West Point’s CMO center trains cadets to bridge civil-military divide

Story by Brandon OConnor
United States Military Academy at West Point

When U.S. Military Academy graduates commission in the Army starting as second lieutenants, their careers will likely take them to combat zones fighting for America, but in recent years Soldiers have also been deployed to help in humanitarian crises such as the Ebola outbreak in Africa.

No matter the challenges graduates will be asked to face, the academy’s Center for the Study of Civil-Military Operations is working to make sure they are equipped to work with international and domestic agencies outside of the Department of Defense as well as the civilian population in the areas they deploy to.

The center is in its eighth year and is based in the geography department at West Point. The CMO center educates cadets on how to work with civilian organizations and populations during military operations by teaching classes, sponsoring symposia and speakers, funding cadet trips and working to integrate CMO principles into classes throughout the academy.

“The Army itself really doesn’t start to address a lot of the functions of CMO until majors get to ILE (Intermediate-Level Education program), at least in terms of how we doctrinally establish it,” John Melkon, the civilian director of the Center for the Study of Civil-Military Operations, said.
“We’re hoping that when (cadets are) thrown into those situations, which increasingly they are at a younger grade, they’ll have an understanding and a better mindset for being able to tackle the complications that come with working with civilian counterparts.”

The center was founded in 2012 following a donation from USMA Class of 1989 graduate John DeBlasio who served as a civil affairs officer in the Army.

The goal is to train future officers to work alongside their civilian counterparts in order to not repeat perceived mistakes from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Author: Dian Welle