Tag Archives: Commander

Commander Brian O’Lavin/PRT Ghazni Challenge Coin (Ver. 2) Circa 2012

Introduced shortly after the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom, the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) was established with the goal of empowering local Afghan leaders and providing the necessary resources for Afghan self-governance. Consisting of a variety of military officers, enlisted soldiers, diplomats, and reconstruction experts; a US-led PRT typically will also include representatives from the Department of State, Agriculture and Justice, as well as USAID.

PRT Ghazni CDR w/ANP
PRT Ghazni CDR w/ANP

However, these representatives fall under the authority of the PRT Commander (typically in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel or Navy Commander). In the case of PRT Ghazni it is a dual US/Polish PRT under the command of the US Combined Joint Task Force 101.

The success of the PRTs lay in its ability to develop public diplomacy while working in close conjunction with local and tribal leaders. Those public perceptions maintain the United States is there to assist the Afghan people thru its local leaders, Afghan security forces, and social engagement programs (including the development of schools, clinics, and alternative farming).  Critical to public diplomacy is also the development of information operations, both in independent military operations and networking through the local population.

On March 7th 2012 the new PRT Ghazni Commander, Brian O’Lavin, assumed responsibility of the US and Polish mission from his predecessor Commander Tristan Rizzi.  In his opening remarks CDR O’Lavin stated,

“As we move ahead, we look forward to working with our Polish and Afghan partners. I am humbled by the responsibility placed on me to command the outstanding warriors of PRT Ghazni”. [1]

Under CDR O’Lavin’s tenure his unit has maintained the nickname “Spartans” for their resolute dedication and remote living conditions. Located in the eastern Afghan province of Ghazni, PRT Ghazni continued the longstanding mission of support to the Afghan leaders and people during its nine-month deployment.

After several months CDR O’Lavin wrote an open memo to the families of those deployed forward stating,

CDR O'Lavin at Ceremony
CDR O’Lavin at Ceremony

“Your “Spartans” of Provincial Reconstruction Team Ghazni have completed their first six weeks of counter-insurgency operations in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan.  Their operational success in this dynamic part of the world is due to the professionalism and superior performance of your Soldiers and Sailors.  You have every reason to be proud of their hard work. Operationally, we have already engaged our engineers with construction projects that span from road and bridge repair to school and clinic construction.  Our agriculture experts have advised wool markets, assessed irrigation, and mentored agricultural schools.  Our medical personnel have helped hundreds of Afghans near our base and assessed operations at the local hospital.  Our leadership, Civil Affairs soldiers, and State Department teammates have partnered with city, district, and provincial leaders to establish and revitalize processes and government relationships we all take for granted back home but will be critically important to the successful future of Afghanistan.  And, through it all, the professionalism of our Security Forces ensures we conduct our mission safely.” [2][3]

The challenge coin of the PRT Ghazni is unique in both design and symbolism. Designed as a 3” coin in highly polished brass, the coin is notched at opposite sides to represent a shield. This alludes to a number of items on the challenge coin that is consistent with the unit’s motto of being known as “Spartans”.


PRT Ghazni CDR Coin - Obvserve
PRT Ghazni CDR Coin – Obvserve

Against an all black background, the Obverse of the PRT Ghazni challenge coin features (all in polished brass) the PRT “Spartan” Corinthian full helmet with red plume. Behind the Spartan helmet are a battleaxe (for ISAF), trident (Navy), and musket (Army) representative of security elements at PRT Ghazni. On the bottom half are the departmental seals representative of each command corresponding to their representative weapon, Department of the Army (musket), Navy (trident) and ISAF (battleaxe). Along the top in black Stencil print is “PRT Ghazni” while along the bottom is the classic Spartan expression of defiance “μολὼν λαβέ” (pronounced “molon labe”) translated as “Come and Take [Them]” made famous by the 480 B.C. Spartan King Leonidas at the Battle of Thermopylae in defiance of invading Persian armies when their king demanded the Spartans surrender their arms.


PRT Ghazni CDR Coin - Reverse
PRT Ghazni CDR Coin – Reverse

Much like the Obverse, the Reverse of the PRT Ghazni challenge coin features (again in all polished brass) the National Seal of Afghanistan against an Afghan country outline in the national colors of black, red, and green. Above the symbol of Afghanistan is the US Navy Special Warfare insignia (also referred to as the US Navy Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL badge). To the left of the insignia is the ancient Greek work “αρετη” translated to “valor”. Offset to the right and below the symbol of Afghanistan is the silver oak leaf representing the rank of a US Navy Commander. All three of these symbols directly correlate to the PRT Ghazni Commander representing his qualifications, values, and rank. Against the black background written on the top is “Presented by the Commanding Officer” while “CDR Brian O’Lavin” along the bottom completes the identifying phrase. Lastly, written in black Stencil along the top is “Operation Enduring Freedom” written on the top, while “Afghanistan” is written along the bottom.

Previous Version

Work Cited

1. SSG Quintanilla, April. Provincial Reconstruction Team Ghazni gets new commander. Imagery, Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System, 35 Fighter Wing Public Affairs. http://www.dvidshub.net/news/85526/provincial-reconstruction-team-ghazni-gets-new-commander#.UUKacRzYmJw (accessed February 21, 2013).

2. PRT Ghazni: Afghanistan. Home Page. 2012. http://prtghazni2012.wix.com/spartans#! (accessed February 25, 2013).

3. PRT Ghazni. PRT Ghazni Homepage. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Provincial-Reconstruction-Team-Ghazni/81575264994 (accessed February 24, 2013).