US Army Activates “Warrior Diplomats” … Unlike State’s Expeditionary Diplomats, These Got Guns

I almost forgot this item I saw from the US Army a few weeks ago.  After the “build phase” is completed, we can expect at least five battalions of “warrior diplomats.”  Since a battalion has around 300–1,200 soldiers, the new warrior diplomats brigade can have a as low as 1,500 soldiers or as high as 6,000 for a brigade consisting of five battalions.

FORT HOOD, Texas, Sept. 22, 2011 — A brand new unit now has a home at Fort Hood. The 85th Civil Affairs Brigade officially stood up at the “Great Place” Sept. 16, after years of planning and coordination.
“In 2007, the Army saw a need for additional civil affairs capabilities,” Ruth explained. At that time, only one active-duty brigade-sized civil affairs unit existed — the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne) which is aligned under U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C.

After the surge in Iraq was announced in 2007, Ruth said nearly half of the USASOC civil affairs Soldiers were deployed to the Middle East to support ongoing operations. Plans were made to build another brigade, although that process took some time.

“We are in the build phase now,” Ruth said. “By the time we finish building the brigade, we will have five battalions. Each battalion will be oriented on a geographic combatant command.”

The 85th Civil Affairs Bde. is a direct-reporting unit to U.S. Army Forces Command. In addition, the brigade’s first battalion, the 81st Civil Affairs Battalion, stood up Sept. 16 at Fort Hood. That battalion is oriented to Southern Command.

In September 2012, two additional battalions will stand up. They include the 83rd Civil Affairs Battalion at Fort Bragg, N.C., which will be oriented to Central Command, and the 82nd Civil Affairs Battalion at Fort Stewart, Ga., which will be oriented to Africa Command.

The two final battalions will activate in September 2013 and will include the 80th Civil Affairs Battalion at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., which will be oriented to Pacific Command, and the 84th Civil Affairs Battalion at Fort Bliss, which will support European Command.

There’s a simple reason for the roll out of the brigades, according to Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Berry, the brigade’s senior enlisted advisor.

“Part of the challenge of what we have (is) the MOS (military occupational specialty) and the branch have only existed since 2007,” he said. “So as we’re building capacity in the branch, we’re expanding the units at the same time.”

Soldiers that are interested in the civil affairs branch have a challenging road ahead of them before they can join a battalion or a brigade.

“We recruit from inside the Army,” Berry said. “The process is quite lengthy.”

Interested Soldiers must first meet the qualifications and go through a screening process. If they make it through that level but are not yet parachutists, they must complete Airborne school. After that, there is the official civil affairs MOS qualification course, and finally, the Soldiers must learn a foreign language, which means months of additional schooling.
“It’s very busy, but it’s also very rewarding to do something that not very many people have an opportunity to do in the Army, and that’s stand something up from nothing.”

Standing up a brigade requires identifying unit facilities, creating procedures and policies, and working closely with Human Resources Command to make sure positions are properly staffed, in addition to dozens of other tasks on a daily basis.

“I don’t think we could do this at any other place except Fort Hood, and that goes back to the superb level of support we’re getting,” Ruth said.

The Civil Affairs brigade at Fort Hood equips FORSCOM with a crucial tool, a team of “warrior diplomats,” eager to leave their mark on the world.

“The mission is to provide FORSCOM with a civil affairs capability,” Ruth said. “It can do three things, (including) support the Army Force Generation cycle with civil affairs operators. The second capability that we provide FORSCOM is the ability to provide peacetime engagement throughout the world, and then the last thing we provide is the ability to support any emergent operations.

“So if we have another Haiti (earthquake) or flood in Indonesia, now we have civil affairs Soldiers who can go out and lend their expertise in mitigating those disasters,” he added.

Civil affairs Soldiers play a crucial role in both war and peace, although Ruth admitted that the branch is sometimes misunderstood.

“There’s a misnomer out there that what we do is hand out MREs (meals, ready-to-eat) and dig wells,” he said. “That’s not exactly what we do. We can facilitate that, but we do things for specific reasons, and that’s really to legitimize the local, regional or national government, and facilitate the commander’s ability to operate in theater.”

At the tactical level, civil affairs Soldiers serve as an intermediary between a commander on the ground and local village representatives. That’s where the in-depth training and language skills make all the difference in the world.

“Because of all that training and the way we select those Soldiers, we’re going to be able to provide the Army with a mature Soldier, a Soldier that has the ability to think on his or her feet,” Berry said.

“You can put them in a situation and they may not know the answer when they get there, but they’re going to keep working at it until they figure out what the answer is. They also have the ability to work with people and understand people.”

“Our motto is ‘warrior diplomat’ because we have to be warriors. We have to be Soldiers,” Ruth said. “But the Soldiers also have to add the diplomatic capability to where they can diffuse dissension, identify what the local vulnerabilities are and really bring people together.”
To mark the brigade’s activation, the unit will host a ceremony at the flagpole in front of III Corps Headquarters Sept. 30 at 9 a.m. The public is invited to attend.

The full article is here.

By September 2013, the full brigade with an upper count of possibly 6,000 soldiers will be in place. One battalion of warrior diplomats will support each combatant command: Central, Southern, Pacific, European and Africom.

To put this in perspective: the diplomatic service, officially called the United States Foreign Service and tasked with carrying out the foreign policy of these United States in over 270 posts overseas has about 13,000 staff members.  Only about 6,500 are Foreign Service officers.  Indeed, they could easily fit aboard a single aircraft carrier.

