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Advising the Afghan Air Force how to tell their story

  • Published
  • By Capt. Rob Leese
  • 438th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs officer
I knew this job would be unique after attending the Afghan Air Force graduation during my first day in Kabul. The members were so proud of their accomplishments. They announce to the crowd while holding up their graduation certificates for all to see that they are serving Afghanistan. Soon after that graduation, I met my Afghan Public Affairs counterpart, Lt. Col. Bahadur, the Director of AAF Public Affairs and I realized that he too served Afghanistan.

Colonel Bahadur is an old school jet fighter and transport aircraft pilot turned Public Affairs officer, yet he understands the need to tell the AAF story to not only Afghan media but international media too. From our first meeting, we formed a partnership and began the training to get the AAF PA office ready to do their job and inform the Afghan people about the AAF and its role.

The year went by quickly and the AAF PA office began functioning on their own, setting up interviews with senior leaders, media tours on the flight lines and interviews with AAF members. They quickly learned the in's and out's of escorting media and publishing their stories in the Ministry of Defense and Afghan newspapers. Sure, they weren't an American military Public Affairs office, but that did not mean they were not effective in their duties, just that they did things slightly different then us.

Together the AAF and NATO Air Training Command - Afghanistan Public Affairs offices have trained, worked and covered over 500 stories, produced almost 75 video products, escorted over 150 media outlets throughout AAF bases in Kandahar, Shindand and Kabul. They went from the crawling stage directly to running and yes, there have been stumbles, but they always got back up and right back to doing their job.

I am honored to have helped another country start up their Public Affairs program. When I look back on my military career, I know that this mission, this job was where I did my best work. It is where I made a difference in the counter insurgent fight and where I taught others to make a difference for their country.

Colonel Bahadur calls me his best friend and he is my "bihtareen dostiman" - Dari for best friend. We have learned much about each other during the year, about what makes us different and what makes us the same. We are more alike than we are different since we are both Air Force officers doing our job and telling our stories to the world.