Hampton-based National Guard Provincial Reconstruction Team Security Force Platoon returns to Virginia after duty in Afghanistan

Family, friends and senior leaders from the Virginia National Guard greet Soldiers from the Provincial Reconstruction Team Security Force Platoon March 28 at Richmond International Airport. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia Department of Military Affairs)

HAMPTON, Va.. — Approximately 40 Virginia Guardsmen assigned to the Hampton-based Provincial Reconstruction Team Security Force Platoon arrived at airports across Virginia March 28 after the Soldiers served on federal active duty in Afghanistan since June 2011. The Soldiers returned to the United States March 23 and conducted demobilization activities at Camp Atterbury, Ind., to transition from active duty to National Guard status. They officially began federal active duty March 26, 2011, and trained at Camp Atterbury for about two months prior to deploying to Afghanistan.

Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia, welcomes Soldiers from the Provincial Reconstruction Team Security Force Platoon back to the United States March 24 at Camp Atterbury, Ind. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia Department of Military Affairs)

The members of the platoon performed more than 640 security missions in support of PRT Uruzgan while the PRT was operating in potentially dangerous areas to rebuild infrastructure, assist with agriculture, build wells and provide healthcare to the people across the many provinces of Afghanistan.

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 Soldiers are assigned to the Hampton-based 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery, 116th Brigade Combat Team, but are from all over the state including Northern Virginia, Charlottesville, Staunton, Norfolk and the Hampton Roads area, as well as Southern Virginia.

The platoon had no Soldiers killed in action or seriously wounded.

The platoon was organized specifically for the mission of providing security for a provincial reconstruction team under the command of the Hampton-based 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery, 116th Brigade Combat Team, and the Soldiers are from all over the state including Northern Virginia, Charlottesville, Staunton, Norfolk and the Hampton Roads area, as well as Southern Virginia. Fifteen different units from across the Virginia Army National Guard provided Soldiers for the mission.

“I am extremely proud of my guys,” said Capt. James Covington, the commander of the platoon on his third deployment since graduating from Randolph-Macon College in 2005. “They did more than I thought was possible, and I am amazed at how much they accomplished.”

Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Green, senior enlisted leader for the Virginia National Guard, presents his coin to the youngest member of the PRT Security Force Platoon March 24 at Camp Atterbury, Ind. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia Department of Military Affairs)

A PRT has a military element with civil affairs and engineers as well as civilian advisors and civilian representatives of government foreign affairs agencies from the United States and other countries, and PRT Uruzgan was a joint venture of the United States, Australia and the Netherlands.

Covington explained that any time a member of the PRT left their forward operating base for a meeting with a senior Afghan leader or to conduct coordination for a reconstruction project or humanitarian aide mission, Soldiers from the security force platoon made sure they made it to their destination and back to base safely.

Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia, Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis A. Green, the Virginia Guard’s senior enlisted leader, Col. Jeffrey N. Hice, deputy commander of the 116th Brigade Combat Team, and Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas H. Yancey, command sergeant major of the 116th Brigade Combat Team, visited with Soldiers March 24 during a break from demobilization activities at Camp Atterbury, Ind.

The Soldiers were organized into squads of approximately 10 Soldiers each at four different locations across the Uruzgan Province in the Regional Command South area of operations, and travel between the locations could take up to seven hours. The distance between locations meant junior noncommissioned officers had to step up to make sure missions were conducted effectively, Covington said.

Maj. Mike Martin, Mobilization Assistance Team chief, welcomes home Capt. James Covington, commander of the PRT Security Force Platoon, March 23 at the Indianapolis Airport. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia Department of Military Affairs)

“The biggest testament I can give my guys is how much they grew as leaders,” Covington said. “They operated independently without anyone holding their hand, and even in really dangerous locations, they made sure their missions were successful.”

Sgt. 1st Class John Rothmann, the platoon’s senior noncommissioned officer, said he was impressed by the performance of the Soldiers, even in the most dangerous situations. “They could have a mission in an area that had seen significant enemy activity the day before, and they would never complain. They had the moral courage to do the right thing every day and make sure the job was done.”

Since the platoon was created specifically for the security mission, the Soldiers will return to their original units after they complete the post-mobilization reintegration process, and Covington said he is sad to see the unit disband. He added that he thought the Soldiers of the platoon would be returning to their units as much better leaders as a result of the experience they had in Afghanistan.

“I feel like they are far more skilled and more prepared to serve as leaders,” Rothmann said. “They found they could do things they didn’t think was possible.”

With the return of the security force platoon, the only Virginia Army National Guard unit mobilized on federal active duty is the 29th Infantry Division’s Security Partnering Team with about 30 Virginia Soldiers serving in Afghanistan. For more information, visit their Facebook page, read about their mobilization ceremony or visit Newsletter Central to download issues of the Qawm newsletter.

To view this video on Facebook, visit: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10100509130720006

Photos from the return of Soldiers to Richmond International Airport on Flickr:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/vaguardpao/sets/72157629688929241/

Photos from the senior leader visit to Camp Atterbury on Flickr:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/vaguardpao/sets/72157629296078592/

Photos from the Soldiers’ return March 23 on Flickr:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/vaguardpao/sets/72157629649089149/