Back in Lithuania

Lt. Col. Vytautas Reklaitis
Commander of Žemaičių Territorial Unit and PRT-8

How does it feel back in Lithuania?
- It feels great. It is nice to see green nature and feel civilisation again. I really missed my family and friends.
How do you estimate your comrade peacekeepers, are you satisfied with the work PRT-8 has accomplished?
- Yes, I am perfectly happy about our service. I believe our team worked well and I am also very glad about input of individual soldiers into the mission. I am really grateful for their service.
Was the half of year spent in Afghanistan enough to understand mindset, customs and temper of Afghan people?
- Yes, but only partly. Half of year is too short a period to understand the way of life of people that are so different. Preceding PRTs did a good job and won respect of local Afghans. All we had to do was to carry on with their work.
Which achievements do you consider the most important?
- The most important goal of the team is to strengthen the influence of the Central Afghan Government in the province and to cooperate with local institutions. It is inspiring to have cooperation with Afghan police revived because local police is the main force ensuring security in the province. We held joint instructions and patrols with them. We also worked on cooperation with NGOs operating in the province and contributing to provincial reconstruction and development. I would like to highlight our cooperation with religious leaders and teachers of Ghowr. It is crucial to launch relations with them as these persons hold the greatest influence in forming the society's opinion. Our rotation was also joined by the USAID representatives and delegates from Japan: although their arrival is not a direct merit of the PRT, in the future they will be a big support to provincial reconstruction.
Are there any projects that your rotation was short of time to fulfil?
- We reached all the goals we had set for ourselves. Actually, my plans to conduct a joint patrol with Afghan policemen in the southern part of the province were ruined by the spring rain period. This spring happened to be particularly wet - locals said they had not seen anything like it for many years. Heavy rain is a good thing for Afghans because more water means better crop.
Could you advise or wish anything useful for the tenth rotation (PRT-10), another PRT made of National Defence Volunteer Force soldiers, currently undergoing training?
- Firs of all, I want to wish them luck. And also there is a lot of advice I would like to give: I am ready to communicate with Commander PRT-10 and share experience that might be useful for the "winter-season" rotation. There are details that every PRT Commander should know.

Capt. Rimvydas Švedas
Commander of Darius and Girėnas Territorial Unit 206 Company, and HQ Company in the mission

Were you enriched as a soldier and an individual by the peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan, perhaps you noticed new features or characteristics in yourself?
- Mission in Afghanistan is my second international deployment, it gave me a good opportunity to improve my serviceman's skills. For the first time, with PRT-4, I was in charge of a platoon, now my responsibility grew to commander of a company, unit of over 80 members. Bigger responsibility comes along with more difficult command: variety of characters required more psychological knowledge, I had to keep an eye on psychological climate in the company and behaviour of soldiers, and to prevent any incidents. I knew from my experience that sooner or later they will begin suffering from homesickness, and their readiness will be blunted by routine and monotony. I would have to analyse the problem and to look for a solution: I used to alternate tasks, their intensity, increased or decreased workload, and never tried to escape friendly conversations. I think I managed to do by job. My Company was professional, communicative, and excellently fulfilled all its tasks. We could never have made it without platoon commanders 1st Lt. Vaidas Bimbiris and 1st Lt. Vidas Kaktavičius, enthusiasm, and valuable experience of company sergeant WO Voldemaras Buivydas. I was making sincere efforts to understand expectations and needs of all the soldiers and in their turn they tried to understand my demands.
Which of the two missions you took part in was more difficult?
- Before the first deployment I took interest in the history, culture, people, and customs of Afghanistan, and my colleagues shared their experience about particularities of service and tasks in the peacekeeping operation. And in this mission I did not encounter any problems because I already knew where I was going. Only homesickness was harder this time because I knew that I left my baby daughter at home.
What are your strongest impressions and the hardest experience?
- The most responsible task was escorting and protecting the Minister of National Defence and Chief of Defence of Lithuania.
What did you miss most?
- My family.
Do you feel ready to deploy to Afghanistan for a third time?
- I am a part-time MA student of the Lithuanian Military Academy so I would rather complete my studies. My baby daughter, two and a half now, would also keep me at home - I have already missed a year with her. When I obtain MA degree and my daughter gets bigger, I will be ready to complete my duty wherever necessary.

Cpl. Mindaugas Petraitis
Volunteer of Žemaičių Territorial Unit 301, served as rifleman-rescuer in the mission

What did induce you to take part in the mission?
- I earned a lot of experience and widened my horizons in the mission. We must not turn away of what is going on in the world. In our days dangers of faraway countries can reach our home in a very short period of time. My motivation of taking part in the mission was the possibility to contribute to the fight against terrorism and circulation of narcotics. Our duty is to show Afghan people a different way of life: that it is possible to earn a normal living by honest work and live in peace. Our mission in Afghanistan is not a job of one day, many years will have to go by before peace and normal life will come into the province. But our consistent joint efforts can change this country.
Was it harder than I you expected?
- It was my first mission. Everything seemed very difficult during the pre-mission training, we were preparing for special tasks, but it was not necessary in the mission, everything appeared much simpler. We also were pleasantly surprised by the quality of accomodation in the camp.
What sights did strike you most?
- Poverty of people. Bare-footed children on the snow. My emotions subsided only after quite a while. Later I realised that local residents are accustomed to such conditions and even find it normal.
Did you miss home?
- I really missed my family and Lithuania, feelings of being at home and usual life, the green of nature, while I was in Afghanistan. The place we provided security in was a depressing brownish „moonscape". .
Would you go to Afghanistan again?
- Yes I would, because there is still a lot of work to be done. I see meaning in our mission and if I managed to contribute my service to it, it means I completed my duty.

Lt. Karolis ZIKARAS
PIO of PRT-8