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Archive for the ‘civil affairs’ Category

Source: US CentCom.

25 October 2007
By 1st Lt. David Herndon
Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa Public Affairs
.

NAGAD, Djibouti — A culmination of smiles and laughter filled the air as Airmen and Marines provided live entertainment, toys and water to the residents of Nagad village, Oct. 23 [2007].

Nagad was the site of a Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa [CJTF-HOA] civil affairs engagement, teaming Airmen of the United States Central Air Forces’ Expeditionary Band and Marines of the 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion. The event marked the second time in October the two services joined together to provide humanitarian assistance to Djiboutian villages.

“I think it’s great that we can bring some of our culture to our friends here in Djibouti and share goodwill with our neighbors,” said Marine Capt. Christopher Crim, 3rd LAAD Batter B commanding officer. “Regardless of service, we are all on the same team, the American team, and we look to once again spread our goodwill to our friends who are so kind and gracious to host our efforts.”

The CENTAF Band’s mobile expeditionary performance group ‘Live Round,’ currently based out of Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, performed a blend of current and classic rock ‘n’ roll musical selections to entertain the crowd of nearly 200 villagers, primarily consisting of school-aged children.

“We all speak different languages, but music seems to be something that unifies us all,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Joseph Grasso, CENTAF Band superintendent. “It is important that we reach kids at this age so we can let them know what America is all about and what we hope to accomplish in the region, which is to deter extremism.”

For the Marines, who are deployed to CJTF-HOA from Camp Pendleton, Calif., this type of engagement is an additional mission to their primary duty of providing security to Camp Lemonier.

“Tactically, civil affairs engagements are important to us because they accomplish the important goal of ensuring the local population views our presence as a benefit to them,” said Lt. Col. A.F. Potter, 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion commanding officer. “Civil affairs engagements are not only about economics and security; they are also about friendship-building, mutual trust, and genuine commitment. Targeting these things will create security and foster stability.”

The band spent nearly two hours performing for villagers before 3rd LAAD Marines began passing gifts and water to village elders and children, an experience enjoyed by all.

“Everyone knows that the Americans are very open here in Djibouti,” said Idriss Akmed Khayre, Nagad Village chief. “[CJTF-HOA] military members do so much good for us and we appreciate it. I look forward to working with [CJTF-HOA] again in the future.”

According to Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Paul Eschliman, Live Round’s chief vocalist, the event served as a creative way for Airmen and Marines to work together to prevent conflict and extremism by fostering positive relationships in the local area. “This type of event will pay long-term dividends that most wouldn’t believe,” said Eschliman. “Making friends now will help our relationships grow exponentially in the distant future.”

Civil Affairs engagements, similar to the Nagad concert, serve as opportunities for CJTF-HOA personnel to reduce the specter of conflict, war and extremism in the Horn of Africa. “We know that simply throwing money at a problem will not yield the desired results,” said Potter. “We must be truly genuine in our efforts to make friends and civil affairs is our ounce of prevention.”

CJTF-HOA is a unit of United States Central Command. The organization conducts operations and training to assist partner nations to combat terrorism in order to establish a secure environment and enable regional stability. More than 1,500 people from each branch of the U.S. military, civilian employees, coalition forces and partner nations make up the CJTF-HOA organization. The area of responsibility for CJTF-HOA includes the countries of Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Yemen.

Photo – Air Force Tech Sgt. Michael Mason, a vocalist with the U.S. Central command Air Force’s expeditionary band, Live Round, sings ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ for villagers in Nagad, Djibouti, Oct. 23. The band is touring Djibouti to perform a series of morale and community outreach concerts. Photo by 1st Lt. David Herndon.

Great job, guys. I’m very proud of you.

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29 Aug 07
By Cpl. Ryan M. Blaich, II
Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD)
.

HABBANIYAH, Iraq – When a group of American military advisors deployed to Iraq and took over a small combat outpost on the outskirts of town recently, they knew the task ahead might get tough, but each day would be rewarding. The Marines and sailors that make up Military Transition Team 13, working alongside the 1st Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division, are increasing the security of the area and the quality of life for local residents as well.

They operate out of a dusty, war-faced outpost named the OK Corral. They usually work long hours, patrolling streets with Iraqi soldiers or standing post overlooking the Euphrates River. They cook each meal themselves, because there is no chow hall to feed the 14 Marines, two corpsmen and company of Iraqi soldiers. They have learned to adapt, dealt with sweltering heat and braved the roadways of a foreign land.

Many of the men of MTT 13 have been to Iraq before, making them ideal candidates for an advisory team. The soldiers that make up 1st Battalion are veteran war fighters as well; hardened by battles past, experienced in combat operations. Perhaps that is why the people in this area trust the Iraqi soldiers.

