By Capt. Olivia Cobiskey, 205th Infantry Brigade Public Affairs September 5, 2013
Camp Atterbury, Ind. -- A meeting with local shopkeepers turns violent as insurgents attack the civilians and their security forces.
A rocket-propelled grenade lands just behind the last vehicle and small arms fire crackles in the air as a convey of civilian and military personnel pull out of the marketplace.
"Nine o'clock, your nine o'clock," screamed Spc. Kathrynne Mwangi, a financial technician with the 38th Sustainment Brigade, to the gunner, Spc. Bradlee Joiner, with the 2-151st Infantry Battalion, as she pushed her foot down on the gas pedal and pulled the steering wheel sharply to the right.
Though it sounds real, this setting is merely a scenario used to build relationships between students of the Civilian Expeditionary Workforce (CEW) and Indiana National Guard Soldiers during an immersion course directed by 205th Infantry Brigade trainer/mentors at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, near Butlerville, Ind.
"We are very fortunate to have First Army support," said Martin Reutebuch, CEW Project Manager at McKellar Corporation. "We wouldn't be able to do it without them. First Army has resources at Atterbury and the experience to provide training on counterinsurgency, communications, and the civilian/military relationship."
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 unit provided security force support during a CEW training event. Combining the CEW and the Indiana NG training events allows each to train in the same conditions and start to build relationships they'd fully expect to experience in any theater of operations.
Civilians who deploy through CEW, are volunteers selected by the Department of Defense, to fill openings overseas. While some are former military or experienced government workers, many have never worked with the military before.
One of the students, Leisa Zemba, a contracting officer heading to Afghanistan, said she wished she had this training before her first deployment to Iraq in 2005.
"It's the best training I've had, and this is my fifth deployment," said Zemba, after an aviation familiarization flight. "It's given us more tools for our toolbox. It's outstanding."
During training students also learn about national and personal security procedures and how to work with interagency partners. The classroom portion of training is only the beginning. Students progress to interactive sessions including traveling in a convoy or aircraft during scenarios like the market place. Scenarios are designed to fully immerse students in realistic situations and conditions they may encounter in theater.
Trainer/mentors from the 205th Infantry Brigade are key to ensuring those scenarios are as realistic and relevant as possible, said Reutebuch.
Because each CEW class trains with a different Indiana National Guard unit, First Army trainer/mentors also offer oversight during training to ensure each unit provided the most consistent and up-to-date tactics, techniques, and procedures during the CEW training, explained Reutebuch, a former military liaison to the Indiana National Guard.
"The combat experience we've gained over the last decade will be lost if we don't continue to re-evaluate this training for future conflicts," said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Johnston, a trainer/mentor with the 1-335th Infantry Battalion. "To do that, we need to integrate conventional war training with what we've learned from the counterinsurgency fight."
To do that, the 205th Infantry Brigade pools its experience from both the Active and Reserve Component, said Johnston, from Basin, Wyom.
Established in 2009 by the Department of Defense, the CEW program has deployed thousands of civilians in support of wartime missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as other military operations around the world.
For Indiana National Guard Soldier Sgt. Nicholaus Baab, a team leader with Alpha Company, 2-151st Infantry Battalion, it was an eye opener.
"The mentors have reinforced our weapons posture, making it technically sound and non-aggressive -- this increases our security ten-fold helping us complete our mission to get the civilian workforce to where they need to be quickly and safely," said Baab, a butcher from Buchanan, Mich. "It feels good to train other military occupation specialties who don't do this on a regular basis and give them a solid foundation for future training."