Feb. 24, 2011

Virginia Soldiers prepare for Afghan security mission

By Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

FORT PICKETT, Va. — A platoon of Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers completed three weeks of annual training at Fort Pickett Feb. 24 to prepare for an upcoming deployment for security duty in Southern Afghanistan scheduled to begin in late March. The 42 Soldiers from across the commonwealth who make up the Provincial Reconstruction Team Security Force met collectively for the first time in December and are now focused on training for the mission ahead.


Soldiers from the Provincial Reconstruction Team Security Force conduct room clearing techniques at the Military Operations in Urban Terrain village at Fort Pickett Feb. 17. The Soldiers spent twenty days at Fort Pickett training for their upcoming deployment to Southern Afghanistan. (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 training is critical,” said 1st Lt. James Covington, the PRT SECFOR commander. "Some of these guys haven’t done a lot of this. This is a non-standard mission. This is not something we train on during a drill weekend, so we have to get them in the right mindset and we have to teach them the counter-insurgency principles, so that they are better able to interact with the Afghan populous and they can be more effective in their missions.”

The PRT mission is essential to the military’s plan of action in Afghanistan, according to Covington. 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. The PRT personnel are working hard to rebuild infrastructure, assisting with agriculture, building wells, and providing healthcare to the people across the many provinces of Afghanistan. The role of the PRT SECFOR is to maintain security while the PRT is operating in potentially dangerous areas.

“The PRT is one of the lead elements in the counter-insurgency and it is made up of collective individuals, and due to the operational environment where they are going to be working out of they need increased security, so we keep them safe so they can continue to help rebuild Afghanistan,” said Sgt. 1st Class John Rothmann, platoon sergeant of the PRT SECFOR.

The Soldiers have only been training together since December and have come from cities across the state; they have come from Northern Virginia, Charlottesville, Staunton, Norfolk and the Hampton Roads area, as well as Southern Virginia. The 20 days of training has served as a platform to bring the unit together and provided key training for the mission.

“They’re coming together great, they’re   right where they need to be,” said Rothmann. “We’ve got some work that we still have to do, but that is always going to occur. We’ll just keep tracking and keep driving on until we reach a professional level of excellence.”


A Soldier from the Provincial Reconstruction Team Security Force bursts through the door "at the ready" during training at Fort Pickett Feb. 17. The Soldiers of the PRT SECFOR spent several hours perfecting the  techniques for entering rooms. (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.

While training at Fort Pickett, the Soldiers of the PRT SECFOR have trained on Military Operations in Urban Terrain, reacting to Improvised Explosive Devices, medical evacuation reporting, individual weapons qualification, convoy operations and much more. The Soldiers ended their training cycle with a culminating training exercise, or CTX, where they brought all of their training together to incorporate all the training up until that point, according to Covington.

“The CTX was very successful, it really demonstrated that my Soldiers have a good understanding of the skills they are going to require,” said Covington. “They’ve really accepted the training and assimilated very well the principles we’ve been trying to teach.”

“Being able to see them progress and how they’ve changed is amazing. They have done everything I asked them to and more.”

In early spring, the PRT SECFOR will mobilize on federal active duty to Camp Atterbury, Ind., where they will complete their mobilization training and meet the PRT for the first time before deploying to Afghanistan to begin the mission. The Soldiers will train there for approximately two months before heading overseas.

“At Atterbury we will meet with the PRT that we will be providing security for,” Rothmann said. “We will start collective training with that element of the guys we are actually working with in country. We will have the time to work out any wrinkles and get used to how they operate, and they can get used to how we operate.”

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