Habbaniyah acts as a corridor in a crucial area, known as Jazerria, located between the once terrorist safe heaven cities of Fallujah and Ramadi. Nowadays, people go about their lives freely while searching for jobs, attending schools, plowing fields and shopping in crowded markets without fear of being shot in the crossfire of combat.

“The IAs have won the trust of the people,” said Cpl. Jason Syvrud an infantryman attached to MTT 13. “People see that they’re here, the area is safe, they are happy that their families aren’t at risk anymore. The IA is here to help the whole country and get this back on its feet. The people are loving to see the change. The country as a whole is trying to rebuild.”

Syvrud is only 22, but is currently serving his third tour in Iraq. He has been in cities where it was difficult to trust the citizens. But now he has seen a significant change in the war and in the people. He feels pride in his advisory role, knowing each day is bringing comfort to strangers he once felt uncomfortable around.

“I’ve seen in the three times I’ve been here this country has done a complete 180. It’s gone from everyone not knowing what to do and being scared to do anything, to them starting to come out and finding out what a democratic society would be like,” he said. “Now, they are really trying to get involved. They are building their schools up, they’re building up the mosques, their homes. They’re trying to find jobs. It looks more and more like a typical American rural area. The majority of the people seem happy. They’re doing what they have to do to survive and building a life out of this.”

Safety is what brings out the smiles and trust of the townspeople Syvrud said. The locals are involved with the Iraqi Army now. They help locate possible terrorists. They have begun to rebuild their community by fixing up schools, roads and mosques. The province is still early in reconstruction efforts, but the transition seems to be working as planned.

Getting the soldiers to understand the benefits of civil engagements, such as the civil medical engagements, is a priority for MTT 13 team chief, Lt. Col. Thomas Hobbs. Transition teams have assisted in several CMEs, which provide medical care to people who would normally have to travel to Ramadi to see a doctor. With more than 16 years of experience in the Marine Corps, Hobbs said focusing on civil affairs can not only counter the insurgent’s propaganda, but win the hearts and minds of law-abiding citizens.

“This battalion tends to be very focused on conventional operations. What I mean by that is in a counter-insurgency environment they are enamored with cache sweeps, security patrolling,” Hobbs said. “They should be focusing on civil affairs information operations and focusing on the population as a whole. The security level right now allows for that, so I’m trying to teach them to think in that manner.”

Hobbs praised the Iraqi company commanders for understanding the impact civil affairs has on the war efforts. “They have been very willing to get out and meet the population and doing civil affairs projects on their own, even without money. We’ve been really successful in getting the companies to move and they’re actually initiating a lot of things I want to change or make better,” he said.

Hobbs said the predominately Shiite Army has been received with open arms by the Anbari locals, who are mainly Sunni. A huge reason for this may lie in the idea of getting his team of advisors to stress the importance of making the population comfortable to Iraqi leaders. It is his philosophy that if the people are happy and satisfied with their life, then the terrorists will no longer have the ability to move freely within the community. He said the company and platoon leaders have begun to buy into the civil affairs mindset. As a result, the city has not seen any escalation in force in more than two months.

The soldiers of 1-3-1 can fight, that has been proven during the past year and a half of combat operations. Hobbs said the battalion is known throughout the Iraqi Army for its ability to engage and defeat the enemy, and that is what the terrorists should realize. The mission now is to concentrate on keeping this rural area safe and prospering. The smiles on children are evidence enough that the plan is working.

“I feel proud when I look around and see the kids and people smiling,” Syvrud said. “They’re happy when the Army and Marines come walking around, they aren’t afraid of us anymore. They’re happy with themselves, they’re happy with the environment around them and they’re striving to get better. They’re not just satisfied with things, they want it better, just like any American does.”

Photo – Lt. Col. Thomas Hoobs, team chief for Military Transition Team 13, talks to members of the Iraqi Security Forces during an inspection of a local bridge. Keeping roadways safe and drivable not only helps navigation of anti-terrorist traffic, but is part of a wider ranging civil affairs mission of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Iraqi Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division.

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21 Aug 07
By Staff Sgt. Kenya Shiloh
Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa Public Affairs
.

DJIBOUTI CITY, Djibouti – Members of the 350th Civil Affairs Command Special Functions Team donated eight pallets of excess medical supplies valued at $800,000 to the Pelltia Hospital in Djibouti, July 25.

Items such as pajamas, oxygen masks, sheets, gauze bandages, knee braces, surgical instruments and humidifiers were flown in from warehouses in Qatar and Bahrain to be delivered to the hospital. From there, the supplies will be dispersed to hospitals and clinics throughout the region.

