WACKERNHEIM, Germany — Elements of the 7th Mission Support Command in Europe paired with host nation partners and non-governmental organizations to exercise humanitarian assistance skills during a recent exercise at Wackernheim Regional Range Complex.
457th Civil Affairs Battalion’s Charlie Company led the exercise—known as Cobra Strike 18—the fifth iteration of an annual multi-national, multi-organizational, field training exercise in humanitarian assistance and population control. The training included the participation of a Bundeswehr medical unit, the Red Cross and Technisches Hilfwerk —a civil protection organization controlled by the German federal government.
“Bringing in military and non-military organizations helps us cross train so that we know what capabilities each organization can bring to the humanitarian effort,” said Capt. Joel Whitley, the exercise’s lead planner. “Knowing the partners that we might be responding with in an actual emergency, and building those relationships ahead of time, goes a long way [toward] being immediately effective in the middle of a crisis.”
The exercise’s plot was divided into two scenarios and was centered around a fictional village situated in the midst of hostilities.
“The civil affairs team was sent to a village that has experienced a pretty chaotic year,” said Capt. William Schlotzhauer, a team chief with Charlie Company, 457th Civil Affairs Battalion. “It’s a war-torn area that has experienced some significant infrastructure issues that haven’t been remedied yet. In addition, they have experienced a chemical leak, a building collapse and the evacuation of a medical clinic. So, we had to assess those situations and determine what needed to happen and what organizations needed to take part to make sure that those issues were mitigated.”
The first scenario centered on an unknown chemical that contaminated the village water supply, followed by a building collapse. The second scenario featured villagers fleeing for safety from a cease-fire violation, resulting in a building collapse, which lead to a vehicle extraction and search and rescue operation. Members of a Civil Air Patrol unit in Wiesbaden served as role players.
“It’s interesting writing these scenarios,” Whitely said. “I go to each organization asking what their training objectives are, and then I write them into a scenario. It’s a challenge,
but it’s a lot of fun to organize an event like this that adds training value.”
The 457th Civil Affairs Battalion falls under the Kaiserslautern, Germany-based 361st Civil Affairs Brigade. The Army Reserve’s only forward-deployed multifunctional civil affairs unit in Europe provides civil affairs, movement control, human resources, chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological, public affairs and forward engineering support to U.S. Army Europe.