by MAJ Wyatt Hughes
One of the greatest challenges facing today’s Civil Affairs (CA) branch is the absence of a clear identity, which directly impacts our abilities to develop and retain Soldiers. It is inherently difficult to retain and develop Soldiers when we cannot agree on a common identity within our own community. The absence of a consistently vocalized mission and identity which, in turn, enhances misconceptions about the role of CA is a problem set that extends across the branch from USAJFKSWCS to the remotest of battalions in USASOC and USACAPOC(A) with lasting impacts on even our most junior Soldiers.
We are a highly experienced branch, but that alone does not bode well for the junior Soldier, NCO or officer who has yet to experience a CA deployment or mentorship and, as such, may not fully grasp the opportunities that exist for the qualified and talented CA Soldier. We are a diverse bunch, indeed, and with as many equally diverse answers as to what we do and who we are. Specifically, our branch suffers from limited and often personalized attempts to vocalize our mission which has led to inconsistent branding and often fosters misconceptions regarding CA’s role in operations. Due to inconsistent branding we fail to see the standard from which we can then communicate a shared identity among our ranks. How do I mentor and develop junior CA Soldiers when our branch’s identity isn’t even clear? This question being raised may encourage personal scoffs from the highly experienced CA Soldier but think for a moment about how very few CA Soldiers have had the same experiences in their respective careers and have never been consistently trained to state the CA mission. Even our CA training “pipelines” have changed as many times as our uniforms. Additionally, many attempts to “brand” ourselves have been pursued that span the spectrum from images of D.B. Cooper skydiving in with a briefcase of money to assorted symbols of peace hawks and Soldiers in suits conducting high-level negotiations or attending village “shuras” in full local wardrobe with matching beards. It is clearly no wonder that we fail to consistently message who we are considering our one consistency as a branch is our inconsistency.
The size and scope of our mission alone is problematic and cumbersome when you consider the needed versatility required of a CA Soldier in order to be effective in a myriad of operational environments. Add the assorted complexities of an unclearly defined purpose on top of an already complex mission and you find even more ambiguity. Our “identity” is rife with distortion by the very nature of personally defined attempts to establish our brand not only through our own ranks, but also across the entirety of the DoD community. In order to support consistent messaging across the CA branch and ultimately address our absence of a clear identity it is my proposal that we, the Soldiers of CA, develop a clear creed to communicate who we are first and foremost. Establishing a clear creed will allow us to brand ourselves and in so doing we can develop a baseline from which to further enhance understanding of the importance of the CA branch.
I propose a creed be considered as it stands now or that a creed be formulated by a CA working group. Furthermore, it is my recommendation that we use a creed working group to spark a branding campaign across our ranks that unifies our branch in order to facilitate and engender a sense of “esprit de corps.” It is my hope the creed will spark a firestorm of ideas that will blaze across the branch. It is my belief that doing so will support the creation of a clear identity for the CA branch.
In summary, Civil Affairs is among the most unique and specialized branches within the DoD community. As such our branch deserves a clear identity and creed. We must develop a clear voice and foster more “esprit de corps” among our ranks that can be used to echo who we are and what we are about. The development of a creed serves as the cornerstone for the building of our branch’s identity and will serve as the “bedrock” for future CA branch growth. The more our identity becomes clear the more our value will be understood throughout the DoD community. Moving forward we need to build our CA branch’s identity together beginning with developing a CA creed. Once our identity is agreed upon we can more clearly develop the Soldiers of our ranks who can assist with leading the way as the CA of today becomes the CA we need for tomorrow.
About the Author
Major Wyatt Hughes is currently serving as the Chief of Operations at the 418th CA Battalion in Belton, MO. Prior to his arrival at the 418th, he served as CA Planner at US Army Japan, Instructor at USAJFKSWCS, and as a Plans Officer with the 411th CA BN. He is a graduate of the CGSC resident course and has a BA in Psychology and a MCJ from University of South Carolina. He and his wife Rosalyn have a blended family of four kids and two dogs.