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Brig. Gen. Jimmie Jaye Wells, right, commander of the 7th Civil Support Command, hands the colors of the 361st Civil Affairs Brigade to its commander, Col. Friedbert Humphrey, at a ceremony on Daenner Kaserne in Kaiserslautern, Germany, on Sept. 17. The brigade is mostly made up of reservists and is the only civil affairs brigade permanently stationed outside of the United States.
Brig. Gen. Jimmie Jaye Wells, right, commander of the 7th Civil Support Command, hands the colors of the 361st Civil Affairs Brigade to its commander, Col. Friedbert Humphrey, at a ceremony on Daenner Kaserne in Kaiserslautern, Germany, on Sept. 17. The brigade is mostly made up of reservists and is the only civil affairs brigade permanently stationed outside of the United States. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Brig. Gen. Jimmie Jaye Wells, right, commander of the 7th Civil Support Command, hands the colors of the 361st Civil Affairs Brigade to its commander, Col. Friedbert Humphrey, at a ceremony on Daenner Kaserne in Kaiserslautern, Germany, on Sept. 17. The brigade is mostly made up of reservists and is the only civil affairs brigade permanently stationed outside of the United States.
Brig. Gen. Jimmie Jaye Wells, right, commander of the 7th Civil Support Command, hands the colors of the 361st Civil Affairs Brigade to its commander, Col. Friedbert Humphrey, at a ceremony on Daenner Kaserne in Kaiserslautern, Germany, on Sept. 17. The brigade is mostly made up of reservists and is the only civil affairs brigade permanently stationed outside of the United States. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Soldiers of the 361st Civil Affairs Brigade march onto the Daenner parade field in Kaiserslautern, Germany, for the brigade's activation ceremony on Sept. 17. Also activated under the brigade, which is mostly made up of reservists, was the 457th Civil Affairs Battalion.
Soldiers of the 361st Civil Affairs Brigade march onto the Daenner parade field in Kaiserslautern, Germany, for the brigade's activation ceremony on Sept. 17. Also activated under the brigade, which is mostly made up of reservists, was the 457th Civil Affairs Battalion. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Brig. Gen. Jimmie Jaye Wells, commander of the 7th Civil Support Command, speaks to soldiers and spectators at the unit's activation ceremony in Kaiserslautern, Germany, on Sept. 17. The brigade, mostly made up of reservists, is the only civil affairs brigade permanently stationed outside the United States and falls under the 7th CSC.
Brig. Gen. Jimmie Jaye Wells, commander of the 7th Civil Support Command, speaks to soldiers and spectators at the unit's activation ceremony in Kaiserslautern, Germany, on Sept. 17. The brigade, mostly made up of reservists, is the only civil affairs brigade permanently stationed outside the United States and falls under the 7th CSC. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Col. Friedbert Humphrey, commander of the newly launched 361st Civil Affairs Brigade, speaks to soldiers and spectators at the unit's activation ceremony in Kaiserslautern, Germany, on Sept. 17. The brigade is mostly made up of reservists and is the only civil affairs brigade permanently stationed outside of the United States.
Col. Friedbert Humphrey, commander of the newly launched 361st Civil Affairs Brigade, speaks to soldiers and spectators at the unit's activation ceremony in Kaiserslautern, Germany, on Sept. 17. The brigade is mostly made up of reservists and is the only civil affairs brigade permanently stationed outside of the United States. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
The 361st Civil Affairs Brigade color guard holds the colors during the unit's activation ceremony at Daenner Kaserne in Kaiserslautern, Germany, on Sept. 17.
The 361st Civil Affairs Brigade color guard holds the colors during the unit's activation ceremony at Daenner Kaserne in Kaiserslautern, Germany, on Sept. 17. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — The U.S. Army has activated its first Europe-based civil affairs unit.

The 361st Civil Affairs Brigade, along with its subordinate, the 457th Civil Affairs Battalion, will be headquartered in Kaiserslautern. Both units are part of the 7th Civil Support Command, the only U.S. Army Reserve command completely stationed abroad.

The units are primarily composed of reservists: part-time U.S. soldiers living and working in Germany who requested to be part of civil affairs, either as their first reserve assignment or after switching over from another unit. As civil affairs experts, their military duties include helping to rebuild infrastructure and serving as a liaison between the U.S. military and a country’s local civilian population during humanitarian, and peace- and war-time operations.

“We recognize that any military conflict greatly disrupts society,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Varhola, 457th Civil Affairs Battalion commander. “Our job is to mitigate that disruption and to work with the civilian population to bring their society back to stability.”

The units will support U.S. Army Europe and U.S. Army Africa, military officials said.

“It allows us to quickly respond to any type of (situation) in Europe or Africa a lot faster than those units in the United States,” said Col. Friedbert Humphrey, 361st Civil Affairs Brigade commander.

Being overseas also puts about 300 soldiers closer to Afghanistan and Iraq, where military civil affairs units have been steadily employed in recent years.

The Army is also standing up another active-duty civil affairs brigade stateside, Humphrey said.

Driving that growth is the need for civil affairs worldwide and “the huge success civil affairs has had in Iraq, Afghanistan and Haiti,” Humphrey said. “It’s in high demand.”

Varhola said his soldiers can deploy from a four-person team, all the way up to a battalion. A civil affairs team in Africa, for example, could help villages with water management, he said.

Of 313 authorized positions in the brigade, 186 are civil affairs slots, with the rest in support roles of supply, maintenance and administration. So far, 108 reservists have been trained in negotiation skills, basic engineering and social analysis.

Among the soldiers in Varhola’s battalion are at least one veterinarian, economist, lawyer, water management specialist, public health expert, college professor, sewage plant director and engineer. Most are government civilians, contractors and military spouses living in Europe, while some are students here or employed by European companies. Varhola has a doctorate in anthropology and has worked extensively in Africa. His soldiers speak Swahili, German, Arabic, Somali, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Polish, Czech and Italian.

“Mostly what I’m looking for is unique civilian skills which can be harnessed in a military framework,” Varhola said.

The units’ activation on Friday means the brigade can now deploy at any time.

svanj@estripes.osd.mil

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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