USA — Training Prepares Civilian Employees for Deployment

WASHINGTON — A train­ing pro­gram is equip­ping Defense Depart­ment civil­ian employ­ees with the knowl­edge and skills need­ed to suc­cess­ful­ly deploy in sup­port of human­i­tar­i­an, recon­struc­tion and com­bat-sup­port mil­i­tary mis­sions across the globe.

Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center in central Indiana
A class of about 150 Defense Depart­ment civil­ians and con­trac­tors, part of the civil­ian expe­di­tionary work force, learn the basics in emer­gency med­ical aid at Camp Atter­bury Joint Maneu­ver Train­ing Cen­ter in cen­tral Indi­ana, June 29, 2010, before deploy­ing to Afghanistan and Iraq.
U.S. Army pho­to by John Cros­by
Click to enlarge

The joint civil­ian expe­di­tionary work force train­ing — a 10-day pre­de­ploy­ment course held at Camp Atter­bury Joint Maneu­ver Train­ing Cen­ter and Mus­catatuck Urban Train­ing Cen­ter in cen­tral Indi­ana — famil­iar­izes civil­ians with every­thing from mil­i­tary cul­ture to cul­tur­al sen­si­tiv­i­ties.

The civil­ian expe­di­tionary work force was cre­at­ed in Jan­u­ary 2009 to pro­vide a deploy­able work force trained and equipped to sup­port mil­i­tary mis­sions. Under the pro­gram, Defense Depart­ment civil­ians – in a wide range of careers rang­ing from engi­neers to con­tract spe­cial­ists — deploy for about a year to Iraq and Afghanistan, but also serve in some capac­i­ty in Europe and Africa, accord­ing to the program’s web­site. More than 4,000 civil­ian employ­ees cur­rent­ly are deployed in sup­port of oper­a­tions Endur­ing Free­dom and Iraqi Free­dom, offi­cials said.

While civil­ians have been deploy­ing for some time, the train­ing was devel­oped in Jan­u­ary because offi­cials “under­stood the impor­tance of train­ing our folks before we deployed them,” said Frank DiGio­van­ni, the Defense Department’s act­ing direc­tor of readi­ness and train­ing pol­i­cy and pro­grams.

“I think it’s very impor­tant to pre­pare our civil­ians in the same way that we pre­pare our uni­formed forces to real­ly under­stand what they’re going to get to when they get into the the­ater,” DiGio­van­ni said in a recent inter­view with the Pen­ta­gon Chan­nel and Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice. “Some folks haven’t had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to work in deploy­ment with a pri­mar­i­ly mil­i­tary envi­ron­ment.”

To that end, the course runs the gamut from con­voy oper­a­tions to rec­og­niz­ing the signs of post-trau­mat­ic stress, he said.

Civil­ians are run through sce­nar­ios, includ­ing what to do in the event of a road­side-bomb or con­voy attack, DiGio­van­ni said, while oth­er train­ing is tai­lored for spe­cif­ic career fields based on the demo­graph­ics of each course.

Con­tract­ing offi­cers, for instance, may take part in a sce­nario in which they deal with out­side ven­dors so they know what to expect when they’re deployed. Train­ing offi­cials recent­ly hired Afghan native role play­ers to par­tic­i­pate, and stu­dents received feed­back from the instruc­tors as well as the role play­ers, DiGio­van­ni said.

“They had to work with an inter­preter; they had to take bids from three Afghan peo­ple that were going to pro­vide grav­el to the base; and then they had to work through some of the issues of a trans­la­tor, under­stand­ing the bids, pro­pos­als and maybe some of the cul­tur­al issues,” he said.

“It’s extreme­ly impor­tant to expe­ri­ence all of these things in a train­ing envi­ron­ment first, before they actu­al­ly deploy into a the­ater,” DiGio­van­ni con­tin­ued. “This helps them be much more pro­duc­tive and hit the ground run­ning when they final­ly get into the con­tin­gency oper­a­tion.”

Oth­er train­ing includes phys­i­cal con­di­tion­ing and nutri­tion, use of tac­ti­cal radios, weapons famil­iar­iza­tion and com­bat first-aid. Stu­dents also are giv­en to tools to armor against and to deal with stress.

“We also try to help them with set­ting up for suc­cess with fam­i­lies,” DiGio­van­ni said, “so they under­stand … the things they need to do so they can make sure while they’re deployed for a year that their fam­i­ly can be cared for prop­er­ly.”

Instruc­tors also devote time to teach­ing civil­ians to be part of a mil­i­tary team in a deployed envi­ron­ment, he said. They’re taught rank and orga­ni­za­tion­al struc­ture so they’ll under­stand where they fit into the orga­ni­za­tion and the chain of com­mand.

When mil­i­tary mem­bers walk into the room, they have insignia to sig­ni­fy ser­vice branch, and rank, which sig­ni­fies expe­ri­ence lev­el, he said. But, peo­ple can’t tell on first glance a civilian’s expe­ri­ence lev­el or exper­tise. The course stress­es the need for civil­ians to con­vey their skills to mil­i­tary mem­bers and helps them under­stand how to win over the con­fi­dence of some­one in uni­form, he explained.

Course instruc­tors are drawn from the civil­ian sec­tor as well as the mil­i­tary, DiGio­van­ni said, and both bring val­ue to the table. The mil­i­tary focus­es on con­voy oper­a­tions and weapons famil­iar­iza­tion, for instance, while civil­ians may cen­ter on train­ing that deals with adapt­abil­i­ty and deal­ing with stress, he explained.

While the course is fair­ly new, the feed­back so far has been pos­i­tive, DiGio­van­ni said.

“We have got­ten out­stand­ing feed­back,” he said. “What we see pri­mar­i­ly is con­fi­dence lev­els. We see peo­ple who have a bet­ter under­stand­ing of what they’re about to do.”

Putting forth a skilled, well-trained civil­ian force frees more mil­i­tary mem­bers to focus on more com­bat-ori­ent­ed oper­a­tions, DiGio­van­ni said, which relieves stress on the force. It also pro­vides the mil­i­tary with unique capa­bil­i­ties that may not be inher­ent in the uni­formed side of the house. And the train­ing gives civil­ians the oppor­tu­ni­ty to con­tribute in a mean­ing­ful way, he added.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)