From Class to Brass
By Nancy Gutierrez
In August the teachers at Exeter Union High School will be back in their classrooms preparing for the more than 800 students who will start school.
These teachers know the students they teach must leave school prepared for the world.
But one teacher will not be returning next year. The geometry and algebra II classes at EUHS will be taught by a long-term sub come August, while the regular teacher, Jim Mainwaring, prepares to train a different group of 800 young people. These citizens are not students but soldiers in the Army reserve who will leave for Iraq in June 2005.
Mainwaring is Colonel and Chief of Staff in command of the 351st Civil Affairs Command Unit which, will have overall coordination responsibility for civil military operations in Iraq. In August he will lead a planning group to arrange and design the training of more than 800 soldiers who will be deployed in June 2005.
"We will prepare the soldiers in survival skills, military operations, communication equipment and cultural training," Mainwaring said.
He has overall responsibility for intelligence information, training, supplies, and staff activities.
"It's a full time job," Mainwaring said.
A job that can no longer take a backseat. He had been balancing his duties, teaching math at EUHS and havnig daily contacts with reserve headquarters in Palo Alto all year. In August he will spend his weeks at headquarters and visit his family on the weekends.
"In August it needs to be done in full. It's important for deployment that nothing falls through the cracks," Mainwaring said. "I also know that I'd be gone for chunks at a time [during the fall semester] and that would be a disservice to the students."
The civil military unit advises the combat coordinators on targeting and makes sure that hospitals, and schools are protected. The unit also targets dislocated civilians and moves these individuals out of the battlefield and harms way.
"We are a liaison between the civil government and the military," he said.
Mainwaring will be located at military headquarters in Baghdad, or what is called the "Green Zone". He will command his subordinate units located throughout Iraq.
"The units coordinate with hospitals and work to meet their needs with the resources available," he said. "We help improve the infrastructure with water purification, sanitation, elections and schools. We work to improve the quality of life there."
The civil military units in Afghanistan helped to open schools improve water quality and, Mainwaring said, in general, helped afghans to improve their standard of living.
"Tremendous gains have been made," he said. "A lot is being done in different regions [of Iraq] to bring water, power, and phone systems. It takes time and working with Iraqi people to get them to improve and take care of their own lives."
But before all of that Mainwaring must make sure his soldiers are prepared. He said a well trained unit will have to learn about a different kind of warfare. They must learn how to react to IED's or Improved Explosive Devises, which Mainwaring said involves car bombs, detonated from remote locations as well as learning to shoot from moving vehicles.
"We need the most recent information for the troops, to modify what and how we train," he said.
An important piece of training involves cultural sensitivity. Mainwaring said soldiers must understand the culture and have a basic understanding of the language.
"Soldiers need to be sensitive to their core values when they are dealing with Iraqis and understand the why it is they respond to particular situations that way. They must develop a rapport with the civilians and understand where they are coming from," he said
His troops must also be ready for the constant threat to Americans in the area. He said there have been attacks on the Green Zone and that there would probably be increased activity in the later part of June.
"We're making sure our folks are well trained, especially the reservists," Mainwaring said. "Reservists are teachers or mechanics. It's not second nature for them to think that someone is going to shoot them. We have to give them a sense of urgency and battle awareness."
The civil military subordinate units will be attached to combat units throughout Iraq and will most likely deal with assaults. Though he has served 28 years in the Army Reserves, and has visited or been deployed to Italy, Germany, Israel and most of Europe, this will be Mainwaring's first trip to Iraq. He will be stationed there for nine months and is on military leave until August of 2006.
He said when they return he will know if the 351st unit was successful if no one ever knows they were there.
"We are there to give credibility to the government there and the folks there," he said. "If a bridge needs to be built, it's better if the locals do it. It will give them a sense of ownership."
And once the job is done he will leave the Green Zone and return to his classroom, a transition he said could be easy or difficult depending on the amount of fire he will face in Iraq.
"If I'm always on alert and watching my back for safety and I'm back to where I don't have to worry. That will be a real transition," he said.