U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers build partnership with Bundeswehr, civilian forces in humanitarian field-training exercise

By Capt. Doug Magill | 221st Public Affairs Detachment | Sept. 19, 2018

WACKERNHEIM, Germany — Elements of the U.S. Army Reserve's one-star command in Europe paired with host nation partners and nongovernmental organizations to exercise humanitarian assistance skills during an exercise at Wackernheim Regional Range Complex, Sept. 14-16.

The 457th Civil Affairs Battalion's Charlie Company led the exercise — known as Cobra Strike 18 — the fifth iteration of an annual multinational, multi-organizational, field training exercise in humanitarian assistance and populace control. The exercise included the participation of a Bundeswehr medical unit, the Red Cross and Technisches Hilfwerk — a civil protection organization controlled by the German federal government.

The 457th Civil Affairs Battalion falls under the 361st Civil Affairs Brigade, located in Kaiserslautern, Germany, which is the U.S. Army Reserve's only forward-deployed multifunctional civil affairs unit in Europe providing civil affairs; movement control; human resource; chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological; public affairs and forward engineering support to U.S. Army Europe. The 361st Civil Affairs Brigade falls under the 7th Mission Support Command, U.S. Army Reserve's one-star command in Europe.

"Bringing in military and nonmilitary organizations helps us cross train so that we know what capabilities each organization can bring to the humanitarian effort," said Capt. Joel Whitley, the exercise's lead planner. "Knowing the partners that we might be responding with in an actual emergency, and building those relationships ahead of time, goes a long way in being immediately effective in the middle of a crisis."

The exercise's plot was divided into two scenarios and was centered around a fictional village situated in the midst of hostilities. 

"The Civil Affairs team was sent to a village that has experienced a pretty chaotic year," said Capt. William Schlotzhauer, civil affairs team chief with Charlie Company, 457th Civil Affairs Battalion. "It's a war-torn area that has experienced some significant infrastructure issues that haven't been remedied yet. In addition, they have experienced a chemical leak, a building collapse and the evacuation of a medical clinic. So, we had to assess those situations, determine what needed to happen and what organizations we needed to take part to make sure that those issues were mitigated."

The first scenario centered around an unknown chemical that contaminated the village water supply, followed by responding to a collapsed building. The second scenario featured villagers fleeing for safety from a cease-fire violation, resulting in a collapsed building leading to a vehicle extraction and search and rescue operation. Members of a Civil Air Patrol unit in Wiesbaden served as role players.

"It's interesting writing these scenarios," Whitely said. "I go to each organization asking what their training objectives are and then I write them into a scenario. It's a challenge, but it's a lot of fun to organize an event like this that adds training value."