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7th Civil Support Command oversees Montenegro humanitarian assistance mission

February 29, 2012

By 21st Theater Sustainment Command and US Army Europe Public Affairs Offices

PODGORICA, Montenegro (Feb. 29, 2012) -- In response to a request from the government of Montenegro for assistance from NATO, U.S. Army Europe has deployed a 7th Civil Support Command led task force of two Black Hawk helicopters and a support crew of more than 40 Soldiers to the Balkan nation to provide much-needed humanitarian assistance.

The aid is being airlifted to people stranded in areas of Montenegro most heavily hit by recent snowfall. Mission control of the operation is being provided by the 7th CSC's 361st Civil Affairs Brigade based in Kaiserslautern, Germany.

The 361st CA Bde.'s mission control cell provides coordination and oversight of the operation and consists of a team of Army Reserve Soldiers with various specialized skills and capabilities in Humanitarian Assistance coordination.

These citizen-soldiers act as the liaison with the US Embassy and Montenegrin Government to make sure the right assistance gets to the right place at the right time.

"We are here at the request of the Montenegrin Government through the Department of State to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Montenegro due to the great amount of snow that fell in the past few weeks," said Col. Robert Levalley, the commander of the 361st CA Bde. "This is the largest snowfall in the past couple of decades. It has totally isolated the northern region of Montenegro. The people in the north were totally cut off from the rest of the country."

Deploying early to setup operations, the 361st CA Bde.'s mission control cell arrived Feb. 19 in preparation for the Feb. 21st arrival of two Black Hawk helicopters.

The Black Hawks, one a medical evacuation aircraft and the other a lift helicopter, are supporting the Montenegrin government's efforts by delivering critical supplies and providing rescue services as coordinated by the 361st's mission control cell. These services include medical evacuation support, to people stranded in areas of Montenegro most heavily hit by recent snowfall.

The helicopters and crew come from USAREUR's 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation, 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, headquartered at Katterbach Army Airfield, Germany.

Since its designation as a Civil Support Command in 2008, the 7th CSC has been equipping and training to execute exactly this kind of operation, and for the citizen- soldiers who are fighting the cold Montenegrin winter, it is a rewarding experience to do what they've been training to do, and help people in the process.

"Not having been part of a mission like this before, I was able to learn a lot about how Civil Affairs works, and how we integrate with the host nation to provide them help during a period of crisis," said Staff Sgt. Micah Johnson, an intelligence sergeant with the 361st CA Bde.

Officials at the U.S. Embassy in the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica said the deployment of the task force follows support already provided by NATO allies Greece, Slovenia and Croatia to assist Montenegro in responding to the worst winter weather in decades.

"It is one thing to train for Foreign Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief operations, but to put theory into practice is daunting," said Lt. Col. Michael Chung, an operations officer with the 361st CA Bde. "We successfully executed a real world mission with little notice combining elements of the active and Reserve Component Army units while working in an unfamiliar environment with a host nation Air Force Headquarters. It's an experience I won't soon forget and the lasting bonds we've built with our Montenegrin counterparts as well as the people of Montenegro, I know, has made an impression on everyone involved."

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