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Mission Possible: PRT leaders begin training for year in Afghanistan

  • Published
  • By Capt. Ken Hall
  • Provincial Reconstruction Team Paktia

Drawn from the farthest-flung corners of the military universe, Provincial Reconstruction Team commanders and senior staff descended on Fort Bragg, N.C., to begin training for their upcoming year in Afghanistan's rural villages, districts and provinces.

The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and lone Marine made up the command and staff of 12 PRTs the Department of Defense is sending to Afghanistan this spring to relieve the teams in place for the past year. The Air Force and Navy will each command six of the multinational teams in country. At Fort Bragg, the senior leaders got the opportunity to gel as joint service teams before receiving the rest of their members in January to give them their full complement of approximately 80-100 members per team.

There are 25 provincial teams, soon to be 26, whose mission it is to assist the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Under the overall command of NATOs International Security Assistance Force, they'll work closely with provincial and district leaders and influencers to promote the legitimacy and capacity of the Afghan central government.  They'll promote a stable and secure environment and economic development for the local populace -- a means of reducing the control and influence of Taliban and other anti-coalition and anti-government forces.

ISAF's mission is an integral part of the international community's comprehensive approach to Afghanistan and its efforts to bring lasting peace and stability back to the country.

While ISAF's primary mission consists in securing Afghanistan to permit speedy reconstruction and development, practical support for reconstruction and development efforts also stands as one ISAF's key supporting military tasks. 

ISAF's activities in that field include: the rehabilitation of schools and medical facilities; the restoration of water supplies; the provision of appropriate support for other civil-military projects; and the conduct of a coherent overview of the progress of development efforts.

In doing so, the PRTs are at the leading edge of the alliance's commitment to reconstruction and development efforts in Afghanistan.

The reconstruction mission's special requirements are more diverse than a standard military unit is designed to perform, so these teams are able to take advantage of the unique skill sets possessed by staff members.   The early training period provided a perfect opportunity to build team and unit cohesion for what will be a very difficult and dangerous mission.

"If you think you're going to 'form, storm, norm, and perform' once you get in country," said Army Col. Harry Glenn, "it just doesn't work that way--and that's exactly why you're here." Colonel Glenn, Fort Bragg's 189th Infantry Brigade commander, is responsible for training the PRTs at the simulated, but very convincing Forward Operating Bases Patriot and Latham here.

What's most unique to the PRTs is the level of responsibility they'll have in Afghanistan. A Department of State briefer told them what they will accomplish crosses tactical, operational and strategic lines and represents the most important and critical work being done in Afghanistan. PRTs will routinely coordinate their work with the Departments of State and Agriculture, the United Nations Assistance Mission Afghanistan, United States Agency for International Development, UNICEF, and other various international government and non-governmental organizations.

During the December leadership training period, the PRT commanders and special staff got everything from theater, country and political immersion, to Pashto and Dari language and cultural training. For tactical purposes, they all earned certification as combat lifesavers through instruction in stopping extreme bleeding, starting intravenous fluids, and administering nasopharyngeal bypasses and needle chest decompression of a tension pneumothorax that can form when a casualty has a penetrating chest wound.

In Afghanistan, the teams will most often conduct their missions using up-armored humvee convoys to travel to mountain villages in the hinterlands and be responsible for their own security. Because of that, they'll need to be fully trained in individual and crew-served weapons employment, small unit tactics, and communications. Team members will each carry both the M-4 rifle and M-9 Beretta 9mm pistol. They'll also need to be proficient with the M-240 machine gun, the M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon, the Mk-19 grenade machine gun, and the M-2 .50 caliber machine gun.

When the full teams reform in January, they'll hone their skills in tactical training, combat training, communication skills, checkpoint set up, guarding perimeters and providing security. They'll focus on everything from the tactical to the strategic level.

"I'm extremely pleased with the level of skill and experience among the members of my team," said Lt. Col. Brett Sharp, PRT Paktia commander. Colonel Sharp, an Air Battle Manager, deployed from Air Combat Command headquarters at Langley Air Force Base, Va. "We're a diverse group, and I know we'll be able to capitalize on our collective strengths to help the Afghan government help their people realize a new tomorrow."

For more information on Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Afghanistan, visit the ISAF official website at: