The Army recruiting website proudly boasts “over 150 jobs to make you stronger.” The vast majority of these are open to both active duty and reserve soldiers. And for both officers and enlisted soldiers, the training received for most of these jobs is identical, regardless of component. But that’s not the case for all.
Consider civil affairs forces, “trained and educated to shape foreign political-military environments by working through and with host nations, regional partners, and indigenous populations”—essentially responsible for shaping the civil environment all over the world. Civil affairs soldiers assist the commander of a supported military unit in preventing civilian interference with operations, organize and assist in the distribution of foreign humanitarian assistance, and act as liaisons between the Department of Defense and the local populace in foreign countries among a range of other civil-military tasks. Selection and training takes over a year and a half and involves everything from learning another language to jumping out of airplanes. After completing training, newly christened civil affairs soldiers deploy to worldwide combat zones, humanitarian crisis regions, and other problem areas requiring low-intensity intervention.
This lengthy training pipeline equips civil affairs soldiers to meet the demands of often difficult missions—that is, unless you are one of the reservists who make up over 82 percent of America’s civil affairs personnel. In that case, you will still deploy to the same combat zone or crisis area and be expected to do the same job, but without nearly the same training.
Due to the US Army Reserve’s training model, civil affairs soldiers are undertrained and underdeveloped. Reserve component civil affairs officers and enlisted soldiers have been relied on heavily to support an upswing in civil-military missions without any increase or enhancement of training to match that of the 18 percent of civil affairs forces on active duty, who receive the full spectrum of training at the special operations schoolhouse.
Several factors have led to this divergence in training standards. First, over the last seventeen years of high-tempo deployments, with additional requirements for special operations forces opening up in locations every year from Africa to South America, active duty forces have had to rely on support from reserve civil affairs units like never before. Currently there are reserve civil affairs soldiers operating (publicly) in Northern Europe, the Pacific, South America, the Middle East, Africa and many more locations. To meet the demands of these mission requirements, the Army has chosen to mass produce reserve component civil affairs soldiers, quickly and cheaply.
Second, training civil-military special operations forces is very expensive. Language classes, airborne training, and over a year of specialized civil-military education culminates in a two-week exercise at Fort Bragg. Civil affairs soldiers are trained within the special operations schoolhouse and alongside Army Special Forces—a recognition of the light and mobile requirements of civil-military operations and the need to be able to quickly engage with the local civil populace and government during the early days of a conflict or disaster.
For reservists, it is a compacted course with the price tag drastically reduced. Enlisted reservists take an 11-week course at Ft. Bragg’s John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School with no language or airborne component. For officers, the course is largely taught online, with two four-week resident phases at Ft. Bragg, concluding with the reserve officers joining the active soldiers in the field for the second phase’s last two weeks.
Implicit in the realignment of reserve civil affairs under US Army Reserve Command in 2006 was the notion that active duty civil affairs forces remaining under US Army Special Operations Command would focus on support to special operations units, while reservists would support conventional units. But operational necessity has rendered that clean split largely a pipe dream. Reserve component soldiers regularly deploy alongside and in support of special operations units, but without the advanced training that enables success on such missions.
When asked hard questions regarding training time and funds, USACAPOC higher-ups will often, as a source of pride, point to the unique specialization of the civil affairs reservist, whose civilian career outside the Army, they say, offsets the comparative lack of training. And there is merit to this argument: while most active duty civil affairs soldiers have only their previous military training to prepare them for the challenges they’ll be tasked with addressing during deployments, reservists often specialize in anything from law to economics and education to engineering in civilian life. But specialty training—whether advanced language skills necessary for working with foreign nationals or airborne training that allows them to accompany Special Forces during military-to-military training—cannot be substituted with advanced education and day jobs.
This issue is reminiscent of the “paper tab” Special Forces soldiers of the 1980s, when reservists and National Guardsmen could take distance learning courses in order to earn a Special Forces tab and join an elite community. This separate-but-not-equal civil-military training created a class system that is felt within a tight knit group that prides itself on small and cohesive teams.
