AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar --
U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Ethan Sneider knows that he cannot do his job alone.
He was very emphatic about that. He could not do his job with the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Host Nation Coordination Cell without the cultural advisors who help bridge the gap between Al Udeid Air Base and its host nation of Qatar.
“Having them help in liaising with the host nation has been an amazing experience,” he said. “Their assistance in facilitation with the host nation has been an incredible opportunity to learn how to effectively engage with partner nations and allies.”
So what does he do? Well, that’s an involved answer.
Sneider said what his job boils down to is “to coordinate and work with the host nation in order to pursue joint interests.”
However, he works as the officer in charge of special projects for the HNCC. That means any work that happens on Al Udeid that involves both Qatar and the U.S. runs through him. Construction projects on existing infrastructure falls under his purview, as does any communications equipment being implemented. He gets approval for the equipment and the frequency it will be using. And for anyone needing diplomatic clearances, he’s the one to call.
“This has been a fantastic experience and has shown me that there's more to the Air Force where my passion can be fully realized,” Sneider said. “I work in a communications squadron at home, but I’m always ready to support operations at a moment’s notice. Then this opportunity came up with the HNCC.”
He found his passion and skillsets were more closely aligned with his deployed job as a foreign affairs officer. This being his first deployment, Sneider found that he can make a significant impact by using skills he acquired before joining the Air Force, built through his love of travel, exploring and adapting to different cultures, as well as building connections.
“Being able to take this passion I have for building connections with people and use it effectively in this role is the best experience in my Air Force career,” he stated. “One thing that I've always been lacking before this deployment is the specific insight into the mission that I'm impacting. For my home station, cyber is a support unit. Here, I am still in a support unit, but I also have an active role in the mission.”
A big part of what he does involves drafting letters that are delivered to Qatari officials, which shapes policy at different levels.
“You can see all the different units that are taking part in these coordination requests,” Sneider said. “Holding and transferring a piece of paper to another person is a physical manifestation of that ability to provide an impact. Seeing things that are being improved and the progress that’s been made – seeing that actually come together – you realize that a letter you drafted represents the impact that you're creating, and that's been a big change from home.”
While he also anticipated this deployment to likely be his last after completing a Doctor of Technology degree, it has not prevented him from leaving the partnership between nations just a little bit stronger.
“I actually started a knowledge management initiative for U.S. agencies called ‘Mission Friendship,’” he mentioned. “It helps to operationalize connections for specific U.S. units with their Qatari counterparts, with written guidance and advice for relationship building and continuity for rotations down the line.”