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MA National Guard Unit Serves Vital Role on Afghanistan Provincial Reconstruction Team 
 
Army Sgt. Brian Ohler, of Provincial Reconstruction Team Farah, provides security 
Army Sgt. Brian Ohler, of Provincial Reconstruction Team Farah, provides security while other PRT members visit Farah Hospital in Farah City, Farah province, Afghanistan, July 23, 2011. The Farah director of public health and members of the PRT visited the hospital to assess the structure and working conditions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexandra Hoachlander)
Story By Air Force 1st Lt. Mark Graff 

FARAH, Afghanistan (8/9/11) -- Massachusetts Army National Guard members from Charlie Company of the 1-182nd Infantry Division, have been charged with the unique mission of providing security for Provincial Reconstruction Team Farah.

Divided into three squads, the Soldiers, known as SECFOR or security force, are responsible for providing escort and security to PRT members on outside-the-wire missions.

“Our goal on every mission is to get the job done and right. That means getting to our objective safely, establishing a security perimeter when necessary and interacting with the Afghans,” said Army 2nd Lt. Joel Beaulieu, PRT Farah SECFOR platoon leader.

The PRT is responsible for extending the counterinsurgency principles adopted by the U.S. military and the SECFOR is highly involved in this aspect. One of the tenets of counterinsurgency is positive and frequent interaction with Afghans, something that the soldiers have become adept at.

“We understood early on that to do our job effectively, we were going to have to interact with the locals; not turn a blind eye,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Jacob Marshall, PRT Farah SECFOR platoon sergeant. “It’s not complicated. We just want to talk with them, be respectful when we’re around and do what we can to help and that’s what we try to convey.”

Just as interacting with Afghans is important during missions, so too is ensuring that a security perimeter is implemented and maintained throughout the mission.

Missions range from quality assurance visits at engineering project sites to holding key leader engagements with government officials. Without a secure area in which to work, PRT members would be hard-pressed to effectively conduct their interactions and work with the Afghans.

“The SECFOR guys are essential. Without them, we would have a much more difficult time getting the job done,” said Navy Lt. George Roland, a PRT Farah engineer. “Having them watch my back gives me the confidence to focus on what I need to do.”

Outside-the-wire missions require the SECFOR members to conduct extensive preparation of weapons, vehicles and gear and planning and review of each mission. From start to finish, all of those elements can easily, and frequently, fill up the work-day.

8/11/2011