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NEWS | June 1, 2021

Civil Affairs Conducts Realistic JTF Training at JBCC

By Master Sgt. Naurys Marte U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command

Soldiers from multiple Army Reserve units, the Air Force, Massachusetts National Guard, and the Coast Guard joined forces with the 360th Civil Affairs Brigade and the 412th Civil Affairs Battalion during Operation Viking May 7 to 27, 2021, at Joint Base Cape Cod, Mass. to conduct expeditionary deployment operations training.

Operation Viking is a joint training exercise that simulates a rapid deployment environment. The 412th CA Bn designed this operation within a joint task force construct to achieve a multi-domain training environment. The training exercise included support from the 861st Quartermaster Company (Airborne), U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod, USCG Regional Port Security Northeast, the 312th Airlift Squadron, the 22nd Airlift Squadron, the 89th Air Wing, the 139th Operations Support Squadron, the 103rd Pararescue Squadron, 1-126th Aviation (RI ARNG), the 20th Special Forces Group, and the Smithsonian Institution.

This training concept takes the organization, not just the Battalion, from a purely Army centric-training construct to a joint operational environment. "The use of a Joint Task Force Headquarters pushes the organizational planning and thinking into a multi-domain dimension which includes land, air, and maritime," said Col. David Schwartz, Operation Viking task force commander with the 360th CA Bde.

The 412th CA Bn planned and executed this annual training exercise to improve combat readiness and tactical proficiency through civil affairs mission essential tasks evaluation. Additionally, the training is designed to increase the 412th CA Bn's readiness for rapid mobilization in the Army Reserve with deployment readiness exercises and airborne operations.

The exercise kicked off May 7 with a deployment readiness exercise (DRE) that facilitated airfield combat out load of Soldiers, vehicles, and equipment from the 412th CA Bn's headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, to JBCC via Air Force C-5 and C-17s. Upon arrival at JBCC, the Battalion executed individual skills-focused training to include tactical combat casualty care, M4 and M17 weapons ranges, Language aptitude and proficiency testing, and Army warrior tasks training on the Virtual Battle Space 3.

The operation then transitioned to team-focused missions on civil affairs operations that incorporated airborne operations. "While other units may take the airborne operations as a sidebar, Operation Viking integrates airborne operations with mission-essential training into the overall operation," said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Michael A. Rich, command chief warrant officer with the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne). "This is more realistic training for better skillsets."

The 412th executed three tactical airborne insertions, with each operation having a follow-on civil affairs mission. Additionally, the 20th Special Forces Group executed three high-altitude military freefall operations, and the 861st QM Co. executed six containerized delivery systems and numerous high-velocity / low-altitude aerial resupply drops.

"Joint training is what every deployment and mobilization is. What we are doing is practicing what we will surely see in the future and now," said Lt. Col. Gladimiro Vasquez, commander, 412th CA Bn.

Operation Viking is a high-intensity exercise that took place in an austere environment. "They are completing range training, civil affairs training, and a very ambitious airborne operation here. Moving to the field to perform lane certification evaluation, concurrent with follow on airborne operations, was integral to the success of the exercise," said Rich.

By conducting joint expeditionary deployment operations training while significantly improving airborne proficiency, the 412th CA Bn aims at advancing the Airborne Program by creating eligibility for Soldiers to attend Jumpmaster qualification training and enhancing individual and crew-served weapons qualifications.

The culminating event of the exercise utilized experts from the Smithsonian Institute's Cultural Rescue Initiative to develop the 412th CA Bn capabilities to incorporate cultural preservation within civil affairs operations. In addition, the Soldiers learned about the cultural heritage of the local Native American tribes and how cultural preservation supports the Joint Task Force Commander's statutory requirements to protect cultural artifacts.

Such an ambitious exercise did not happen without challenges. "Managing the timeline was critical while moving from one training area to the next. There are a myriad number of issues that can delay movement to subsequent training events, and despite detailed planning, timelines do not always match up. One thing that made the difference is that the garrison's airfield personnel and the air wing supporting the exercise and the airborne operation gave us great flexibility successfully maximize operations on the airfield," said Rich.

Coordination with the different branches and units to ensure they were able to attend and ensure the facility was available to conduct all necessary training were also challenges, said Vasquez.

Yet, collaboration and coordination between the military services were crucial to the success of Operation Viking. Using the JBCC facilities required much different coordination with the Air Force, Army Aviation Wing, and the Coast Guard. "They completely opened their arms and allowed us to use the training area. The coast guard is glad to have us; the post commander stopped by, looked at everything, and asked how the evaluations were going. It's absolutely a great success, and this is completely attributable to the high quality of leadership overseeing this exercise," said Rich. "The joint training environment here challenged our Soldiers to bring together multiple capabilities as they were tested to work together and complete the assigned mission."

Operation Viking is also setting the tone for improved future training exercises for civil affairs units. One such possibility is expanding the training to include the air mobility course and sealift training. "The Coast Guard resources at Buzzards Bay provide opportunities to expand our future exercise to consider sealift training as one of the resources that the JTF can leverage during this exercise,” said Schwartz.  

One of the points of consideration is to possibly host an air mobility officer course during the next iteration of the exercise, which includes air and sea load out. “The AMO students can do air load planning on the airfield and sealift planning and inspection exercises,” said Schwartz.

"As we look at our current and future capabilities, we improve the 'Value Add' of what we, CA, bring to the forefront. These capabilities have a positive impact near term, short term, and long term on the Soldiers, the unit, civil affairs, and the Army. This is how we do business," said SFC Jody L. Eberhart, first sergeant and air operations noncommissioned officer in charge, 412 CA Bn.