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Civil affairs units help military commanders by working with civil authorities and civilian populations in the commander’s area of operations to lessen the impact of military operations on them during peace, contingency operations and declared war. Civil Affairs forces support activities of both conventional and special operations forces, and are capable of assisting and supporting the civil administration in the area of operations.
Civil affairs specialists can quickly and systematically identify critical requirements needed by local citizens in war or disaster situations. They can also locate civil resources to support military operations, help minimize civilian interference with operations, support national assistance activities, plan and execute non-combatant evacuation, support counter-drug operations, and establish and maintain liaison or dialogue with civilian aid agencies and civilian commercial and private organizations.
In support of special operations, these culturally oriented, linguistically capable Soldiers may also be tasked to provide functional expertise for foreign internal defense operations, unconventional warfare operations and direct action missions.
The functional structure of Civil Affairs Forces and their expertise, training, and orientation provide a capability for emergency coordination and administration where political-economic structures have been incapacitated. They can help plan U.S. government interagency procedures for national or regional emergencies. They can assist civil-military planning and military support operations for theater commanders in chief. Additionally, they can coordinate military resources to support government operations, emergency actions and humanitarian assistance from natural, man-made, or war-related causes. The 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne), with four percent of the civil affairs forces, is the only active Army Civil Affairs unit. The unit consist of four Battalions, regionally oriented to work in specific areas of the world. The unit is readily available to deploy and provides primarily tactical support. Civil Affairs soldiers continue to support Special Operations and Conventional forces in the OIF and OEF theaters of operation.
The remaining 96 percent of the Army’s Civil Affairs Forces are found in four Civil Affairs Commands, subordinate brigades and battalions in the Army Reserve. They provide a prime source of nation-building skills. These reserve-component Civil Affairs units include Soldiers with training and experience in public administration, public safety, public health, legal systems, labor management, public welfare, public finance, public education, civil defense, public works and utilities, public communications, public transportation, logistics, food and agricultural services, economics, property control, cultural affairs, civil information, and managing dislocated persons.
CA deployments have provided tactical support to military commanders during Operation Just Cause in Panama, Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm in Southwest Asia, support to the restoration of the Panamanian government infrastructure during Operation Promote Liberty, management of Haitian refugee camps at Guantanamo Bay, natural disaster assistance in the aftermath of Hurricanes Andrew and Iniki and, assisting humanitarian efforts in Somalia.
Civil affairs experts were also called on to help rebuild the Haitian civilian infrastructure during Operation Uphold Democracy. Active and Reserve CA Units have also participated in the ongoing NATO peacekeeping operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, as well as other operations and exercises around the world.