Joint Navy, Army Reserve Team reading to build stability, trust in Uruzgan
May 31, 2013
Atterbury, Ind. - Provincial Reconstruction Teams, training at Atterbury-Muscatatuck near Edinburgh, Ind., are preparing for deployment to rural provinces in Afghanistan.
This final rotation of PRTs, trained by First Army Division East, will send one team, comprised of active duty U.S. Navy personnel and a U.S Army Reserve civil affairs attachment, to serve in the Uruzgan province.
"In Afghanistan, the Uruzgan PRT will integrate with the existing Australian civilian personnel and Australian security forces as part of the Combined Team Uruzgan. They will work closely together to continue their mission to mentor local Afghan officials to enable more effective governance and linkage to the central Afghan government in Kabul while at the same time closing their base and transition their facilities to Afghan control," said Lt. Col. Ed Hayes, commander of the PRT Uruzgan's sponsor battalion, 1-409th Cavalry Squadron, 4th Cavalry Brigade, First Army Division East.
These PRTs, comprised of a military component and civilian representatives of a variety of U.S. government agencies, were established in Afghanistan in early 2002 to support governance, economic, and reconstruction efforts in almost every province. The brigade trained two other PRTs going to Farah and Ghazni provinces.
Uruzgan's mission is to continue fostering relationships with the Afghans and ensure the transition goes smoothly, said Senior Chief Petty Officer William Lewis, electronics technician with PRT Uruzgan.
"It's definitely a unique deployment for in theatre. The scope and the role are completely different," said Lewis.
Troops hit the ground running at Atterbury March 21and have been going hard ever since.
"We've been going through all the courses here at Atterbury, so a lot of culture training, counter improvised explosive divice, insider threat training, situational awareness training, and force protection," said Lewis.
The 4th Cavalry Brigade, First Army Division East, comprised of both active and Reserve Component Soldiers have led most of the training at Atterbury. Trainer-mentors work hard to ensure mobilization training is relevant, realistic, and reflects the most current conditions Soldiers will face in theater.
"The pre-deployment training produced confident PRT warriors that are physically, mentally, emotionally, and tactically prepared for their wartime mission in Afghanistan," said Hayes, from Fort Know, Ky. "The 79 days of training at Camp Atterbury progressed from individual through collective tasks in a variety of different conditions and scenarios. The training also focused on developing each individual's ability to understand their environment, identify anomalies in human behavior, and make proactive decisions to prevent or defeat an attack. This situational awareness training helps ensure that each warrior is prepared for any potential attack from inside as well while they are conducting their mission."
"It's definitely a unique mission in many ways," he added.
The overall training is unique because a normal deployment focuses on taking a unit, refreshing their skills, then deploying them to theater to do the same task they've always done, said Lt. j.g. Laura Cargill, a physician assistant, PRT Uruzgan.
"Here you're taking Navy guys, Army guys, people who are medical, people who are in communications -- all different job fields -- and your molding them together, giving them a type of mission they would probably never have otherwise," continued Cargill, from Oklahoma City, Okla.
"This is much more about a hearts and minds type of mission. The whole job of the PRT is to work with the people versus going over there in a traditional military type deployment," said Cargill.
Cargill, who likes learning about different cultures, has really enjoyed the female engagement team training which focused on Afghan customs, language, and politics.
"I think it is interesting that before you come here and learn so much about the culture, and the people and how it all actually works, all you know is what you see on the news and largely what they put on the news is negative," said Cargill.
For Lewis, as the unit gets ready for its Culminating Training Exercise, the benefits of the individual training on base defense, operating a Tactical Operations Center, running entry control points, and communication are becoming apparent in the larger exercises.
"I think the benefit we will see at the end, when we're able to use all the individual training we have because you don't necessarily get the most out of the individual training during the individual training time; it comes more into play when you do evolutions like this where we're piecing several of the trainings together and putting them to practical use," said Lewis.
All three PRTs will conclude formal training with a CTE where their members will have to react to multiple scenarios involving possible security threats in these areas.
"I think it's one of the longer-- from what I've been able to see or hear -- training pipelines before you deploy, so it's definitely a commitment when you sign on," said Lewis.
For Uruzgan, troops hope to see their commitment pay off through the ability of the Afghan leadership to provide security and governance to its population.
"Basically we're the last PRT to go so you want to leave the Afghan people with a good impression of us," said Cargill. "I'd like to see the people of Uruzgan be able to do all of this stuff for themselves; see them maintaining their own security and see them self-sustaining when we leave."
*Capt. Olivia Cobiskey, 205th Infantry Brigade Public Affairs and Ashley Roy, Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Facility Public Affairs contributed to this article.