WHEN Robert Minato is not wearing fatigues, he is a school teacher at Catholic College Wodonga.
Warrant Officer Class Two (WO2) Minato is a sailing instructor with Yachting Australia and a “fitness nut”.
WO2 Minato discharged from the regular Army in 1999 and became one of nearly 2400 Army Reservists in Victoria.
Together with Wodonga-based Army Reservist Kevin Collihole, WO2 Minato works in a coveted, small team called CIMIC or Civil-Military Cooperation. CIMIC operators are responsible for the civilian dimension on Army operations.
The Wodonga officers have served in refugee camps, conflict zones and fire-affected towns.
“Our role is to focus on the civilian population and how it might be impacted by Defence operations,” WO2 Minato said.
“We try and minimise any disruption in the civil space, by working closely with local leaders, residents, non-government organisations and traders.”
The CIMIC cell has 18 in the team with just three teams within the Australian Army.
WO2 Collihole said the cell was diverse.
“The team comprises company directors, engineers, teachers, train drivers, women and men, young and old and even accountants like me,” he said.
“To be selected for the CIMIC cell, you need to have more than standard traditional soldier warfighting skills.
“The CIMIC cell selects its team based on soldiers’ social background, their civilian career qualifications and soft skill sets, like a strong ability to engage and communicate easily with new people.”
WO2 Collihole worked with Victorians impacted by the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires.
WO2 Minato was deployed to the Solomon Islands in 2010, where he spent four months working in the villages as a CIMIC operator, dealing with residents and the provincial chief.
Both officers have just returned from a month-long training exercise in a mock war zone in South Australia.
They joined 8000 soldiers in the Australian Army’s biggest annual military exercise, Exercise Hamel.
The Wodonga officers are now prepared to be deployed overseas as the Army’s 4th Brigade enters into its year of high readiness.