March 1, 2003 - Fayetteville Observer: Civil affairs soldiers are the Army's Peace Corps
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March 1, 2003 - Fayetteville Observer: Civil affairs soldiers are the Army's Peace Corps
Civil affairs soldiers are the Army's Peace Corps
Read and comment on this story from the Fayetteville Observer on how Civil affairs soldiers are the Army's Peace Corps. They provide food and medical care for refugees in a war zone and rebuild schools and hospitals when the fighting is over. ''We bring civilian skills to the military," says retired Brig. Gen. Bruce B. Bingham. He was commander of U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command. He is now a financial consultant.
Civil affairs units are made up mostly of reserve soldiers with occupations varying from city managers and judges to school administrators and public works engineers. In their civilian jobs, the soldiers hone the skills they need in their military specialty. If the United States conquers Iraq, the battalion will lead the way as Americans undertake a rebuilding effort on a scale not seen since World War II. Read the story at:
After war, work begins for civil affairs soldiers*
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After war, work begins for civil affairs soldiers
By Kevin Maurer
If the United States invades Iraq, it will be up to the Army's civil affairs specialists to pick up the pieces.
Civil affairs soldiers are like the Peace Corps dressed in camouflage. They provide food and medical care for refugees in a war zone and rebuild schools and hospitals when the fighting is over.
''We bring civilian skills to the military," says retired Brig. Gen. Bruce B. Bingham. He was commander of U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command. He is now a financial consultant.
Civil affairs units are made up mostly of reserve soldiers with occupations varying from city managers and judges to school administrators and public works engineers.
In their civilian jobs, the soldiers hone the skills they need in their military specialty.
The 96th Civil Affairs Battalion, based at Fort Bragg, is the Army's only active-duty civil affairs unit.
If the United States conquers Iraq, the battalion will lead the way as Americans undertake a rebuilding effort on a scale not seen since World War II.
The Army's civil affairs specialists are already rebuilding Afghanistan.
Maj. Dan McCabe spent most of last year with the 489th Civil Affairs Battalion in Afghanistan. He is a veteran of civil affairs missions in Bosnia.
McCabe said it took him a while to get used to negotiating with people in a different culture. ''You talk and introduce yourself and it takes five or six hours for them to discuss what you want to discuss," he said. "They want to get to know you and see if you are for real."
Civil affairs units use local resources to complete their projects.
''The mind-set behind civil affairs is first we assess a problem," McCabe said. "Then we work with (local leaders) for the answer and using everything the host nation has. Locals provide the goods and do the work. It gives the population pride in themselves and gives them confidence that they can do the things that they need to do."
McCabe's unit coordinated the building of the Sultan Rasa School in Mazar-e-Sharif. It was the first school built to teach both boys and girls in Afghanistan. The school has about 1,500 students from kindergarten through high school.
Besides building schools, McCabe and his men supervised the construction of wells and irrigation systems.
McCabe said his battalion was like a "small public works company and public education system."
The bulk of the civil affairs missions in Afghanistan have been building roads and improving the water system.
McCabe said U.S. forces are making progress.
''It is going a lot better than what we thought. It is going faster than what we thought," he said.
While most of their work is done after the fighting, civil affairs soldiers also have a combat role.
Civil affairs officers sit in on mission-planning sessions. They mark sites such as schools, hospitals and historical monuments that are to be spared.
Bingham, the retired general, said that during combat a civil affairs officer serves as the principal adviser to the commanding officer on what he can and cannot do.
For example, a civil affairs officer may tell a commander that he cannot kill five cows so his men can have a cookout without paying for them or that he cannot nail a spike into a 1,000-year-old mosque to hang a communication cable.
Civil affairs officers also teach frontline soldiers about the local population.
''As (combat troops) move forward and run into the local population, they know how to react," McCabe said.
Civil Affairs in Iraq
If there is war in Iraq, the initial work of rebuilding and governing the country will be the responsibility of Army civil affairs units.
Preston McMurry was an officer with the 432nd Civil Affairs Battalion during the Gulf War. His team surveyed schools for damage in Kuwait City and relocated Kurdish refugees in northern Iraq. He retired in 2001.
McMurry said civil affairs soldiers are better prepared this time because of the experience they have gained in the Gulf War, Haiti and Kosovo.
Civil affairs soldiers "certainly have more practice in the last 14 years than in the 14 years prior, immediately following Vietnam, when the only operation the U.S. military engaged in was Grenada," he said.
During the Gulf War, McMurry ran into a variety of obstacles while helping the Kurds in northern Iraq.
''The main challenge was its remoteness from logistics centers," he said. "Some supplies could be flown in, but not the mass volume needed to feed, clothe and shelter 50,000 people."
Coordinating where the aid would be best used was also a problem.
''And you can't do it in typical military manner," McMurry said, "because civilians - especially non-U.S. civilians - are under no obligation to do what the U.S. military tells them to do. You pull rank on a civilian and you will rapidly find out who really outranks who. So civil affairs must be diplomats as well."
Larry Blount, a retired colonel, said the first job of civil affairs forces is to ensure the welfare of the civilian population. Blount was the senior adviser for civil affairs on the Central Command staff during the Gulf War.
Before the Gulf War, civil affairs soldiers stocked food, water and medical supplies so they were ready to transport to the front. They also cleaned oil tanker trucks and used them to transport water to Kuwaiti civilians.
''Essentially, we did a lot of planning," Blount said.
Blount said U.S. war planners knew Iraq intended to destroy the oil wells in Kuwait, so they also hired firefighters.
He said he hopes the Bush administration is making the necessary preparations.
''Repairing the local infrastructure is vital so the Iraqi people can start helping themselves," he said.
Blount said the real challenge will be running the government. ''We'll have to take care of the civilian population for some period of time as well," he said. ''We are going to be running schools, repairing water and gas systems and repairing the infrastructure."
''That can be a huge job. I don't think Bush is doing enough about that," Blount said.
Rebuilding Iraq may be easier than the civil affairs mission in Afghanistan.
Bingham believes that civil affairs forces will have more to work with because Iraq is a more advanced country.
''The workload will depend on how much war damage there is," he said.
James A. Phillips, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, agrees with Bingham.
''The country is much richer because of its oil resources and the population is more educated," Phillips said.
Repairing war damage may be the easy part.
To ensure that factional fighting doesn't break out, the United States has to make it clear that only groups that cooperate will get access to oil revenue, Phillips said.
''The U.S. can mold a postwar government that can give out goodies to those groups that cooperate," he said.
According to the Bush administration's rebuilding plan, U.S. Army Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of U.S. Central Command and commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Southwest Asia, will likely oversee military occupation forces in Iraq.
Once the weapons of mass destruction are destroyed and security is established, the United States will help an Iraqi government take over.
Iraqi exiles are being trained to help with rebuilding.
Yield to power
Despite having the the mission of rehabilitating countries torn apart by war and natural disasters, civil affairs forces do not consider themselves nation builders.
''We are assisters and facilitators," McCabe said. "We are not the one with the power. We didn't install the government."
Bingham agreed. ''It is not the military's job to rebuild a country," he said. "Our job, post conflict, is to assess, plan and mentor the new government and then hand it off to that government or to a major aid program like the Red Cross.
''As people see, winning the battle is not the end game. We have to win the peace."
Staff writer Kevin Maurer can be reached at email@example.com or 486-3587.
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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Civil Affairs; Army; Psychological Warfare
Preston McMurry if you see this please contact me. this is julie.I am trying to get ahold of you and cant.