Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers
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CIOR Reservists in Afghanistan - Bringing Civilian Skills to the Front Lines

At the commencement 2009 Summer Congress of the Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers, commonly referred to by its French acronym CIOR, in Stavanger, Norway, US Navy Admiral James Stavridis, the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe (SACEUR) sent a message that stipulated the undoubted value of reservists for NATO and explained the role they have in current and future operations of the Atlantic alliance:

"As the global security environment has shifted to threats that are not as well defined, we must understand and agree on what the Alliance represents today and how we need to develop our military capabilities to function in line with what NATO represents. In this environment, reserve forces are no longer considered to be forces of last resort, rather, they are now recognized as indispensable to the Alliance’s defense from the earliest days of a conflict." -- Adm. James Stavridis' quote in the Norwegian Presidency Booklet.

Now NATO junior officers who have served together on CIOR committees are finding themselves serving together operationally in Afghanistan supporting the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Capt. Joerg Schnurre, German Army Reserve, is currently serving voluntarily in the CJ3 branch of ISAF Regional Command North, which focus on operational matters. He is supporting the Afghan National Security Forces in close coordination and collaboration in providing security and disrupting the insurgents’ activities in order to protect the population, secure the highways and support the Afghan Border Police operations in the border areas and crossing points in order to set the conditions for economic, social and cultural development in key terrain districts. This includes more and more close coordination with different civilian actors to shift responsibility and development over to the Afghan partners and furthermore to the civilian atmosphere.

It’s a combination of various skills which my post over here requires. Most of them come from my civilian life but fit perfect into daily business. My comrades appreciate my non-exclusive military perspective and behavior on issues my branch deals with. Working in an international environment isn’t a new experience for me, it´s just a continuation or better to say a prolonging of a CIOR meeting, which I participate on for almost five years now.

In 2006 Capt. Schnurre attended a Law of Armed Conflict course as part of the CIOR Young Reserve Officer Workshop (YROW). Little did he know that four years later he would be in an armed conflict - along with his classmate Lt. Cmdr. Scot Cregan, US Navy Reserve who was serving on a one-year reserve activation to the ISAF headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan.

"My civilian skills as a strategy and technology consultant for inter-agency governmental organizations were instrumental in my assignment as the ISAF Chief of Social Media, said Lt. Cmdr Cregan, "However it was my international experience working with CIOR that really prepared me to work effectively in a NATO environment."

His previous experience with CIOR also contributed to Lt. Cmdr Cregan's selection for a month-long tour as the ISAF Liaison officer to NATO Headquarters in Brussels.

Another alumnus of the CIOR YROW program, Capt Thorbjørn Hein, Denmark Army Reserve and political science graduate, is now deployed in Afghanistan for his second six-month deployment in the country. The captain is the Second in Command (2iC) in the Civil Military Cooperation Section (CIMIC) at the Lithuanian-led Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) Chaghcharan, Ghowr Province, located in Central Afghanistan's Hindu Kush Mountains.

As part of ISAF Regional Command – West, PRT Chaghcharan is a unified team working in full partnership with Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and in coordination with other Afghan institutions, joint, interagency, and multinational organizations. They conduct population-centric, comprehensive counterinsurgency operations focused on key terrain to neutralize the insurgency, increase the competency and credibility of Afghan institutions, and facilitate development to set the security and stability conditions to begin transition to the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

"My fellow Danish reservists and I have the valuable ability of understanding both military and civilian mindsets. This greatly contributes to the non-kinetic approach essential for counterinsurgency operations," Capt Hein said.

Capt Hein's duties include province assessment, Afghan youth issues, Provincial Government liaising, conducting water wells and other quick impact projects, and supporting the ongoing and essential Afghan Peace and Reintegration Process in Ghowr Province. He recently participated in top-level meetings with Afghan National Security Forces and United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan representatives to discuss fostering peace and security in Ghor province.

His key diplomatic skills were perfected before deploying to Afghanistan when Capt Hein served as a consultant and public diplomacy adviser at the Embassy of Denmark, in London, the United Kingdom. “The sum of my civilian education and experience together with my great reserve officer training has made me comfortably fill a position as the 2iC in a section otherwise filled with only fulltime officers and other ranks,” said Capt Hein, on the brink of going home to Denmark after the six months in the PRT. Shortly before leaving the Capt has been awarded the Lithuanian Armed Land Forces Distinguished Service Medal.

Another CIOR junior officer, Capt. Benoit Chaucheprat, French Air Force Reserve, recently served a tour at the ISAF Joint Command in Kabul, Afghanistan.

"My experiences working with NATO officers on various CIOR committees prepared me for my deployment to Afghanistan. The old military saying 'train like you fight and fight like you trained' rings true. My fellow officers fortunate enough to have CIOR experience are much better ableto jump into any multinational operation without any culture shock."

© 2012 Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers