More than 80 U.S. Army officers and NCOs donned the crossed scroll and sword of the Civil Affairs regiment for the first time Sept. 21 during a ceremony on Fort Bragg's John F. Kennedy Plaza, marking their official entry into the U.S. Army's Civil Affairs branch.
The combined class of active-duty and U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers had only hours earlier completed their two-week culmination exercise, for the Civil Affairs Qualification Course, before gathering in formation to receive their own regimental crests and honor three individuals for their lifetimes of service to the Civil Affairs regiment.
Surrounded by an audience of course graduates, Family members, and past and present special-operations Soldiers, retired Maj. Gen. William R. Berkman and retired Col. Walter F. Goodman were inducted as distinguished members of the Civil Affairs regiment during the ceremony. Connie Reaves Almueti was also recognized during the ceremony as an honorary member of the regiment.
Berkman, a civilian attorney, is an alumnus of the Army Reserve's 445th Civil Affairs Battalion in the San Francisco Bay area. Berkman went on to serve as the commander of the 351st Civil Affairs Command in Mountain View, Calif., two terms as Chief of the Army Reserve beginning in 1979, and six years as the Reserve Forces Policy Board's military executive until his retirement in 1992.
Goodman, a native of San Francisco, served during World War II as a Civil Affairs officer assigned to the British 8th Army, where he would be among the first Soldiers to enter towns on the Adriatic side of Italy, assessing and reporting on local conditions and taking actions to establish allied control of those communities. Following the war, Goodman settled in Texas, ultimately joining the 362nd Civil Affairs Area B Headquarters (now a brigade) in Dallas, which he commanded during the late 1960s.
Almueti joined the U.S. Army Civil Affairs & Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) in 1988 as the command's first Department of the Army civilian employee. Throughout 43 years of federal civil service, Almueti has served in several positions, including 24 years as the USACAPOC(A) commanding general's secretary and administrative support specialist. She has successfully served seven different USACAPOC(A) commanders.
"We have invested in you heavily in adaptive thinking and leadership, to prepare you for the complex operational environments you will soon face," said Lt. Col. Brian Howell while addressing the students during the ceremony. Howell is commander of 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group (Airborne), which manages all Civil Affairs courses for the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School. "Each of you has demonstrated the ability to transfer knowledge into skills and capabilities. You are now ready to join your operational units."
First Lt. Jennifer Bylsma, the distinguished honor graduate for the course's Army Reserve section, said she was excited to return home to her new assignment in the 415th Civil Affairs Battalion in Kalamazoo, Mich.
"It feels wonderful to graduate this course, I've been waiting to do this for a very long time," said Bylsma, a third-year law school student who missed the first few weeks of class in order to complete the CAQC. "When I was in ROTC, when I first heard about Civil Affairs, I said 'Absolutely, where do I sign up?' Ever since then I knew I wanted to be here. It's the best mission in the Army, I think, and I'm definitely very proud to be part of it."
All students proved their readiness to join the regiment during their final exercise at Camp Mackall, approximately one hour away from Fort Bragg in Hoffman, N.C. The training area is home to the majority of SWCS field exercises, and for the CAQC became a region of the conflict-ridden Pineland, complete with role-playing refugees, local disgruntled citizens, non-governmental aid organizations and "counter-Civil-Affairs" teams pushing criminal agendas throughout the population.
"We all worked hard together, me and my teammates. A lot of late nights and a lot of coffee," Bylsma said. "It's definitely worth it."
Col. Richard Thewes, the ceremony's guest speaker and the director of Civil Affairs force modernization at SWCS, congratulated the graduates on becoming a part of a proud tradition with its modern historical roots in the campaigns of World War II.
"As the land campaigns moved from Africa into Europe, it became clear that some type of military government was needed to assume control until a local democratic government could be established," Thewes said during the ceremony. "This need for civil administration resulted in the establishment of military government units composed of Army Reserve Soldiers who possessed appropriate civilian skills to administer essential government services."
"The need for military government, as well as civilian engagement, continued through the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam and into our current operations," Thewes said. "Today's Civil Affairs operations continue globally in places that directly affect the promotion of the United States' vital interests."
Each new Civil Affairs officer and NCO is now an ambassador for their branch, the U.S. Army and their nation, Thewes said.
"What you have learned in this course has prepared you to conduct Civil Affairs operations which will leverage the benefits of partnerships with host-nation regional partners and indigenous populations," Thewes said to the graduates. "It requires you to be culturally attuned, so that you can open lines of communication and connect with key leaders so that the Army can achieve national objectives. What you have learned in this course provides the foundation you need to be able to operate in this changing environment."
"Whether you belong to the Army Reserve or active-duty component, you share a common skill-set unique to your branch," Thewes said. "The expectations and burdens that will be placed on you will be the same. You are all Civil Affairs Soldiers."
"Build your team, and do everything you can to prepare for the unknown," Thewes said, emphasizing that while they may find themselves serving in locations resembling civilian environments rather than combat zones, they must always remember that they are there because the situation requires a Soldier. "You are no longer students, what you do from this point on can have strategic impact."
Following the ceremony, the course's U.S. Army Reserve graduates returned to their hometowns across the country. Active-duty graduates remained at Fort Bragg until reassigned to one of the Army's active-duty Civil Affairs units: the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade at Fort Bragg and the 85th Civil Affairs Brigade, based out of Fort Hood, Texas.