Storyand photo by Sgt. 1st Class Andy Yoshimura
U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne)
JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. - A group of Army Reserve soldiers comprised of military occupation specialties such as ammunition specialists, infantry and finance all have one thing in common. They are all here in New Jersey attending one of two courses: the civil affairs or the psychological operations reclassification course.
More than 90 percent of CA and Psyop enlisted soldiers of the U.S. Army Civil Affairs & Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) have attended the reclassification course taught by soldiers of the 80th Training Command. Both 29-day courses are comprised of classroom activities, a tactical situational training exercise and end with a week-long field training exercise which combines soldier tasks along with MOS tasks.
The FTX has also allowed the opportunity for CA and Psyop teams to work together in various simulated scenarios.
"Combining CA and Psyop allows both groups to get a better understanding of each other's MOS," said Sgt. 1st Class Vaid Sadiku, 37F Psyop course manager, 80th Training Command. "They can learn how to integrate and work with each other for future exercises and deployments. A lot of CA and Psyop soldiers who are deployed don't know the capability of each other."
For Sadiku, training at this level is crucial before they return to their unit.
"The standard needs to be increased and we want to create a higher caliber soldier then what has been produced in the past. We have the personnel in place to ensure that standards are adhered to," added Sadiku.
Students such as Sgt. 1st Class Sonya Lundy of the 448th Civil Affairs Battalion had the opportunity to experience the school on both sides. Lundy, a Psyop soldier, is attending the CA course and is having to learn the critical task training of all ranks. Lundy is joining her husband as the new CA soldier in the family.
"I am learning a lot. It’s a very interesting perspective to see the difference between Psyop and CA," said Lundy. "I see that the Psyop and CA are encouraged to work together which is something you see in a community and I really like that part."
As Initial Entry Training soldiers attend the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School of Fort Bragg, the seasoned experienced soldiers have attended schools taught by the 80th Training Command in three locations: Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Fort Knox and Fort Hunter Liggett. The training that the soldiers are receiving follows the guidelines that of SWCS. Integrating and adapting to a new MOS have challenged the seasoned veterans.
"It is a challenging course," said Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Stubenvoll, 38B CA course manager, 80th Training Command. "Having the students to think outside of their prior experiences and tying it into civil affairs scenarios can bring difficulty."
"Because most of the senior noncommissioned officers have already gone to the advanced and senior leader course for their prior MOS, it is harder for them to understand the more advanced portion of the CA and Psyop skill sets." added Stubenvoll.
For Lundy the transition was easy. "I know what those guys are doing. A lot of things that they do is what we do as civil affairs," said Lundy. "It’s easier when you understand what the people you are supposed to be closely working with are also up to."
The FTX at the end of the course has helped students who are not accustomed to the verbal and nonverbal ways of communication. Spc. Ian Macleith, a former ammunitions specialist and now with the 315th Psyop Company, came from a controlled non-personal environment and has enjoyed the integration of the interpersonal communication portion of the course.
"Coming out to the FTX is good and it allows us to put all of the things we learned in class into play," said Macleith. "This gives us the chance to exercise what we learned and the FTX portion of the course is perfect because it is the culmination of all of the events of classroom and all of the exercises that we have done."
Upon completion of the FTX, CA and Psyop students look for two things: qualification and a certificate in completing the course. These soldiers will now go back to their unit understanding their new roles and at the same time strengthen unit's capability in completing their mission.
"I really want to go back to my unit and use the skills that I have learned here," added Macleith.