Skip to comments.Sailors Play Major Role with 354th Civil Affairs Brigade
Posted on 08/18/2006 6:45:26 PM PDT by SandRat
BAGHDAD, Iraq (NNS) -- The 354th Civil Affairs Brigade (CAB), the first civil affairs brigade in Iraq made up primarily of Sailors, completed its first four months here, Aug. 16, as the primary administrative controlling manager for civil affairs units throughout Iraq.
During the first months of its year-long deployment to Baghdad, the 354 CAB coordinated and ensured the successful completion of numerous community-oriented projects.
Among the active-duty individual augmentees and Reservists called upon to deploy with the unit, more than 75 percent of the brigade headquarters is Navy.
Army Col. Vernon Harris, 354th CAB's commander, said working in a joint environment with U.S. Sailors has been a wonderful experience.
"It's been a great marriage, so to speak," said Harris, who hails from Columbia, S.C. "There were a lot of unknowns at first and I wasn't sure if this was going to work out or not, but the Sailors are extremely capable, and their skills and expertise have worked out perfectly with the job they're here to do."
The brigade manages three civil affairs battalions based in Iraq: the 414th Civil Affairs Battalion stationed out of Camp Victory in Baghdad, the 402nd Civil Affairs Battalion in Tikrit, and the 403rd Civil Affairs Battalion in Mosul. The brigade provides administrative control of the battalions and monitors their operational mission objectives, which support the maneuver divisions civil military operations objectives and quality of life projects for the Iraqi people.
"Basically, we make sure the battalions are trained, have the right people in the right jobs and ensure they have the correct materials," said Cmdr. Tim LaPlante, 354th CAB's deputy operations officer.
The brigade also coordinates the projects that the battalions are charged with carrying out. These projects are coordinated by the brigade's six functional specialty teams: Public Health, Humanitarian Assistance, Essential Services, Veterinary Services and Agriculture, Rule of Law, and Public Infrastructure.
"The functional specialty teams are a culmination of different skill sets," said Capt. L. George Wingfield, deputy functional specialty teams chief. "Each team has personnel whose skill sets match the team. So we have service members with backgrounds in civil engineering, forestry, business, electrical engineering and several who are just project manager qualified."
"Our civil affairs battalions are out there doing assessments; they're finding out what the Iraqi people need," said the native of Fort Collins, Colo. "They report their findings to the functional specialty teams who take their findings for action."
In many cases, the brigade is able to restore critical services to pre-war condition, or better.
"Once we assemble our plans, we coordinate with the provisional reconstruction teams (PRTs), which are sponsored by the State Department," said Wingfield. "We give our plans to the PRTs, and they speak with local jurisdictions and try to establish a plan that'll accommodate the U.S. military and the Iraqi people."
The 354th has coordinated several major humanitarian aid projects since arriving in Iraq in April.
"We handle anything dealing with medical supplies, school supplies, clothing, toys, sporting equipment and many other materials," said Cmdr. Jimmy Cox, humanitarian assistance team leader. "We can also get material from DRMO (Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office) and distribute it to the people in Iraq."
A recent success story involving DRMO included the redistribution of 55 two-and-a-half ton stake trucks. The trucks were turned over to DRMO, but weren't shipped back to the United States because the cost of shipping the trucks exceeded their actual value. Cox and his team negotiated a deal that turned over the vehicles to the Iraqi Ministry of Agriculture.
Other humanitarian aid projects had the CAB distributing more than 15,000 school kits and thousands of soccer balls to Iraqi children and coordinating the delivery of more than 3,000 wheelchairs throughout Iraq.
"We also send a lot of what we receive to the Iraqi military units," said Cox. "They can then distribute them to the locals and that really helps to legitimize the government of Iraq and the Iraqi army."
Ultimately, according to Cox, that will help the Iraqi government achieve its goal of self-sufficiency and allow U.S. and coalition forces to depart the country.
"As much as the Army has needed to recall its Reservists to assist with civil affairs operations, the Navy has been asked to assist as individual augmentees," said Lt. Cmdr. Jeff McClanahan, deputy humanitarian assistance team leader. "The brigade is commanded by an Army colonel, and we also have some Air Force personnel attached, but the 354th headquarters is now predominately manned by the Navy."
According to members of the CAB, it didn't take long for all three services to appreciate what each group brought to the table.
"Once we got past the preconceived notions about each other's services, things took off and we're doing great," said Army Sgt. Maj. John Blair, non-commissioned officer in charge of brigade logistics.
"It's been terrific having them here," added Army Command Sgt. Maj. Harry Shubargo of 354th Brigade. "The Sailors bring a wealth of knowledge and a 'can-do' attitude with regards to the mission. If this is the future of the military, then I'm all for it."
While there certainly is much to be proud of, Harris believes that the brigade's best efforts are still to come.
"It's been a great journey thus far and we've made great strides," said Harris, as he recalled the brigade's accomplishments. "However, the final chapter hasn't been written yet and I think great things will come to fruition in the coming months."
For related news, visit the Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cusnc/.
Odd Beach Assignment but what the Hey!
Squids in Iraq ping!
According to my sources, the Navy has the best looking women in the Armed Forces. ;o)
Now that would be an Interesting contest; Miss Armed Forces with each command sending their best Miss USS Iwo Jima, Miss Norfolk, Miss Beale AFB, Miss MCRD San Diego, Miss 1st ID. Get the Picture.