The sun is beating down on soldiers in the unforgiving heat of the Mojave Desert. A crowd of angry civilians are crowding around the entrance to the U.S. Embassy in the fictional city of Razish, Erdabil Province, Atropia. The situation has the feel of a powder keg with a short fuse that could blow at any time.
Luckily, members of the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team’s (ABCT) Multi-Functional Team (MFT) have the situation under control as they evacuate American citizens from the war-torn “country” of Atropia.
June 2, 2017 - Civil Affairs and PSYOP teams partner with the Mississippi National Guard's 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team during NTC rotation 17-07 in Ft. Irwin. The teams formed a multi-functional team (MFT) that included the Public Affairs Office and the Unit Ministry Teams to meet the needs of citizens they may encounter during the training scenario. (U.S. Army photo by 2nd Lt. William Hill II)
The 155th and other enabling units participated in a National Training Center (NTC) combat training exercise at Fort Irwin, California. An NTC rotation replicates the tough, realistic operational environment that America's war fighters face in combat; the training is relevant and quickly adaptable to emerging threats and technologies in the current operational environments and for tomorrow's challenges.
The MFT consists of the Brigade’s “non-lethal” elements: Company C, 478th Civil Affairs (CA) Battalion (Airborne); Detachment 1410, 301st Psychological Operations (PSYOP) Company (Airborne); 155th ABCT Unit Ministry Teams (UMT) and Public Affairs Office (PAO). Each team has a distinct but valuable role in providing aid and support to the populace after major fighting has moved on from the city.
“I think CA and PSYOP forces are very complementary and yet don’t work together as often as they need to,” said Maj. Matt Morgan, Brigade Civil Affairs officer and MFT leader. “The UMTs can complement both with their perspective looking at religious leaders and yet they are never integrated into our training. It’s something we need to continue developing for the future.”
This training exercise, conducted at the NTC, is designed to give the most realistic training these units will experience before a potential deployment.
CA teams identify critical requirements needed by local citizens or crisis situations. They are primarily responsible for researching, coordinating, conducting and participating in the planning and production of civil affairs related documents, while carrying out the civil-military operations of the commander.
PSYOP uses planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals. The purpose of psychological operations is to induce or reinforce foreign attitudes and behavior favorable to the U.S mission.
A Unit Ministry Team consists of a chaplain and assistant. Their main task is to provide spiritual support to soldiers in the unit but they are also able to fulfill that role with civilians they may interact with. The chaplains provide a connection to the spiritual leader in the town or village. This brings an invaluable dynamic, especially in areas where religion is dominant in the culture, such as Muslim nations.
“It was a wonderful opportunity being integrated into the MFT. The CA and PSYOP were very professional and utilized us right from the start,” said Chaplain (Maj.) Sean McMackin, 155th ABCT brigade chaplain. “It was neat to see us all function at a high level during our first experience working with these groups.”
The Public Affairs Office is responsible for developing a working relationship with reporters and other media representatives, maintaining a robust community relations program, keeping contact with other government agencies, and keeping internal and external publics informed on issues that may affect them.
These entities played an important role in each mission during the 155th ABCT’s NTC rotation. One such mission was a non-combatant evacuation or “NEO.” This involved receiving, processing, and evacuating American citizens from the American Embassy in the fictional city of Razish. The CA team facilitated the different stations that would vet each individual to insure positive identification and proper paperwork as well as provide basic medical care.
June 4, 2017 - Civil Affairs and PSYOP teams partner with the Mississippi National Guard's 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team during NTC rotation 17-07 in Ft. Irwin. The teams formed a multi-functional team (MFT) that included the Public Affairs Office and the Unit Ministry Teams to meet the needs of citizens they may encounter during the training scenario. (U.S. Army photo by 2nd Lt. William Hill II)
PSYOP used their loudspeaker system to announce throughout the city that any Americans wishing to leave should make their way to the embassy. They also provided security at the site among other essential tasks. The UMT provided spiritual support to those who may be in need due to the traumatic nature of the situation while the PAO engaged the media that were present with interviews of subject matter experts and a walk-through of the facility for a first-hand account of the operation.
The diversity and adaptability of the MFTs was on display at each mission. One such example was when embedded media interviewed a PSYOP soldier changing the bandage on a civilian while the chaplain held the man’s hand and prayed for him. That short clip alone, seen by seemingly thousands of people all over Atropia and the world, has an immeasurable maximum effective range compared to any other weapon in the U.S. arsenal. The positive effect of these operations is not just the support of the international community, but more importantly the support of the host nation to help quell the insurgency that had been a major problem throughout the province.
Just one day after the NEO took place the MFT conducted an internally displaced persons (IDP) mission where they facilitated the evacuation of local citizens to a safer area in the region using a nearly identical model to the NEO. It was only a few days later the city of Razish was able to experience a transfer of authority (TOA) where the 155th gave control of the city back over to the host nation government.
The value each of these elements brought to the brigade is immeasurable. Each group has a number of skills and resources to perform their respective jobs and their experience at NTC was an opportunity to bring those skills together for the greater good. Time will tell whether this partnership will become a force multiplier or just a short-lived training experiment.
By U.S. Army 2nd Lt. William Hill II
Provided through DVIDS
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