Four civil affairs soldiers from the Dallas-Denton area spent Monday afternoon in Nolanville learning about the town’s response to natural disasters as part of their two-week training with the 85th Civil Affairs Brigade at Fort Hood.
Their exercise required meeting with the Nolanville city planner, Police Chief Gary Kent and Sgt. Dave LaCroix to discuss the town’s planned response to a potential emergency situation.
The soldiers’ training goals encompassed how local agencies interact with one another if deployed to a natural disaster area, said Maj. Tia Winston, public affairs officer.
In a deployment situation, the officers must assess local government needs and capabilities, Winston said. After establishing the basics, they can determine how to assist.
“These exercises are important because they give the soldier real-world experience,” said Maj. Escajeda, a civil affairs trainer. “It allows them to see if they’re asking the right questions and get real hands-on participation.”
The two-week training involved a variety of experiences, Winston said.
“Last week, they had to assess a bridge,” she said. “They studied it, determined its importance to the community, and had to determine if it was a project the government should take on.”
Standard training for civil affairs officers is intense. They deploy to countries in four-person teams, requiring them to be well-prepared for different environments. Many officers are multi-lingual and extensively research the areas where they deploy, Winston said.
“The government may have been dissolved, and they must help people understand what is happening,” Winston said. “They must know the environment they’re getting into … the religious, social and cultural dynamics of a place.”
They don’t try to blend in with locals, but rather, “put an American face on their services and say, ‘We’re here to help.’”
Civil affairs soldiers also respond to events within the United States — one reason why natural disaster preparation is particularly relevant.
The military community is particularly grateful for the collaboration of Fort Hood’s surrounding communities to allow for training like this.
“Nolanville was more than willing to cooperate with us,” Escajeda said. “They’ve been very helpful.”