“The pallets are excess medical property and if we don’t accept it, it’s literally just buried in the sand and it all goes to waste,” said Army Lt. Col. Alana Conley, 350th medical team chief. “Basically every clinic and hospital in Djibouti and throughout the Horn of Africa can use medical supplies. Items that are usually expendable to us, they’re reusing. The supplies will be used to improve patient care overall.”

Dr. Christian Oman Glele, acting chief of staff was on-hand to accept the property once it was offloaded from the trucks with the help of people in the local community. “Thank you a lot for the medical supplies,” said Glele. “Offloading the material is a big job, but now patients have access to good equipment which is very beneficial for the hospital.”

Other civil affairs teams throughout the Horn of Africa also received medical supplies to distribute to hospitals and clinics in their respective countries. “Everywhere we’ve been, every hospital and clinic we’ve looked at, didn’t have enough supplies,” said Air Force Maj. Pauline Lucas, 350th public health officer. “Some hospitals even rewash bandages. We know that with this property, we could do more for them. We went to look at their supply warehouse and it was bare. When we looked at it, we were like wow, we have all these excess items; we can fulfill their need.”

In the future, the 350th Civil Affairs Command Special Functions Team plans to send first aid shelter kits to field hospitals in Garrissa and Bal Bala, Kenya, as well as clinics throughout Tanzania and Djibouti. Dr. Madian Said, the Pelltia Hospital’s chief of staff who also runs medical caravans throughout the country, will use some of the first aid shelter kits to help fight cholera outbreaks in the region.

Photo – U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jeffrey Swain, and Air Force Maj. Pauline Lucas, 350th Civil Affairs Command Special Functions Team, offload medical supplies at the Pelltia Hospital in Djibouti with the help of local residents. More than eight pallets of supplies and equipment valued at $800,000 were donated to the hospital, July 25. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kenya Shiloh.

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6 Aug 07
By Spc. Jeffrey Ledesma
Headquarters, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs
.

CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq – Texas-based “Thunderhorse” Soldiers with 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, are pushing projects to improve the quality of life for the residents of northwestern Baghdad.

During a routine patrol through the streets of the Iraqi capital’s Shula neighborhood Aug. 1, the tan-colored Humvees, manned by Company A’s 2nd “Dirty Deuce” Platoon, made several stops, one at a near-deserted all-boys school and another at an electric substation.

“We’ll go in there and get a quick assessment and see what we need. If it is something we can handle at the battalion level through surplus funds. We’ll go ahead and start initiating a project,” 1st Lt. Jonathan Gilotti said.

School’s Out

On their first stop, the Soldiers set foot into an all-boys primary school. Gilotti, the officer in charge of the information operations campaign, initiated a conversation to find out what the unit could do to help the community. The native of Avon, Conn., said that when he asked about the problems the school needed assistance with, he got a somewhat expected response, similar to all the schools in the area – this is one of seven in their sector.

“There was very little electricity, water problems, the walls needed slight renovations, more tables and chairs were needed, but nothing too big,” he said. “Things like tables and chairs or a small project like a basic sewage problem we could usually handle that at the battalion level through our surplus funds, which is basically the commander’s emergency relief fund.

“The battalions are allocated a certain amount of money they can use for civil military operations related projects,” he said. “Basically, any project that we can perform that benefits the community.”

With notes scribbled on pocket size pad of paper and a couple megabytes of digital images loaded onto his camera, the Dirty Deuce rolled out to their next stop.

Power to the People

When the wheels came to a halt once again, the Soldiers found themselves parked in the gated area of the Hurriya Kabil electrical substation, which provides power directly to the neighborhoods in their area of operation: Shula’s Al Katieb, Rhamanyia and Jawadine. With a jolly, big-bellied interpreter by his side, Gilotti discovered a serious obstacle between the people of the area and their electricity. Gilotti said that the substation is located right next to a busy route known for it’s improvised explosive devices. On June 13, one of their lines was damaged by crossfire that cut the plant’s capability in half, forcing people to rely on personal generators.

When issues arose about two months ago, the unit sent out Soldiers to distribute neighborhood generators. The community responded with resounding contentment with the electrical situation, said Gilotti. He explained that the area is under a different type of influence.

“JAM (Jaish Al Mahdi militia) does two things against the Americans. One, it will go against us in kinetic operations, EFP (explosively-formed projectile) attacks, RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) attacks, small arms fire attacks, and at the same time, they will target us in a negative information campaign,” the armor officer said. “They’ll campaign against us saying ‘The Americans won’t provide services for you. Americans don’t do anything to help the community out.’ So, they will get the locals to turn against us and they won’t give up information about the terrorists that operate in the area that conduct attacks on us.”

It wasn’t until recently when the “Thunderhorse” Battalion started conducting more humanitarian projects that the locals realized that JAM wasn’t providing the services while the Americans were making attempts.

