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UK Stabilisation group joined CIMIC committee

At the CIOR Summer Conference in Warsaw in August 2011, two new participants from the UK Military Stabilisation Support Group (MSSG) joined the CIMIC Committee. They were Lt Col Peter Carroll who is a reserve officer, and Maj Mike Whatley, a regular officer. 
MSSG is a regular unit of the British Army, with currently around 100 reserves; it specialises in providing Military Aide to Civil Effect (MACE). MSSG is a joint organisation and therefore has members from all three British military services: Navy, Army and Air Force. The Group deploys CIMIC and Stabilisation trained individuals and teams on operations from within its own organisation, and also trains individuals and groups from other UK military units, in preparation for deployment. In the past, the Group has deployed reserves and regulars in the Balkans, Iraq and currently in Afghanistan; and other theatres of operations. The CIMIC Committee was interested to hear about MSSG’s annual overseas exercise called Ex CIVIL BRIDGE (EX CB). 
EX CB has been running in its current format since 2002 in Nepal, Belize, Ghana, Uganda and this year it will be in Botswana. It is the Group’s annual overseas training exercise (OTX) for a detachment of approximately 30 troops, both reserves and regulars; with rank ranging from JNCO to Lt Col. Other organisations are also invited to attend eg. Media Ops, Psyops, Engineers, Medical and the civilian Stabilisation Unit.
MSSG has established that training in countries like those mentioned above, which suffer from a range of natural disasters like flooding, drought, hurricanes etc; provides a realistic platform to practice a wide range of CIMIC and Stabilisation related skills. This is particularly relevant to the Group’s expanded role in providing MACE and contributing to Stabilisation in countries like Afghanistan. The training is normally based on a review of the host country’s national and regional disaster plans. Although not experts in disaster management, the Group has established that all of the elements involved in disaster preparedness, response and management are similar to preparing for and the conduct of CIMIC and Stabilisation operations. 
The exercise can be conducted at different levels: government, district and community levels. Each level involves interface with key stakeholders ranging from UK organisations (British High Commission, Defence Adviser, Department for International Development), host nation government officials and the military, to district civil servants and community leaders; emergency services, IOs and NGOs and of course the civilian population. Many skills are practiced including: planning, liaison, managing complex meetings, infrastructure assessments, reporting, giving press interviews, expectation management etc, etc.

Figure 1: UK MSSG team with Ugandan Military attachment, meeting with Ugandan village officials.
The unique aspect of EX CB which has been progressively developed over the years is the delivery of “real” product to the host nation. For example; the facilitation of a disaster management workshop for several districts in Uganda; a region prone to drought and famine, amongst other natural disasters. Real product also included the facilitation of an inaugural planning meeting in Uganda’s capital city of Kampala, of a newly formed Uganda Government Flood Task Force. This task force specifically requested that the Group help them through the initial stages of planning for the response to an impending flood. The final “real” product from the exercise was a presentation and final report of the Groups’ key findings and recommendations in relation to the Government of Uganda’s disaster response capability, presented to the Government Minister and staff responsible for disaster management.

© 2012 Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers