CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. - “And when the ‘storming’ is complete, the Army-Navy team that forms is inseparable. It is truly a great operation to witness, and we are fortunate to be part of it. We depend totally on the 4th Cavalry Brigade at Camp Atterbury to bring our sailors’ skills up to standard ground operations,” said Navy Capt. Eric Jabs, commanding officer of Expeditionary Combat Readiness Center, Virginia Beach, Va.
Trainer/mentors assigned to First Army Division East’s 4th Cavalry Brigade provide Jabs’ sailors and other members of provincial reconstruction teams with the training they need to support reconstruction efforts and empower local governments in Afghanistan.
During a recent visit to Camp Atterbury to see the training his sailors received from First Army Division East trainer-mentors, not only was Jabs impressed with the training, he said the "form, storm and perform" team building process was unlike any other training in the military services.
“First of all, they instruct our sailors how to shoot, maneuver and communicate: the essential combat skills that they will need on their deployment in Afghanistan. Many sailors come to the provincial reconstruction team mission with no prior experience in these combat skills so the training that they receive from their trainer-mentors here is critically important,” explained Jabs.
The "forming” phase during the PRT’s training, validating and ultimately deploying is a unique part of the mission that adds another layer of complexity, agreed Lt. Col. Peter Kowalewski, the 4th Cavalry Brigade’s operations officer.
“Unlike other military units, which come to a mobilization center with a command structure, an integrated staff, and have conducted previous training together, the PRTs meet their teammates for the first time when they arrive at the mobilization center,” said Kowalewski.
The First Army Division East trainer/mentors at Camp Atterbury work hard to ensure the training they provide the newly-formed PRTs is relevant, realistic and prepares them for any situation they may face once deployed.
The training model 4th Cavalry developed is effective because it takes soldiers and sailors with no or very little combat experience and, through a blended learning approach incorporating virtual and constructive simulation coupled with hands on training and repetition, creates a competent and confident warrior prepared to execute their mission.
Culinary Specialist 2nd Class, Mesha Baysinger, of Oklahoma City, Okla., one of the sailors Jabs met during the visit, has several at-sea deployments but no land deployments.
Baysinger, who will deploy with PRT Uruzgan, said she appreciated the commander’s visit and has learned a lot from her training at Camp Atterbury.
“Anytime a commander comes to visit, it’s something special. You see they do care, and they are concerned about how we feel and what’s happening to us,” said Baysinger. “I’m excited, and I feel confident I can do my job.”
Jabs spoke with sailors about training they are receiving from 4th Cavalry Brigade, First Army Division East during the commander’s Battlefield Circulation at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center, Ind., recently.
Navy Cmdr. Steven Mathews, commander of PRT Uruzgan, said he was happy Jabs could see the results of all his effort and support after deploying hundreds of sailors.
Mathews, like all PRT commanders completed nine months of training on Afghan language and culture along with unit leadership principles prior to meeting his team at Camp Atterbury where they have several months to gel as a unit, he said.
“The teams have done a great job. The senior enlisted and junior officers are enthusiastic and have a desire to get the mission done,” Mathews said then laughed. “They’ve even identified their translators – the people who have learned both languages – and can jump in and translate the service speak.”
Sailors are an essential part of provincial reconstruction teams in their mission to assume responsibilities to train, advise and assist Afghan government leaders at the municipal, district, and provincial levels in Farah, Ghazni and Uruzgan provinces with help from Australian and Polish forces, Jabs said.
“Our physician assistants and hospital corpsman provide critical medical care to the province they are supporting. Also, Seabees and civil engineers provide infrastructure building capabilities to support reconstruction projects. Our operations specialists and information technology specialists are uniquely suited to support the tactical communications needs of the PRT and our master-at-arms assist in providing security,” Jabs pointed out.
It’s those unique skills that forged the Army-Navy relationship in 2003, when sailors began augmenting U.S. Army, Air Force, and Marine units in Iraq and Afghanistan. Jabs said it’s those skills that will continue to make sailors valued team members on joint missions in the future. added Jabs.
Navy Lt. j.g. Meghan Burns, a physician assistant, deploying with PRT Farah, said she is also excited to get on the ground and get started.
“In addition to the tactical training, it has been incredibly useful to have theater-specific combat medical training to better prepare myself and my team for the unique challenges of combat medicine,” said Burns, from St. Paul, Minn. “Here, at Camp Atterbury, we’ve had consistent hands-on practical and technical training on the exact conditions and methods of treatment that we’ll be using downrange.”
“At the height of their collective training, the culminating training event provides the PRTs specific missions designed to foster integration and mission planning with their security force, interagency, and Afghan counterparts. The CTE scenarios, developed in large part by the Foreign Service Institute are relevant, tailored, and create an engaging learning experience by replicating the missions PRTs will perform in the Afghanistan,” said Kowalewski.