By Army Sgt. Brad Staggs
Special to American Forces Press Service
Oct. 8, 2009 - Civilians from a U.S. State Department provincial reconstruction team readied for an assignment in Afghanistan with help from a Marine unit at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center here. The provincial reconstruction team course teaches civilian employees from the U.S. State Department, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Agency for International Development how to live and work in Afghanistan. They spend four weeks preparing for their Afghanistan assignments with the final week of training at Muscatatuck.
In Afghanistan, the civilians will interact with all branches of the military to accomplish their mission. During the October class, they worked with soldiers and Marines.
Integrating everyone at the training center will prove useful down the road when working in Afghanistan, said Jim McKellar, project manager for the PRT training.
"I think it's easy to integrate the military units here because they're focused on the same mission, that being successful in Afghanistan," McKellar said. "Therefore, it's very easy to integrate the civilians into the military staffs since they're focused on the same mission that the president laid out for us."
Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit provided realistic scenarios for the training, guarding the mock embassy that the civilians had to enter and roadways they had to traverse. Team members also sat in on Marine briefings and saw first-hand how what they do affects the Marines in country.
Elizabeth Rood, director of the Stability Operations Division for the State Department's Foreign Service Institute, said she saw value in the interagency training, even when coordination issues arose.
"There were some cases that the Marines were in a facility that we were intending to use," Rood said. "The PRT or another civilian group might be going out to meet people and discover that there is a maneuver unit already doing something there that wasn't a planned encounter. So it's not a bad thing that these movements are going on simultaneously."
Purdue and Indiana universities also take part in the training, providing important information on Afghan farming techniques and information on what to expect once the civilians arrive in country.
(Army Sgt. Brad Staggs serves with Muscatatuck Urban Training Center public affairs.)