KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany –
The 361st Civil Affairs Brigade has a new commander, but will remain a very busy unit with missions throughout Europe and beyond.
Col. Miguel Castellanos relinquished command of the Army Reserve brigade to Col. John Novak Sunday during an outdoor ceremony. The 361st is a subordinate unit of the 7th Mission Support Command, also headquartered in Kaiserslautern.
“It’s been three years since I assumed command of the 361st and to date, this assignment stands as the highlight of my 32 years of service,” Castellanos said, before thanking his family for their support throughout his career.
The brigade has units in Germany and Italy and has conducted missions, operations and exercises in more than 38 countries on three continents, he said.
“It’s truly been an honor to serve as the commander of the 361st and I feel without a doubt this brigade is the most relevant brigade in the Army Reserve,” Castellanos said.
Some of the units are engaged in real-word missions or training, and were only partially represented during the ceremony, he added.
For example, the 773rd Civil Support Team is engaged in a major exercise in Rota, Spain.
Also, Soldiers from the 361st are involved in Atlantic Resolve in Eastern Europe and Echo Casemate in France, where junior leaders are in charge of a movement control mission facilitating border crossing with NATO allies.
In addition, Co. C of the 457th Civil Affairs Battalion, one of the 361st subordinate units, just completed an exercise including German Bundeswehr Soldiers, members of the German Red Cross and civilian volunteers for the German Technical Assistance Service during COBRA STRIKE in Wiesbaden.
“Another unique fact about the 361st is that it’s the only civil affairs brigade with one assigned civil affairs battalion, a movement control battalion, a civil support team … a human resource company (and) a Forward Engineer Support Team,” Castellanos said.
The wide range of capabilities has enabled the unit to leverage its variety of skills during its missions, he added.
“Col. Castellanos inspired leaders around him to engage, get involved and be ready,” said Brig. Gen. Arlan DeBlieck, commanding General of the Army Reserve’s 7th MSC and deputy commanding general of the active-duty 21st Theater Sustainment Brigade. “Utilizing small teams of energetic, competent Soldiers, you developed enduring relationships with sister services, allies, partners, UN and NATO agencies.”
DeBlieck cited a number of examples of Castellanos’ work with international allies and partners, starting with using NATO certified Civil Military Center of Excellence instructors, who helped to build positive relationships.
He also cited the unit’s development of hybrid Movement Control Teams that include civil affairs and transportation Soldiers who are employed in Atlantic Resolve and Echo Casemate. They have helped to facilitate freedom of movement across borders in Europe.
The Castellanos matured relations with U.S. 6th Fleet’s Commander Task Force-68 Sailors and Marines while supporting Spanish and Ukrainian natural disaster management exercises, DeBlieck said. This provided a common understanding for military to civilian support during disasters and building host nation capacity to respond.
The 361st makes up about two-thirds of the 7th MSC, he said.
“These efforts supported STRONG EUROPE tenets, but as importantly, provided opportunities for our Soldiers to engage in meaningful and valued activities that support the Total Army force in Europe,” he added.
Novak comes to the 361st after serving as a member of the Army Reserve’s Office of Legislative Affairs.
“I am humbled, honored and excited to have been selected to command such a unique, relevant and forward-deployed Army Brigade … at such an interesting time and place in our nation’s history,” Novak said.
Novak’s mother immigrated to the United States from Czechoslovakia more than 60 years ago, he said.
“Her family’s experiences before and after that journey, more than anything else, drove my decision to seek a life of service to the nation that gave them an opportunity to live in peace and freedom,” he added. “The opportunity to lead and care for American’s sons and daughters in a place so near to where their odyssey began, and to my wife’s roots in Eastern Europe, makes this assignment particularly poignant to both of us.”