Letting the CAT out of the Bag: An Enlisted View of Bottom-Up Integration

Updated: Feb 1, 2020

Editor Note: We are honored to publish this essay from NCOs in the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne) who posit some ideas on how to promote CA Integration and build a more credible capability across the CA Corps. A major part of CA success to date is the result of the ingenuity and intellectual excellence in our NCO ranks. A new way to recruit, the core architecture and skills of a CAT, civil information layering... Lots of gold dust in this short read.

"Once a small force of Warrior Diplomats, today’s CA is disjointed, disgruntled, and seeking relevancy with individual units that see only their slice of the mission. The world’s premier group of men and women attuned to navigating the toughest cultural terrain has failed to bridge its own cultural divide."

91st CA BN (Airborne) Special Operations

Photo collage of NCOs from CAT 121 working with Security Forces in Fada N’Gourma, Burkina Faso


Beginning as a Reserve Component (RC) asset, Civil Affairs (CA) has changed dramatically in the past two decades. The demands of two wars, emerging hybrid threats, and widening gray spaces between peace and conflict initiated the activation of an Active Component (AC) Special Operations Forces (SOF) Brigade (BDE) and an AC Brigade of SOF Soldiers in support of Conventional Forces (CF). Today, the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Special Operations) (Airborne), and one Battalion (83rd CA BN) in support of CF remain in the AC. RC Civil Affairs under the United States Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (USACAPOC) has split from the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC).

Once a small force of Warrior Diplomats, today’s CA is disjointed, disgruntled, and seeking relevancy with individual units that see only their slice of the mission. The world’s premier group of men and women attuned to navigating the toughest cultural terrain has failed to bridge its own cultural divide.

This paper argues that the way forward for Civil Affairs is a more integrated force that defines and improves its structure at the tactical level, integrates base level training, increases capabilities, refines recruiting and retention, and seeks to draw on the divergent strengths of all of its personnel regardless of component. A more integrated Regiment of professionals built from the bottom up will develop wider interoperability and create a forward-looking force that will be proactive, not reactive, across the range of military operations (ROMO).

Current proposals requiring all RC members to attend Civil Affairs Assessment and Selection (CAAS) and the Civil Affairs Qualification Course (CAQC), creating a hybrid AC/RC structure, and AC CA creating a different MOS demand complete assimilation or divorce. Integration of SOF, SOF in support of CF, and the Reserves is not a zero-sum game and must draw strength from differences and leverage unique capabilities to meet the challenges of the future. The ideas presented here are from an enlisted, bottom up perspective, demonstrating that the desire to integrate Civil Affairs exists even in the lower enlisted ranks of the Civil Affairs Regiment.


Current doctrine does not address the Civil Affairs Team (CAT), its makeup, or its capabilities in any depth. While Team Leader and Team Sergeant roles are evident, that of the Civil Affairs Non-Commissioned Officer (CANCO) and Medic are ambiguous. Currently, the CANCO does not have a solidly defined role in doctrine, but often maintains communications, conducts Civil Information Management (CIM) / Human Network Analysis (HNA), and Civil Reconnaissance (CR). According to the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade vision, key tasks include Civil Reconnaissance and Human Network Analysis (HNA)[i] however; without appropriate training these tasks cannot be fulfilled. The extensive capabilities of the Medic rarely extend beyond Veterinary Civic Action Programs (VETCAP) or Medical Civic Action Programs (MEDCAP).

During the Civil Affairs Qualification Course (CAQC), candidates are given a brief four slide introduction to the roles and responsibilities of CAT members. In reality, a Civil Affairs Team requires each member to juggle multiple tasks with little specialized training. Doctrine that gives Team Leaders a better understanding of how to utilize and employ their Medics and CANCOs will enhance readiness and drive mission success. In addition, understanding the training and credentialing members are required to possess will help new CA Soldiers plot their course on their career pathway and understand their expected contribution to the team.

In the short-term, having experienced individuals conduct briefs and case studies during the CAQC/Advanced Individual Training (AIT) emphasizing required skill sets will better prepare graduates for operations. Demonstrating what problem sets each role can present will guide Soldiers to seek individual training to enhance readiness. New Team Leaders will also gain the ability to plan for mission success through team training that includes Force Protection (FP), Medical considerations, communications, and Civil Information Management (CIM) / HNA. Additionally, assigning roles during CAQC/AIT that mirror those of a CAT will give students an appreciation of what each team member is responsible for. Exposure to critical skill requirements during CAQC/AIT will drive future team training and cross-training and promote competent and self-driven leaders when they arrive at their units.

The ultimate goal is a revised JP/FM 3-57 that covers the CAT and the roles of its members driven by capabilities such as medical, communications, and engineering that enhance the ability to operate effectively in challenging environments. Defining CAT roles will drive and establish more formal training for CAT members and set the stage for CA Operators that are “selected, trained, educated, organized, and equipped to support, influence, compel, or control populations, governments, and other institutions in the FOE [Future Operating Environment], to achieve national objectives.” [ii]