The COCOM Cultural Heritage Action Group’s (CCHAG) mission is to enhance military capacity by promoting Cultural Property Protection (CPP) during Full Spectrum Operations for Combatant Commands and Joint Force (JF) Planners and Engineers worldwide.
We promote CPP as more than a legal requirement, but also as a force multiplier that contributes mission success. The CCHAG develops and implements CPP training, educational and training materials, planning information, reachback support, GIS data and other operational tools, as well as policy recommendations that have been incorporated into CENTCOM environmental regulations.
The CCHAG has initiated planning and education programs that utilize coalition exercises as cultural landscape teaching opportunities, which can serve as models for the other COCOMs. The CCHAG team leaders and subject matter experts participate in coalition exercises and respond to requests to support COCOM contingency operations.
The CCHAG has demonstrated the value of cultural property protection, cultural heritage awareness, education, planning, and training to stability operations. Among other successes, CCHAG activities have resulted in awareness materials being distributed to more than 100,000 deploying personnel. Importantly, the CCHAG played an instrumental role in developing the Historical/Cultural Chapter of the 2009 CENTCOM Regulation 200-2, Environmental Quality: Protection and Enhancement of Environmental Assets, which contains essential guidance, best management practices offers environmental enforcement capability for heritage preservation during USCENTCOM contingency operations. Chapter 6 ["Historical and Cultural Preservation"] of the Regulation establishes criteria to ensure the proper protection of historic/cultural properties. Enacted in 2009, this criteria is unprecedented for a COCOM. USCENTCOM thus became the first COCOM with a regulation of this scope, to include historical/cultural property protection guidance.
In these, and many other ways that we describe in this website, the CCHAG provides the right information and training to the right person at the right time. We support the mission by informing and training the war fighter and COCOM/Joint Force decision makers at every level in the chain of command.
Forward personnel understand that the capability for analyzing the heritage landscape is critical during combat operations, post-conflict reconstruction and planning for forward operating base expansion. Understanding cultural landscapes, such indigenous water systems, is also needed for predicting and understanding potential property disputes and for establishing common ground with host nation ministries including, but not limited, to culture, information, and tourism.
Examples of direct support to military operations by CCHAG members during the past three years include:
- development of detailed maps of the ancient karez water systems of Afghanistan;
- development of a cultural heritage map for Afghanistan in partnership with the AIA and other international partners;
- innovative products and comprehensive reach back support for USCENTCOM personnel serving in Operating Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and the biennial Exercise Bright Star;
- historical/cultural awareness briefings at the Environmental Shura (consultation) in Kabul in February 2010;
- bi-lingual historical/ cultural and GIS briefings at the 2010 Jordan Conference;
- the offer of reach back expertise for Forward Operating Base expansion planning, and teaching imagery analysis skills to deploying personnel for better cultural and sacred place site identification.
- successful and productive partnerships with subject matter experts and both national and international academic organizations comprised primarily of social scientists. This partnership is with the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) and AIA’s CHAMP working group is only one example and potential model for developing mechanisms for mobilizing reach back capability and expertise related to the heritage landscape. The opportunity to continue and develop the partnership with AIA offers the ability to offer extremely valuable regional expertise, instruction, and educational tools to the DoD efficiently and timely.
The COCOM Cultural Heritage Advisory Group is one of the most successful outcomes of the In-Theater Heritage Training project, funded by the Legacy Resource Management Program and the the Defense Environmental International Cooperation Program (DEIC), both of which fall within the Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Installations and Environment.