By Jerry Green, 95th Civil Affairs Brigade PAOMay 12, 2015
FORT BRAGG, N.C. (USASOC News Service, May 12, 2015) - Senior leaders from 10 countries were at Fort Bragg April 28- May 5, to participate in an exchange of ideas and concepts covering civil military operations in their countries.
Representing their nation's military, eight delegates attending were from the Pacific region, including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Cambodia, Maldives, Bangladesh, Mongolia and Nepal.
The delegates came to share information concerning civil operations in their countries and how they can benefit from each other's assistance when weather or other natural disasters occur.
Hosting the conference was the 97th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne), 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne) and U.S. Army Special Operations Command.
The 97th CAB deploys to the Pacific region as part of its continuing mission with U.S. Pacific Command and is the largest region covered by civil affairs teams from the 95th CAB.
Lt. Col. Tom Matelski, 97th CAB commander welcomed the delegates noting that some had flown more than 36 hours to get to Fort Bragg,.
"We must have the ability to prepare to response to crisis in our countries and hope this exchange of ideas will make it easier for our countries to work together when disasters occur," said Matelski in his opening remarks. "If we are not prepared to respond and assist others then all of our people suffer."
During his opening remarks, Col. Scot Storey, 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne) commander, told the delegates that all countries face formidable environmental concerns, referencing the recent earthquake in Nepal and other recent weather related disasters in the Pacific region.
"Each of us has a valid reason to share our experiences," said Storey. "Knowing each other on a personal basis promotes how we approach problems not only in our own country but in the region as well. We are here to discuss and further develop our best practices and share with others."
During their stay at Fort Bragg, the delegates observed several training events taking place at USASOC. They observed assessment exercises at Camp McKall's Freedom Village training site. They had an opportunity to visit ongoing training at U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center. On their last day at the conference the delegates spent a day at Fayetteville's Airborne and Special Operation Museum.
"After a week here, we have learned something. We are family now," said Brig. Gen. Michael Warmack, deputy commanding general, 1st Special Forces Command (Provincial). "The family is a network. It is essential that we use that network to better share our best practices. Celebrate and promote the skills you have learned here. It is vital to cultivate those skills to the mutual benefit of our countries."
Maj. John Wilcox, 97th CAB executive officer, said that this exchange conference has been in planning for more than an year and brings the civil affairs military experts from each country to one central location.
"We believe this initiative represents the efforts of all our Soldiers to discuss civil military operations from our own perspectives-- because at the end of the day-- while we see the world through a different lens from where we sit, much of what we do overlaps," said Storey. "The principals remain the same and we can absolutely learn from one another -- and this isn't the end, this is really the beginning, so I strongly urge you to remain in contact, not only with us, but with each other. We can continue to build that network that will ultimately benefit all of us."
Capt. Josh Swartsel, the civil information management chief at the 97th Civil Affairs coordinated the weeklong event and believes that the real success of this subject matter expert exchange will be when the attendees go back to their home units and share the information with their country's military and civil authorities. We can measure our success when they respond back to us on the positive measures they have implemented, he said.
"We are just a phone call away," said Storey. "One of the things I know to be true, however, it is not a matter of if something happens, it is a matter of when it will happen again."