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NEWS | July 14, 2017

Civil Affairs Team builds relationships during Saber Guardian

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

SLIVEN, Bulgaria — A diverse team of civil affairs professionals met with police officials Wednesday to talk about how the increased presence of American Soldiers during Saber Guardian 17 would affect the town.

Since February, Civil Affairs Team 4152, from the 415th Civil Affairs Battalion out of Kalamazoo, Michigan, has been meeting people all around the country, said Sgt. 1st Class Robert A. Ritsema, the team sergeant for CAT 4152, who led the engagement.

Sliven is the biggest city near Novo Selo Training Area, where the 415th Civil Affairs Battalion has been working and one of the main sites for Saber Guardian 17.

“Basically, we’re making sure we’re not affecting them in any negative way and if they are having any issues with Soldiers, we need to know about that,” Ritsema said.

The unit has been working to build relationships around the country since arriving as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve in Europe, said Spc. Bradley A. Robinson, the Civil Affairs NCO for CAT 4152.

“We’ve been there quite a few times, but not to meet with the police,” he added.

They met with Regional Police Inspector/Director Dimitar Velichkov and Senior Commissar Ivan Rusev of Sliven.

The group discussed several topics to help law enforcement officials build awareness of the American forces. They also talked about how to keep visiting Americans safe and ensure they obey Bulgarian laws, especially when it comes to driving.

So, far, there haven’t been any incidents, Rusev said, speaking through an interpreter.

The people of Sliven know about the base and know the Soldiers come to the town, Velichkov said.

All sides agreed to continue talking before any issues developed.

Two members from the Bulgarian Civil-Military Cooperation Company worked alongside Civil Affairs Team 4152.

The Bulgarians enjoy working with the Americans, said Capt. Milen Radanov, the Bulgarian CIMIC Company Commander.

“We don’t have the opportunity to do it often,” he added.

Civil Affairs Team 4152 is assisting the 457th Civil Affairs Battalion, an Army Reserve unit from Grafenwoehr, Germany, during the unit’s participation in Saber Guardian 17. The team allowed a civil affairs newcomer to join them on the engagement as a part of the exercise.

Sgt. Lori Pratt was on her first civil affairs engagement. She is a member of the 457th Civil Affairs Battalion, which is at Novo Selo for three weeks during Saber Guardian 17.

Pratt expected the meeting to be very formal, but it turned out to be more like a friendly sit-down with the officials, she said.

The meeting was polite and professional, she added.
“It was awesome,” Pratt said, noting the experience made her more confident about conducting missions in the future.