The U.S. Army Cultural Support Team Program
1 USAJFKSWCS, “Concept Plan for the Cultural Support Program: An Enduring Army Special Operations Capability,” 27 July 2010, 10, copy in USASOC History Office Classified Files, Fort Bragg, NC, hereafter “CST Concept Plan.”
August Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan (CJSOTF-A) briefs International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) about increasing U.S. female service member support to Special Operations Forces (SOF).3
3 CFSOCC-A, “CFSOCC-A CST Brief,” 11-15 July 2011, copy in USASOC History Office Classified Files, hereafter CFSOCC-A CST Brief.
*IAW USSOCOM Sanitization Protocol for Historical Articles on Classified Current Operations, pseudonyms are used for majors and below who are still on active duty, unless names have been publicly released for awards/decorations or DoD news release. Pseudonyms are identified with an asterisk. The eyes of personnel in photos are blocked out when not covered with dark visors or sunglasses, except when the photos were publicly released by a service or DoD. Source references (end notes) utilize the assigned pseudonym.
10 March ISAF directs U.S. Forces, Afghanistan (USFOR-A) to develop a Cultural Support Team (CST) concept.4
4 USASOC G-3, “Female Manned Cultural Support Teams,” 27 August 2010, copy in USASOC History Office Classified Files, hereafter “Female Manned CSTs.”
25 May U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) issues Tasking Order specifying five key CST tasks:
- Directly interacting with Afghan women and children;
- Providing medical care for Afghan women and children;
- Searching and questioning Afghan women and children;
- Supporting information operations (IO) messaging to the female population and “minimiz[ing] civilian interference with military operations”; and
- Advising Special Operations Task Force commanders and small unit leaders on female aspects of Civil-Military Operations (CMO).
U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) directed to train Army CSTs.5
5 Excerpt of text in USAJFKSWCS, “Cultural Support Team Command Update,” 26 August 2010, copy in USASOC History Office Classified Files; see also CFSOCC-A CST Brief.
10 July USCENTCOM drafts Request for Forces (RFF) for 64 females for CST missions in Afghanistan and Iraq (mission reduced to only Afghanistan before the first CST training class).7
7 “Female Manned CSTs.” This number was based on input from Combined Forces Special Operations Component Command-Afghanistan (CFSOCC-A), the 75th Ranger Regiment, and the Joint Forces Special Operations Component Command-Iraq (JFSOCC-I).
26 July-25 August The USASOC proponent for CST training, the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School (USAJFKSWCS), conducts three In-Progress Reviews (IPRs) to prepare for training. CST Program of Instruction (POI) is completed in September. Tentative start date for the first CST Assessment and Selection (A&S) is 1 November 2010, to be followed by the 6-week CST Training Course (CSTC), finishing around 15 December 2010.8
8 USAJFKSWCS, “Cultural Support Teams, IPR #1,” 26 July 2010, copy in USASOC History Office Classified Files; USAJFKSWCS, “Cultural Support Teams, IPR #2,” 20 August 2010, copy in USASOC History Office Classified Files; USAJFKSWCS, “Cultural Support Team Training Course IPR,” 25 August 2010, copy in USASOC History Office Classified Files. The CST program was refined during these IPRs, which explained that each CST would have 3 members ranked E-4 to 0-4 and would support Special Forces Operational Detachments-Alpha or U.S. Army Ranger units; that the 1st Special Warfare Training Group (SWTG) and various USAJFKSWCS directorates would oversee CST training; that the CST program would be open to all females across the Army; that the 3-5 day A&S would be followed by the 21 day CSTC, consisting of Orientation (3 days), General Culture (10 days), Afghan Culture (5 days), Engaging (2 days), and a Situational Training Exercise (1 day); that CST selectees will have also satisfied requirements of Civil Affairs (CA) A&S; and that U.S. Army Special Forces Command and 75th Ranger Regiment will directly assist CSTs with Pre-Mission Training (PMT).
8 September USCENTCOM RFF 855 MOD 4 requests 20 females to support SOF.9
9 “CST Concept Plan,” 10.
1 October The 95th CA Brigade begins internal training program for CST applicants to help prepare them for A&S.10
10 “CST Concept Plan,” 10.
1 November The CST pilot program launched as 57 CST-1 candidates from USASOC and III Corps (Fort Hood, TX) units begin A&S at Camp Mackall, NC. 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group (SWTG) has primary responsibility for all CST training, the active duty, reserve, or National Guard status of applicants notwithstanding.11
11 USAJFKSWCS, “TDD [Training and Doctrine Division] SITREP, 1-5 November 2010,” 5 November 2010, 2, copy in USASOC History Office Classified Files; USAJFKSWCS, Information Paper, “SUBJECT: Cultural Support Team Assessment and Selection Pilot Course (CSTAS) 01-11,” 9 November 2010, copy in USASOC History Office Classified Files, hereafter CST Pilot Info Paper.
