By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
The Defense Department is forming a civilian expeditionary workforce that will be trained and equipped to deploy overseas in support of military missions worldwide, according to department officials.
The intent of the program "is to maximize the use of the civilian workforce to allow military personnel to be fully utilized for operational requirements," according to a Defense Department statement.
Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England signed Defense Department Directive 1404.10, which outlines and provides guidance about the program, on Jan. 23...
Certain duty positions may be designated by the various Defense Department components to participate in the program. If a position is designated, the employee will be asked to sign an agreement that they will deploy if called upon to do so. If the employee does not wish to deploy, every effort will be made to reassign the employee to a nondeploying position.
The directive emphasizes, however, that volunteers be sought first for any expeditionary requirements, before requiring anyone to serve involuntarily or on short notice. Overseas duty tours shall not exceed two years.
Employees in deployable-designated positions will be trained, equipped and prepared to serve overseas in support of humanitarian, reconstruction and, if absolutely necessary, combat-support missions.
The program also is open to former and retired civilian employees who agree to return to federal service on a time-limited status to serve overseas or to fill in for people deployed overseas.
Program participants are eligible for military medical support while serving in their overseas duty station.
All participants will undergo pre- and post-deployment medical testing, including physical and psychological exams.
Defense civilians reassigned from their normal duty to serve overseas will be granted the right to return to the positions they held prior to their deployment or to a position of similar grade, level and responsibility within the same organization, regardless of the deployment length.
Families of deployed Defense Department civilian employees shall be supported and provided with information on benefits and entitlements and issues likely to be faced by the employee during and upon return from a deployment.
Defense civilian employees who participate in the expeditionary program shall be treated with high regard as an indication of the department's respect for those who serve expeditionary requirements.
Expeditionary program participants' service and experience shall be valued, respected and recognized as career-enhancing.
Participants who meet program requirements would be eligible to receive the Secretary of Defense Medal for the Global War on Terrorism.
How about we get a State Department to "serve overseas in support of humanitarian [and] reconstruction" efforts in support of national interests? Why doesn't Gates take the entire budget for this new good idea and MIPR it to State so they can do their job and we can do ours? Hasn't that been 75% of the problem to begin with? DoD doing non-DoD missions for which we have neither the training, expertise, or mission statement? It's time our gov't stopped keeping DoS impotent in an effort that should largely be their responsibility as time goes on.
I just completed an assignment with a military unit whose mission execution is shared equally between service members and civilians, in garrison or in a deployed environment. There is an expectation however, and a requirement, for the civilians to be deployable and to deploy at least once while assigned to this unit. But that hasnt stopped some from complaining about deployments or the fact that they are in an organization that is "too Army." In fact, these civilians sounded no different than some others I have heard: "I got out of the military so I wouldnt have to deploy or play Army," "the military discriminates against us civilians because they treat us different," or better yet, "who will execute the garrison mission if civilians deploy as well?" But I would be very unfair, biased and seemingly unappreciative if I failed to mention the great respect I have for many, or really most, of the civilians I have worked with at my last assignment.
Many of the civilians I worked with either served in the military, retired from the military, or just had a passion for working with the military (just no desire to go the whole lifestyle). No matter, these civilian professionals I had the honor to work with intentionally chose to serve our great nation and to serve alongside their nations service members and to deploy with them. What a great team this makes; what a perfect example of a civil-military relationship working at the ground level! And it can only get better as our civilian and military personnel continue to work together as a team, especially under deployment circumstances, where cooperation is key not only to mission success but to survival as well. The expertise civilians bring from years of study or from previous military service or even from a basic desire to serve only enhances the execution of our mission. It also builds a mutual understanding of how each fits into the picture; how important each of their contributions are, whether wearing a uniform or cargo pants. The team builds trust, confidence, and mutual respect, hopefully dispelling some prejudices or negative opinions.
I am happy to see our DoD extending the opportunity for our civilian team members to deploy alongside the military. Their expertise, professionalism and desire to voluntarily deploy, is greatly needed and appreciated, perhaps underappreciated by some I am sure. I recognize their need, appreciate it, and welcome it. I hope more volunteer to deploy in order to continue building on the civilian-military cooperative efforts established by those already having deployed, so the military and civilian personnel better understand and appreciate each ones contribution to the team effort and so that the needed and valued expertise is on the ground.
I am happy too deployed civilians will be provided "job security," "stabilization," and other benefits for their deployment. Recognizing they too leave behind loved ones who need support is critical, providing peace of mind for all. We need to ensure they are prepared for the environments they are going into and have the appropriate training and latitude to defend themselves in certain environments. If they are part of the team, we need to ensure they are taken care of the same way and have access to what we have access to. They too are sacrificing a lot, voluntarily at that, for our nation and for our fellow service members.