BUTLERVILLE — A man stands in the doorway of his shop in the marketplace as Capt. Ryan Demro, team leader of D Company, 412th Civil Affairs Battalion, Ohio National Guard approaches to talk to him.
Demro asks the man about the area, what the mood of the people is, and if he has seen any Taliban in the area.
The conversation goes well, and Demro and his team get the information they are looking for before heading to the next location.
This may seem like a normal conversation, but a trained civil affairs soldier can extract useful information from a simple exchange, including how best to help the local people get their lives back on track.
In the words of Maj. Ron Deweese, D Company commander, civil affairs plays a critical role in today’s battle space.
“There’s so much more than just defeating an enemy force in battle,” Deweese said. “For the U.S. Army, for the Department of Defense, that’s the easy part. It’s shaping what happens after the combat takes place that is the heart of battle. Especially in today’s operating environments.”
The 412th Civil Affairs Battalion from Columbus, Ohio, is preparing for an overseas rotation and, even sooner, a rotation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.
As a lead-up to their training and deployment, 412th Commander Lt. Col. David Volkman brought his battalion to the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center near Butlerville in order to take advantage of the one-of-a-kind training opportunities.
“Training here gives us the chance to sharpen our skills before heading out there,” Volkman said.
Working on real-world civil affairs skills at MUTC also brought the commander of U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations, Maj. Gen. Jeff Jacobs, to Indiana and Ohio.
“I am here to check on training. Plain and simple,” Jacobs said. “Our mission, as any Army unit’s mission, is to be prepared and be ready.”
With nearly 13,000 soldiers and employees working in the civil affairs and psychological operations world, Jacobs is a busy man. His command makes up approximately 94 percent of the Department of Defense’s total civil affairs forces and over 70 percent of the DoD PsyOps forces.
Jacobs still likes to get out to view training in the field to ensure that the level of training is meeting the demand for his soldiers.
“Civil affairs plays a huge role,” he said. “It’s evident in the demand signal we get from the combatant commanders to deploy our forces. Civil affairs is going to continue to be in demand after we get out of Afghanistan in supporting theater security cooperation plans around the globe.”
According to Command Sgt. Maj. Harry Bennett, the leading enlisted soldier in United States civil affairs and psychological operations, that role is being filled by the highest-quality soldiers.
“Ninety percent of all (civil affairs) forces are reservists and are out there as active members of our community,” Bennett said about the soldiers he talks to each day. “First responders, teachers, government workers who are making America grow and, at the same time, getting their experience overseas in real-world operations. It’s pretty impressive.”
Demro’s team and the others who are training at Muscatatuck in various scenarios with civilians at the marketplace, radio station, water utility and village do a fine job, but Jacobs is a hands-on commander who always pushes his people to do their job better, to the best of their abilities.
“We’re making great progress,” he said. “No commander worth his salt is ever satisfied with the readiness of his unit, and I’m no different in that regard. But the 412th is making great progress.”
Following three days of urban training at Muscatatuck, the 412th conducted a battalion jump at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center near Edinburgh.
“Camp Atterbury and Muscatatuck are great facilities,” Jacobs continued. “There’s no place like Muscatatuck, frankly, in the entire United States; so I think it’s a great venue, and I think the training is more than worthwhile. Civil affairs will continue to train here.”