Civil Affairs: the Army's middlemen
Spec. Michelle Lunato
First published in
SFOR Informer#147, September 12, 2002
Armed with a cell phone, a vehicle and the drive to make
a difference, Civil Affairs (CA) soldiers are helping people
displaced as a result of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina
return to their communities. They need homes rebuilt, utilities
installed and roads paved before they can return. Without
help, the 1,140 displaced people of the Suceska village will
not be able to return home.
Suceska - Civil Affairs is not armed with tools or manpower
to do the construction, but, in their own way, they are critical
in the returns process.
The only thing we can do is contact the international
community, said Maj. Lewis Gaiani, CA officer. All
I have is a cell phone and a list of numbers.
They work with the Finnish Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC)
to find the needs of an area, then, set out to find groups
that can help. Spending numerous hours a day on the telephone
and in vehicles, CA soldiers contact several non-governmental
organisations in an effort to give the hopeful returnees some
We act as a facilitator and bring different groups together,
Help for the village
On one visit to the village of Suceska, the CA team brought
an organisation offering micro-economic loans. The group met
with over 50 villagers to explain the program and how it could
help them. The soldiers also obtained a list of displaced
people who are trying to return to the village. This list
was crucial in their efforts since it proves to potential
donors that there is a need and a reason to help this particular
As the CA team builds relationships between their 13 opstinas
(municipalities) and a wide variety of organisations and the
infantrymen pound the streets gathering CA information, the
returns process mission is progressing, slowly, but surely.
Civil affairs is the most important mission here,
said 1Lt. Spencer Harris, CA officer.
To assist the mission even more, CA began bringing several
organisations to the Medical Civil Action Programs (MEDCAP).
While local nationals waited to be seen by Task Force Med
Eagle soldiers for health care, they had the opportunity to
gather information from groups such as World Vision, Mercy
Corps and Bauern Helfen Bauern, who offered help in loans,
home rebuilding and legal advice.
This new idea went over well and will be continued in future
rotations, said Gaiani. For a MEDCAP to be a success
and have long lasting impact, there needs to be host nation
participation, he said.
People working together
And that is what defines the essences of the CA mission -
the detective work of bringing together the right organisations
with the right people in need. Their complicated mission may
not be fast, but it is making a difference, explained Gaiani.
If I left tomorrow, I would be happy that we've been
able to help a lot of people, he said.
Nations of SFOR: US