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American Forces Press Service

Innovative Training Benefits Troops, Communities


 By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

 WASHINGTON -- DoD's Civil-Military Innovative Readiness 
 Training is a "win-win" proposition for the military and 
 the American public, according to defense officials here.
 Active and reserve component combat support and combat 
 service support units get hands-on experience performing 
 mission-essential tasks and local communities get needed 
 services and support, they said. Military members provide 
 engineering support for infrastructure projects and provide 
 medical and dental services. 
 Title 10 of the U.S. Code, Section 2012, authorizes unit 
 commanders to work with other federal, state and local 
 agencies outside the Defense Department, according to Air 
 Force Col. Diana Fleek, program manager, Office of the 
 Assistant Defense Secretary for Reserve Affairs. As a 
 result, the military is learning to form interagency and 
 interdepartmental partnerships. 
 "It's an actual win-win situation for everybody," said the 
 colonel, who gives the program an "A plus" for what it does 
 for the public and particularly for the military. The 
 bottom line, she said, is that military skills are enhanced 
 when they are exercised and military readiness is 
 strengthened when combat mission capabilities are used.
 Service members participated in 178 projects in 39 states 
 in fiscal 1998 and in more than 200 projects during fiscal 
 1999. They helped build roads in the northern wilds of 
 Alaska and drilled wells in southern Texas. They helped 
 prepare ball field complexes in Alabama and moved 
 critically needed hay throughout Oklahoma. They provided 
 medical, dental and veterinary care at remote sites 
 throughout the country. 
 "The feedback we get from the combat support and the combat 
 service support folks who never get to go anywhere is that 
 this is the best training they've ever had," Fleek said.
 The Innovative Readiness Training program, established in 
 1993, began as part of the Clinton administration's effort 
 to rebuild America. The Senate Armed Services Committee 
 echoed the president's support for the program. 
 "The American people have made an enormous investment in 
 developing the military's skills, capabilities and 
 resources," a 1993 Senate committee report stated. "These 
 resources, if properly matched to local needs and 
 coordinated with civilian efforts, can be a useful 
 contribution to addressing the serious domestic needs of 
 the United States." 
 The National Guard is involved in the majority of the 
 program's projects because they do very small projects in 
 different locations within a state, Fleek noted. "The 
 reserve and the active forces are actually leading many of 
 the joint task force projects," she said. The colonel 
 estimated active duty service members account for about 12 
 percent of the program participants. 
 "Units participate in this program because it gives them 
 another avenue to do readiness training," she said. 
 "Instead of going overseas, like they do with civil 
 assistance and humanitarian relief, they stay in the 
 continental United States and work with the local 
 Historically, for example, engineering units have done 
 similar projects in South America and other overseas 
 locations. Back at home base, however, they may be limited 
 to such assignments as moving a berm from Point A to Point 
 B on base, Fleek noted. The Innovative Readiness Program 
 allows them to train in a real-world, hands-on environment, 
 she said.
 "Now they have an opportunity to actually go out to a 
 community and do road building on Native American 
 reservations in the Great Plains, or in remote communities 
 in Alaska or down on the border with the counter-drug 
 folks," she said. "They're actually doing the road-grading. 
 They're not just moving earth from one place to another. 
 They find that extremely rewarding." 
 The program spotlights the military in the communities from 
 which the services recruit. As a result, Fleek said, units 
 benefit from increased retention and recruiting. "That has 
 then brought the whole thing full circle to become a 
 benefit to the military," she said. 
 The program also provides opportunities for joint efforts 
 that demonstrate the active and reserve components' ability 
 to work as a total force. "This program is a mirror image 
 to what's going on overseas with major exercises," she 
 said. "It's just happening in the United States. It's 
 actually giving back. We're getting a double bang for the 
 taxpayers' buck." 
 More units are becoming aware of the opportunities 
 available through the program. "We're seeing an increase in 
 the program, which means more units are understanding what 
 it's about and are taking advantage of interagency 
 cooperation," Fleek said. "I think the program has shown 
 that it has the potential to grow." 
 The current DoD budget allocates $20 million for the 
 effort; the services also spend training funds. "So we're 
 actually seeing about a $60 million to $80 million program 
 that is working for readiness training here in the United 
 States," she said.
 Fleek said she expects to see more partnerships with other 
 federal and local agencies in the future. 
 "We're going to see this tremendous onset of benefit to 
 agencies like Coastal America, which is a DoD environmental 
 policy program responsible for the entire U.S. coastline," 
 she said. "They're very busy with environmental projects, 
 either rehabbing dams or dealing with environmental issues 
 on BRAC-closed bases along the coastline."
 Administrative initiatives with Native Americans have taken 
 the forefront this year, Fleek added. "We're finding that 
 the program is a perfect fit for those type of interagency 
 infrastructure to underserved communities."
Photo Army Reserve landing craft support military road construction on Annette Island, Alaska, as part of DoD's Civil-Military Innovative Readiness Training program. The program authorizes unit commanders to work with federal, state and local officials on public projects that enhance military readiness skills. DoD Photo
Photo A soldier from the Alaska Army National Guard's 207th Aviation Battalion prepares posts to be hoisted by helicopter to a winter dog sled trail being built near the Bering Strait. DoD Photo
Photo Soldiers of C Company, 133rd Engineer Battalion (Combat Heavy) of Maine's Army National Guard erect a fence section along the U.S.-Mexican border in California in support of U.S. Border Patrol operations. Under DoD's Innovative Readiness Training program, active and reserve component units from across the United States receive mission-related training while helping civilian communities and agencies at the same time. The Mainers' border missions, for instance, include barrier emplacements, road improvements, well drilling and earth moving. Maine Army National Guard Photo
Photo Air Force Reserve engineers and residents of the Navaho reservation in Gallup, N.M.prepare to pour a house foundation as part of DoD's Civil-Military Innovative Readiness Training Program. The program authorizes unit commanders to work with federal, state and local officials on public projects that enhance military readiness skills. DoD Photo

Updated: 14 Jan 2003
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