With the requirement for civil affairs (and psychological operations, which faces a similar set of problems) personnel increasing in a proportionate response to the surge in missions worldwide, civil affairs reservists are being called up to active duty more frequently than those of almost any other type of unit. My current Army Reserve battalion has deployed at least a company-size element seven times to Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Horn of Africa since 2001. This high deployment tempo leaves reserve civil affairs units struggling to fill their billets, which in turn means the same people are forced to go time after time. These individuals’ deployment tempo far outpaces the reserve component’s often quoted but rarely enforced 1:4 deployment to dwell time ratio, and for many, even exceeds the 1:2 ratio of the active component. Yet these soldiers, frequently deployed alongside Special Forces and given similar areas of responsibility to their active duty counterparts year after year, are still considered to be supplementary, and consequently remain undertrained.
It is time to correct this problem. US Army leaders should bring civil affairs reservists into the same selection and training pipeline as the active component. Sending reservists to attend the same course at the Special Warfare Center is the only way to ensure they are as prepared as their active duty counterparts to perform their jobs, just like bringing National Guard candidates into the active duty Special Forces Assessment and Selection pipeline was necessary to ensure a common standard across both components. Until this disparity is resolved, the US Army’s attempt to save money by holding the majority of the civil affairs forces in a low-cost reserve training program while relying on them to fulfill a robust global mission set will continue to violate a basic special operations forces truth: that “quality is better than quantity.” And it will be to the military’s and the nation’s detriment.
Capt. David L. Harrell is a civil affairs officer, currently deployed to the Horn of Africa in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He previously served as an intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance officer-in-charge in Afghanistan. His civilian occupation is within the intelligence community and he currently resides in Washington, D.C. The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not reflect the position of the United States Military Academy, the Department of the Army, or the Department of Defense.
Image credit: Staff Sgt. Kevin Iinuma, US Air Force
CPT Harrell, I appreciate you putting yourself out there to express what many of us are thinking on this issue. I do largely agree with the points you have made here with the exception of a few.
1. CA shouldnt be airborne (especially the 6 battalions in Reserve Component). Its simply a capability we dont need that costs the taxpayers millions of dollars and, especially in the Reserves, detracts from CA based METL training. Frankly, if CA is jumping into combat, the world is ending and we are all in trouble.
2. There shouldnt be an assessment and selection for CA. Many CA officers serve in non-SOF non-airborne positions in the Army. If you are on the G9 staff in US Eighth Army in Korea, you dont need to be airborne or SOF.
3. Many CA units are at 50-60% strength in the Reserves. As such, a full length program would not only eliminate many candidates (job loss, family hardship, etc), but would also mean units wouldnt be able to support missions for a fairly long duration before enough troops would be qualified. This is reminiscent of when the USMC spawned the Raiders, rendering Force Recon non-mission capable for years before they could replace the Marines.
I think your article has a good deal of merit. Online classes are no substitute for actual training. One other issue facing USACAPOC is a lack of slots in their current watered down courses. Even under the current model, it can take 2-3 years for a Reservist to complete the 4 phase Reserve qualification. Its a problem. Ive personally brought this up to the Commandant at JFKSWC and was swiftly dismissed.
Excellent points brought up by the both of you. On the enlisted side, the biggest change has been from the CACOM/ SOC separation. Slots for "hooah " type training, Airborne/Airassault/ SERE, have largely dried up or,at least, came to a trickle.
CPT D –
1 Active Duty should have a selection and assessment for CA. The majority of CA, on the active side, is in the 95th CA brigade, which falls under 1st Special Forces Command, compared to one active duty battalion (which falls under XVIII Airborne Corps). The selection and assessment program has maximized talent and increased the legitimacy of the brigade.
I agree with you with the reserves being airborne there's no requirement, as on the SOF CA side there's no requirement for teams to be HALO and nor should there be. However, having airborne qualification provides an additional method of infiltration while working with SFODAs.
Furthermore, the 95th has a unique METL different than the rest of the CA Brigades that is SOF specific.
2 – You do make a good point about how long it would take the reserves to meet the same standard.
I enjoyed your article. Having served in my first USCAPOC unit in 1996 they are largely the same arguments we had in the back then. Until there is a dramatic restructuring of the entire CA force – potentially away from SOF entirely – things will not change. Just because it is not SOF, does not mean it has to be poorly funded, or neglected. Potentially, there are opportunities for a new command with CA & Security Force Assistance Brigades under a new umbrella. Maybe.
