Vandenberg Airman brings wealth of experience to PRT nerve center
By Senior Airman Patrice Clarke, Zabul PRT Public Affairs
/ Published January 10, 2013
ZABUL PROVINCE, Afghanistan (AFNS) -- What do you get when you put an Air Force vehicle operator a Team V water fuels system maintainer, bioenvironmental engineer technician, and airfield systems technician together? According to the leadership at the Zabul Provincial Reconstruction Team, you get one of the most efficiently run tactical operations centers in Afghanistan.
The joint team, including Senior Airman Jasjit Singh, a water fuels system maintainer deployed from the 30th Civil Engineer Squadron, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif, is overseen by Army Capt. Douglas Wercinski, the Zabul PRT operations officer, and Master Sgt. Leo Morales, the Zabul PRT noncommissioned officer in charge of battle operations, plays an important role in the overall mission of the PRT. The TOC is the central node of the PRT with the responsibility to monitor all ongoing missions and patrols and provide communications to the PRT's higher leadership. The TOC at Forward Operating Base Smart also doubles as the base defense center for force protection.
"Since the PRT mission is a non-standard one, the mission control specialists, shift supervisors, and noncommissioned officer in charge are an unconventional team," said Wercinski, who is deployed from the 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas. "We took Air Force members from different careers, and through a lot of repetition of battle drills, checklist modifications, and discussions on what we can do better the next time, we created an extremely professional and well-run TOC."
The team attended more than three months of training before deploying to Afghanistan with the PRT. The training focused on Army communications equipment as well as command and control training. Despite the large amount of training, doing the job while deployed was a shock to the four-man team.
"Nothing can really compare to actually doing the job in theater," said Singh. "The amount of multitasking you have to do is phenomenal. I really wasn't prepared for that aspect of the job."
The TOC, like any other command post, has a hand in every operation and has oversight of every person and vehicle that comes on and off of FOB Smart. Morales, deployed from the721st Communications Squadron, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Colo., compares the environment to that of an emergency room.
"The TOC is like an emergency room, always full of people wanting or needing help with something," said Morales. "Then all the sudden you get that call, to which you and your team jump into action and do everything in your power to save a life or enable a successful mission."
This type of environment can be stressful on the young team, who all but one are on their first deployment.
For Senior Airman Chase Rambo, a bioenvironmental engineering technician deployed from the 78th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, Robins Air Force Base, Ga., constant battle drills and leadership support helps alleviate some of that stress.
"We are always running a checklist, battle drill or talking out a scenario so that if something does happen our reactions are second nature," said Rambo. "Our leadership keeps us on our toes. We need to be prepared. This is an environment where absolutely anything can happen."
The team, with little to no down time, also uses humor and a light atmosphere to get through the long days and nights.
"A sense of humor is definitely needed in this environment," said Senior Airman Corey Wiemers, an airfield systems technician deployed from the 82nd Communications Squadron, Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. "Keeping it light gives your mind a break from the stress that this job entails. Our group laughs a lot."
Wercinski couldn't be more proud of the TOC team.
"These are the hardest working Air Force members in the entire PRT," said Wercinski. "They work 12 hours a day and their performance continues to impress me."
As the deployment continues for the team, PRT members can be assured that seven days week, 24 hours a day the six-man TOC continues to keep an eye out on every part of the PRT.