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NEWS | Feb. 23, 2011

State Department, Indiana Guard collaborate for Foreign Service Institute training

By Staff Sgt. Matt Scotten Camp Atterbury

BUTLERVILLE, Ind. - Teamwork has long been considered by many to be one of the most essential ingredients to a military operation. The value of teamwork is evident throughout the Foreign Service Institute class held at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, Feb. 13 to 18.

The web of organizations and assets that work together for the class is extremely diverse. Personnel from the Department of State, Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Agency for International Development, Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, McKellar Corporation and the Indiana National Guard all have roles.

More than ever before, the State Department, Agriculture Department and the USAID send civilians to combat zones alongside their military counterparts to help revitalize and stabilize places overseas.

The Foreign Service Institute, the training arm of the State Department, mandates all government civilians attend training before they deploy.

FSI training begins with two weeks of classroom instruction at Langley, Va., in which students learn how to work with government officials to overcome obstacles that could possibly hinder the progress of missions abroad. After that, students are sent to MUTC to practice using these newly acquired skills.

“Muscatatuck, in my opinion, is the very best training facility in the world for this sort of training,” said James W. McKellar, president of McKellar Corporation.

McKellar Corporation is the FSI support contractor responsible for bringing in subject matter experts to guide the students through the various training exercises, and bringing in Afghan role players to make training scenarios as realistic as possible.

“What makes the program so successful here is the willingness of everyone to work together to leverage each organization’s unique capabilities,” said McKellar. “The availability of military units and the support we get from the Indiana National Guard to augment our students makes Muscatatuck the perfect place to train.”

In the most recent FSI class, soldiers from 384th Military Police Company, Bloomington, Ind., took the opportunity to use their annual training time to practice working as a security force for the students as they went through various training scenarios.

These scenarios were designed not only to help the students learn how to use the skills they learned at Langley, but to learn how to work with military personnel and trust those Soldiers with their safety.

The 384th is well equipped to aid in training civilians in stabilization efforts abroad, having returned from a deployment to Iraq only a year ago. While in Iraq, the 384th was tasked to train Iraq police forces how to operate independently without the need for further American support.

“We have had various types of military units come in and train in this role to support us,” said Robert P. Sanders, Afghanistan Field Training Coordinator, FSI. “We always love having MP’s in here, though. This is a mission that is well-suited to their capabilities, and they just really seem to get it.”

William Hall, a State Department employee participating as a district support team leader, said it was the first class of this kind he has ever attended.

“It’s fantastic that we actually get to go out with Soldiers, just like we will when we deploy,” said Hall. “This training makes the impact of the instruction we received at Langley more tangible because we can see with our own eyes how it can work best.”

According to McKellar, Muscatatuck has unique qualities that make it ideal for FSI training.

“Larger, more mainstream military bases still put a pretty big premium on training in isolation,” he said.

“On a larger base, we would have to compete with the larger Army divisions and such for time on the various facilities, and we would be often put at the bottom of the list to use those facilities.”

In contrast, McKellar says at Muscatatuck FSI is given priority, allowing the program to flourish.

“Here, it is job number one. This is important because in the future I think we are going to see more and more situations where civilians and military will be deploying together in ‘whole of government’ operations.”

Sanders added, “The State Department sees the relationship with the Indiana National Guard at Muscatatuck as crucial to meeting their training requirements.”

To the naked eye, the web of organizations and relationships required to make FSI successful at Muscatatuck may seem daunting. However, in a complicated world full of complicated missions and requirements, everyone here has found a way to work together in unison so that all benefit.