By CAPT. OLIVIA COBISKEY
205th Infantry Brigade Public Affairs
Pre-deployment site surveys prepare units for deployments and helps First Army trainer/mentors develop training that is relevant, realistic and that reflects the most current conditions Soldiers will face in theater.
“This training will prepare them for the current hostile operational environment in country,” said Col. John Prairie, commander of the 4th Cavalry Brigade at Fort Knox.
However, before that training can begin, Soldiers with 4th Cavalry Brigade, First Army Division East, gave the Provincial Reconstruction Team 13-17 pre-deployment site survey team a first-hand view of reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan March 1-17.
“Pre-deployment site surveys shape the way we train,” Prairie said. “The surveys give us a glimpse into what training worked and what training we might need to modify to stay current with PRT capabilities, limitations and operating procedures by engaging with various organizations on the ground and stateside.”
Information gained during the site survey helps First Army develop the plan and train units for deployments to the region. Once in theater, units normally 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. The military teams are comprised of members of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army, several senior members from the Interagency community (the U.S. Department of State, the Agency for International Development, Department of Agriculture, as well
as several others) and a Security Force
from the Battle
Space Integrator in theater.
“Our leaders and trainer/mentors work closely with the Foreign Service Institute staying abreast of the latest modifications to the U.S. Embassy and International Security Assistance Force guidance and in theater procedures that would affect PRT and Agricultural Development Team operations and mission sets,” Prairie said. “We also receive several briefing products from the ISAF Joint Command and operational units in country referencing new operational tactics, techniques and procedures, lessons learned and updated threat briefs...all of which are used to update our education and training plans.”
The re-evaluation process doesn’t stop after the unit deploys, added Prairie. First Army Division East also embeds trainer/mentors with the deploying PRTs for the first two months of its nine month combat rotation allowing these T/Ms to experience firsthand the PRT unique mission set. The information from these embedded T/Ms allows the brigade to update and modify training for the next PRT training cycle to ensure instruction continues to be relevant and realistic.
The benefits of the site-survey and continued re-evaluation process on the training process are especially constructive if the site-survey is complete with time left to adjust the training regime to match the realities on the ground, agreed Maj. Gen. Kevin Wendel, commanding general of First Army Division East.
Wendel advised the commanders to find balance and stay flexible when working in a joint service, multi-national environment.
“The Army has a saying ‘Every Soldier is a Sensor,’” Wendel told the PRT commanders during the PDSS post brief at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center, Ind., Friday. “You are leaders of non-traditional units. Remember your Sailors and Soldiers will see and hear things that you won’t, so get into the battle rhythm where you not only give information but receive information.”
The site-survey also affords the incoming unit command team the ability to communicate to their Sailors, Soldiers and civilians what to expect during the deployment operationally and in terms of living environment, said Navy Cmdr. Steven Mathews, commander of PRT Uruzgan.
The command teams took hundreds of photos of daily life while in Afghanistan to help manage their units’ expectations of where and how people will live, eat, and work.
“It was a great experience,” said Mathews. “It gave us great insight into how the mission is conducted in country and allowed us to sit down with the decision makers—coalition forces, U.S. forces,
and the local leadership.”