In a dimly lit room with loose cables dangling from the ceiling fingers could be heard pounding away on keyboards as a group of eyes are glued to their computer monitors. On one side of the room, Soldiers run internet searches on land areas while on the other side digital maps and charts are being built using a secret computer system.
With the compiled results, the civil affairs Reservists will use the data to recommend action to active duty commanders during the exercise. Soldiers with the 418th Civil Affairs Battalion integrated Civil Affairs
support during War fighter Exercise 2016 at Fort Carlson, Colorado.
Spc. Aaron Shannon, a civil affairs specialist, and Sgt. Bruce Middleton, a geospatial engineer, both with the 418th Civil Affairs Battalion update information on a sand table during War Fighter Exercise 16 at Fort Carlson, Colo., Feb. 9, 2016. During exercises sand tables can be used for planning military operations and educational purposes with the intent of replicating geographical locations. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Gregory Williams)
The purpose of the training was to not only integrate with the 4th Infantry Division, but to also provide a training environment similar to what the unit will encounter when they deploy to the Horn Of Africa.
“This exercise will prepare us to support a task force and the scenarios have been tailored made for our future mission,” Capt. Hallie Carter, a current operations officer with the 418th Civil Affairs Battalion, said. “What we bring to maneuver commanders are recommendations on how to deal with the human dimension of the local environment.”
During the exercise inside the Fort Carson Mission Training Complex (MTC), Soldiers built civil information management plans sending advisory reports to battlefield commanders.
Carter said she was getting invaluable experience during the training because she was learning how to support a division level staff that will help commanders reach their long term goals and mission objectives.
“If we didn't have this training we could be in danger of running into future problems. If you send an ill prepared headquarters element then the unit runs a risk of having to replace Soldiers.”
Besides using wall maps, stacks of report binders, and a sand table, the Army Reserve Soldiers were given the opportunity to train on and use a Command Post of The Future (CPOF) system.
CPOF is a software system, which allows mission oversight for commanders by using drag and drop data elements, and hard data.
“There's so much more stuff to move around on this system because it compiles detailed information, times, and dates so this definitely beats using a sand table,” Spc. Jacob Cannon, a CIM cell analyst with the 418th Civil Affairs Battalion, said. “Everything is right at our fingertips and it will help commanders see more things clearly, which will help run missions quicker.”
Cannon said commanders are bombarded most of the time with power point slide shows, but having a CPOF system helps civil affairs Soldiers to condense information onto a digital map.
“This system can also allow users to highlight economic issues and can be used for city planning for displaced refugees. It's great to have a lot of the different sections come to me because this system makes us more valuable,” Cannon said.
Every day of the exercise, the unit chose a different civil affairs Soldier to assist the 4th ID response cell using information from their CPOF system.
As recommendations were presented to the combatant commander, this exercise tested the Army Reserve Soldiers.
“This has been a challenging experience because we have to understand the needs of a division commander and enable site key players to do their job,” Carter said. “Civil Affairs is not us giving away a bunch of stuff, but helping commanders realize a long term goal. It all has to be about a coordinated effort to achieve the desired end state.”
Connor said this exercise has definitely helped the unit prepare for the challenges they may face in the Horn Of Africa, but he wants the exercise to evolve for civil affairs soldiers in the future.
“I want to see more hands on training like combining a Civil Military Operation Center (CMOC) with CPOF systems and doing key leader engagement's with role players,” Connor said. “It's more than just computers, you have to have that face to face element so you can implement a lot more skill and that helps us bring more to the table.”
By U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Gregory Williams
Provided through DVIDS
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