Seven Years Later, Heston Returns To 361st Civil Affairs Brigade As New Commander

Story by LTC Jefferson Wolfe on 06/13/2017
By Lt. Col. Jefferson Wolfe
7th Mission Support Command Public Affairs Officer

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany Something old is new again at the 361st Civil Affairs Brigade.

Col. Bradley A. Heston, a former 361st Civil Affairs Brigade operations officer, took command of the unit from Col. John T. Novak during a Sunday morning ceremony on Daenner Kaserne. He was in his previous position seven years ago when the brigade activated at its current location.

"When I departed the 361st in 2011, we were just beginning to gain traction on the road to gaining relevance in U.S. Army Europe," Heston said.

He added he is in awe of the brigade's accomplishments during Novak's tenure.

"Col. Novak has done the hard work and made the tough decisions to take care of Soldiers, increase personnel readiness and make this brigade combat ready and prepared for all missions," Heston said. "For that, I am thankful and look forward to sustaining Col. Novak's initiatives and the momentum he has built, ensuring the 361st Civil Affairs Brigade remains the go-to Army Reserve organization to meet U.S. Army Europe's requirements."

Brig. Gen. Steven W. Ainsworth, the commanding general of the 7th Mission Support Command, praised Novak and Heston as being dedicated servants to the country.

"He will be a great re-addition," Ainsworth said of Heston, welcoming the new commander and his family to the 7th MSC.

Novak focused on the brigade's readiness and ensuring the Soldiers were involved in the right exercises, Ainsworth said.

"There is no one who cares more for the Soldiers of his unit," he said of Novak.

During Novak's 14 months in command, the unit's military job qualification rate went from 66 percent to 79 percent, medical readiness, weapons qualification and Army Physical Fitness Test pass rates all increased, he said.

"Lastly, he has had people in over a dozen countries at any given time working on operations in the civil affairs arena and as movement control teams and human resources specialists or postal support," Ainsworth said.

Novak's tenure also saw improved relationships with the NATO Civil-Military Cooperation Centre as well as with Defense Language Institute, he added.

"Col. Novak, thanks for leading this multi-faceted unit across multiple boarders with many agencies and different levels of military involvement," Ainsworth said.

Novak also led the planning for the brigade's participation in Exercise Saber Guardian 17, a U.S. Army Europe-led, multinational exercise, will take place in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania.

Novak complimented the efforts of the Soldiers of the 361st, saying they markedly improved every measurable category of logistics readiness.

"The results you achieved are truly impassive and in some cases, I would submit historic," Novak said.

The Soldiers acted unselfishly to fill gaps, built relationships and communicated professionally across the theater, he said. This included building key relationships with the U.S. Army Europe G 39 directorate, the 353rd Civil Affairs Command, the NATO CIMIC and countries throughout Europe.

"While acting quickly with USAREUR to provide judge advocate, transportation, and civil affairs soldiers to enable five U.S. embassies in Europe was particularly noteworthy, the comprehensive plan you devised with input from all CA and CIMIC stakeholders to support Saber Guardian 17 USAREUR's premier set of integrated summer exercises is nothing short of extraordinary," Novak said.

During Saber Guardian, more than 200 active and reserve civil affairs soldiers from the U.S. Army, integrated with nearly 40 CIMIC soldiers from five partner nations, will participate in a major exercise and receive an external evaluation for the first time, he said.

"Although I will not get to see it, I have every confidence, based on the fidelity and granularity of your plan, you will perform magnificently," he added.

The brigade consistently achieved results far beyond the resources it received, Novak said.

"Simply put, working together, we changed a culture, in short order, for the better no easy task for any organization," he said.

Novak moves on to a position at the Office of the Chief, Army Reserve in Washington DC.

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