In the aftermath of war and natural disasters, U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command teams help restore the affected community’s infrastructure by building roads, schools, medical facilities, sewer lines, and other infrastructure and conducting follow-up assessments to ensure progress for the future. These soldiers are responsible for executing five core civil affairs tasks: civil information management, foreign humanitarian assistance, nation assistance, population resource control and support to civil Administration.
In some situations, the Army tries to ease conflict with better resource use in the communities where they are deployed. This endeavor can often include agriculture.
To help prepare and train for instances where they may need to parachute in and assist with a situation involving livestock, a group of around 25 soldiers with the U.S. Army Reserve 412 Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne), based in Columbus, Ohio, recently spent part of a day at Ohio State University’s Columbus livestock facilities.
“When deployed, civil affairs soldiers act as a liaison between local communities and the theater military commander. We are doing animal training to get some agricultural familiarization,” said James McKasson, Captain in the U.S. Army Reserve. “When these citizen-soldiers train with OSU, we are learning skills that we will likely employ when deployed around the world. When we are deployed, we are often trying to improve stability productivity and efficiency of food and animal systems. I feel its important because having a safe and reliable food supply is important to our global well-being.”
McKasson is a veterinarian from Montana with extensive large animal experience, but many in his battalion previously had little to no experience working with livestock.
“We went through basic animal handling and some on animal restraint, deworming, facility analysis, and environmental assessment,” McKasson said. “The others in this unit just need to be exposed to livestock and get familiar with them. This is the first time we have had this training since I have been with the unit. We have to be prepared for a really broad spectrum of things and this is one component of that training. They have been having a good time and learning a lot. It has been informative, eye opening and fun for them.”
Several students and staff were on hand to assist with the training, including Gregg Fogle and Marty Mussard, farm managers of the OSU Beef and Sheep Centers. They were impressed with how quickly the group learned how to handle the livestock.
“Some had experience with animals and some didn’t. I was surprised they had as much experience as they did. They learn pretty quickly. This is about the same as the introductory animal science course,” Fogle said. “We covered things like diseases, body condition scoring, calving, nutrition, bloat treatment,
and vaccinations. We also showed them how to euthanize animals correctly.”
This is the third time OSU has hosted a military group for similar training.
“They were interested in low-tech information they could pass on to the people they are working with overseas without overwhelming them,” Mussard said. “This group has been to places like Guatemala and Ethiopia. They had questions about how to treat diseases without antibiotics and how to handle situations with no facilities.”
Ohio State University Extension beef specialist Stephen Boyles led much of the program. Boyles has done a fair amount of work with similar situations and was well prepared to start with the very basics of working with animals.
“We have to understand our audience. This audience knows what they are doing in the military but many of them have very little animal handling experience. We went over some key points that they will be using if they have to work with livestock when deployed,” Boyles said. “We have worked with other groups that do not have a lot of familiarity with livestock. We work with police officers and emergency crews on how to work with animals and we have questions just about how you handle the animals. With this group we had questions about how animals kick and how animals move.”
Getting more advanced, Boyles also talked about the benefits and advantages of the OSU facilities and how those could compare to what the Civil Affairs soldiers could encounter when deployed.
“We tried to point out that they would not necessarily have facilities like we do here. We used a squeeze chute and said that they will not necessarily see that where they will be,” Boyles said. “We did provide materials on how to build a facility if they need to hold animals and we also talked about ways to work with a veterinarian to administ
er medication for sick animals if needed on a more basic level. We talked about finding salt as a supplement for improving the performance of animals on grass. We tried to come at it from that basic standpoint.
“We also covered food and environmental safety to improve conditions in some of these places. We talked about how you handle animals when they die in a safe way to avoid spreading sickness to other animals and people. They are working at making lives better with safer food and a cleaner environment around the world. We told them, ‘This is how you do it in America. Here is how you could do it where you are going.’”
The training only consisted of a half day, but it covered extensive information to better help the soldiers serve their country by serving others.
“This gives us really international extension of knowledge. The military is interested in helping those populations around the world that we all have an interest in benefitting their well-being. This is just one other way we can provide benefits to people in other parts of the world,” Boyles said. “This is a non-traditional clientele for us, but being part of OSU Extension I think we really made a difference today.”