War on Terrorism

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Face of Defense: Public Affairs NCO Teams with Iraqi Counterparts

By Air Force Senior Airman Andrew Lee
9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force Iraq

CAMP VICTORY, Iraq, March 3, 2011 – Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Dean Miller is using his 21 years of military experience to assist Iraqi air force officials in developing their own public affairs professionals.

Miller deployed here from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Initially, he served here as the team chief for the Air Component Coordination Element-Iraq public affairs team.

The senior Air Force noncommissioned officer said the changing mission in Iraq had him a little concerned regarding whether or not there would be enough public affairs work to do.

"I was worried that things had become so quiet in Iraq there would not be much of a PA mission," Miller said. "In fact, there was an amazing amount of PA work to be done."

Then, Miller received another opportunity during his deployment. He would also serve as the Iraq Training and Advisory Mission-Air Force PA mentor and be the ground breaker to formalize the Iraqi air force’s public affairs advisory program.

Miller went full-afterburner with both jobs.

"Once I found out I would be serving as an adviser, I knew it would be a great chance to assist another PA team, and strengthen the partnership between the U.S. and Iraq," Miller said. "But I also knew I needed to determine the priorities of the Iraqis for their PA program before I could help them.”

The key challenge at that time was deciding where to start, Miller said.
"This was quickly resolved once I met with the Iraqi air force chief of public affairs and we discussed what he wanted to gain for his team,” he said. “From there, we moved forward rapidly."

Miller worked directly with the Iraqi public affairs team, quickly overcoming language and cultural barriers. After discerning the Iraqi chief's goals, he developed a plan to achieve them. Rapport with the Iraqi team improved throughout his deployment, Miller said, along with the professional accomplishments of the Iraqis. The Iraqi airmen supported the U.S. Forces-Iraq change of command and transition to Operation New Dawn, he said, assisting with the escort and interviews of more than 150 members of the news media at the event ceremony.

"This was not merely an advise and train relationship, but a partnership between Iraqi and American military public affairs professionals," Miller said. "Uniting both the U.S. and Iraqi air force PA teams established a trusting partnership and enduring friendship."

A highlight from this partnership was the dual Iraqi and U.S. coverage that resulted from the successful Iraqi AC-208 Cessna aircraft Hellfire missile shot. The Iraqi PA team created a professional video news release that the Ministry of Defense PA team released to regional news media. The ACCE-I PA team produced its coverage around the high-quality Iraqi aerial video.

Miller said both teams routinely shared video and still photography in a mutually-supportive manner, and joint mission planning leveraged the skills and manpower of both teams.

As the relationship developed, he said, the Iraqi PA team members went to great lengths to share their culture with their American partners, introducing local foods and teaching Arabic.

Miller said he and his U.S. team reciprocated by bringing the Iraqis to United Service Organizations events and inviting the Iraqi airmen to share meals.

"I was surprised at how much they enjoyed one of the country western bands that performed," Miller said. "We always had a great time. Everything we did together really helped us grow as a team."

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