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NEWS | Sept. 23, 2022

Realistic training yields real results for Civil Affairs

By Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Bryson National Training Center and Fort Irwin

U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers from the 426th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne), 351st Civil Affairs Command, United States Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (USACAPOC), based out of Upland, California, conducted a comprehensive situational field training exercise Aug. 28, 2022, in Junction City, a part of the National Training Center (NTC), Fort Irwin, Calif.The training was designed to challenge the Soldiers’ communication and problem solving skills in a realistic environment.

“As civil affairs, we engage with the civilian population about how we can support the [Army’s] objective… which is to bring stability to a region,” said Capt. Andre An, Alpha Company A, 4236th CA Bn., 351st CA Bn., USACAPOC, company commander and team leader. “We definitely get value out of coming to NTC and interacting with role players in a more realistic environment… the Soldiers are more engaged and it gets us a better result.”

NTC hosts thousands of U.S. military service members, as well as other government agencies and foreign military from around the world each year in its 12 mock-up villages that provide visiting training units with a unique immersive experience in which to hone their skills and develop their leadership abilities.

Role players, dressed in garb and armed with elaborate scripts designed to challenge their peers, moved throughout the large village of Unjen (Junction City) and set up shop in buildings that mimicked an internet cafe, mosque, hotel and school, in order to provide the teams with realistic engagements and unique problems to solve that would mimic a real-world mission.

Staff Sgt. Donald Garrison, a civil affairs noncommissioned officer with 426th CA Bn., said the training exercise begins with a civil affairs area assessment

“An assessment contains all of the capabilities of the village… economics, governance, police, hospitals, schools, water, everything involved in self-sustainment…. even sewage,.” Garrison said.

One the assessment is complete, Garrison’s team then presents the information to his commander, he said.

“We work to make a determination on what we can do to help the area become self-sustaining,” Garrison explained. “We have connections with all kinds of international organizations, aid groups – and we can help put together a plan to assist the village in [obtaining the resources] they need.”

After the troops split up in teams and assessed the village, they briefed their command on the information they gathered, highlighted assets and needs, voiced potential concerns, and made recommendations. They then made plans to contact and engage with local leaders, such as village elders, business owners and religious leaders, to start building relationships and further determine courses of action.

Troops also worked on their team objectives and talking points – and rehearsed tactical movements and contingency plans in case the mission did not go as planned. While the training scenario was based on a mostly-friendly village, the emphasis on preparation, security and adherence to basic mission planning was stressed.

Sgt. Vincent Nguyen, a civil affairs noncommissioned officer with 426th CA Bn., USACAPOC, said even though the training felt intimidating at first, it was valuable training.

“We have an objective but sometimes you can’t just go right to business… you have to build that rapport so you can get the information you need,” Nguyen explained. “And then, hopefully, we can work with that individual and get them what they need,” Nguyen said.. “It’s definitely a very valuable skill set.”

Nguyen also stressed the value of being able to train in a realistic training environment at the NTC.

“It provides a whole different atmosphere and sense of urgency for Soldiers to have to think about security, move through an entire village and interact with the population,” Nguyen said. “Realistic training like this gets us out of the unit footprint and lets us train like we would actually fight or [interact] in the real world.”