FORT HOOD, Texas (Army News Service, May 11, 2012) -- Soldiers assigned to the 85th Civil Affairs Brigade recently took part in the first ever Civil Information Management class here to learn assessment techniques and how to use the information gathered from those assessments.The course was attended by more than 10 Soldiers, and was meant as a "train-the-trainer" activity. The 85th Civil Affairs Brigade will use those Soldier-instructors to teach subsequent Civil Information Management classes. In fact, the next iteration of the class begins May 14."The overall idea of the class is to better equip civil affairs Soldiers, from the team-level to the battalion," said Staff Sgt. Gary Worley, the senior geospatial engineer assigned to 85th Civil Affairs Brigade.Understanding how to properly assess services and facilities, such as hospitals and police departments, are key skills of a civil affairs team. The assessments are completed to understand the civil capabilities required for a particular village or a city within an austere environment."Assessments are the start point of all civil affairs actions," said Master Sgt. Paul Lapointe, the Civil Military Operations Center noncommissioned officer in charge, assigned to 81st Civil Affairs Battalion, 85th Civil Affairs Brigade. "When civil affairs Soldiers enter a village, they are assessing the area and civil capabilities inside and out."Prior to entering particular areas, commanders need to know cultural, social and religious customs so as to understand what they can and cannot do. Mapping human terrain, as well as civil service capabilities, is a basic skill of a civil affairs team. The information gathered during these assessments becomes an integral part in understanding the operational environment during the planning of future operations for ground commanders.Some of the capabilities considered, in the instance of a clinic, may be how many patients can be served or what types of medical services can be offered. While at the Greater Killeen Free Clinic, the students learned that most clinic patients are treated for allergies or other common illnesses, whereas Thomas Moore has the ability to conduct minor surgeries, like vasectomies.In addition to medical facilities, knowledge of how security facilities like police departments operate and function also plays a role in mapping the local terrain when assessing an area. Representatives of the Copperas Cove Police Department agreed to allow Soldiers to assess and understand the requirements of a police and jailing facility.During their assessment, the students learned general operating procedures, ratios of officers to the public, as well as general cost expectations if they were to establish a similar facility.In a deployed environment, these capabilities would be considered when building relationships with a community and its leaders. Assessment skills are useful during negotiations as well.During key leader engagements, Soldiers may be asked by village leaders to provide a service or product, such as building a new school. If civil affairs Soldiers lack the knowledge and resources to properly assess the capabilities of available facilities, they may enter into an agreement that is unnecessary or impossible to accomplish. This shortfall could disrupt fragile relationships in the local area and could potentially affect strategic operations.Once the assessments are complete, information is inputted into a new database known as the Civil Affairs Operating System. Once in the system, it becomes available to any registered user requiring the information to assist in future operations or planning efforts.The Civil Affairs Operating System was developed by members of the Civil Affairs branch as a way to share information and synchronize operations on a global scale. Maj. Shawn Boyer, the security officer for 85th Civil Affairs Brigade, described the system as a tool to interconnect agencies."The idea is for this system to be a comprehensive repository of information," Boyer said. "Before, information was gathered, stored, and carried by the civil affairs personnel that gathered the information.""This system allows for that information to be shared and accessed by registered users who need the information; ground commanders and Soldiers alike," Boyer said.This interconnection, or synchronization, of information may improve overall performance when U.S. forces or other governmental agencies are asked to act.Knowing the capability and condition of civil facilities, such as clinics, hospitals, and police departments can increase efficiency and overall mission success. Information gathered on the ground, when used cooperatively with the information entered into the Civil Affairs Operating System, synchronizes multiple entities working toward the same objective.