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Captain makes difference with PRT

  • Published
  • By By 2nd Lt. Cammie Quinn
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs Office
With 16 years in the Air Force on both the enlisted and officer side of things, one captain knows that life isn't about settling for comfort, but pushing beyond what is thought possible, she can not only strengthen herself, but her team as well. Capt. Beverly Mock, 43rd Airlift Wing, Public Affairs Chief, is the last person to call herself a hero. However, as she recalls her stories from her recent deployment, one begs to differ. During her six-month deployment to Afghanistan in 2008, Captain Mock was the Information Officer for the Gardez Provincial Reconstruction Team in Paktya. Gardez is the first PRT in Afghanistan and was established in 2003. Although the group had been around for a while, conditions weren't exactly ideal. "It was a mud compound - just like the Afghans live in. We had a mud wall around the village, it was like living in an old western," the captain said. The PRTs mission is to conduct civil and military operations in order to extend the reach and legitimacy for the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan by strengthening security, enhancing governance and increasing development. As the IO, Captain Mock was responsible for communicating these efforts through radio announcements and news articles putting the Afghans in the forefront of the team's projects and providing them to the Paktya Director of Information and Culture for use in his publications and radio stations. The messaging was written to show the people the government's concern for their basic needs thus building trust and confidence in their government. Along with her official duties, the captain hosted a leadership group for Paktya women, led a campaign to counter Taliban recruitment and captured photos and stories to send back for use in public affairs products stateside. The PRT projects, which ranged from constructing new school facilities to dams, were funded entirely by the U.S. Government. With the PRT engineers made up of U.S. and Afghan members conducting quality checks the projects. Captain Mock's role was to promote the Government's participation. "The provincial leaders tell us what they need and we help them come up with proposals and to decide on the best Afghan contractor to complete the project," the captain said. The Paktya Leaders made the decision on what contractor received the bid, which adds to their legitimacy. "The U.S. part was not in the news release, I wrote the article my counterpart sent out the releases to the news outlets." Captain Mock said. "We empowered them. I was able to work with our team engineers and civil affairs members from the beginning to the end of projects, which in turn, helped me to write the story." Because illiteracy rates are so high, Afghans rely on radio communication to deliver news. Captain Mock compiled messages to be read by Paktya leaders or the DJs over mainly AM radio stations. "We would hand out these solar and hand-crank powered radios provided to us by ISAF." While on humanitarian missions, the Gardez PRT assessed needs of the community and were regularly approached with requests for different items and many times to build schools. Very often, because they didn't have a school, classes were conducted in fields beneath trees. PRT members spoke to sub-governors and tribal leaders to determine if they felt a school was necessary. Captain Mock and her team emphasized that while they could provide funding, it was incumbent on the local people to keep the buildings in good repair. "The Taliban would often break in and destroy the school. We opened one and went back to check up on it a month later and it was completely destroyed," Captain Mock said. She admits it was frustrating to occasionally see all the hard work demolished. "You get mad, when you go out and something you've helped build is torn down and kids aren't able to go to school," she said. "It's difficult to continue to help people who are not able to protect what they are given and help themselves." The best feeling is knowing that the efforts helped, according to captain. "It's refreshing to build schools, clinics and fund training for people who appreciate it," she said. At a particular school opening, the Gardez PRT was greeted by hundreds of cheering students lined along the walkway leading up to the school. "Most of the students had torn clothing, some didn't even have shoes, but their excitement makes it worth the efforts." Captain Mock firmly believes for the most part, the Afghans wanted to do the right thing. "When you have nothing, and someone is offering you a free meal just to dig a hole ... it's easier for them to just not ask questions," she said. "They are good people who want to do the right thing but are conflicted - they have to feed their families." To combat this, she established a campaign with the director of information to promote an alternative option by announcing the benefits of working for the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police. The Taliban promise attractive deals but make empty promises. By sending out Public Service Announcements young boys have a career option with viable and reliable benefits. Early in her deployment a Taliban-ridden area, the convoy was hit by an IED and the team suffered the loss of two teammates and one teammate was severely injured. "The attack was June 3, 2008, just two months into our deployment," she said. "We had to remind ourselves and each other that we were making an impact and our teammates would want us to continue our mission."