'The New Normal' integrates military readiness, civilian deployment training
September 3, 2013
Camp Atterbury, Ind. -- Two men approached Pfc. Terrance Rogers as he and his men secured the building where civilian and military personnel were meeting with village leaders.
Rogers smiled while he used hand signals and the little bit of Dari he'd learned in training to ask the men questions about their family and Afghanistan, keeping them engaged long enough to allow the meeting between personnel from the Department of State, Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and local village leaders to conclude. Afterwards, the translator came out and helped the men negotiate a land issue.
"It's about posture, making eye-contact, initiating conversation," said Rogers, an infantry soldier with the 2-151st Infantry Battalion, Indiana National Guard. "Instead of them getting frustrated and trying to get into the building, I kept them calm so when they did got into the meeting, they weren't agitated."
Though it sounds real, this setting was merely a scenario used to build relationships between students of the Foreign Service Institute and Indiana National Guard Soldiers during an immersion course directed by 205th Infantry Brigade trainer/mentors at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, near Butlerville, Ind.
The situation could have had a far different outcome; however, the emotional intelligence training Rogers and his men received from the First Army Division East trainer/mentors helped him navigate the real cultural issues faced by many of our troops when deployed to foreign countries.
The recent training served multiple purposes. Not only did First Army Division East T/Ms help increase the readiness of the Indiana National Guard and help civilians to better understand and prepare for conditions they'll face when they deploy, but the training also encouraged military and civilian governmental agencies to begin to establish relationships that will be continued in theater.
The training really does save lives, Rogers added.
As the Army draws down the number of Soldiers deployed to Afghanistan, reserve-component units are more frequently turning to First Army to assist them in maintaining their readiness. Recently, Trainer/Mentors with the 205th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East, advised and assisted the Indiana National Guard during their annual training. The NG Soldiers were incorporated in the FSI training and provided security force support to civilians training for future deployments.
It's really about asking the right questions to the right people, explained Sgt. 1st Class Ray Seguin, a trainer/mentor with the 1-335th Infantry Battalion, 205th Infantry Bridge.
"We want to help them discover their own path," said Seguin. "So far these Soldiers are doing an outstanding job. After only a four-day period, they've been able to develop a cohesive and synchronized partnership with the civilian students."
This is even more remarkable considering the civilians are from various interagency departments, and the security force was pulled from three separate units that had never worked together before reporting for annual training, Seguin added.
"That's a lot of moving parts," Seguin said. "Different experience from different levels. However, they've been sharing it on every level from day one. That's what makes them successful."
The Foreign Service Institute, the training arm of the State Department, mandates all government civilians attend training before they deploy. While some of the students are former military or experienced government workers, many have never worked with the military before, which is why the training is so important.
"The security force are key," said Rachel Cooke, Afghanistan Field Orientation Coordinator for FSI.
FSI training begins with two weeks of classroom instruction at Langley, Va., where students learn how to work with government officials to overcome obstacles that could possibly hinder the progress of missions' abroad, Cooke said. After that, students are sent to MUTC, where students learn about national and personal security procedures, how to work with the military, and with interagency partners.
"We couldn't learn joint civ/mil operations without them," Cooke said. "The partnership we've had with the Indiana National Guard for more than four years has offered hundreds of U.S. civilians the opportunity to learn how to live and work with military units before they head to very different places like rural Afghanistan."
The classroom portion of training is only the beginning as students progress to interactive sessions that include traveling in a convoy or aircraft during scenarios like the market place. Incorporating Soldiers and civilians and requiring both to work together and coordinate all actions are part of the realistic training designed to fully immerse both elements in possible situations and conditions they may encounter in theater.
While the training as been very Afghan-centric, it lends itself to anywhere U.S. government officials work with military personnel like Yeman, Iraq, or the Horn of Africa, said Cooke.
"It's the new normal," Cooke said. "We need to know how to work together successfully."