“They started working with us, trying to give us as much information as possible so in turn we kept pushing to do more and more projects and start doing more assessments to see what else we could do for the community,” said Gilotti.

Providing the Visibility

Gilotti is the liaison between patrol reports and the next level of civil military operations.

“I’ll turn it over to the civil military operations team for our brigade and they’ll bring out actual specialists who will look at the project, see where the loose ends are that need to be tied together and they will start working with [the] ministry of electricity and [the] government of Iraq to start (to) get the ball rolling,” he said. “I am a simple reporter,” Gilotti said, adding that he will continue reporting and pushing projects to his higher-ups. “Sometimes when you really do want to make a difference, you have to be a pain … you’ve got to keep pushing and pushing … and that’s what makes a difference.”

Although the unit hasn’t seen the long-term effects because of the frequency of attacks in their area of operation, he said, they have seen the initial reaction of the people by taking an interest in their well-being. “In the time that the battalion is here, what we can do is provide a little bit of comfort to the community,” Gilotti said. “If locals can say, ‘While this unit was here they took an interest in our quality of life and made an effort to make a difference and we appreciate it,’ that is sometimes all we can ask for.”

Photo – 1st Lt. Jonathan Gilotti, officer in charge of information operations with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, out of Fort Bliss, Texas, gets information from employees of the Hurriya Kabil electrical substation in Baghdad’s Shula neighborhood Aug. 1. The Soldiers of 2-12th Cavalry operate in Baghdad’s northwestern neighborhoods as part of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. Photo by Spc. Jeff Ledesma.

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1 Aug 07
By Spc. Armando Monroig
5th MPAD
.

BAQUBAH, Iraq – Sgt. Richard Galli carried a pistol, two magazines and never a radio. While he used guides he didn’t know, and often traveled to places he had never been, his commander expected him to come back alive. That was 1971. Galli was a linguist who worked for a civil affairs unit in Hue, Vietnam.

Thirty-six years later, Galli, now a lawyer and novelist, is in the Diyala province to find inspiration for his next book. He’s here to see how civil affairs Soldiers get their jobs done in, what is currently, one of the most dangerous places in Iraq.

“It’s just an enormous difference between the way civil affairs is done here and the way I did it back in Vietnam,” said Galli.

Galli has written several books, including “Rescuing Jeffery,” based on a tragic life experience with his son who was paralyzed from the neck down after a swimming accident, and “REMFs: Rear Echelon Mother (Expletive),” based on his experience as a civil affairs Soldier during the Vietnam War. He also writes short stories and columns for The Providence Journal in Rhode Island.

“I’m catching up with old business,” he said. “I’m trying to find out what the new generation of civil affairs Soldiers are like and what kind of problems they have in this war.” Galli said that when he asked to be embedded with a unit, he requested to go where civil affairs units are most active and the job is hardest to accomplish. He got what he asked for: Baqubah.

After spending a few days with members of the 431st Civil Affairs Battalion, from Little Rock, Ark., Galli found a few similarities. “The dominant characteristic of me and the people around me back then wasn’t anger, it was humor,” he said. “We were young guys trying to have a good time, even though we were at war.”

Galli also learned that civil affairs conducts missions similar to those he participated in more than 30 years ago: medical visits to local hospitals, handing out much needed supplies, such as water and medicine, and improving agriculture. Galli said he knew it was more difficult to conduct civil affairs missions in Baqubah, but didn’t fully realize how difficult until he observed what the 431st CA Bn. goes through to get the job done.

To deliver rice in Diyala, he said, he would have to have a sizable security force. “Sometimes there’d be two of us (in Vietnam). At the most there would be three of us,” said Galli. He said many back in the U.S. don’t understand what it’s like to be in Iraq and don’t realize how hard it is to conduct any type of mission.

“If you were to tell somebody that somebody died on a mission in Iraq, they’d be thinking, ‘Oh, well, they went to a village to have a fight with some terrorists, to arrest somebody. But anything can be a mission here – delivering mail, going to talk to somebody.”

“I look at this and say, ‘Wow, this is so much tougher,” he said. Galli said the material he gathers during this visit to Iraq will be added to his previously-written book about civil affairs in Vietnam or used for writing an entirely new book. “I came with an idea for an outline, kind of a core – I’m not sure about it anymore because I’m not sure that my preconception of what I’d find here matches reality,” he said.

Photo – Richard Galli, Vietnam War veteran, lawyer and author, poses for a photo at Forward Operating Base Warhorse near Baqubah, Iraq, June 14. Galli was in Diyala province to gather material for a book he is working on. Galli was part of a civil affairs unit during Vietnam. He came to FOB Warhorse to embed with the 431st Civil Affairs Battalion, from Little Rock, Ark., and to see how the new generation of CA Soldiers work. Photo by Sgt. Armando Monroig, 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.

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