co. D, 457th CA Bn. “It will be good lessons learned to pass to the unit who replaces us next year. Civil affairs’ main goal is to work ourselves out of a job.”
Three contractors, one born in Pakistan, the others in Afghanistan, took on the roles of village midwife, local provincial council member, and deputy minister of health, respectively.
“(We are teaching them) to know the basic customs and courtesies in Afghanistan. They need to work on providing solutions not just listening,” said Homa Abass, who played the role of deputy minister. “It’s interesting, entertaining and exhausting. I’m sure they’re (the CA Soldiers) learning some things.”
The scenarios were part of training on evaluating measures of effectiveness and performance, with the underlying theme of transition, according to Staff Sgt. Charlie Brown, 1st Training Brigade, USACAPOC(A).
The mobilization readiness exercise marked a number of firsts for deploying U.S. Army Reserve civil affairs Soldiers.
Unlike other Army Reserve CA units, who mobilize and train at Fort Dix. N.J., prior to deployment, Co. D conducted their pre- and post-mobilization training at their home station, in Grafenwöhr, outside the U.S. Also, the company’s higher headquarters, the 361st CA Bde., stood up as a unit in 2010 as the only civil affairs brigade stationed outside of the U.S.
Co. D’s deployment from a location outside the United States has led to the 1st Training Brigade’s first-ever overseas training mission.
It’s the, “first time we’ve gone overseas to conduct the training,” said Sgt. 1st Class Tim Henshall, mobile training team member, 1st Trng. Bde., USACAPOC(A).
The Blairstown, N.J. native added, “It’s been beyond expectations, (they’re) very enthusiastic about it, best training I’ve seen, specific to civil affairs. They’ve really latched on to it.”