Civil Affairs Aids in Shaping Successful SOF Operations at Allied Spirit VIII
“There are a lot of different uses in the SOF world for civil affairs,” said Nanning. “Civil affairs is that link between the military and civilians and so they can be utilized and shaped in many ways in order to support civil-military operations.”

By: Staff Sgt. Jessica Nassirian - 1/28/2018

  • A U.S. Army Reserve civil affairs Soldier assigned to the 415th Civil Affairs Battalion meets with the mayor of Enslwang, a simulated town at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, January 27, 2018.

​Allied Spirit is a series of U.S. Army Europe-directed, 7th Army Training Command multinational exercises. Allied Spirit VII included approximately 4,100 participants from 10 nations.
The CA team from the Michigan-based 415th met with the mayor within the simulated town of Enslwang, as a means to gain situational awareness and open communication pathways between U.S., partner nation forces and the local populace. The mayor and other residents within the fictional town are JMRC role players.

“Part of our goal was to gain situational awareness on activity in the town, because right now we have limited means of secure communication”, said Sgt. Alyssa Malott, a civil affairs noncommissioned officer assigned to the 415th.

This was not the first time the team met with the local populace throughout the simulated area of operations. Within the few days of being in the area, the team met with multiple leaders and established a close relationship with the populace of another town, Uebungsdorf.

“We have good relations with the mayor of Uebungsdorf, where we’ve been housed and accepted as part of the community,” said Malott. “We’re like family now and we all look out for each other.”

These relationships are an essential part to shaping SOF operations as they provide the incoming unit with a clear view of the environment they and other military units will be operating in, including political and social dynamics.

“They can help build support and rapport in a town so if we do come in there, there is already a baseline established that helps to shape our operation,” said a U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier participating in the exercise . “It’s a whole bunch of moving pieces working together, and they are kind of the roots of that.”

The motto of Army Civil Affairs is “Secure the Victory,” and they help military commanders by working with civil authorities and civilian populations in the commander’s area of operations to lessen the impact of military operations on them during peace, contingency operations and declared war. Civil Affairs forces support activities of both conventional and special operations forces, and are capable of assisting and supporting the civil administration in the area of operations.

Within the first week of operating in the simulated area of operations, the ground-level civil affairs team’s efforts were able to affect not only the SOF operations, but the larger conventional forces taking part in the training exercise as well.

“There has been a huge ripple effect,” said Sgt. Rachel Nanning, a civil affairs NCO and exercise planner from the 457th Civil Affairs Battalion assigned to the Joint Multinational Readiness Center. “At this point in the scenario the Civil- Military Operations Center and SOF unit are beginning to communicate back to conventional forces and provide vital information to assist in what conventional forces are doing.”

As the U.S. CA and SOF teams worked side-by-side with NATO Allied units throughout the exercise, both had the opportunity to overcome real-world obstacles and increase interoperability.

“The civil affairs team here is working through language barriers and cultural differences which has been good for building interoperability and communication pathways with our partners,” said Nanning.

“Training on a multinational level has been effective because you’re training on interoperability,” said Sgt. 1st Class John Wessely, a civil affairs NCO and exercise Observer Controller assigned to the 457th CA Bn.” We get to see how each other work, we get to train partner nations and help them with something that isn’t normally their focus.”
Beyond the limits of the training scenario, the exercise proved to be an invaluable experience for the Soldiers of the 415th CA Bn.

“I think one of the main challenges we’ve faced as a reserve unit is not having SOF experience prior to the exercise,” said U.S. Army Cpt. Courtney Pace, a civil affairs team chief assigned to the 415th. “Now these guys have a whole new set of skills that they can teach to the rest of unit to show them this side of civil affairs that they can use if they’re working with SOF.”

Through training on new skills and facing obstacles such as communication and cultural differences, the civil affairs team proved to be an essential force multiplier for SOF operations within Allied Spirit VIII and a reflection of the capabilities of civil affairs for real-world operations.

“There are a lot of different uses in the SOF world for civil affairs,” said Nanning. “Civil affairs is that link between the military and civilians and so they can be utilized and shaped in many ways in order to support civil-military operations.”

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