Story by Staff Sgt. Felix Fimbres
ORLANDO, Fla. — U.S. Army Reserve soldiers officially stood up the U.S. Army Civil Affairs & Psychological Operations Command (Airborne)’s newest unit, the 436th Civil Affairs Battalion Nov. 18.
The 436th is the latest in a wave of civil affairs units activated in order to support the Army’s missions globally, a need which was identified by the Department of Defense in 2004. The high demand for Army Reserve civil affairs soldiers has been highlighted over the past 10 years; they’re among the most deployed soldiers in the Army. The 436th is one of three civil affairs units that have been stood up in the past two years.
The 436th’s biggest hurdle has been recruiting both new and experienced soldiers to join its ranks. The unit is currently at 60 percent strength, but the unit’s commander, Lt. Col. Christopher Lewis, has been pleased with the high quality soldiers his unit has recruited so far, but still feels his unit’s biggest hurdle will continue to be recruiting for the next few months.
“We are close to 60 percent filled, we will continue to recruit and train new soldiers, but we’ve come this far in the last six months and we expect to continue that pace over the next six months. If you are looking for a challenging career, doing our nation’s missions, civil affairs units are doing just that. Civil affairs will be the tip of the spear. If you are young man or woman looking for a challenge, this is where you’ll find it,” said Lewis.
One of those soldiers the 436th has recruited is Staff Sgt. Wesley Cook, Alpha Company team sergeant and an Orlando police officer. Cook was recruited from a local military intelligence command unit, where he was a human intelligence collector, but will be attending the civil affairs school in January. Cook said HUMINT is similar to civil affairs, but civil affairs have the opportunity to not only identify needs, but also have an impact on local populaces.
“I’m looking forward to civil affairs missions, from what I understand there will be a lot of good missions for us in Southern Command area of operations and we are looking forward to getting down there.”
Soldiers who join the 436th are being enticed with not only promotions, but schools as well, ranging from airborne and air assault to foreign language schools. In fact, the unit has five companies who will be capable of operating in Spanish speaking environments, and another company capable of operating in French speaking environments.
These language proficiencies will come in handy, as the unit is preparing to support the SOUTHCOM area of operations, which operates in the Caribbean, Central and South America.
Army foreign language training is just one of the ways the Army Reserve can not only accomplish its mission, but also have a positive impact on the soldiers’ local community and employer.
“I work in predominantly Spanish speaking area, so learning Spanish will certainly help,” said Cook.
Beyond training soldiers, a new unit must also acquire everything a unit needs to run from Humvees to pencils.
“When I got here, I didn’t even have a pencil,” joked Staff Sgt. Danny Goodwin, 436th Battalion communications non commissioned officer in charge. Goodwin was the very first soldier at the unit and has experienced all the challenges of standing up a unit. The unit is even borrowing space while a new building in Sanford, Fla., is being built. The building is scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2013.
“The great thing about standing up a unit is that we are setting the standard for what is to come. If we set forth good goals and tasks, and continue to maintain the high quality soldiers coming in, we feel we can be the best battalion in the command. I’m very happy to working with every single soldier in the battalion.”