Civil Affairs

Civil Affairs (CA) is a term used by both the United Nations and by military institutions (such as the US military), but for different purposes in each case.

United Nations Civil Affairs

The UN uses the term 'Civil Affairs' differently to other, mainly military, institutions. Civil affairs officers in UN Peace Operations are not military officers but are civilian UN staff members who are often at the forefront of a mission’s interaction with local government officials, civil society and other civilian partners in the international community.

Definition: "UN Civil Affairs components work at the social, administrative and sub-national political levels to facilitate the countrywide implementation of peacekeeping mandates and to support the population and government in strengthening conditions and structures conducive to sustainable peace."

There are currently around 500 UN Civil Affairs Officers in 13 UN Peacekeeping Operations worldwide. Civil Affairs components perform one or more of three core roles, depending on the UN Security Council mandate given to a particular peacekeeping mission. In each role the work of Civil Affairs intersects with, supports and draws upon the work of a variety of other actors. Depending on the mandate, the three core roles are:

i. Cross-mission representation, monitoring and facilitation at the local level;

ii. Confidence-building, conflict management and support to reconciliation;

iii. Support to the restoration and extension of state authority.

US Military Civil Affairs

According to the U.S. Army, "Civil Affairs units help military commanders by working with civil authorities and civilian populations in the commander’s area of operations to lessen the impact of military operations on them during peace, contingency operations and declared war." With their expertise in civil matters, they are the principle unit in assisting a commander in the conduct of civil-military operations.

CA units act as a liaison between the civilian inhabitants of a warzone or disaster area and the military presence, both informing the local commander of the status of the civilian populace as well as effecting assistance to locals by either coordinating military operations with non-governmental organizations (NGOs)and IGO's or distributing directly aid and supplies.

Comprised primarily of civilian experts such as doctors, lawyers, engineers, police, firemen, bankers, computer programmers, farmers, and others, CA special operators provide critical expertise to host-nation governments and are also able to assess need for critical infrastructure projects such as roads, clinics, schools, power plants, water treatment facilities, etc. Once a project has been decided on, a contract is put out at a civil-military operations center for local contractors to come and bid. CA teams will periodically check up on the status of the project to make sure the money is being well-spent.

CA provides the commander with cultural expertise, assesses the needs of the civilian populace, handles civilians on the battlefield, refugee operations, keeps the commander informed of protected targets such as schools, churches, hospitals, etc., and interfaces with local and international NGOs and private volunteer organizations, which provides the commander with a unique battlefield overlay of all civilian activity, ongoing infrastructure projects, and the presence and mission of NGOs in the area.

History of US Military Civil Affairs

U.S. Army Civil Affairs is based upon the principle that civilians cannot be ignored, with a legal basis that includes the Lieber Code, the Hague Accord, the Geneva Conventions, and international law. Throughout U.S. history the U.S. Army was involved in a surprisingly large amount of CA and civic action. As an undeveloped nation, lacking major engineering schools, except for the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. established a tradition of Army involvement in civil works that extends to the present time.

United States Air Force

The Air Force has deployed united in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom that have directly integrated into Army Civil Affairs Battalions. Such units include the 16th Squadron, 732nd Expeditionary Air Wing (Civil Affairs/Public Works) which was assigned to the 411th Civil Affairs Battalion.

United States Army

96% of the Civil Affairs personnel come from the United States Army Reserve and are usually tasked to support regular Army units upon mobilization. This allows combatant commanders to utilize reservists with civilian skill sets such as lawyers, city managers, economists, veterinarians, teachers, policemen, and other civilian occupations who are more knowledgeable and better suited for restoration of stability and reconstruction (nation building) tasks than soldiers from the active military.

The remaining 4% of Civil Affairs personnel are active duty soldiers assigned to the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade, stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, which is a rapidly deployable unit that supports the Army Special Operations Command. Active CA are Civil Affairs Generalists, selected from around the Army.

