By Pfc. Lalita Guenther,U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne)March 1, 2012
CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. (March 1, 2012) -- Soldiers and Afghan key leaders spent hours sipping chai and discussing current and future plans for joint missions and projects. While this is a common scene in Afghanistan, this meeting is actually a carefully designed and simulated exercise for a provincial reconstruction team, or PRT, during training at Camp Atterbury, Ind.
Soldiers from the 425th Civil Affairs Battalion are training for their upcoming deployment to the Kapisa Province of Afghanistan. These Soldiers are learning how to work with not only each other, but with their sister services as well, resulting in a more intense approach compared to regular civil affairs training.
"The training is more involved than it used to be, because we are integrating with the Air Force and Navy," said Staff Sgt. David Reid, a civil affairs specialist with the 425th Civil Affairs Bn. "It's sort of like going through basic training with them before we leave."
PRT missions are unique because the civil affairs Soldiers' main goal is to create unity and teamwork between local and national governments as well as with the coalition forces. According to Reid, the military recognizes the importance of provincial reconstruction and has devoted significant resources.
"The training is very good," Reid said. To make this training as realistic as possible, Afghan natives act as government authorities and as interpreters, adding a layer of realism unheard of in previous generations of military training.
Provincial reconstruction team training is not just for the older, more experienced Soldiers, like Reid, but also for the Soldiers deploying for the first time.
"This is very important to the new Soldiers. You're life is on the line," stressed Reid. "These guys will definitely benefit. The better the training, the more they will be prepared."
To ensure quality training is taking place, it is especially important that the training comes from someone who is experienced and has actually been down range and made a difference.
"To be able to talk to people who have deployed, and spend months with them, they (Soldiers who have never been deployed) are starting to learn and realize that this is not a video game, and are starting to really take it seriously," said Reid. "This is very advantageous because these instructors can walk the walk and talk the talk."
One of those instructors is Capt. Rene Zubik, who just a few days ago was in Kapisa
"Twelve hours before my flight left, I was told, 'Pack your stuff, you're going back to Camp Atterbury,'" said Zubik. She has the unique mission now to help train the Soldiers who will replace her and the current PRT in Afghanistan in the coming weeks.
Zubik is not only up to date on what is going on in her region of Afghanistan, but she is a valuable instructor because of the many hats she wears. Her primary job is a reintegration specialist, but in Afghanistan she is a Commander's Emergency Response Program manager alongside several other job titles.
Though the last-minute trip wasn't on the top of Zubik's to-do list, she knows that her mission at Atterbury gives soldiers the chance to learn from those with immediate, regional-specific, experience with PRTs overseas.
"They (the Soldiers here) had no idea what's going on in Kapisa right now," stressed Zubik. "But thanks to this training they have the tools they need to move forward and make a real impact as they get boots on the ground."
Zubik, who returned to Afghanistan after the 425th Civil Affairs Bn. finished training at Camp Atterbury, said she is looking forward to transitioning responsibilities to the new team and redeploying. She's thinking about applying to remain on active duty with U.S. Army Civil Affairs & Psychological Operations Command's 1st Training Brigade so she can continue to help prepare units for PRT missions.