FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. –
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. - Army Reserve Soldiers stayed focused on their training despite the mid-western summer sun creeping the heat index to CAT 5 and challenging their generators to keep the Army tents cool and powered.
“We are all hot and sweating but working together, and laughing about it the next day” said Lt. Col. John Kay, Brigade S3 Operations Officer for the 304th Civil Affairs Brigade, Bristol, Penn.
“In spite of any challenges, we are still dominating and operating well as a staff.”
Kay came to Fort Leavenworth to train, as did nearly 200 other service members assigned to various units across the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) (USACAPOC(A)).
The Command Post Exercise – Functional (CPX-F) 22-02 is intended to develop functional expertise within Civil Affairs (CA), Psychological Operations (PSYOP) and Information Operations (IO) elements supporting a division and corps-level staff.
“CPX-F is a premier opportunity for the 304th Civil Affairs Brigade headquarters to perform as expeditionary in a 24/7, all-encompassing training environment,” Kay beamed.
Training began many months ago with rigorous planning and coordination.
“We did the full-monty of Military Decision-Making Process (MDMP),” explained Kay. “We did incredibly thorough mission analysis, course of action briefs, developed the products, the orders, the annexes and FRAGOS with bi-monthly touchpoints and planning workshops with all the units involved including the 415th CA Battalion from the 308th CA Brigade, and the 443rd CA Battalion which is organic to us.”
The extensive training audience at the exercise was comprised of the 304th CA Brigade HQ staff, the 443rd CA Battalion, the 415th CA Battalion, 16th Psychological Operations Battalion, and elements from the 151st Theater Information Operations Group.
After nine months of preparation and synchronization, the units began to converge at the Military Training Center on Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in June, 2022.
For several days, the advanced party worked tirelessly to ensure that networks and communications were established, tents were set up and generators were powered to keep the Soldiers and their equipment cool.
Kay noted that when the main body arrived on June 7, it was as “turnkey as possible” for them. Although they were to spend their days toiling in the tents, they would retire to nearby barracks for the evening leaving a skeleton shift working through the night. There was a lot of logistical movement to make the site ready for the training audience.
Finally, “ATTENTION IN THE TOC!” bellowed from the various Tactical Operation Centers (TOC), jumpstarting the three-week summer training event.
Radios squawked out information as leaders huddled to receive briefings and Soldiers all over the training site patched into the network to get a grip on the Common Operating Picture.
Today’s operational environment is broad, complex, and constantly changing with unknown variables creating instability among populations the adversary can easily target and exploit. It is incumbent that civil affairs teams remain ready and engaged through realistic and dynamic training environments such as command post exercises to test their current processes and support procedures as well as strengthen their adaptability to work problems as they arise.
“We take a whole of government approach,” explained Lt. Col. Joseph Osmanski, commander 443rd Civil Affairs Battalion, Newport, Rhode Island. “IO, PSYOP, CA, PA, Combat Camera, Host Nation and State representatives are all involved with the training.”
The scenarios troops faced during CPX-F were aligned with the capabilities and problem-sets they would face in real-world situations. Troops in contact, friendly and partner casualties, personnel recovery, resettlement of internally displaced persons (IDP), improving IDP lodgings and so on.
The CPX-F put to test civil affairs core competencies and mission sets such as establishing a Civil Military Operations Center, managing Civil Affairs Planning Teams (CAPT), Civil Liaison Teams (CLT) and Functional Specialty Teams (FST) to include subject matter experts (SME) from environmental science, public health, finance, and governance.
“We are building our skills as civil affairs,” Kay confided.
Trained and equipped civil affairs Soldiers contribute a vital role to commanders in all theaters of operation. Attaining and maintaining regional stability to shape the operational environment, commanders must consider the impacts to the civilian sectors.
“We can plug and play with very specific skill sets,” Kay continued. “If we are in a country that is trying to re-establish itself, they might have issues with IDPs. There are countries in the world that are dealing with those challenges today.”
For the 304th CA battalion, which is aligned with U.S. European Command (EUCOM), it is imperative their expeditionary CA capabilities can deliver the required battlespace effects across a full range of multi-domain operations in coordination with Allies and partners in that region.
“We can provide SMEs to plug and play right out of the gate. They are instantly an asset to a staff to help them figure out solutions.”
One of the unique benefits of the Army profession is the ability to learn a variety of skills across multiple trades in order to become a leader and value-added strength to the team. Regardless of rank or position, upward professional growth for every individual contributes to the adaptability of the organization, avoiding a potential silo of unused talent.
“We have a lot of strengths,” Osmanski explained. “From the private first class who is running our Knowledge Management team all the way to our intel folks. Half of our intel team aren’t even 35s (Intelligence Analysts), they are 38s (CA) and 25s (Signal) so they are not MOS specific but they are showing themselves as soon-to-be leaders at the NCO and officer ranks. That is crucial and vital to the development of the 443rd and USACAPOC(A) as a whole. “
Osmanski benefited not just from the training itself, but also that fact that he was able to observe his staff in action very early in his command time. He assumed command in April, 2022.
“I just got out of pre-command course a few months ago and have the general Army understanding of what a command team looks like. Now I am here watching my battalion staff in action.”
Osmanski reflected on the high OPTEMPO of his unit and his parent commands, providing him clarity to improve his foxhole while in the fight.
“We have a deployment essentially every year and a National Training Center (NTC) rotation every year so we got really good at pushing units out as a headquarters staff. We haven’t had a chance to test our systems internally to the battalion if we were to deploy. This CPX-F is a chance for us to test our internal systems. This is a great exercise for that and I get to do it in my first sixty days.”
“We should do more of these more often,” Osmanski concluded.
Kay added, “we can assemble as a staff of both full time Soldiers and Reserve Soldiers and within a couple days of integration, we will come together and execute any mission to standard.”
Investing in holistic, realistic and demanding training such as CPX-F 22-02 ensures we send the “best people forward”.