96th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne)

The 96th Civil Affairs Battalion had a wide variety of missions. Each unit had specialized teams to: prevent civilian interference with tactical operations, assist tactical commanders in discharging their responsibilities toward the civilian population, provide liaison with civilian governmental agencies, cope with monuments and captured art and archives, help restore a friendly nation's legal or economic system and a host of other functions such as fighting famine, disease and death, feeding innocent victims of destruction, protecting the legal rights of the destitute and ensuring continued education of the young.

Civil affairs units helped 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. Civil Affairs forces support activities of both conventional and special operations forces, and are capable of assisting and supporting the civil administration in the area of operations.

Civil affairs specialists could quickly and systematically identify critical requirements needed by local citizens in war or disaster situations. They could also locate civil resources to support military operations, help minimize civilian interference with operations, support national assistance activities, plan and execute non-combatant evacuation, support counter-drug operations, and establish and maintain liaison or dialogue with civilian aid agencies and civilian commercial and private organizations.

In support of special operations, these culturally-oriented, linguistically-capable soldiers could also be tasked to provide functional expertise for foreign internal defense operations, unconventional warfare operations and direct action missions.

The functional structure of civil affairs forces and their expertise, training, and orientation provided a capability for emergency coordination and administration where political-economic structures have been incapacitated. They could help plan US government interagency procedures for national or regional emergencies. They could assist civil-military planning and military support operations for theater commanders in chief. Additionally, they could coordinate military resources to support government operations, emergency actions and humanitarian assistance from natural, man-made, or war-related causes.

The 96th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne) was first constituted on 25 August 1945 in the Army of the United States as the 96th Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, Military Government Group and activated on 26 August 1945 at the Presidio of Monterey, California. At the end of the Second World War, the unit was deployed to Korea to assist with the occupation. The unit was inactivated on 25 January 1949 in Korea.

The unit was redesignated on 10 May 1967 as the 96th Civil Affairs Group and allotted to the Regular Army. It was activated on 25 August 1967 at Fort Lee, Virginia. It was reorganized and redesignated on 26 November 1971 as the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion.

In March 1986, the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion officially became an airborne unit, gaining the airborne modifier. Its performance in Grenada during Operation Urgent Fury FURY and in Panama during Operation Just Cause were classics of the constructive use of this scarce asset. They were also the first Civil Affairs unit to be sent to Saudi Arabia in August 1990 for Operation Desert Shield. Their planning assistance and host nation support operations were invaluable aids to preparing the theater support structure to sustain the largest and fastest US Army deployment since World War II. The Battalion also deployed in support of Operation Desert Storm, in the end being being awarded campaign streamers for both Defense of Saudi Arabia and Liberation and Defense of Kuwait. An element of the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne) was also deployed from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to assist in the Provide Comfort humanitarian relief operation.

Personnel from the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne) deployed to the east African nation of Kenya in June 1998, supporting 2 missions. The 4-man Tactical Support Team 33 of Company C was assisted by 6 members of the 422nd Civil Affairs Battalion, from Greensboro, North Carolina. The civil affairs soldiers participated in Natural Fire '98, a Joint Chiefs of Staff exercise involving Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, as well as conducting disaster management training with the Kenyan government.

As of 2005, the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne) was the only active Army civil affairs unit. It was readily available to deploy and provided primarily tactical support. It was both a contingency force, and a special operations force. The 96th Civil Affairs Battalion had 5 companies and a headquarters element. Each company had a displaced-persons/refugee/evacuee team. The Battalion as a whole had teams that concentrated on civil supply, displaced persons, refugee/evacuees, public safety and public health. Personnel from the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion made up 4 percent of United States civil affairs forces. The remaining 96 percent came from other units in the reserve component such as the 351st, 352nd and 353rd Civil Affairs Commands and the 361st and 358th Civil Affairs Brigades.

The 96th was capable of rapidly deploying one of its 5 regionally aligned civil affairs companies to meet the initial civil affairs support requirement, with transition to reserve components units beginning as soon as mobilization might permit. Oftentimes, the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne) was used as a "quick fix" to provide assessments or other general civil affairs support until the appropriate specialist teams from the reserves are activated and deployed. The reserve component civil affairs units had functional specialties, with the unit's soldiers being assigned to functional teams.

Increase demand for civil affairs elements within the special operations forces community led to the provisional activation of the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade during FY06, to which the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne) was assigned. The 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne) was formally activated in 2007. At the same time the 97th Civil Affairs Battalion was activated, joining the 96th Civial Affairs Battalion in the active army rolls. With the expansion of civil affairs capabilities, the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion ceased to have a global focus, and reoriented to the US Central Command (CENTCOM) area of operations. Its regionally focused companies formed the cadres of the new battalions to be activated. Members of B Company were reflagged as elements of 97th Civil Affairs Battalion, while members of A Company were reflagged as elements of 98th Civil Affairs Battalion.




NEWSLETTER
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list