by Kevin Valentine
U.S. Army 715th Public Affairs Detachment
March 18, 2019
Infantrymen clear rooms and patrol. Armored cavalry bring the power of tanks to the battle. Motor transportation operators move personnel and supplies. These functions are familiar to commanders when having to make decisions on the battlefield.
However, there is one less familiar, more intangible type of force that is often overlooked ... civil affairs. While they don’t wear a recruiter’s patch, civil affairs operators are indeed in the business of recruiting, through soft power and influence.
The 407th Civil Affairs Battalion, a U.S.Army Reserve battalion out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, displayed how winning people is key to winning battles, during exercise Combined Resolve XI in Hohenfels, Germany.
“Civil affairs is an abstract warfighting function,” said Lt. Col. Jason Vincent, a civil affairs observer coach trainer with the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany. “The focus is long-term and insulates civilians from the effects of U.S. forces and insulates U.S. forces from the effects of civilian opposition. During Combined Resolve XI, we’ve got the largest contingency of civil affairs and psychological operations we’ve had in any exercise here in Hohenfels.”
During Combined Resolve XI, the 407th CA BN worked with Bulgarian, Ukrainian and United Kingdom civil affairs equivalents. One of the multinational civil affairs missions completed during the exercise took place in Kittensee, a fictional town within the Hohenfels training area.
“These scenarios seem tailor-made for civil affairs to lead the way,” said Capt. Timothy Swanson, a communications support officer with the 407th CA BN. “As someone who is in the process of becoming civil affairs certified, I’m not just learning how we, the U.S. Army, do civil affairs; I’m learning how other nations do civil affairs as well. When we deploy, we’re going to be working with multinational organizations and civil affairs teams, so this training is exactly the type that we need.”
The 407th CA BN and NATO allies and partners collected atmospherics, or learned the social and political climate of Kittensee, by engaging locals while other members of the 407th met with key leaders. Through these engagements, the civil affairs teams were able to understand the needs of the people of Kittensee and gauge their receptivity to U.S. and NATO forces.
In the scenario, Kittensee was a potential stronghold for special purpose forces from a fictitious training based anti-NATO alliance. In role, townspeople were concerned about violence towards refugee communities and wanted to establish a safe transportation line for refugees to move about, but were unable to establish such a transportation line on their own.
The 407th CA BN, psychological operations and European civil affairs teams, organized a meeting between themselves, community leaders in Kittensee, and role playing representatives of the Red Cross, USAID and UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, and were able to come up with possible solutions.
“The information collected by civil affairs is non-lethal force that helps commanders win on the battlefield,” Vincent said. “The information collected by the 407th, if acted upon properly by commanders, can potentially make traditional forces more effective.”
The lessons learned from the engagements between the 407th CA BN, Kittensee citizens and key leaders during the exercise are progressively laying the foundations for successful missions for battlefield commanders.