GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — Soldiers from the 361st Civil Affairs Brigade, along with Bravo Company, 457th Civil Affairs Battalion, based out of Kaiserslautern, took part in the first full spectrum training exercise in nearly a decade in October at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany.
Operation Bayonet Resolve brought together more than 3,500 U.S., Slovenian and Polish army soldiers, all focused on a mix of offense, defense and stability operations similar to the high intensity conflict training exercises prior to the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
The focal point of full spectrum operations was a challenge for both for the 361st CA Bde. and the supporting 457th CA Battalion.
For the maneuver forces it was a chance to practice basic infantry combat skills along with forced entry airborne operations, which included parachuting into a conflict area and securing objectives. For the civil affairs Soldiers, the challenge was to engage the population, local government officials, International Organizations and Non-Governmental Organizations to ensure successful stability operations could be conducted by leveraging wide-ranging assets, ensuring economy of force.
Among many exercise scenarios, Bravo Co. was selected for a particularly challenging mission of capturing and disarming a 12-man enemy special forces team that had immersed itself within the local populace.
After studying the problem, Bravo Soldiers consulted with local officials, capturing each man one by one, until all 12 men were in custody within 24 hours of reaching their initial objective, with no injuries or fatalities.
In addition, the company established a civil-military operations center in the town, and in cooperation with local health care providers and partner NGOs, executed a medical civil action project, addressing a key source of instability within the city, due to the overwhelming amount of displaced civilians seeking safety and shelter away from the battlefield.
These efforts enabled Bravo Company to establish credibility and trust with the local populace and government officials, said Maj. Carlos Gorbea, commander of Bravo Co., 457th CA Bn.
“Civil affairs achieved immediate credibility by adding value from Day One as linguists, as civic information collectors and planners nested in the maneuver battalion and brigade staffs,” Gorbea said.
The unit learned three vital lessons during the exercise: the importance of developing a strong relationship with the supported brigade and battalion staffs; the power of synchronizing combined arms with maneuver units, civil affairs and military information support operations in a non-lethal manner; and that being attached to an infantry unit does not always mean they will be able to provide security, which CA Soldiers must be able to do, Gorbea said.
Bravo Co. Soldiers learned many valuable lessons from the exercise, but Gorbea said their biggest take away from the experience is to think mission first, ensuring the priorities of work, starting with security, are executed ahead of sleeping and eating.