Relationship-building is key for Civil-Military Cooperation specialists in the Caribbean

Two men in military uniforms pose for a photo outside

Reposted from DVIDS

Story by Lieutenant Suzanne Nogue, Canadian Armed Forces

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - Strengthening partnerships between militaries and non-military organizations is a key component of military operations. Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC) is one of the capabilities being enhanced during this year’s Exercise TRADEWINDS, held at the Dominican Republic and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines from May 30 to June 21, 2019. 

Chief Petty Officer 2nd class (CPO2) Robert (Lee) Brown is the Caribbean Task Force (CTF) J9 CIMIC mentor for Exercise TRADEWINDS 2019. Working alongside partner nations, the first phase of the exercise focused on the Canadian Operational Planning Process where exercise participants gained experience establishing an effective CTF and contributing to complex multinational operations. Throughout the exercise, CPO2 Brown taught exercise participants how Civil-Military Cooperation plays an important function in humanitarian assistance, disaster response and security capacity-building in international areas of operation. 

“It’s been great to work with such a large number of nations involved in this Caribbean Task Force,” he said. “Their ability to work through language barriers, different backgrounds and experience, and be able to work effectively together in such a short period of time was most impressive.” 

When not providing mentorship to partner nations and allies on international exercises or operations, CPO2 Brown works as a CIMIC operator and psychological operations specialist for the Canadian Army. Hailing from Halifax, Nova Scotia, he is the Sergeant-Major of the 36 Influence Activities Squadron with the Halifax Rifles, part of the 5th Canadian Division. 

One of the main functions of CIMIC operators and staff members, is to develop a partnership or cooperation between civilian and military organizations in support of their commander’s intent. Having played an important role in international operations in Afghanistan and Haiti, one of CPO2 Brown’s main functions as a CIMIC operator, is to mitigate the impact of military activities on the civilian population and any civilian activities on military operations.

“A large part of what I do is relationship-building with key civil actors and earning their trust,” said CPO2 Brown. “Close cooperation between the civilian population and military is essential for operational success. By better understanding how a local population communicates with one another, we can better understand their needs and be better able to assist them.”

One of the candidates participating in this year’s exercise is Hawkins Nanton, an Inspector of Police with the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force. Working closely with Inspector Nanton, CPO2 Brown is contributing to his training by sharing CIMIC fundamentals and concepts. Recognizing the differences in both their professional experiences (Inspector Nanton’s background is in Public Affairs), the exercise has been a good learning opportunity for all. “We both bring a unique set of skills to the exercise, and at the same time, they are also very complimentary,” CPO2 Brown added. 

Exercise TRADEWINDS is sponsored by United States Southern Command and is a joint, multinational, and interagency training exercise. Countries participating this year include; Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Canada, Colombia, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, France, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, the Netherlands, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, the United Kingdom and the United States. 

Held annually, this year’s TRADEWINDS marks the 35th year since its inception. The exercise allows partner nations to train together to increase regional cooperation in complex security and humanitarian operations.