FORT HOOD — To prepare for a November deployment to Afghanistan, the 81st Civil Affairs Battalion is conducting a culmination training exercise, giving soldiers hands-on experience for their mission.
The 14-day training regimen, which is near its midpoint, includes a series of scenarios all related to a central problem the four-person civil affairs team has to identify. Then soldiers must work out a solution with the local Afghan government, played by a team of trained role players with scripts for each scenario, said Maj. Seth Middleton, battalion operations officer.
“It’s very realistic,” he said. “We are trying to help the government find solutions to their own problems so after we leave they are self-sufficient.”
The mission of the battalion in Afghanistan is to talk with people in communities and local officials to make sure needs are being met or have been identified, said Lt. Col. Joshua Potter, battalion commander. Afghanistan’s ability to function on its own is an important part of the U.S. and NATO exit at the end of 2014.
About 130 soldiers will deploy later this year to five of the six regional commands. For the first time ever, the civil affairs battalion will deploy with conventional forces, meaning teams will be assigned to other brigades and move throughout the country with them. In the past, the teams have been connected to special forces.
“(Teams) are designed and specially trained in the local language, customs and courtesies,” Potter said. Each team has spent time focusing on its designated region so they are familiar before they arrive, while also training in the typical warrior tasks required of every soldier.
“When they go and meet the locals, it should not feel like the very first time they’re meeting,” Potter said. “It’s rather like meeting a friend you haven’t seen in a long time and finding out what’s going in their life.”
The 81st Civil Affairs Battalion was activated at Fort Hood a year ago under the 85th Civil Affairs Brigade. For more on its predeployment training, including medic training to support Afghan livestock, read Wednesday’s Fort Hood Herald.