Army Reserve unit mobilizes for first deployment

December 26, 2012
Story and photo by Spc. Tim Morgan
FORT DIX, N.J. – Members of the U.S. Army Reserve 316th Tactical Psychological Operations Company of Peru, Ind., kicked off its tactical-operation exercise Wednesday as part of their mobilization training in preparation for an upcoming deployment to Africa.
The unit will conduct security and stability operations at the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa in its mission to promote security throughout the region.
Staff Sgt. Chaston Smithers (left), a member of the 316th Tactical Psychological Operation Company, plans for a simulated key leader engagement with his team member Sgt. Brandon Olivi during a training exercise at Fort Dix, N.J. The unit’s first deployment will be to Africa starting next year.​
The training was a mock exercise designed to assess and critique the unit’s proficiency at key leader engagements – a skill set that is essential for communicating effectively with the local populace.
“We are not there fighting bad guys,” said Sgt. Justin Melenda, an assistant team chief. “We build, coordinate, and sustain for a better tomorrow.”
The building and sustainment of key leader engagements prevent obstacles and miscommunication from occurring during operations. The discussions often centers on building friendly rapport with the elders, identifying the infrastructure needs of the village and scheduling medical relief missions.
Ultimately, it helps commanders advance their security objective in a region.
As a reserve unit, Melenda said members of the 316th have civilian jobs from nearly all walks of life, including doctors and police officers, which will help them build relationships with the locals in their area of operations. If all of their jobs at home involve interacting with people, then their unit’s goal of building rapport with the locals in Africa will be easier.
According to Sgt. Thomas Baker, an assistant team leader in the 316th, the unit’s wide array of skill sets will help ensure success for its first deployment since the birth of the unit in 2009.
The 316th will deploy to Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, for approximately nine to 12 months.
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