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Home > UNS > 141007-01



Puerto Rico provides realistic training for 98th CAB (A) teams

by Jerry Green
95th Civil Affairs (Airborne) Public Affairs Office

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (USASOC News Service, Oct. 7, 2014) - To those who don’t know the language, Spanish speakers seem to talk really fast, but for the civil affairs teams from the 98th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne), Fort Bragg, N.C., Spanish is the language they are accustomed to, and during a recent validation exercise in Puerto Rico, speaking the language was the way to open doors to a unique training environment.

“When reviewing validation exercises in the past, battalion leadership recognized the limitations of using U.S. locations in simulated key leader engagements and other activities,” said Capt. J.C. White, mission readiness officer for the exercise and former Civil Affairs (CA) team leader.  “Our concept of operations hasn’t changed, but our quality of training needed a better setting.”

Limitations and exercise expectations led the planners to think outside the locality box and the country of Puerto Rico, where Spanish is the dominant language, was the first choice for the 98th CAB (A).

“We cannot replicate this training in the United States,” said Lt. Col. David A. Strauss, commander of the 98th CAB (A).  "When we do this same exercise in the United States, we use role players who speak Spanish, but the factors of culture, environment and language usage are not the same. [Here]In Puerto Rico, the CA teams use their skills in real situations that are similar to the conditions they will experience when they deploy.”

Validation exercises are the final assessment for civil affairs teams before deployment. The 98th CAB (A) is regionally assigned to Southern Command that covers Central and South American and Caribbean locations.

This validation exercise was a fast paced exercise that tested the skills of the teams as they conduct meetings with civil authorities, city mayors, representatives of government, law enforcement officials, hospital and care centers and social service directors.

“This was a test of their skills as CA Soldiers. When they conduct their meetings they discuss vulnerabilities that a community or region may face,” said Maj. Clayton D. Curtis, S3 operations officer, 98th CAB (A). “Identifying vulnerabilities is the key to the success of CA teams when working with the populace in their deployed areas.”  

Ten teams took part in the exercise in Puerto Rico. The four-person CA teams are comprised of a captain, the team leader, and three noncommissioned officers. Accompanying the teams during the exercise was an observer/controller who evaluated the team’s actions and reported back to leadership how well each team handled the key leader engagements.

Coordinating the teams was the responsibility of the White Cell, a team of Soldiers whose actions duplicate that of the Theater Special Operations Command (TSOC). Their day-to-day activities provide leadership and guidance to the teams.  

"Several members on the civil affairs teams had recently graduated from the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare & School Center and this was their first opportunity to test their skills,” said Curtis. “The school house graduates the CA Soldiers at about 70 percent qualified in knowledge and practical experience in civil affairs operations.  Then it is up to us, in this type of training, to take those skills, knowledge and abilities up to higher standard.”

“Puerto Rico is the ideal bridge between the language and cultural environment in the United States and that of the locations where our teams will deploy,” said Strauss. “Our customer, United States Southern Command, deserves the best product we can give them.  Our teams are ready for the deployment.”