Staff Sgt. David Bruce
Camp Atterbury Public Affairs
It is a familiar sight to any soldier: people waiting in line for deployment processing.
Seemingly endless queues as personnel move though the stations – medical, check; dental, check; finance, check. And on the process goes.
It is a familiar sight; nothing new here.
Except these aren’t soldiers. Now, civilians are going through the mobilization process and deploying to conflict zones alongside soldiers.
While the use of contractors is a commonplace in the military, these civilians are employees of the Department of Defense.
The Civilian Expeditionary Workforce (CEW) is a Defense Department program to deploy some of its civilian employees to support military operations.
The deployments are voluntary, and they receive their training and processing here at the Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center and at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, Ind.
The civilians perform a variety of roles in theater helping with military operations or training the host nation government and local industries.
The program has been located at Camp Atterbury and Muscatatuck for the past year, and according to Bob Carrington, Office of the Secretary of Defense, who has seen multiple deployments as a Defense Department employee, the program has been vastly improved for the civilians compared to the training he received to prepare for his first deployment.
"This greatly prepares civilians with the necessary skill sets needed to work alongside the Soldiers in these conflict zones," Carrington said.
Adding, "They receive training on combat patrol procedures, their actions during enemy contact and other emergency situations."
The civilians also receive training in the form of exercises where they have to interact with role-players in various situations in the execution of their duties.
During these vignettes, the unexpected could happen, which usually takes the form of an insurgent attack by opposing forces.
"The scenarios are as realistic as you can get in a training environment," Carrington said. "They live on a forward operating base, they go on convoys with the soldiers, they react to contact with the soldiers. The more they train with the military, the more they will know what to expect and how to endure downrange."
The training program is split between Camp Atterbury and Muscatatuck.
At Muscatatuck, they perform the various training vignettes and learn to work with the soldiers who will be protecting them in whatever theater they are deployed to.
The focus at Camp Atterbury is on readiness. The Individual Replacement Deployment Office (IRDO) here manages their activities and ensures that they are deployable.
Here they will go through the same process soldiers face when deploying – checking to ensure they can pass medical and dental health screens, a trip through the Central Issue Facility, weapons familiarization and medical classes.
Deployments involve change and uncertainty. All this requires flexibility according to Murphy House, a weapon systems coordinator with Army Materiel Command at Fort Belvoir, Va., who is preparing for his fifth deployment as a civilian.
"The first thing they learn to deal with is change," House said. "The schedule can change at a moment’s notice. Everybody needs to be flexible and work as a team to get through this process."
For House, the deployments give him a chance to interact with the soldiers in the field. This gives him greater insight to the how they will interface with the weapon systems that his department is charged with procuring.
"By deploying with the soldiers, I can observe the systems in the field, how they operate and how reliable these systems are," House said.
Adding, "You have to learn about the soldiers and their systems. The only way to get this experience is to go where the soldiers are. It makes me a better advisor by understanding the conditions the soldiers find themselves in."
House, who is a veteran of other deployment centers, said the strong noncommissioned officer leadership here helps make this a polished deployment center.
"There are many facets to this process and it could have been an unhappy process, but they have the right people and tools coupled with a variety of experience to make this work," House said.
According to 1st Sgt. Michael Mullins, senior noncommissioned officer at the Camp Atterbury IRDO, the IRDO is similar to the CONUS Replacement Center at Fort Benning, Ga. However, the center deploys soldiers as well as civilians, the IRDO is focused solely on civilian programs.
"Because we’re smaller in scope, we can provide more hands-on training for the Civilian Expeditionary Workforce," Mullins said. "The training they receive here may be the last chance they get to learn these skills and that can be the difference between life or death in some cases."
With the success of the IRDO, Fort Benning has been sending more CEW classes to receive their training here.
"Camp Atterbury has a solid reputation as a power projection platform. We have exceeded expectations for this program," Mullins said.