Civil Affairs Team 0733 from Charlie Company, 407th Civil Affairs battalion recently trained 25 Burundian National Defense Force Soldiers in the art of Civil Military Cooperation (CIMIC). Held at the Gukumba Training area in Bujumbura, Burundi, the Tactical CIMIC Course enables students to be the liaison between the combatant commander and the civilian populous. CIMIC Soldiers represent their unit and liaise with the national population, local authorities, as well as national, international, and non-governmental organizations and agencies.
The Burundian Soldiers learned that gaining popular support, leveraging NGOs and IGOs for support, and providing self-sustainable resources and solutions to the local Somalis will provide highly effective non-lethal effects for the commanders on the ground. Our goal is to ensure Soldiers understand how to analyze the situation in their area of operations and how to best gain support for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and more importantly, legitimize the government of Somalia in the eyes of the local populace. CIMIC is about saving lives rather than taking them.
The CIMIC program is taught in association with the British Peace Support Team led by Maj. Dave Tortoishell of the British Army. Each country leads every other course which strengthens the Joint, Interagency, Intergovernmental, and Multinational Team (JIIM) here at the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) it defines it really, because we are utilizing each other’s capabilities as well as sharing knowledge and talent. This partnership helps ensure that the course is tailored to the AMISOM mission and focuses on “African solutions to African problems.” This directly supports a CJTF-HOA focus set forth by Maj. Gen. Wayne Grigsby, CJTF-HOA commanding general, who is a strong supporter of Civil Affairs in the Horn of Africa.
By utilizing a mix of NATO, U.S., and British versions of CIMIC, we customize the point of instruction to what works in Somalia. With the newly developed lessons-learned program, this course and others, will continually update the course material to best support the AMISOM mission. By ensuring that the Soldiers learn the same basic foundation we can work toward institutionalizing CIMIC for future peace-keeping operations.
A plan is being put together to better track the CIMIC Soldiers to be able to debrief them upon return from Somalia. This will help develop a core knowledge and experience within the BNDF.
An important subject we inject into this course is “Gender Issues in Conflicts and Disasters.” Although a hard subject to broach, it’s especially important for students of CIMIC to internalize the proper ethical and moral behaviors expected from a professional fighting force. This training exemplifies the “profession of arms,” a pillar driven by Grigsby, and is based on personal character, conduct and competency. The intent of the training is that the Soldiers will introduce the rest of their Battalion to what they learned; the ethical and moral right.
This battalion was the first that has had more NCOs than officers, and is also the first to have a female in attendance. Including more NCOs allows for a more bottom-up introduction to CIMIC at all levels of the battalion and the inclusion of more females in this training will enhance the capability of engaging the local populace. Females are not properly represented in Somalia because women are extremely hesitant to speak to male Soldiers largely due to their cultural practices. So much of the population left aside negatively impacts the overall mission. Women in Somalia likely have just as much information about the happenings in their area and may have the ability to influence the males; this knowledge and influence is currently underutilized. By providing more female CIMIC Soldiers, these battalions can ensure that everyone is getting the help they need.
Overall the course is relying less and less on classroom PowerPoint presentations and more on practical application skills. Examples include key-leader engagements with instructor role players, mission planning within their teams, and submitting reports as they would to their combatant Commanders. We have also partnered with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to enhance our “IGO/NGO Coordination” class. This gives students an opportunity to engage with and better understand the civilians that work within these organizations. This is important because they will hopefully interact with them down range.
Part of our training regimen is a football (soccer) competition amongst the teams that make up the class. This encourages interaction between officers and enlisted and builds rapport within the teams. Instructors get involved for the same reasons and to demonstrate that language barriers can be overcome with shared interests. Building rapport is an integral part of CIMIC and sports are an excellent way to break down barriers.
The Burundian class leader, who is also the battalion’s civil information manager, said, “We have seen a lot of subjects that will help us in Somalia. We studied how to communicate better with the population and the way to behave with them. The purpose of the course is to help the CIMIC Soldier to do the job properly as real professionals.”
He said he is confident that he will be able to represent the BNDF professionally.