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NEWS | Feb. 24, 2022

Keen Edge 22 sharpens Army Reserve readiness

By Sgt. 1st Class Lisa Litchfield U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne)

U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers from the 351st Civil Affairs Command, U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne), arrived here ready to integrate into Keen Edge 22, a bilateral command post exercise held Jan. 26 – Feb. 3, 2022. Arriving 20 January, the team participated in reception, staging, onward movement and integration (RSOI) meetings, level-set, academics, and warm start events prior to exercise kickoff.

Keen Edge 22 allows the Japanese Joint Staff and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command an opportunity to plan and conduct operations against all-domain competitors. For the 351st CACOM’s Government Function Specialty Team, it offered an opportunity to nest their expertise into the exercise and support the needs of a joint force under a single, unified command authority.

U.S. Army Reserve Col. Bradford Hughes, Government Functional Specialty Team Chief for the 351st CACOM, saw the exercise as an opportunity for his team to test their readiness across several Mission Essential Tasks. Those tasks included building readiness with the interagency, conducting rehearsals with geographic combatant command for crisis action planning, and theater entry in response to a variety of scenarios, all while remaining part of a credible deterrent force in the increasingly complex threat environment.

“This is an opportunity for us to actually partner with our geographic combatant command at the interagency level,” explained Hughes.

During their time at KE22 the 351st team, a blend of 38G military government specialists and other Army capabilities, including a team of International Law Officers (ILO) was able to nest capabilities with their interagency partners. The ILO team in particular hit the ground running, integrating with the Command Judge Advocate (CJA) and providing expertise in “Lawfare,” while building multiple integrated products & briefs for the CJA and creating legal dilemmas for the exercise adversary.

“These Soldiers are really specialists,” said Hughes. “They bring that requisite expertise within their specialty, which is what USINDOPACOM wants to leverage as the Interagency engages in the Theater Campaign Plan. Across the Instruments of National Power (Domestic, Informational, Economic), while specifically partnering with Commerce, Treasury, USAID, and law enforcement, we bring that expertise. As such, the government function specialty program is here to help with that partnership and to advance it.”

Exercises such as KE22 provide the U.S. Army Reserve the opportunity to build the relationships through rehearsals and improve interoperability between the Joint Forces and the Reserve component. This increase in readiness through realistic training is critical in ensuring that seamless support of the geographic combatant commander in real time events.

Team noncommissioned officer-in-charge, Sgt. Samantha Gomes, senior health care noncommissioned officer, 351st CACOM, sees the exercise as an opportunity to reinforce the skills her team already has and assess their ability to adapt to challenging circumstances. As the functional team role continues to adapt and change with real-world demands, it becomes increasingly important for them to use exercises like KE22 to align themselves with their interagency partners.

“I think for us, solidifying our doctrine,” she explained. “It was updated and rewritten last summer, so here [at Keen Edge] we ensure we're operating within that doctrine and really have a solid sense of what it is that we're doing and why we're here. Not only in an exercise format, but as we augment and fill roles that aren’t as familiar but give us a reason to really put the foot down and go after it to find the work.”

Gomes went on to explain that KE22 was also a time to lay the groundwork for future exercises as the team began to show their value to fight within the multi-domain framework. The work being done here would allow for the inclusion of team in the planning phases of future exercises, maximizing the effectiveness of the team and their layers of expertise in a much broader scope.

“It comes down to working here on a strategic level.” said Gomes. “A lot of combatant commanders are looking at the bigger picture. We are providing that insight as specialists who come in and navigate between the lines, really get nitty gritty with the details and the specifics of the strategic planning.”

U.S. Army Reserve Maj. Kelly Wilson, a Law & Border Enforcement Specialist for the team, felt the work for USINDOPACOM at the 4-star strategic level was key to the future of the program.

Wilson explained how during the week he had the opportunity to meet with his counterparts from the Department of State, Bureau of Stabilization and Conflict, to share the 38G program’s Government Function Specialty Areas & Focus Areas to his working group, highlighting the specialties and how they complement stability operations and nest into the existing crisis action plans.

“We focus on basically everything to run a government,” Wilson laughed. “If there is a request for a government function capability, our team (or USACAPOC) can provide technically qualified and experienced individuals, to advise, enable, and assist commanders and their direct civilian counterparts with stability function tasks and governance expertise until appropriate civilian control is possible.”

With the priorities of the USARC and USACAPOC(A) commanding generals focused on rehearsals, relationships, and readiness, KE22 really gave the team an opportunity to nest themselves inside those goals.

“By us being here and partnering with the interagency that's the relationship piece of it,” said Hughes. “We are wanting to establish the partnership to the level where we're asked back for the next exercise … these exercises rehearse what we may very well do real world. By getting these reps in (i.e., rehearsals), it reinforces the readiness. If we can demonstrate that we can deploy and be self-sufficient, it spotlights our value to COMPO-1 (Active-Duty Forces) that here is a group we can call, and they can immediately integrate with us and get to work.”