March 30, 2011
Virginia Guard Provincial Reconstruction Team Security Force holds departure ceremony for federal duty in Afghanistan
By Cotton Puryear
Virginia Dept. of Military Affairs
SANDSTON, Va. — A specially trained platoon of 42 Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers officially began their tour on federal active duty with a departure ceremony held March 28 in Sandston. The platoon will deploy to Afghanistan to serve as a Provincial Reconstruction Team Security Force.
Sgt. Gary Melton of Ashland says good bye to his five-year-old daughter Elaina during a departure ceremony for a platoon of 42 Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers deploying on federal active duty to Afghanistan as a Provincial Reconstruction Team Security Force March 28 at the Holiday Inn in Sandston. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)
Click HERE to see more photos from the event on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.
The mission of the PRT SECFOR is to maintain security while the PRT is operating in potentially dangerous areas to rebuild infrastructure, assisting with agriculture, building wells, and providing healthcare to the people across the many provinces of Afghanistan. The PRT is a joint mission, manned by Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen from the active duty and reserve components of the U.S. military.
“I have seen the training you have gone through to get to this point, and it is amazing to me that you have been able to do so many tasks in such short time and have done so well,” said Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia. “This is a great organization that is well led, well trained, and I am sure you will do very well.”
The Soldiers are assigned to the Hampton-based 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery, 116th Brigade Combat Team, but are from all over the state including Northern Virginia, Charlottesville, Staunton, Norfolk and the Hampton Roads area, as well as Southern Virginia. After the departure ceremony the Soldiers travelled to Camp Atterbury, Ind., for final mobilization training for approximately 45 to 60 days, then deploy to Afghanistan. The mobilization is expected to last approximately 12 months.
“You are going into a role that probably very few of you signed up for,” said Col. Blake Ortner, commander of the 116th BCT, referring to the large number of field artillery Soldiers in the unit. “This role is going to be different, and you have learned different techniques, different ideas, different strategies, and that is going to serve you well. You had the opportunity to train, and you will have the opportunity at Camp Atterbury to train even more, and the most important thing you can do is build yourself as a team.”
All the leaders at the ceremony thanked the families in attendance for the support of their Soldiers and pledged to provide assistance while their loved ones were deployed. “You are our strength, you are our backbone, what drives us, what motivates us through every day to get up and go out and do what we have to do, and you are our moral compass,” said 1st Lt. James Covington, the PRT SECFOR commander, of the families. “You mean everything to us.”
Covington commended the Soldiers in the platoon for how far they had come since they first gathered in December 2010 and how well they had come together as a team.
“Discipline and honor are our watch words,” Covington said. “They are not just words we say, we embody those principles in everything we do.”
Additional reporting by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs
Virginia Soldiers prepare for Afghan security mission http://vko.va.ngb.army.mil/VirginiaGuard/news/feb11/PRTsecfor.html