U.S. Army Europe civil affairs asset practices interoperability at Joint Cooperation 2017

By Capt. Doug Magill | 7th Mission Support Command | Oct. 31, 2017

NIENBURG, Germany — NIENBURG, Germany – A U.S. Army Reserve civil affairs battalion provided support to the largest multinational civil-military exercise in within NATO, Oct. 20-27.

The 457th Civil Affairs Battalion, 361st Civil Affairs Brigade, 7th Mission Support Command headquartered in Grafenwoehr, Germany provided a team of five Soldiers to the exercise, named Joint Cooperation 2017 – based out of Clausewitz Kaserne, a Bundeswehr installation just south of Nienburg. The exercise involved 130 multinational Soldiers from 23 different NATO member nations practicing interoperability. The exercise also included 245 Bundeswehr Soldiers and volunteer role players, for a total of 375 participants.

“The major benefit is working together with other nations,” said Sgt. 1st Class Mark Korte, civil affairs team sergeant. “You could be working with members from five or six nations any one given time and it’s beneficial to be in a situation where we have to work as a team to accomplish the mission.”

The exercise also included role players from surrounding communities practicing scenarios taking place in and around Nienburg. The roles included actual local mayors and chiefs of police playing the same position for a fictional village.

“That was a real added value,” said Capt. Eric Kirsch, civil affairs officer and commander of Bravo Company, 457th Civil Affairs Battalion. “Especially for a local police chief or a mayor because they understand that area better than any other person would and they can add a level of detail and complexity that you wouldn’t get otherwise.”

The scenario placed the civil affairs Soldiers in Falun -– a fictional province of the fictional country Framland. In this exercise, one political party -- supported by a variety of political action and special interest groups as well as militias and criminal elements -- is attempting to drive out 5,800 internally displaced persons from the province and use intimidation tactics to score a political win in an upcoming election. The goal of the exercise is to work with the local populace to support a free and fair election and to provide support to displaced persons.

“We’re interacting with concerned citizens about militia activity and where and how to help IDPs and their family members,” Korte said. “Some of them ask questions about where are the refugees going and when are they leaving.”

In another scenario, Capt. William Schlotzhauer, from Charlie Col., 457th Civil Affairs Battalion, based in at Wackernheim, met with a mayor of a local village. In this exercise scenario, the mayor was unsupportive of the refugee population in the area. The mayor was also anti-Fram -- the ethnic majority of Framland. The goal of the scenario was to explain to the mayor why it was in his political interest to support the Fram people and also to work towards solutions to infrastructure issues the village was experiencing.

Members of the team said the exercise was an excellent opportunity for civil affairs assets from each country to draw upon each other’s strengths.

“The big thing is exercising and improving interoperability,” Kirsch said. “This is a perfect example of 20 plus nations getting together and being on the same page. It’s the perfect example of interoperability among NATO nations.”