8 November 36 CST-1 selectees begin the first CSTC.12
12 CST Pilot Info Paper.
10 November USCENTCOM RFF 1210 requests 8 CSTs (24 personnel) to support SOF.13
13 95th Civil Affairs Brigade S-3, “95th CA BDE (A), S3/Training Meeting,” 12 October 2010, copy in USASOC History Office Classified Files.
10 December 31 soldiers of CST-1 graduate from the first CSTC.14
14 Commander, 3rd Battalion, 1st SWTG, CST-1 Graduation Invitation, no date, copy in USASOC History Office Classified Files.
15 Cultural Support Teams: Training for a Critical Role in Village Stability Operations, CFSOCC-A, digital video, 2011, copy in USASOC History Office Classified Files.
17 Cultural Support Teams: Training for a Critical Role in Village Stability Operations.
January After Pre-Mission Training (PMT) with SOF units, 28 personnel of CST-1 deploy to Afghanistan (11 support DA mission; 17 support VSO mission).16
16 Deployment dates drawn from Enlisted Record Briefs from CST-1 personnel. See also USAJFKSWCS, “USAJFKSWCS – Cultural Support Team In-Brief,” 7 May 2013, copy in USASOC History Office Classified Files, hereafter “CST In-Brief.”
1 March Department of the Army approves Personnel Development Skill Identifier (PDSI) D5K (Cultural Support Team).19
19 HQDA, “ALARACT 080/2011, SUBJECT: ESTABLISHMENT OF PERSONNEL DEVELOPMENT SKILL IDENTIFIER (PDSI) CODE D5K (CULTURAL SUPPORT TEAM),” 2 March 2011, copy in USASOC History Office Classified Files.
17 March A&S begins at Camp Mackall for Reserve Component and National Guard candidates of CST-2. 34 soldiers are soon selected. 20 (Due to USASOC’s inability to meet demand for CSTs from its own units, applications were invited from across the total Army for CST-2.)
20 USASOC, “Cultural Support Team (CST) Program Reassignment to SWCS,” 5 April 2011, copy in USASOC History Office Classified Files, hereafter “Reassignment to SWCS.”
29 April USAJFKSWCS assigned responsibility for the entire U.S. Army CST program.21
21 “Reassignment to SWCS.”
5 May A&S held at Camp Mackall for Active Component candidates of CST-2. Selection ends on 13 May.22
22 “Reassignment to SWCS.”
6 June Assessed and selected CST-2 soldiers begin the CSTC.23
23 TDD, “SITREP, 31 May-3 June 2011,” 3 June 2011, copy in USASOC History Office Classified Files.
19 July 56 soldiers of CST-2 graduate from the CSTC. A&S for CST-3 is scheduled for 12-16 September.24
24 Directorate of Special Operations Proponency (DSOP), “DSOP SITREP, 25-31 July 2011,” 31 July 2011, 3, copy in USASOC History Office Classified Files; “CST In-Brief.”
27 July USAJFKSWCS finalizes the Cultural Support Concept Plan to help transition the program “from only meeting RFF immediate needs to a capacity embedded [in Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF)].”25
25 “CST Concept Plan,” 10.
August After PMT, 54 personnel from CST-2 deploy to Afghanistan (19 support DA mission; 35 support VSO mission).
August-September CST-1 soldiers re-deploy from Afghanistan.28
28 Re-deployment dates drawn from Enlisted Record Briefs from CST-1 personnel.
22 October CST-2 First Lieutenant (1LT) Ashley I. White, Medical Service Corps, 230th Brigade Support Battalion, 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, North Carolina Army National Guard, is killed in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, while supporting 2/75th Ranger Regiment. She is the first CST killed in action.29
29 USASOC History Office, The Last Full Measure of Devotion: ARSOF Fallen from the War on Terrorism, 2001-2014 (Fort Bragg, NC: USASOC, 2015), 170.
31 October Assessed and selected CST-3 soldiers begin the CSTC.31
31 USAJFKSWCS, “SWC Off-site (14 March 2012): CST Training,” 14 March 2012, copy in USASOC History Office Classified Files, hereafter “SWC Off-site.”
16 December 46 soldiers of CST-3 graduate from the CSTC.32
32 “SWC Off-site.”
26 Cultural Support Teams: Training for a Critical Role in Village Stability Operations.
27 Cultural Support Teams: Training for a Critical Role in Village Stability Operations.