News: PRT Paktya: A change of command, a change in mission
Story by Spc. Alex Amen
PAKTYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. John C. Chong, assumed command of the Paktya Provincial Reconstruction Team at Forward Operating Base Goode from Lt. Col. Robert J. Morse Oct. 30, 2012.
Morse, who will redeploy to Barksdale Air Force Base, La., built strong relationships with the Afghan people and the government in Gardez.
Under Morse, the Paktya PRT delivered more than 14,000 pounds of humanitarian assistance, oversaw the completion of 145 projects aimed at improving Afghan infrastructure, and most importantly, transitioned from a partnered into an advisory and assistance role.
“The PRT and Afghan civilian officials have seen the people’s needs and problems and they have worked to solve their problems,” said Abdul Rahman Mangal, the deputy provincial governor of Paktya, who attended the ceremony along with other Afghan government, military and police members. “Whenever the Afghan government needed it, the PRT helped.”
However, that need has reduced.
“The Afghans are already there,” said Chong. “They’ve demonstrated an enormous ability to take responsibility and execute projects.”
“We simply monitor their ability to address the needs of their people, providing advice and assistance as an exception, not a norm.”
Chong has full confidence in his new Afghan partners.
“Afghans are in the lead and America’s first PRT in Afghanistan stands ready to support full transition,” added Chong.
Chong, who has been in the Air Force since 1994, is on his sixth deployment to Afghanistan.
“I’ve flown over the skies of Loya Paktya (ancient word for the area that includes Paktya, Paktika, Khowst) supporting Afghan and U.S. forces,” said Chong. “I can honestly say it is humbling being on the ground of America’s first PRT in Afghanistan.”
Established in 2003, the Paktya PRT was the first organization of it’s kind. The goal of the PRT is to promote the Afghan government and assist their abilities to resolve local issues.
The Paktya PRT is a joint-service military and civilian effort, bringing together members of the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army’s active duty and reserve components, as well as members of the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It is made up of civil affairs, engineers, and agribusiness specialists, all designed to meet the needs of the Afghan government while empowering the Afghan people.