By Capt. Desiree Dillehay
457th Civil Affairs Battalion
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers joined representatives from five European partner nations for a cultural awareness seminar and Multinational Civil-Military Co-operation Center planning conference April 27-28, here, at Camp Normandy.
The 457th Civil Affairs Battalion hosted soldiers from Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia and the Republic of North Macedonia in preparation for the U.S. Army Europe summer exercises in which U.S. Army Soldiers will participate. Representatives from 21st Theater Sustainment Command, 2nd Cavalry Regiment and U.S. Army Europe also attended.
The weekend is designed to help Soldiers better understand the similarities and differences of CIMIC and civil affairs doctrine, said Master Sgt. Rob Nicholson, 21st TSC civil military operations cell noncommissioned officer.
To support that intent, representatives from the NATO CIMIC Center of Excellence opened the weekend’s activities with an overview of NATO CIMIC doctrine.
This event also serves as a “warm start” to the summer exercises and is an opportunity to share thoughts, experiences and camaraderie, said Maj. Roy Graham, executive officer and chief of operations for the 457th CA BN.
During the summer exercises, 36 Soldiers from the 457th CA BN will be split across six teams to conduct civil engagement while supporting both U.S. maneuver forces and European partners. The Multinational CIMIC Center, or MNCC, will provide the overarching support to the civil affairs and CIMIC portions of each exercise.
The MNCC is the first of its kind to be developed in recent memory, said Master Sgt. Marc Leng, 457th CA BN operations NCO in charge.
During the exercises, the 457th personnel working in the MNCC will gather lessons learned and create CIMIC doctrine.
“There are other organizations that are going to come visit us during this period that are very interested in our lessons learned,” said Graham. “Those CIMIC organizations — NATO CIMIC organizations and specific country organizations — want to develop similar centers as well.”
But the development of new doctrine isn’t the only benefit to the 457th CA BN. Engaging with the militaries of other nations gives U.S. Army Soldiers the opportunity to learn new skills and perspectives.
“[The participants] are going to be using their skills as civil affairs soldiers to work with their CIMIC partners,” said Leng. “By working with their CIMIC partners, they are going to be learning how to interoperate with foreign national military.”
The whole mission enables us to develop our relationships with partner countries so that we are able to operate in future exercises and engagements, added Leng.
The second day of the seminar focused on the development of those relationships with cultural awareness briefs from each participating country.
The overall skill gained here is interpersonal communication because every day there will be four or five other nations to work with during the exercises, said Staff Sgt. William Thompson, 457th CA BN current operations NCO.
“By participating in these exercises, [Soldiers] further develop themselves,” said Thompson. “Their ability to be interoperable is going to be increased with every subsequent exercise.”