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Feature Stories

NEWS | Aug. 16, 2019

Task Force Spartan civil affairs professionals celebrate 64 years

By Staff Sgt. Erin Johns Task Force Spartan

All that Task Force Spartan civil affairs soldiers want for their 64th birthday is the ability to build strong and enduring relationships with regional partners.

Lt. Col. Steve Slaughter and Staff Sgt. Holly Horned from the 38th Infantry Division discussed their role serving Task Force Spartan civil affairs in southwest Asia as they celebrated the 64th Civil Affairs anniversary.

“For Task Force Spartan, we are looking forward to interacting and working with the local population in Kuwait,” said Slaughter, Task Force Spartan civil affairs officer. “We can learn as much from Kuwaitis as they can learn from us. All cultures are different and every culture could learn from another culture. There’s no one way to do things.”

Task Force Spartan works with many countries in the Middle East including Kuwait, Qatar, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and myriad other nations to strengthen defense relationships and build partner capacity.

“I’m looking forward to interacting with people and learning about their culture. Hopefully, we can find a way to connect with our regional partners,” said Horned, Task Force Spartan civil affairs noncommissioned officer. “Our soldiers can facilitate better relationships with our partners in Task Force Spartan by understanding and respecting that many of the cultures in this region are tied to their religious practices and beliefs. Finding a way to coexist while working together will make our mission a great success.”

The civil affairs branch received formal recognition in the U.S. Army Reserves, Aug. 17, 1955 following World War II when civil affairs teams helped German communities by training German military officers in postwar reconstruction.

But the civil affairs branch’s roots stretch back to the beginning of U.S. history when the Continental Army helped areas previously under British rule establish governance in the area.

Later, civil affairs started maximizing support for military operations when Lt. Gen. Winfield Scott, affectionately known as the “father of civil affairs”, issued General Orders No. 20 of 1847.

The general order from Scott addressed concerns regarding volunteers committing crimes ranging from property destruction to murder and rape while not being held accountable for these egregious violations.

The new order in 1847 stated any Mexican person or United States military affiliate, “will be punctually judged and punished according to the expressed supplemental code.”

Many lessons have been learned since the first milestone for civil affairs in the U.S. - Mexican War when Scott displayed great respect for the people and culture of Mexico.

“Civil affairs has five main pillars,” said Slaughter. “Population and resource control, nation assistance, support to civil authorities, foreign humanitarian assistance and civil information management.”

“The top priority in times of combat is to keep people out of the way of warfare keeping the conflict military to military. The protection of the population is where we look for ways to responsibly minimize exposing people to warfare,” Slaughter said.

Today, the civil affairs branch has a role at every level of command providing opportunities to increase and sustain partnerships while building trust and compatibility with partnered-nation militaries.

“Today’s challenge is defining what normalcy looks like,” said Slaughter. “Each community we work with may have different definitions of stability. Civil affairs grows and develops with each new engagement.”