When mentioning Special Operations missions, the talk generally centers around those direct action missions, the raids on suspected terrorists’ locations, and the like. Everyone likes those linear, tangible missions and the results are much easier to gauge the success or failure from. But in the Unconventional Warfare or Counterinsurgency environment, the results are harder to pinpoint and the missions are of a much longer duration. Here is where civic action projects are a tremendous boost to mission accomplishment.

Special Operations Forces (SOF) are at their best when the build long-term relationships with partner nations. They integrate and enable not only with conventional forces but interagency as well (State Department, Agency for International Development, AID) and others. Many times this type of long-term planning will prevent wars before they start.

Civic action projects are part of those long-term operations, in Afghanistan, it plays a role in Village Stability Operations, where the poverty level of Afghan civilians hovers around 80 percent.

Back in Vietnam, the role of civic action projects was key for Special Forces troops that set up Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) camps along the border regions of South Vietnam.

In the Horn of Africa and in Latin America, civic action projects work hand-in-hand with FID (Foreign Internal Defense) training, Counternarcotics Operations and nation building.  In these poor, austere environments, the host nation governments have economic, social, and security problems that affect the day-to-day life of the people and the government’s ability to rule properly.

Special Operations Forces ability to operate in small independent teams, having cultural familiarity, language capability and the long-term mindset makes them perfect partners in assisting developing nations.

In Latin America, the SOF teams used civic action projects to boost the host nation and US image in many of the poor destitute countries in the region. Especially in the Andean Ridge nations where poverty rates were very high and the host nation governments were trying to combat illegal narcotics trafficking.

During the long civil war in El Salvador between the years of 1982-1992, the US MILGP helped the Salvadoran government established civic action projects, civil affairs units and ran Mobile Medical Training Team, that treated both military and civilians.