In the FY2012 budget State requested an addition of 197 full time Foreign Service and Civil Service – a growth of 1 percent, and 165 new positions for USAID. I can’t tell how many additional staffing was granted. But the FY2012 budget request for the State Department was $62.7 billion, and only $53.4 billion was enacted.

For FY2013, State has again requested additional staffing, this time, for 121 new positions (83 Foreign Service and 38 civil service) in high priority programs and regions.

And that’s that for the chopping block, until the next round.

Also — the State Department’s hiring effort called Diplomacy 3.0 to increase its Foreign Service workforce by 25 percent by 2013 was derailed due to emerging budgetary constraints. It is anticipated that this goal will not be met until 2023.

8 responses

  1. Well, since it is your blog, you are allowed continuous whine and dine. 🙂
    And all your subsequent points are true. Although, having done some reading–including here–on the manning of the missions in Iraq and AFG, I think a case can be made that part of the shortages are self-inflicted wounds.
    Concerning FAOs, of which I was one, they are more closely compared to POL cone officers, or more precisely POL-MIL officers. They are assigned to a wide variety of tasks–attache, defense cooperation office, J4 or J5 at COCOMs or the Pentagon–while CA personnel are more focused on planning and delivering what could generally be labelled Humanitarian Assistance directly to HN civilian populations. Of course, that is painting with a broad brush.

    • Why, thank you, sir! I think State is deeply sensitive of being accused of not pulling its weight in the war zone, which is rather silly (2007 town hall fallout). As a result, you got folks shipped out there before the needed job is identified; more apparent during the civilian surge. Appreciate your take on the FAOs, the comparable positions make sense.

  2. The real problem with the DOD is that they have money to burn. Whenever there is talk about cutting the defense budget, I hear warnings about soldiers who won’t have any bullets or other similar nonsense.

    It is not unusual to encounter DOD personnel who are actively looking for ways to spend surplus money; typically millions of dollars. The DOD routinely funds conferences for State and liaison/exploratory trips for other executive branches and their overseas counter parts.

    I know the soldiers themselves are just trying to help. In fact, it does help in the short term. Looking at the bigger picture, however, the continuous expansion of the DOD empire to cover traditionally civilian jobs and State’s ever increasing reliance on DOD funding for diplomatic functions is worrisome.

    We’ll know State is officially dead when the DOD opens its first Diplomatic Defense Office, or something similarly titled, in a foreign country as a diplomatically accredited building without anything more than a token foreign service presence, if that.

    • Drew – good to see you here! We’ll be in the lookout for that Diplomatic Defense Office. Yes, I agree it is worrisome but I also can’t see State doing anything different or innovative in this area. If State has to convince foreign audiences about anything, perhaps it should start convincing Congress about something. I’m not a fan of Congress and the gridlock it likes to call “working” but I think we have to recognize that it is the only thing we’ve got and we must shore up our forces to make it work. Well, not to sound dramatic, but I mean just because it does not work the way we want it to, that we should give up on it. But I don’t know what would move the American public to push their elected reps to be more responsible with the business at hand.

      I do think that State is spreading itself quite thin over too many initiatives that have questionable returns … example, culinary diplomacy. It’s the pet project of the protocol person who is a pol appointee. I don’t know if anyone actually look into that before its roll out and weigh the returns over the investments in time, money and effort. A good number of foreigners cannot grasp this thing we have about freedom of speech … but hey, let’s feed them American food and have a good chat about … food. It’s almost like throwing food on the wall and see what sticks instead of knowing which one actually works.

  3. What this article glosses over (or at least the portion excerpted) is that the Army’s Civil Affairs capactiy is much greater than presented. Most Civil Affairs officers are reservists, and are set up in smaller units than brigades to provide integrated support to the larger unit. These days reservists can see as much action as permanent troops (I know folks on their fourth deployment to Iraq). While’s it’s not necessarily a high prestige MOS, Civil Affairs is actually one of the more dangerous specializations.

    But you’re right – it doesn’t take many brigades to be a size on the same order of magnitude as the Foreign Service.

    • Nice to see you again, jc! Appreciate the additional details on CA. Isn’t there a Foreign Area MOS, too? Wouldn’t that be more comparable to the FSOs with their regional expertise and language?

  4. CA perform functions similar to USAID, but using military resources in support of military objectives. Their advantage is they can be ordered to go someplace and do not have to be negotiated with to deploy to insalubrious places. The additional personnel for the new brigade are coming from bill[payers within DOD, there are no additional personnel authorizations. Most of the BDE–as with any Army field organization–will be enlisted or junior officers. “To put it in perspective” as you say, DOD is a much larger organization, with a much larger budget, So any comparison between DOD and DOS on just about anything is largely a waste of time. I love your blog, and read it every day. However, whining about the relative lack of resources available to DOS by comparing it to DOD is less interesting than some of the other topics, you have more than a very superficial base of knowledge. Less interesting to me anyway. Of course its your blog. Regards.

    • LS – Thanks for your note, sorry the blog post was not that interesting to you. I cover the diplomatic service, so I’m allowed the occasional whine and dine, what can I say?

      Anyway, while I’d grant that given the size of the DOD comparison as you say is really a useless waste of time, I think it is useful to point out that the lead foreign affairs agency which is State the last time I look can’t even get its staffing in order until 2023. Not saying that’s DOD’s fault, just the way it is perhaps for the foreseeable future. And while there are no additional personnel authorization, the Army has the bench strength that the FS does not have. So DOD can shuffle its people, send them to language training, etc. while the FS just leave those positions as gaps and holes. And since USAID is only a skeleton of its old self, foreign aid will continue to wear boots on the ground.