Mostly likely, Soldier with be having this same discussion in 2030. The time to make any real headway in CA was during the height to the demand for CA in 2006 but the opportunity was squandered in usual SOF politics.
Great input. Wholeheartedly agree.
This response is not particularly about training although I think that all CA soldiers should be trained to the same level of proficiency both tactically and with respect to MOS skills. I retired from the Army Reserve after returning from Iraq in 2004.so I have been away from the Army a long time which means the following may be irrelevant My CA unit deployed with the 10th SFG for OIF 1 and when they left we worked for the 101st for roughly nine months. During the time with the 101st we lived in rented houses in Ankawa, which is very near to Irbil, Kirkuk, al Sulaimaniya and Dahok. In some of those locations we hired security guards from the Peshmerga but not all. MY point is that we were totally unprepared to defend those locations if attacked by a large force because the only weapons we had were our issued personal weapons M-16 and M9 and two grenades each. My point is that CA planners should not assume that we will always live with larger U.S. forces and provide adequate crew served and stand off weapons to provide adequate fire power. This will of course require appropriate training for those weapons. The only capacity that we possessed more deficient than our weaponry was our ability to communicate. Teams were often out of communications with Companies for hours at a time and the Battalions communications with its companies was always problematic. The only sure link was the Bn Hq with the !01st headquarters TOC . I was constantly fearful that we would receive a message that a team had been killed or captured because they were unable to get assistance from friendly forces. because of the poor communications. It does not have to be this way. in 1968 at the start of the Tet offensive in Viet Nam I was with the 509th ASA unit headquarters in Viet Nam and was working when the battle started. Every one of our detachment throughout the country came up, reported that they were under attack and closed with "Goody by and Good Luck" There was no reason that the Army could not have provided a system at least as capable as the one in 1968 Viet Nam. Sorry if this is past due but I felt the need to say it..
"Soldiers" should always be capitalized.
AP style guide, which is used by both civilian and military journalists does not capitalize the S in soldier. That is a made up rule by the Army so they can compete with the capitalization of the M for Marine.
More important than the training pipeline for both AC/RC is the selection of talent based on personality types. SF selection includes a Myers Briggs assessment, its purpose is to weed out the untrainable who would have difficulty carrying out their mission sets. Having met more CA "chuckle-heads" than I can count, in both the AC/RC; the good CA Officers and NCOs have these traits often by accident – A personality assessment or similar process could weed out the wrong folks, thus saving enormous amounts of money on the wrong talent.
Active Duty CA Soldiers post-2011 take the same mental/intelligence assessments as Special Forces at their selection course.
I am a retired CA officer who has served in CA as both an officer and NCO. Your article has some merit, but reserve CA units does not need airborne training to do their mission. As a CA soldier I have deployed to Bosnia (96), Haiti (99), Iraq (03-04), Iraq (07-08), Kosovo (08-09) and Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti (09-12). I also was assigned to John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center, with 3 other reserve CA soldiers to put together the active duty Civil Affairs training course. In Africa I was the Center of Army Lessons Learned (CALL). Liaison officer to go and observe the CA missions that took place in HOA. The reserve CA units use the experience that they receive in their civilian jobs to complete their misssion that no amount of training the soldiers get at Ft Bragg can give the soldier.
I am always hesitant to support calls to make an Army Reservist a peer in all manners with his Active Duty counterpart. Providing the exact same training throughout a career would take RC soldiers away from their families and civilian employers so much that they would nearly cease being reservists and would become something that more resembled what I call "Active Duty Lite." There is a reason that many reservists joined the reserve: they either got tired of the full-time lifestyle, or they wanted to serve while in a civilian profession they love. If they wanted to serve in a larger capacity, they would have joined the Regular Army. The more that we demand of our RC–and there are talks on the table to increase training days up to 60!–the more we will drive out those in the component whose civilian jobs cannot handle that stress. We'll end up with an RC made up of primarily two types of people: AGRs and DACs/Contractors for the government. (The author seems to be a member of the latter considering he's a member of the "Intelligence Community' in D.C.) Those of us who don't have careers related to the government will be pushed out because our employers cannot handle the constant training, schools, mobs, and deployments. Also, gone will be the supposed benefit of civilian experience because most TPUs will be government employees. I've seen it happening at my unit where nearly every officer works at the local military installation in one way or another.
