Force Protection Helps Reconstruction Team Succeed
By Sgt. Frank Magni, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
HERAT PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Jan. 13, 2005 With every new road or school opening, you will find them. From the compound's front gate to each village, force protection soldiers provide security for civil affairs personnel as they facilitate the reconstruction throughout Afghanistan.
Army 1st Lt. Travis Menke, right, of the force protection
team supporting Herat provincial reconstruction team, discusses the direction
of a convoy operation with Sgt. 1st Class Wiley Jones, 450th Civil Affairs
Battalion, after a village assessment. Photo by Sgt. Frank Magni,
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
To the common observer, most provincial reconstruction team force protection personnel appear to be no more than bodyguards standing ready as civil affairs teams move from village to village. But in Herat, as with all PRTs, the force protection teams' missions extends far beyond their role of security, into a relationship that keeps both them and civil affairs teams safe, effective and relevant as reconstruction takes place.
Force protection team members here work to secure their home base and the airfields in Herat, but their skills are especially put to the test during convoy operations with the civil affairs personnel.
"When we are on a (convoy operation), we focus on three major areas: situational awareness, accountability and navigation," said Staff Sgt. Bradley Bergeman, Herat PRT force protection squad leader. With convoys sometimes covering hundreds of kilometers at a time, the key to success in all those areas is preparation, no area of preparation is more important than navigation.
"Getting the convoy to the destination is our responsibility," Bergeman said. "The (civil affairs) team tells us the points they want to go and we get them there." With many hard-to-find dirt roads snaking over treacherous passes in Herat, one key to successful navigation has come through continuity, he explained. After each mission, the force protection team completes an extensive after-action review to outline the route traveled and determine the positive and negative aspects of the mission.
"I don't consider any mission successful until I know that the next group that will travel to the area I was just at doesn't make the same mistakes we did," he said.
Successful preparation for the Herat force protection team also includes equipment. "We have to plan for everything," said Bergeman. From tow straps to jacks, flares and medical kits, the force protection team has developed extensive tool kits and checklists for each vehicle in the convoy.
Finally, successful preparation has come through training. "Training is very important to sustain good situational awareness," said Bergeman. "For every lesson we learn in the field, we return and make sure each person in the company learns that lesson." Situational awareness for the force protection team also means having a plan for each contingency.
The job is extremely rewarding, considering everything the force protection team does for the reconstruction mission, said Spc. Matthew Moritz, Herat PRT force protection. "One of the best parts of our job is knowing we are going places Americans have never been before, bringing things people need," he said.
(Army Sgt. Frank Magni is assigned to the 17th Public Affairs Detachment.)