WACKERNHEIM, Germany – U.S. Army Reserve civil affairs soldiers with local disaster relief agencies and German military came together to provide humanitarian assistance during training exercise Cobra Strike 17 at the 7th U.S. Army Joint Training Command Training Support Center, Sept. 16.
This exercise led by C Co., 457th Civil Affairs Battalion, tested civil affairs teams’ ability to assess, direct, and liaise with Bundeswehr's Sanitätsstaffel Einsatz from Colonge, a German military medical service unit; Technisches Hilfswerk of Frankenthal, a German civil protection agency; and American Red Cross Wiesbaden in a scenario that required these organizations to respond to a fictitious town two days after an earthquake. Developments included injured personnel in damaged buildings needing extraction, gas leaks, polluted water, and unrest amongst civil authorities and leaders with responders.
Training with these local organizations while being stationed in Europe gives civil affairs soldiers an advantage over their counterparts in the states says Capt. William Schlotzhauser, team chief with C Co., 457th CA BN.
“Organizations such as Bundeswehr and THW are very capable and knowledgeable, they have equal footing with us. It’s reassuring to know we can rely on our partners if needed.”
For Dr. Manuel Daumann, unit leader of THW Frankenthal, this training is comparable to actual disasters he has responded to. Daumann was involved in relief efforts during the flooding of Elbe River in eastern Germany in 2013 where water levels rose from 6 feet (1.8 meters) to over 30 feet (9.1 meters) and caused $20 billion in damage according to NASA Earth Observatory records.
“It is valuable for THW to communicate in different languages and with organizations we don’t normally work with,” said Daumann.
Cobra Strike not only allowed civil affairs soldiers to test coordination skills, but also allowed personnel to embed themselves with partnered agencies.
“With my previous experience with [civil affairs teams] from a previous deployment and this training I have a better understanding on how to embed myself and how to be a better liaison with international agencies,” said Staff Sgt. Paul Myers, Medical Operations Non-Commissioned Officer with C Co. 457th CA BN, who embedded himself as a medic with THW during the exercise.
Volunteers from American Red Cross Wiesbaden participated in the training by being an available humanitarian relief agency to civil affairs soldiers to coordinate with and acting as injured role-players with the cadets of Civil Air Patrol Wiesbaden Flight.
“It was an enlightening experience to be a role-playing victim in this training,” said Roulla Nau, a volunteer with American Red Cross Wiesbaden. “It’s important as a responder to understand what panic feels like. I could see the complexity of a response team from being a role-playing victim.”
C Co., 457th CA BN, located in Wackernheim, Germany, falls under 361st Civil Affairs Brigade, located in Kaiserslautern, Germany. 361st CA BDE is the U.S. Army Reserve’s only forward deployed civil affairs unit in Europe providing civil affairs support to U.S. Army Europe.