Creative’s C²S² Trains Soldiers in Bringing Stability to Insecure Environments


For James “Spike” Stephenson, senior advisor to Creative Associates International, Inc.’s Center for Security and Stabilization (C²S²), establishing a process and a road map are pivotal to sustainable stabilization and reconstruction efforts.

“The process is more important than the actual water pump you install because a system results from it,” says Stephenson.

These days, Stephenson leads Mission Readiness Exercises, known as MREs. They’re designed to train soldiers deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan in stabilization and effective counterinsurgency strategies focused on working and engaging with provincial councils, bureaucrats and townspeople. Developed to rebuild and secure post-Taliban Afghanistan in 2002, these Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) are one response to bringing stability to insecure environments.

Stephenson is no stranger to war or post-conflict rebuilding efforts. A veteran of the Vietnam War and 26 years in conflict and post-conflict postings, he spent 2004 and 2005 in Iraq as the Mission Director for the U.S. Agency for International Development. His model for reconstruction is founded on years of experience combined with a keen understanding of what is needed to transform volatile states into functioning societies.

Stephenson uses his post-conflict experience and reconstruction model to improve the chances for success of PRT efforts. He also applies his methods to Creative’s C²S² initiative which seeks to identify and take a leadership role in the critical intersections between the security and development nexus in post-conflict environments.

Combining the expertise of the military and civilian organizations, PRTs respond to the needs of populations in volatile environments where traditional assistance efforts are severely constrained. They help provide a stable and secure environment for indigenous populations to achieve effective governance and economic and social development. In short, the goal is capacity building and local ownership so that nations in transition, even volatile transitions, such as Afghanistan and Iraq, can be stabilized.

PRTs are an alliance between civilian-military development efforts. While civilian practitioners often take a long-term view of reconstruction, the military is more often focused on applying its resources to achieving near-term results.

“Stabilization and reconstruction are different than ‘traditional’ foreign aid,” Stephenson says. “To be effective, planning and implementation must be extraordinarily flexible and agile.”

Accordingly, interventions that can be developed over a period of months under foreign aid initiatives must begin in days or even hours in the conflict and post-conflict environment, Stephenson says.

For three weeks in January, he trained 2,500 soldiers undergoing in-theater simulation exercises that included three fictional Afghan provinces, populated with 250 Afghan role players and hundreds of opposition force insurgents. Lasting 24-hours a day, the in-theater exercises were conducted over an area the size of Rhode Island, in the Mohave Desert. The exercises included ambushes, IEDs, mortar attacks and other combat scenarios that the soldiers will encounter upon deployment to Afghanistan. As important, they included non-lethal engagement with local government leaders and citizens, through PRT activities.

For Stephenson, winnin

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