Special Operations News

Building the SOF Enterprise Through Partnerships

TAMPA, FL – Special Operations Command Central Commander’s Vision: Shape the cognitive domain… employ the full spectrum of SOF capability to affect individuals, organizations, and societies in the physical and cognitive realm in order to ensure that behaviors and attitudes are consistent with USG interests … ideally, our partners are willing and able to maintain stability, our enemies are unable to disrupt civil society of our partners and allies, and the indigenous population pursues goals compatible with U.S. interests.

The Theater Civil Military Support Element

From Aug. 1, 2011 – March 15, 2012, D/96 CA BN (A) headquarters and Civil Military Operations Center (CMOC) formed the nucleus of the Theater Civil Military Support Element (TCMSE). The TCMSE supports the Theater Special Operations Command (TSOC) and U.S. Embassy teams by employing small elements as Civil Military Support Element (CMSE) teams. With limited access and manpower, these teams are regionally aligned on focus-targeted support to theater priorities. Prior to deployment, the rapidly changing environment pushed us to remain flexible and adopt a training strategy that would hone our fundamental communicate, move, shoot, and survive skills; while enhancing our team’s ability to partner and build rapport. The company completed an intensive five month Pre-Mission Training Cycle that integrated specialized training and utilized range facilities that rapidly prepared and validated all CA teams for operational employment in the CENTCOM AOR. The ability to evaluate the team efforts to partner was tested consistently at company collective training exercises and at the final battalion culmination exercise.

The company had a unique opportunity to spend time in the Washington D.C. area to meet other USG partners and develop relationships that have benefited teams as they deploy forward. As we exercise an interagency unity of effort, we’ve discovered that our interests and programs foster a symbiotic relationship that allows us to smartly expend resources across the theater. Influence and rapport is an intangible element built on personal relationships and various factors. However, with the stringent entry requirements for CA Soldiers processing through the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center CA pipeline, the quality of CA soldiers has improved dramatically over the past couple years. These improvements in our force coupled with realistic and challenging training allow us to employ CMSE teams into austere environments that require mature and culturally savvy operators who work to impact all levels: tactical, operational, and strategic.
Mobile Fusion Team Concept

In support of our CMSE teams and theater requirements, the TCMSE developed a Mobile Fusion Team (MFT) concept to displace modular elements to support specific requirements and objectives. The MFT integrated sister service components from Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT), Army Central (ARCENT), Navy Central (NAVCENT), and the Joint Information Support Task Force (JISTF, our MISO brethren) to form platforms that bring to bear an economy of force within theater. MFT missions ranged from partner training events to executive level leader engagements in various countries. The TCMSE conducted prudent planning to determine the required level of leadership and capability to conduct these activities. In 2011, the TMCSE’s Mobile Fusion Team was successful in accomplishing the following challenging tasks:

1. Worked on U.S. Embassy Chief of Mission approval of mutually supporting programs and activities desired by SOCCENT.

2. Negotiated with Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) and interagency partners to solve difficult challenges that resulted in mutually beneficial solutions.

3. Trained partner forces on critical skills to fill capability gaps that were identified on prior MFT engagements.
4. Extended the reach of U.S. Embassies in select countries to access contested areas.

5. Formed new relationships and created a vital “Network of Influence” that U.S. forces can take advantage of.

Using the proper level of leadership was essential to accomplishing these tasks. Within our ranks there is a plethora of diversity and experience that has been harvested over many deployments and rotations. This operational maturity and experience has yielded positive results for our team. The TCMSE did its best to capture all our elements’ efforts by aggregating all the reports and fused them into products that helped our leadership understand the environment, and refine strategies to employ the proper resources, increasing the effectiveness of our forces. Our talented Non-commissioned Officers and Officers leveraged the latest technological platforms (mapping programs, Adobe Flash, and Google Earth) to produce some valuable products:

1. Civil Common Operational Picture. This product was well received by SOCCENT leadership as it depicted both historical and current information for the region. Our Civil Information Management (CIM) NCOIC created a multimedia Flash presentation that was simple and easy to use for any audience.

2. Human Terrain Map. Integrating the 95th CA BDE KLE Worksheets and our team collection of biographical data from civil reconnaissance missions, our CMSE teams created a product that geospatially depicts key and influential leaders on a map.

3. CA Framework for Engagement. Another 95th CA BDE requirement, this construct explains the relevance and employment of CA forces into a particular region. Over time, this methodology creates a baseline of data that will be measureable to gauge our efforts and their impact.

4. Storyboards. These snapshots of CA activities briefly provide a picture and overview of our CMSE efforts in the various regions. Our team photography and Photoshop training during PMT greatly enhanced the quality of these reports. The TCMSE has regularly received accolades from senior leadership on these storyboards.

Given a CA team’s increased access, they must do their best to understand and influence the perceptions of the population. More importantly, they have to garner support from the host nation partner to gain their buy-in and ensure sustainability of our programs. Again, partnering is the key to success with any given activity that is supported or executed. It is only through partnerships that we can operate more freely in the sovereign nations that we support.

