Archive for Monday, February 16, 2009

Major hones her civil-military operations skills

Army Maj. Rachel Sullivan, right, a civil affairs officer, gets briefed on events occurring in a war game at Fort Leavenworth by Maj. David Daniels, left. More than 900 officers in the Command and General Staff College took part in the exercise, which spanned several days

Army Maj. Rachel Sullivan, right, a civil affairs officer, gets briefed on events occurring in a war game at Fort Leavenworth by Maj. David Daniels, left. More than 900 officers in the Command and General Staff College took part in the exercise, which spanned several days

February 16, 2009

Army Maj. Rachel Sullivan stood at the front of a room near a map of the southwest Asian nation Azerbaijan. “We anticipate that there will be food shortages, water shortages and other shortages in these areas,” she said, referring to highlighted areas on the map. “People will be moving toward places where they can get food and water. There will be congestion on major roads circled in red.” Sullivan, 32, a 1994 graduate of Leavenworth High School, was one of more than 900 officers taking part in a wargame last week at Fort Leavenworth’s Command and General Staff College. It spanned several days and included a fictional invasion of Azerbaijan by neighboring Ahuristan, a breakaway Iranian province. In the scenario, Azerbaijan called for help from the U.S. and its allies in driving out the invaders. The officers, mostly Army majors, were scattered in rooms on different floors in the fort’s massive Lewis and Clark Center. Using computers, briefings and meetings, they conducted a conventional war with infantry, armor and air units. Sullivan and about a dozen other officers in her room role-played a civil military operations unit, which planned for stabilizing the country and helping to prevent an atmosphere for insurgency to develop after major combat was over. “It’s something we didn’t do very well in Iraq,” said Scott Porter, a retired lieutenant colonel and instructor, who oversaw the unit. One by one, Sullivan and the other officers took about 15 minutes each to outline their part of the stability planning. It was practice for a briefing they were to do two days later before a retired general, who was to critique them. They were ready, Porter said. “Excellent. They all did well,” he said after listening to their dry run. Strong military interest For Sullivan, the exercise was a matter of refining and adding to her experience. She was a civil military operations officer in Kosovo and Iraq. Sullivan earned an aerospace engineering degree after going to Boston University on an ROTC scholarship. She was with a combat engineer unit in Kosovo in 2001 and 2002 when she was asked to help a with a civil military engineer project. It involved infrastructure development and helping to open a ski resort. “It was a wonderful experience. I never looked back,” Sullivan said. “I definitely found my niche in civil affairs.” Sullivan’s father, Hank Voss, spent 28 years in the Navy and Naval reserves. He said he knew his daughter wanted to join the military when she was very young. She joined a Navy cadet youth organization and in high school she was in Army ROTC, said Voss, who lives in Lawrence. Her mother, Eva Voss, lives in Leavenworth. “There was never any question,” Hank Voss said. “From age 12, it seemed she had made up her mind.” Sullivan turned down an appointment to the Naval Academy in favor of the ROTC scholarship. She decided to join the Army because it offered more opportunities for women, she said. Past assignments Sullivan’s tour in Iraq came during the first year of the war, in 2003-2004. She was a civil affairs officer assigned to the 10th Special Forces group in northern Iraq. Plans were made for post-war stability operations and they were easier to implement in the north, especially in Kurdistan, because security was better than in Baghdad and other areas of Iraq, Sullivan said. “We were looking at things we needed to do immediately to help the population,” she said. “You’ve got to have security first, and then you can do the rest. We were able to start with the rest.” Sullivan served a second tour in Kosovo in 2007-2008. The country had made considerable progress, she said. There were few security concerns and the different ethnic groups were talking among themselves. More people were shopping, more people were working and more small businesses had opened, she said. “It was obvious life had moved on,” Sullivan said. “Everything had progressed significantly.” Afghanistan next? Sullivan entered the Command and General Staff College and began classes in August 2008 after returning from Kosovo. She will graduate in June. All of the Army’s majors go through the college. Also attending the college is Sullivan’s husband, Maj. Jim Sullivan, whom she met during her first tour of duty in Kosovo. They’ve been married four years. After graduation, Jim Sullivan expects to be assigned to Fort Bragg, N.C., as a signal corps officer with the Army’s Special Operations Command. Rachel Sullivan hopes for a civil affairs command at Fort Bragg. The 82nd Airborne Division is based at Fort Bragg, and if it deploys to Afghanistan this summer, she thinks she might go with it, she said. Rachel Sullivan has been in the Army eight years and expects to make it a career. “I always said I’d stay in the Army as long as I’m having fun,” she said. “I’m having more fun now than I was four years ago. I enjoy the service and being with my peers.” Her father said there are always feelings of trepidation when a loved one serves in a combat zone. “Sometimes there is a heavy price to be paid, and you worry about that,” Voss said. “But I’m proud of the commitment she’s made, what she’s done and what she’ll do.”

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