CA is task organized between four reserve Civil Affairs Commands (CACOMS) which integrate at the strategic and operational level with theater commands and joint/combined task forces (JTF/CJTF). CA brigades comprise these CACOMS and integrate at the corps. At the tactical level, active duty maneuver divisions are augmented by the CA battalions. The four CACOMs are the 350th CACOM, the 351st CACOM, the 352nd CACOM, and the 353rd CACOM.

Typically, a CA battalion will contain a headquarters company, and one CA company for each maneuver brigade. Each CA company contains CA teams (known as CATs) which integrate at the maneuver battalion level. There will usually be one CA team per maneuver battalion. In this manner, the division will have OPCON (operational control) over a CA battalion, a brigade will have OPCON over a CA company and an infantry battalion will have TACON (tactical control) over a CA team. The CA battalion retains ADCON (administrative control) for its elements deployed in theater.

The CA battalion and its subordinate companies and teams become organic parts of their maneuver unit, augmenting the unit's S-9 or G-9 Civil Military Operations Cell, providing cultural expertise, functional specialty expertise, direct support tactical civil affairs, and establishing civil-military operations centers (known as CMOCs, CIMICs or CMCCs, depending on the doctrine in use) and Provincial Reconstruction Teams for the geographic area the maneuver unit is responsible for.


Within the United States Army, Reserve CA units are administered through United States Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne), or USACAPOC(A), a subordinate of U.S. Army Reserve Command. USACAPOC(A) contains psychological operations (PO) and civil affairs (CA) units, consisting of Army reserve elements. USACAPOC(A) was founded in 1985. It is headquartered at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

On 1 October 2006, USAR Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations units realigned from falling under the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) to the United States Army Reserve Command (USARC) for ADCON (administrative control). Training and doctrine relating to USACAPOC(A) is still provided by USASOC's subordinate command, the United States Army John Fitzgerald Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School (USAJFKSWCS). Despite this move to USARC, CA continues to conduct periodic special operations missions in support of special operations forces.

US Army Civil Affairs Training
=Initial Entry Training (IET)=
Upon completion of Basic Training, a soldier slotted in a Civil Affairs Unit will attend the 13 week long Civil Affairs Advanced Individual Training (AIT) course at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center & School (Airborne) located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The 3rd Battalion of the 1st Special Warfare Training Group (Airborne) is responsible for the training. Both Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations trainees are assigned to Alpha Company. Upon completion of the thirteen week course, the student will be able to interpret U.S. and foreign maps; conduct civil, governmental, humanitarian, and defense assistance; apply organizational and leadership skills required in field operations; and conduct research on documents and other aspects of urban and regional studies. lecture, discussion, and practical exercises include map reading; land navigation; administration; communications; civil affairs; disaster aid; and domestic security, defense, and control. The American Council of Education recommends college credit be awarded in the lower-division baccalaureate/associate degree category 2 semester hours in map reading, 3 in public administration, and 1 in military science for this training. The soldier is awarded the MOS designation of 38B1O. All active duty enlisted will attend airborne school and Language school, while reservists will have a chance to compete for these slots.

•Active Duty Only soldiers in the rank of Sergeant and Staff Sergeant who have a valid Secret Clearance are considered for training. Enlisted soldiers selected to reclassify to Civil Affairs must attend the forty four week Qualification Course (CA SPEC), offered at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. During this course soldiers learn to prepare, execute, and transition CA core tasks, CA operations (CAO), and civil-military operations (CMO). Training is mission oriented and encompasses language and culture, allowing for maximum hands-on use of CAO/CMO doctrinal procedures during practical exercises (PEs) and a culminating exercise (CULEX) that exposes students to realistic operational situations and environmental elements.

