War on Terrorism

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Defense Civilians Prepare For Overseas Deployment

By T.D. Jackson
Special to American Forces Press Service

Feb. 18, 2010 - The Civilian Expeditionary Workforce, introduced in January 2009, is up and running at full speed. After an intense 10-day course held from Jan. 25 through Feb. 3, the first group of 16 CEW students completed the course at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center and Muscatatuck Urban Training Center here. To date, more than 3,000 civilians have deployed in support of overseas stabilization missions.

The CEW is a workforce of Department of Defense civilians trained and equipped to deploy oversees in support of worldwide military missions. This particular CEW class has personnel deploying to Iraq, Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa.

Army Brig. Gen. Clif Tooley, commanding general for Camp Atterbury-Muscatatuck

Center for Complex Operations, said CEW members volunteer to be deployed overseas for up to two years.

"This gives the DoD flexibility in meeting emerging requirements," Tooley said.

Whether they have logistics or intelligence jobs, the students' main goal during training is to learn how to perform their duties in a new and potentially stressful environment.

"Our purpose is to help prepare our civilians to be at peak performance on 'day one' in theater," said Marilee Fitzgerald, the Pentagon's acting deputy under secretary of defense for civilian personnel policy. "Many of our deployers are leaving desk jobs and going to the deployment zone."

The training is geared to build an understanding of the environment in which the civilians will be working, Fitzgerald said. Training objectives, she said, include: strengthening emotional resilience; understanding the tools and methods for making effective decisions in uncertain, chaotic environments; understanding the principles of conflict transformation toward understanding social dynamics in conflict environments; enhancing the ability to interact and solve problems across different cultures, languages and governments; and providing tools for dealing with the challenges of post-deployment integration.

The course was developed through a partnership between Fitzgerald's office,

the Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Readiness, and the

Indiana Army National Guard. Frank DiGiovanni, the Deputy Director for Readiness and Training Programs and Policy, said the customized set of course curriculum was derived from several ongoing training initiatives across the department managed by his office.

"This curriculum is on the cutting edge of several new approaches for training our personnel for deployment," he said. DiGiovanni said lessons learned here will help formulate training policy across the entire department. DiGiovanni said trend lines are showing that the department will look to the civilian force to make greater contributions in the future, and that a trained and ready Total Force is definitely a force multiplier for current and future operations.

During the course of instruction the students learned about national and military security strategy, conflict assessment, post-traumatic stress disorder prevention. They also participated in a field training exercise that featured mock "attacks" by instructors posing as insurgents.

The students' orientation packet hinted at the austere environment they would experience during the last three days of training. After a grueling workday during which students moved between various preparatory stations, to include immunizations, the students left the "luxury" of their barracks and headed to Forward Operating Base Panther.

Civilian participant Julia Schoenfeld described her new weekend get-away.

"It's port-a-johns, it's a trailer - but heated, so that's good; and you have to walk 10 minutes through the snow to brush your teeth," Schoenfeld said with a half-smile. "It's not something we're used to."

And that's the point, as Fitzgerald sees it.

"By exposing them to those kinds of conditions, it better prepares them to contribute on day one," Fitzgerald said.

"I think many of them who have not been deployed before feel a little more comfortable" about going overseas after taking the training, Fitzgerald said.

Schoenfeld, who is assigned to the Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Va., is deploying to Afghanistan to work with the International Security Assistance Force as a NATO advisor. Her training experience so far, she said, has been fun.

"It feels like we're sort of peeking into their world a little bit," Schoenfeld said. "The eight immunization shots that I got yesterday, that's maybe not a fun view." But, learning how to shoot a pistol and a M-16 rifle, she said, constitutes "the fun part" of the training, "even though it is the end of January."

The civilians braved the brisk, 25-degree Indiana winter to learn the ins and outs of surviving in an austere environment.

"I think [the training] helps us not be such a liability to our military counterparts," Schoenfeld said. "We're self-sufficient when we get there. It's not motor memory yet, but at least we're familiar with a lot of the procedures and how to keep ourselves safe and not harm everybody else."

David Matthews, who will be deploying to Afghanistan as a senior strategic planning officer, said although theirs is the first class to go through the process, it was incredibly well organized.

"The quality of the instruction is superb," Matthews said.

The CEW training, Matthews added, excels at teaching safety and cultural awareness.

"The training here prepares me for going overseas and being inculcated in the culture and dealing with safety and things of that nature," he said.

Though Schoenfeld visited Afghanistan in 2008, this will be her first real deployment. "I think for the DoD civilian it is really hard to find a way to serve your country in the same way that the armed forces get to," she said.

Her overseas deployment represents a commitment to serve as well as "a once in a lifetime experience that you'll never forget," Schoenfeld said.

Fitzgerald agreed that the civilians share the same passion as their military brethren.

"It is a proud moment when the DoD civilians can serve alongside their warfighters," she said.

(T.D. Jackson is assigned to the Camp Atterbury Public Affairs office. Eileen M. Lainez, of the Defense Press Office, contributed to this article.)

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