WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Chief of Naval Operations met with six Navy commanders in the Pentagon April 14 as they prepare to assume command of half the U.S.-led Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) in Afghanistan.
While naval officers have previously commanded Provincial Reconstruction Teams and Sailors have served with PRTs, this marks the first time Sailors have largely populated any PRT, taking full responsibility for the civil affairs mission of the team.
"This is a critically important mission in a very challenging environment," Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen told the commanders. "I appreciate your willingness to meet this challenge and your family's support. Missions like this may not have been on your contract when you signed up for the Navy, but they are definitely a part of what we as a Navy must provide for safety and security for the future."
Each PRT works directly with an Afghan Province, mentoring and assisting its relationships with towns and villages and with the national government.
Cmdr. James C. Hamblet joined this mission after serving as the first commanding officer of Mobile Security Squadron 6 in Portsmouth, Va. He emphasized that although this assignment is new to the Navy, it is similar to missions the Navy is already conducting in Operation Iraqi Freedom and around the world, and Sailors have the skills inherent to this undertaking.
Squadron 6 "deployed security teams throughout the Arabian Gulf for OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom), providing force protection for Iraqi oil terminals and Military Sealift Command ships," he said. "Many of the skills necessary to accomplish those missions apply directly to the PRT mission."
Both active and reserve force men and women are contributing to the teams. About one-fourth of the PRT Sailors are mobilized Reservists, many bringing unique knowledge gained in their civilian careers. Some of these Sailors have started small businesses, and others have worked in local or state governments.
The Sailors, deploying in the coming days, spent the past two months training at Fort Bragg, N.C. They trained alongside the Soldiers who will perform the security mission of the teams.
The six commanders come from vastly different backgrounds. Two are fighter pilots, one is a helicopter pilot, two are surface warfare officers, and one is a submariner. All six have either commanded or screened to command naval units.
Cmdr. Ryan B. Scholl, a former Blue Angels pilot, recently commanded Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 81 in Oceana, Va. The squadron received awards as the top attack and fighter/attack squadron in the Navy.
Sailors who have served as individual augmentees in the predominantly Army PRTs have received national attention for their accomplishments. After commanding an Afghan PRT, Cmdr. Kim Evans was invited to sit with Laura Bush during this year's State of the Union Address.
The other six U.S.-led PRTs will be commanded by Air Force officers and populated with Soldiers and Airmen. Nine other Afghan PRTs are led by the international community.
For more news from around the fleet, visit www.navy.mil.