By Sgt. 1st Class Lisa M. Litchfield
U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne)
In the COVID-19 environment we’ve all seen the switch in training. No longer gathering en mass in the drill hall, Soldiers are directed to sign into a virtual environment, attend their required training, and wait for their participation to be updated in DTMS. That’s not how it's being done these days at U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne). Mandatory training is still necessary, but alongside it is Civil Affairs training with agency and organizational partners, and that’s where the command has made innovative training key to readiness.
Directed training? Yes. Conducted on Teams? Yes. Taught by the closest NCO to the 1SG when the training schedule was written? No, and that’s where the road divides.
Partnered with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), training at this past battle assembly was not about how to pad your Thrift Savings Plan, but how to identify and combat money laundering within our areas of operation.
Leveraging the talent in the ranks of the 38G program, and those applying to be in the ranks, Maj. Dale Kooyenga, 38G capabilities development manager with the USACAPOC(A) Strategic Initiatives Group (SIG), facilitated an in-depth training event between over 60 Civil Affairs professionals and partnerships formed with other government agencies (OGAs) such as the FBI.
In a four hour detailed training that explained, top to bottom, everything from banking laws and why money laundering occurs, to how the FBI generally infiltrates organizations, the instructer, who is an FBI Special Agent, kept the audience engaged through questions, stories, video clips from movies and TV shows, and his own real life experiences.
During this deep dive into the subject of money laundering law enforcement, legislation and policy developed to combat money laundering was tackled during the training, cementing the definitions and details of what actually constitutes money laundering to familiarize all attendees with the issues.
The FBI Instructor explained that “Folks that engage in this type of activity or criminal enterprise are doing it to undermine legitimate authority. If you are able to recognize patterns or techniques that these groups are using, that’s a good thing.”
With a considerable number of money laundering cases dealing with corrupt government officials, it’s critical for USACAPOC(A) Civil Affairs teams to understand the motivation and methodology behind the crime as those involved look for ways to make the large influxes of “bad money” look legitimate. Whether obtained through drug trafficking, insurance fraud, or any number of other suspected unlawful activity (SUA), the process is to take the dirty money and make it look clean. Criminal organizations and individuals need to fund criminal activities to attain economic and political power.
The crime of money laundering is typically perpetrated by groups or individuals to avoid paying taxes, avoid source investigations, legitimize illegally generated income, or exchange small denomination bills for larger bills. Perpetrators also convert the illicit funds to precious metals, collectible art, or real property assets. It’s a complex issue, with a multi-faceted approach to apprehension and reparation.
Why tackle this subject during a battle assembly training?
Because USACAPOC(A), the U.S. Army Reserve, and the Civil Affairs branch are building a community of ready, capable, and talented professionals through expertise. As the capabilities development manager, Kooyenga is dedicated to the USACAPOC(A) goals of program building with a culture and atmosphere of mutual respect and expertise where members feel comfortable reaching out to each other to brainstorm and problem solve as they encounter various scenarios that may or may not be in their field of experience and knowledge.
“It’s a complex world,” explains Kooyenga."
As 38A Officers and 38B NCOcs, the level of complexity you need to deal with is great, and so what we are trying to do, is create a training environment where, if nothing else, it gives you ‘wow, this is really complicated I should call someone,’ and then introduce you to the talent in the force,” he concluded.
That’s where this training comes in. Civil Affairs 6C FxSP Soldiers aren’t going to walk into a village and arrest a corrupt leader, but with familiarization training, they will be better equipped to identify the signs of corruption, to understand how the organization works, and have the resources to reach back and say “hey, there’s a problem here and until we have it fixed, we may not be successful in rebuilding.”
Lt. Col Ivan Serpaperez, 353 Civil Affairs Command law and border enforcement officer, was impressed with the thoroughness of the training and the knowledge and expertise of the instructor.
“I have to say, this is one of the best money laundering outreaches I have attended in 17 years. The ability to consolidate and condense all those terms and all those concepts in a four-hour block of instruction, it was awesome,” said Serpaperez. “For the military guys, the key here is, how do we use these to our operational environments when we are overseas?”
“A lot of these concepts that he explains, the indicators, are going to be very similar around the world, and law enforcement around the world in foreign countries will have similar tools,” he concluded.
Serpaperez also reminded his colleagues that, although they now had these new tools to recognize the indicators of corruption and crime, they needed to be careful how they react.
“Remember not to try to take any unilateral action,” cautioned Serpaperez. “You don’t want to rush into a situation where you can damage an undercover operation that’s been going on… always remember to deconflict any concerns you have with your civilian counterparts at the embassy.”
Those who control the flow of money or who launder the cash are extremely valuable to these enterprises, so if you interrupt the money node, you disrupt the criminal enterprises’ ability to engage in illicit activity. You dismantle and disrupt the operation and that can be applied to any criminal enterprise or terrorist organization.
With the knowledge gained from this training, and newly formed professional connections, our FxSPs are better equipped to be just this sort of disruption.