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NEWS | March 23, 2017

Workshop brings together Army Reserve, State Department personnel

By Lt. Col. Jefferson Wolfe 7th Mission Support Command

Personnel from the Army Reserve and U.S. State Department learned more about each other this week.

Civilians and Soldiers from the 7th Mission Support Command came together March 20-24 at the Armstrong Club during the Diplomacy at Work Professional Development Workshop led by the Institute for Defense and Business.

During the workshop, various U.S. State Department officials from around Germany briefed the 7th MSC personnel about their roles and what they do.

The classroom sessions gave 7th MSC civilians and Soldiers a better understanding of interagency cooperation, said James Otto, the 7th MSC command executive officer.

The time the two groups spent talking outside the workshop may have been as important as the time spent in the classroom, said retired Ambassador David Litt, the IDB executive director for the Center for Stabilization and Economic Reconstruction.

The breaks and lunches gave everyone time to talk to each other in a less formal setting, he said.

“From my perspective, they are always an integral part of the educational experience,” Litt said.

The event grew out of the unit’s participation in exercise Anakonda Response last year with the 7th MSC at Papa Air Base in Hungary, Otto said.

That exercise included largely Army Reserve and National Guard personnel, who trained with the Hungarian military on a disaster response exercise.

Litt attended Anakonda Response as a senior mentor for the 7th MSC leadership.

In the year since Anakonda response, IDB coordinated the speakers for the workshop to help the reserve component learn about the state department’s role during a humanitarian crisis, and vice versa, he said.

“The goal was to improve knowledge and communication between the audiences,” Litt said.

It was an opportunity for the military members and civilians to see how civil-military relations are viewed through the embassy lens, he said.

“It was a gold mine,” said Lt. Col. Carlos Gorbea, commander of the 457th Civil Affairs Battalion, headquartered in Grafenwoehr.

Civil affairs units, like Gorbea’s, are the field commander's link to the civil authorities.

The Soldiers make up teams which interface and provide expertise to the host nation government, which means they also interact with the embassy in that nation.

Having career diplomats coming to share their experience is, “always a win for everyone,” he said.

Civil affairs Soldiers typically work with the defense attaché at an embassy, but this conference helped him get to know what other embassy personnel contribute, Gorbea said.

In addition, Gorbea and his personnel also got to see the breadth of other agencies involved in a disaster response and learn what they bring to the effort.

It is a rare opportunity for civil affairs Soldiers to get a chance to hear from high-level embassy officials, he said.

“You see the high-level strategic picture of the same missions that we were doing on the ground,” Gorbea said.