CMSE 642 in the Central Asian States

By Capt. Wesley Strong

Historically the CMSE Central Asian States (CAS) has not focused on partnering and developing relationships with HN Security Elements. The CMSE established relationships with local governmental leadership within our project focus areas but have had limited engagements with our military partners. During our rotation we shifted our effort to develop relationships with HN Security Elements to get them involved with Civil Military Operations that will magnify the effects of our programs and projects.

One example of our HN military partnering was the relationship built with the Tajik Border Guards. The Tajikistan Border Guard is a HN security element that operates within our focus area along the Afghanistan border. In August, CMSE CAS provided medical assistance to six Border Guard outposts in the Shurobad District of Tajikistan. During the medical engagement we treated 90 border guards for ailments ranging from malnutrition to injuries from patrolling. The medical assistance provided helped develop key relationships with the border guard leadership. It also complemented the U.S. Embassy’s objectives by increasing the HN security element’s ability to defend against violent extremist organizations (VEO) and drug smuggling.

A major shortfall that was identified through our interactions with the Border Guards operating within our focus areas was a need for medical training. We developed a plan to provide Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) training to the Border Guards. After conducting a senior level key leader engagement with a Tajik General and his staff, they informed the team of a recent incident where Soldiers on the border were unable to treat their wounded after attacks, resulting in the loss of life. The TCCC training will increase their ability to deliver self and buddy aid for injuries received while under fire. By providing TCCC to the Border Guards we will increase their survivability and their ability to defend their soil from violent extremists. Additionally, this new skill will help with their confidence to conduct combat operations along the border after their recent losses.

The next step in developing our relationship with the Border Guards is to provide them training on how to conduct CMO and get them involved with our projects. This will serve to operationalize them in key areas and legitimize them with the populace. For example, we plan to provide them training on how to conduct limited medical engagements and have them plan and execute medical engagements in the communities they wish to affect. This will increase the local populace’s support for their mission and foster trust. The goal is to have them take a leading role in conducting CMO while we fulfill a supporting role.

CMSE CAS is currently developing a partnership with the Khalton Province Committee for Emergency Services (CES). Khalton Province is located in the southwest of Tajikistan and covers many of our focus areas. The CES is a branch of the Tajikistan military and are the first responders to any natural disasters. They also are responsible for conducting disaster preparedness training and projects. The chief of Khalton Province CES has invited us to attend periodic meetings that he holds with his subordinates to discuss issues throughout the region. CMSE CAS is coordinating with the Khalton Province chief of CES to develop a partnership in preparation for the upcoming spring glacier melt that historically causes severe flooding in Khalton province. The development of disaster response networks also ties into, and supports, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Embassy’s objectives.

We have established relationships with the local leaders at the provincial and local levels in our focus areas. We maintain contact with these leaders to stay informed of any issues occurring in their areas and keep them involved with our projects. When we conduct opening ceremonies for our projects we encourage the local leadership to participate and put them in front during the ceremony to help legitimize them to the populace. This directly complements the U.S. Embassy’s objective of improving governance at the local level. Our projects also serve to expand the reach and influence of the embassy country team. The majority of these programs complement USG objectives of either increasing Tajikistan’s ability to provide education and health care. Our team always attempts to involve the appropriate host nation entity from the government to help and participate in our programs. For example, the team was successful in coordinating with the Ministry of Education to provide furniture and project additions to school refurbishments completed in critical focus areas.

In today’s fight as part of SOF, CA Teams need to continue to expand our reach and maximize the positive effects of our projects and programs. We need to get the host nation as involved as possible and continue to look for opportunities to partner and further our objectives.

Mobile Fusion Team 644 in the Levant Region

By Capt. Lucas Overstreet

Civil Affairs Team 644 (CAT 644) from the TCMSE worked to partner CA forces with host nation militaries in the Levant region during its rotation from July 2011 to March 2012. The CA team divided its time between the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and Jordanian Armed Forces (JAF), increasing the USG’s relationship with those nations and their respective militaries. While U.S. CA teams have not typically focused on partnering with host nation forces in the region, the importance of doing so is now more important than ever.

Jordan. Over the course of the deployment, the CA team conducted “presence for purpose”2 engagements with the Jordanian Special Operations Forces (JORSOF) Civil Military Company (CIMIC). The CIMIC is an approximate equivalent unit to a company from the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne), with embedded Military Information Support Operations elements. It is a new unit in the Jordanian Army, and one of the first civil-military units in modern Middle Eastern armies. Despite there being little precedence for this, it showed itself to be eager to train, and quite capable of conducting diverse civil-military operations.

These multiple engagements resulted in the CA team conducting two TCCC training classes led by the CA team medic and the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne) surgeon. Having a doctor included in the training enhanced the team’s medical capacity and legitimacy. Meanwhile, the team sergeant and team leader provided support as Assistant Instructors, and the CA team divided itself into two pairs of Primary and Assistant Instructors during practical exercises.