•Reserve Enlisted soldiers wishing to reclassify to Civil Affairs must attend the Civil Affairs Reclassification Course which is offered at several posts throughout the country. Currently, training for combat, combat support, and combat service support is organized through regional training commands. The six Civil Affairs schoolhouses report to the 3rd Brigade (CA/PO), 100th Division, located at Fort Totten, New York. These units are the 5th Battalion (CA), 95th Regiment, of Fort Sill, Oklahoma; 5th Battalion (CA), 98th Regiment of Fort Dix, New Jersey; the 12th Battalion (CA), 100th Regiment of Fort Knox, Kentucky; the 4th Battalion (CA), 104th Regiment, of Fort Lewis, Washington; and the 5th Battlaion (CA), 108th Regiment of Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The training conducted is similar to the AIT Course offered for new soldiers, however it is offered over an abbreviated period of four weeks.

=Officer's Training=
For officers, Civil Affairs is considered a Functional Area and therefore newly commissioned officers are not eligible to begin their career as a CA officer. Once an officer has completed their Officer’s Basic (OBC) and Officer’s Advanced (OAC) course in their respective branch, they may apply for selection to the Civil Affairs Qualification Course, which is located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The training consists of a distace learning phase plus five weeks of resident learning. Upon graduation, active duty Civil Affairs officers will be assigned to the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne) which reports directly to United States Army Special Operations Command (Airborne). Reserve Officers may forgo the language training and be assigned directly to a TPU Reserve Civil Affairs unit.

United States Marine Corps

In April 2006, the United States Marine Corps realigned their Military Occupational Specialty structure to permanently create enlisted and officer Civil Affairs MOSs. The Marine Corps currently has two permanent CA units: 3rd Civil Affairs Group (3d CAG) and 4th CAG. Both units are in the Marine Corps Reserves. 5th and 6th CAGs were created provisionally for Operation Iraqi Freedom, but each were stood down after one deployment to Iraq. In February, 2007, 5th Battalion, 10th Marines, an artillery battalion based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, deployed to Iraq after retraining and reorganizing to take over the Civil Affairs mission in Al Anbar Province. They are slated to be relieved in early 2008 by 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines, an artillery unit based at Camp Pendleton, California.

United States Navy

The Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) officially established its newest command, Maritime Civil Affairs Group (MCAG) during a ceremony at Naval Amphibious Base (NAB) Little Creek, March 30, 2007.

Other Organizations

Texas State Guard
The Texas State Guard maintains six Civil Affairs Regiments along with a Headquarters unit
New York Guard
In the New York State Guard, one of approximately 25 states with State Defense Forces, (not to be confused with the New York Army National Guard), the term 'Civil Affairs' has a slightly different connotation. The Civil Affairs units include lawyers, judges, engineers, doctors and other professionals and paraprofessionals committed to voluntary, part-time military service in support of the New York National Guard and U.S. Military Reserve Units from all branches. When soldiers are called up for duty, the New York Guard makes sure their legal needs are attended to so that they can do the important job of protecting our country with the peace of mind of knowing that their affairs are in order. Civil Affairs soldiers draft their wills, prepare powers of attorney and other necessary documents, and advise them of their rights as soldiers under federal law and as citizens of the United States. There are five units, one in each brigade of the Guard, including the 5th Civil Affairs Regiment, Yonkers, NY; 7th Civil Affairs Regiment, New York City, NY; 13th Civil Affairs Regiment, Garden City, NY; 23rd Civil Affairs Regiment, Latham, NY; and the 209th Civil Affairs Regiment, Buffalo, NY.

Military Civil Affairs Worldwide

United Kingdom

The British Army has a Civil Affairs Group, formed in 1997 and consisting primarily of Territorial Army personnel. Most personnel are members of the Royal Engineers and the group is administered by the Central Volunteer Headquarters Royal Engineers (CVHQ RE), based at Gibraltar Barracks, Blackwater, Camberley, Surrey. Members of the group have been deployed operationally in Bosnia, Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia, East Timor, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Iraq.

The British Army first formed CA units in 1943, and by August 1944 there were 3,600 CA personnel in France with the 21st Army Group.



  • Sorley, Lewis, A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam, ISBN 0-15-601309-6

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