Story by Staff Sgt. Joseph Truckley, 95th CA Brigade.
Civil Affairs Soldiers with the 92nd Civil Affairs Battalion, Special Operations, Airborne, conducted a cultural immersion exercise in Chicago, Ill. May 17-23.
The 92nd Civil Affairs Battalion is regionally aligned with Europe and the immersion with the ethnic Lithuanian population, approximately 100,000 in the Chicago metro area, provides an insight prior to deploying forward to support their respective mission.
“It is rare that you can work alongside your partner nations and learn from them prior to being deployed,” said the team’s leader. “This was a great experience being able to learn about the rich history and culture of Lithuanua.”
This exercise allowed the Civil Affairs team to interact with the Consulate General of Lithuania located in downtown Chicago and speak with the consulate’s primary diplomat to learn more about the country’s current state. The Consulate General, Mantvydas Bekesius, found the meeting beneficial to both parties, “learning and working together is a two-way street, the exchange of experience, no matter the nationality, is definitely beneficial for not only the U.S. military, but Lithuania itself.”
The outlying areas surrounding the city provided an opportunity to interact with the Lithuanian diaspora community who have been settled in Northeastern Illinois since the early 20th century; Chicago having the largest population of Lithuanians of any municipality outside of Lithuania itself. This included a tour of the Lithuanian World Center in Lamont, Ill. that hosts 40 Lithuanian organizations and provides a cultural and linguistic education to the area as well as the Belzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture in Chicago that has been serving their community for over 50 years.
Training opportunities like this is what separates Special Operations Force Civil Affairs from other conventional units, said the team’s medical sergeant. “The cultural diversity within the city of Chicago provides a great opportunity for the team to conduct cultural immersion training prior to deploying as well as conducting this mission training which provides us the opportunity to speak to real people instead of practicing with role players with a script. We are able to develop relationships that will help us down the line during our deployment.”
Instead of training solely on military installations, we are able to not only conduct our necessary training but also have the ability to see the city of Chicago and experience everything the city has to offer that I would not have had the opportunity to do so in most conventional units, the sergeant added.
SOF Civil Affairs teams can find themselves stretched far across the country while validating and preparing for onward deployments across the globe. Teams find themselves in cities such as Miami, Washington D.C., Nashville, El Paso and even Flagstaff, AZ to name a few. The interaction with local leaders allows them to get a better understanding of how these cities operate and how to adopt the best practices to carry onward keeps the Civil Affairs teams ready to engage on a global level no matter the environment.
Photo: Soldiers from the 92nd Civil Affairs Battalion, 95th Civil Affairs Brigade, Special Operations, Airborne, meet with the Consul General of Lithuania, Mantvydas Bekesius in Chicago, May 18, 2021. Photo by Staff Sgt. Joseph Truckley, 95th CAB (SO) (Abn).
Original Story. This story by Staff Sgt. Joseph Truckley of the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Special Operations) (Airborne) was originally published on May 21, 2021 by the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service. DVIDS media is in the public domain.