“The difference between us and the insurgents, who couldn’t seem to care less what they destroy, is that we follow the you-break-it-you-buy-it rule. If the infantry is the tip of the spear during a hot war, it can be said that civil affairs is the tip of the spear – or shovel or bucket loader – after the hot war cools down. These soldiers work hard during the fighting, clearing sectors while attached to the infantry, working with local institutions and assisting the population.”
Thus writes Sergeant First Class Jack Robison in his article “Fresh Paint” in the January 2008 edition of Legion Magazine (see attached link). The article is inspiring as it highlights the intellectual quality of the Army’s non-commissioned corps and it is instructive in that a full nine-months before we published FM3-07, Stability Operations, that combat arms Soldiers, without a lexicon and a doctrine, knew what had to be done to seal the victory.
“Fresh Paint” describes counterinsurgency stability operations at the tactical level and though it tells the story of D Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, deployed to Ar Ramadi, Iraq, it also devotes a good deal of discussion to the contributions of the 486th Civil Affairs Battalion from Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Robison’s story reinforces observations in the Report of the Defense Science Board (DSB) Task Force on Institutionalizing Stability Operations Within DoD, September 2005 (link at right ) that concluded “Civil Affairs plays a crucial role in stability operations. Years ago the primary role of Civil Affairs was reducing foreign civilian interference with U.S. military operations. Nowadays the primary role of Civil Affairs is accelerating stability: helping to restore and maintain public order; safeguarding, mobilizing and using local resources; facilitating the equitable distribution of humanitarian supplies and services, and other critical functions involving essential services and governance.”
The DSB’s report includes recommendations that United States Army Reserve (USAR) Civil Affairs be able to recruit civilian talent outside the normal USAR recruiting process because Civil Affairs required significant “civilian domain expertise” that the Army cannot provide. This experience is most often found in older civilians in their mid thirties to mid forties, and most of this seasoned civilian talent will not find entry level positions in the USAR attractive. For this reason, the DSB recommends an expanded warrant officer program as a minimum incentive.
While filling CA functional specialists within the USAR CA brigades and commands with officers with the proper civilian experience and education has long been a challenge, providing CA generalists support to AC and ARNG brigade combat teams (BCTs) is often been problematic too. While the story of the 486th CA is heartening, it is not unique. USAR CA has performed with distinction in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq. A reoccurring problem, however, has been, a lack of consistent support between USAR CA and deployed AC BCTs. At one conference I attended this year I heard one AC CA officer who served as a CA staff officer in Iraq complain that his brigade was supported by elements from three different USAR CA battalions during its tour in the sand box and that this turnover of supporting CA units hurt his brigade. The only way I can see to overcome this problem is to make CA companies organic to AC and ARNG BCTs, just as we have made other combat support and combat service support units organic to BCTs. This would not diminish the need for the current USAR force structure, which is still needed to support stability operations as echelons above BCT, to include provincial reconstruction teams.