The course was conducted at the CIMIC’s location, and fostered a strong working relationship between the two partnered units. Cooperation between the Jordanian CIMIC and U.S. CA team formed easily due to the professional leadership and strong sense of hospitality innate to the Jordanian CIMIC. As such, the American soldiers were able to dive into their training plan, and provide tough, realistic training to their counterparts. Further enhancing the collaboration, were the CIMIC’s own senior Lieutenants who supervised and translated training during classroom instruction and practical exercises. In an adaptation of the “train-the-trainer” methodology, these officers simultaneously learned and taught, all while lending their own credibility and expertise to the course. With the Jordanian soldiers’ own leadership providing direct instruction and supervision, the American trainers were able to maximize their time and efforts on the day’s tasks.

The training was successful, and culminated with a two-day round-robin TCCC Squad Training Exercise (STX) event. The CA team took the role of evaluators, while the CIMIC Officers and NCOs performed their regular duties as Platoon, Squad, and Team Leaders. The exercise tested the students’ ability to execute the three phases of TCCC, including small but important tasks like packing their first aid bags, receiving a Fragmentary Order, and evacuating patients to safety.

Lebanon: In between engagements with the Jordanian CIMIC, the same CA team conducted several “presence for purpose” missions to Lebanon in support of Special Operations Command (FWD) Lebanon [SOC (FWD) LEB]. The SOC (FWD) Lebanon command partners with the Lebanese Special Operations Forces to conduct multiple Civil Military projects around the country, enhancing the relationships between the USG, the Lebanese Military, and the populace.

One of the first projects completed in support of LSOF’s Civil-Military program was the Hamat Community Center. This is a good example of the types of partnering the TCMSE has been focusing on recently, as it is based on cooperation from the local government, community volunteers, and the nearby LAF Special Operations School. As the Community Center is finished, it will be utilized for various seminars, workshops, and continuing education programs led by local community volunteers and with assistance from the nearby LSOF units. Likewise, the center functions as a disaster shelter to serve the surrounding population in an area that is at high risk during natural and man-made disasters. The LSOF units at the neighboring base will have more daily interaction with the citizens that they protect, and the citizens have the added benefit of receiving extra training and security in case of any future civil disturbances.

Additionally, the CA team leveraged the diverse experience of SOCCENT’s Civil Affairs Engineer to plan future Humanitarian Assistance projects around Lebanon. Utilizing the CA Engineer’s extensive background working on construction projects throughout CENTCOM, the CA team partnered with USAID’s Office of Democracy, Governance, and Education to conduct surveys of public schools and clinics that are in need of external support. Based on the extensive research and analysis conducted by USAID’s D-RASATI education program, the CA team helped identify schools that needed assistance, but were out of USAID’s immediate reach. While the CA team’s LSOF partners provided extra security in higher-risk areas, it was able to lay the groundwork for future assistance programs that reach the common goals of the U.S. Central Command, USAID, LAF, and the Ministry of Education.

CA elements are an essential SOF instrument of force that project small teams to areas of interest and achieve disproportionately large results. The enemy is evolving and the traditional hierarchies of a state and its institutions are faced with numerous challenges. In a key leader engagement with Major General Nazarov, the Tajik Drug Control Agency Director, he informed a group of CA leaders of a recent incident where they lost two of their soldiers. The soldiers were operating along the Tajik-Afghan border where they were engaged by extremist elements. Their inability to treat their wounded and lack of equipment resulted in an unnecessary loss of life. The CA team on the ground worked quickly to remedy this capability shortfall with their partners. The General’s sentiment resonates throughout the region. The U.S. is not alone in these regional conflicts and irregular warfare. These conditions of warfare require a comprehensive approach. Success will require that all resources available are pooled together and brought to bear against an elusive and ever-changing enemy. To defeat this enemy, U.S. elements must aggressively erode the conditions that foster extremist activity. CA forces provide the surest means of shaping an environment to achieve consensus over coercion with a populace. A proactive and holistic approach aimed at influencing populations will set favorable conditions for both the U.S. and host nation governments. By partnering with host nation forces, CA teams gain increased access and maximized effects with a limited and low profile U.S. presence.

Taken in sum, CA forces must embrace the partnering concept to maximize the effects of CA operations in the CENTCOM AO. The continued success of our CMSE teams will cultivate trust and respect amongst USG agencies and other SOF units. Special Operations CA have evolved and our Soldiers will continue to meet global challenges that our nation faces. By working in developing states and troubled regions, our CA forces, with their partners, will collaborate to defeat an enemy before there is any loss of life or conflict. An old idiom by Benjamin Franklin, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”3, can characterize the instrument of force that CA soldiers provide for the nation in areas of strategic interest. The
persistent presence and long-lasting relationships with partner forces will illuminate capability shortfalls that allow us to build on a cumulative joint training strategy that improves training over time. This progression and precision in partnering will provide valuable dividends.


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