We need to fund the RA for the foreign policy we want/must have and stop using or trying to use the RC as some sort of shadow Active-Duty Lite Army. It's detrimental to all, and it's unsustainable.
I love my alma mater, however the graduates of my alma mater by enlarge have no apppreciation of the reserves and the national guard. They see things from an active duty perspective that everyone has the time to attend extra training. They enjoy this because they are paid 24/7 by the same employer and going to school is going to a different place. The pay remains the same, they still accrue vacation and they are guaranteed a job upon their return. The reservist and guardsmen have only at most 15 days of military leave from their employer (only if the federal government) and any additional pay is gained at the loss of their full time civilian pay. Once the expend their military leave (meant for drill and annual training and not schools) they have to do the exchange. If they are on upaid status from their employer they accrue no vacation and only get 2 weeks off per year as compared to the 4 weeks of the active component. The assumption that they can just do the additional time is not realistic. The do it or else mantra also does not play. if fewer is more appropriate, maybe the young captain can explain it to his spouse that he has to be gone 50% more than he already is gone. It is easy to say train or else. Reality is you need the guard and reserve, figure out a way to make it work or deploy more; those are your options.
I remember the split AC/RC and while it seemed to be about funding, it was also about RC wanting to "horn" in on clout that SOF had going on. When you said SWiC, or SWC, you were considered elite.
Now CPT Harrell makes great observations and they are telling because there are probably no attempts to fix the divergence. Now, add to those problems the issue of race and you start seeing other problems. With race, the dirty secret is that minorities don't have systems in place to support their careers. Akin to this is, for example, notice how a women CEO doesn't get the support that a male CEO would get (when things go wrong, you just fault female and dump her *fire her* quickly. In race relations, the same thing happens that a minority won't get the same opportunities to "screw" up than his White counterpart.
We all want to advance in our careers. Some of this is due to networking. I read a study that because there are more Whites, its just numerically impossibe for minorities to reach the highest levels of government and business. The theory would be impossible to prove, othet than you can look at USMA enrollment, and who holds positions of leadership at the West Point..General Officer levels. The Reserve Civil Affairs commander is not Black.., well his last name is but his race is White.
I am just pointing out an additional issue, nobody ever intentionally blankets or accuses 100% of being part of problem. CA likes to say "words have meaning" but figures dont lie, but liars do figure. Lets not try to place fault, just agree that women/minorities dont have support systems in place IOT allow them to succeed. Yes, those in charge would tell you you must report and everyone wants diversity but in reality if your skin color happens to be non-Caucasion, your struggles are real not imagined.
Diversity is sought by branches of military, however there as I mentioned, the theory is that you will not make it as a Colin Powell managed. Petreaus, Milley, etc are not minorities, because the minority never made it that far, they got fired.
I WORKED IN OPERATION PROVIDED COMFORT. I DID SOME OF THE SAME THING THAT CIVIL AFFAIRS WOULD DO. I LOVE IT. TO BAD I DID NOT GET THE AWARDS FOR SOME OF THE THINGS I DID. GOD BLESS AMERICA
Training has drastically improved for CA officers. With low rates of billet fills, increasing training standards would decrease the Q rates and the number of qualified soldiers able to deploy, thus increasing the burden on the few that are qualified. I think the best compromise is to increase language slots and positions In the AC CA Q course for reservists that can spend the time and have the motivation.
As for Airborne, it was only necessary when I was assigned to an Airborne unit. I supported SOF & SF units, but didn"t need that skill set. I think jump slots should be managed for CA as a leadership development tool and as a reward after volunteering for a deployment.
I became interested in the US conduct of civil affairs at the Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute. Since the United States seemed to have various difficulties dealing with instability in Iraq and Afghanistan, I researched the US approach during the Second World War in the Mediterranean and European Theaters of Operation. I discovered that the vast majority of issues dealing with stability and reconstruction also manifested during the war. For those interested in reading the results of my research, you can download a free copy of my book, Bury the Dead, Feed the Living at http://pksoi.armywarcollege.edu/index.cfm/resources/pksoi-publications/articles/bury-the-dead-feed-the-living-by-dr-raymond-millen/