EDINBURGH, Ind. --The American public may not realize the significance Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center and Muscatatuck Urban Training Complex play in the defense of our nation, but to policy-makers in Washington, D.C., these two installations provide a valuable service in mobilizing, training, validating, deploying and demobilizing Soldiers and civilians to support contingency operations.

The acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, David McGinnis, and Dr. Wizdom Powell, with the White House Fellows, visited Camp Atterbury and Muscatatuck to meet with key leaders, tour facilities and observe pre and post-mobilization operations.

During his visit, McGinnis stressed the importance of the role Camp Atterbury, Muscatatuck and First Army play in defense and foreign policy, "In order to send Soldiers into a warfight, you need to make sure they are trained to a certain level," said McGinnis. "First Army's role is to make sure that occurs; to enforce the standards that are established by the theater commander to make sure that everyone we deploy is prepared to operate in that theater."

According to McGinnis, the training opportunities at Camp Atterbury and Muscatatuck incorporate factors of the modern battlefield that were not issues to commanders and Soldiers in the conflicts of the past.
"This is a venue that is unprecedented, especially in the current context of political military operations that are going on today," said McGinnis. "A very small portion of the last ten years has actually been what we call kinetic, in other words using military forces to bring havoc and destroy things. Most of it has been social, political and economic development, and Atterbury is well suited for that and Muscatatuck gives you the environment to put individuals into a real-life situation."

The focus on non-kinetic operations is not anything new to Soldiers and civilians who work at Camp Atterbury as the installation plays host to Provincial Reconstructions Teams and Agri-business Development Teams bound for Afghanistan as well as deployments to Kosovo and the Horn of Africa.

"That's extremely important because you don't win wars with guns," said McGinnis, "we win wars with building social structures, with building economic structures and making people understand what their futures are and what their opportunities are."

There was also a shift in how to train for deployments as well as thinking about the post-deployment health and welfare of troops and civilians.

"The ability First Army had over the last decade to morph, to be able to address this is really impressive," he said. "First Army was primarily focused on training Soldiers to fight short, violent wars. So First Army has done a wonderful job of morphing, and a lot of that is dependent on absorption with the First Army structure of Guardsmen and reservist, and civilians who bring multiple skills beyond the basic military skills Soldiers have."

Accompanying McGinnis was White House Fellow Dr. Wizdom Powell, assistant professor of health behavior and health education at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. She has been placed with the Department of Defense to gain first-hand, high level experience with the federal government and the development of policies.

While visiting Camp Atterbury and Muscatatuck, she said that the post-deployment mental health facilities and programs were essential for the care of Soldiers especially in the areas of cognition relating to traumatic brain injury.

"I was really impressed with the facilities (referring to the mental health and Soldiers readiness facilities)," she said. "As a civilian, I've not had the opportunity to come into a training environment like this before and it was extraordinarily eye-opening. The mental health facility is exactly, in my opinion, what we need in order to prepare our Soldiers when they mobilize and de-mobilize."

"I think what we are doing here today; especially what we're doing at Atterbury and Muscatatuck, is not going to end very soon," said McGinnis. "We're going to continue to have to hone the skills that we're training here and use them overseas, maybe in lower key environments, maybe in environments that are not so obvious to most Americans."

McGinnis sited continuing deployments to Kosovo and Bosnia as well as an expanding interest in Africa as examples of the types of deployments that will continue to utilize Camp Atterbury and Muscatatuck.