Civil Affairs Bridges Civilian/Military Gap

Green Bay to Bosnia LogoWinning the peace requires as much cooperation from local civilians as it does from the former warring factions in Bosnia.

Gaining that cooperation is the job of Civil Affairs elements carrying out mission planning done by the G-5 staff at Task Force Eagle headquarters.

“Civil Affairs is the link between civilians on the battlefield and the military command,” said Maj. Scott A. Dick, G-5 officer for 1st Armored Division. “The G-5 is responsible for advising the commander about his responsibilities, both legal and moral, to civilians on the battlefield.”

“We tell (civilians) our mission and try to get them to accept why our being here is good for them,” said Army Sgt. Kevin McKinney, operations sergeant for Delta Company, 96th Civil Affairs Battalion from Fort Bragg, N.C. “We want to get the community on our side so they don’t interfere with military operations and we minimize the impact on them.”

Establishing and maintaining a good rapport with the local populace and authorities can be critical to finding needed logistical support in the early stages of a deployment.

“The biggest aspect of the mission is looking for real estate for units moving down from Staging Area Harmon — finding places for 1st and 2nd Brigade and the Russians as well,” said Maj. Jim Neal of the 96th. “After reconnoitering the site, Civil Affairs teams will contact the ‘mayor,’ set up meetings, get contractors and negotiate agreements.”

Early combat units arrive with support packages too small to sustain the mission because certain items are too bulky to deploy, explained Hans Inks, G-5 planning officer for 1st Armored. Civil Affairs helps find local supplies like fuel and gravel to fill the gap, he said.

Other tasks include inspecting the local bakery with the help of a veternarian and preventive medicine specialist, looking for battery acid and acetylene oxygen for maintenance shops and engineers, coordinating with Tuzla Hospital for the disposal of infectious medical waste and getting indirectly involved with selecting interpreters.

Good civil-military relations allows information to flow in two directions, Inks said.

In one case, Civil Affairs soldiers assisted in making a claim when a low-flying helicopter took off a resident’s roof. In another, they helped a driver who had a vehicular accident in the British sector identify the unit that caused the accident, retrieve documents from his vehicle and obtain statements.

When it completes its cultural assessment of the area, the 96th will return to Fort Bragg to be replaced by reservists of the 432nd Civil Affairs Battalion from Green Bay, Wis., Inks said. Reservists make up the bulk of Civil Affairs assets, and have specialists like bankers, lawyers and engineers who have a role in a mature theater, he said.

“They will be dealing with civilians,” said Inks, who retired from a 24-year Army career and is now a civilian government employee. “Who better to deal with civilians than civilians themselves?”


By SPC George Roache
Task Force Eagle [1st Armored Division] Talon
January 26, 1996

432nd Members Head to Bosnia Civil Affairs Bridges Civilian/Military Gap Not needed in Bosnia, nine 432nd members left in limbo