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Pope Airmen Report From the Front: Master Sgt. June Vogel

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Cammie Quinn
  • 43rd Airlift Wing, Public Affairs
Language barriers have long posed communication problems, but thanks to one Pope master sergeant, those barriers are quickly coming down.

Master Sgt. June Vogel, 43rd Force Support Squadron, deployed to Iraq for six months, where she administered English Diagnostic Tests to Iraqi military personnel September 2009 to March 2010.

Sergeant Vogel enlisted in the Air Force more than 22 years ago. She arrived at Pope on March 2008 and works in the force management flight where she updates evaluation forms, duty titles and Air Force Specialty Codes for Pope personnel.

She was tasked to deploy in to Forward Operating Base Phoenix in the Green Zone near Baghdad, Iraq.

Sergeant Vogel said she was both excited and nervous for the deployment.
"Aside from a deployment in 2003, I hadn't been to the desert at all," she said. "I've had deployments to places like Germany. I was doing my job in those areas too, but it's different to actually be in Iraq and become integrated with the Iraqi people."

During her deployment, Sergeant Vogel worked with the U.S. Security Assistance Training Program with the International Military and Education Training.

IMET allows foreign military personnel to send their personnel to the U.S. to attend courses at more than 150 US military schools across the country. Iraqi individuals travelled to the US to learn our procedures and bring the knowledge back to Iraq.

One Iraqi individual attended Air War College and one non commissioned officer was sent to the NCO academy.

"We also sent Iraqi weather members to weather school, and the Iraqi C-130 pilots to pilot training," she said.

"When they came back, they'd really want to help their people. They wanted to participate in the courses, and some were offered additional courses," the sergeant added.

All of the classes were taught in English, so before attending the training institutions, all international military students were tested to determine their level of English language proficiency.

"Each career field has a required skill level for English comprehension," said Sergeant Vogel. "If the individual scores less than the required amount, he attends a language defense institute for a predetermined amount of time. Some were there for a year; some were there for only a month or two."

After achieving the needed score and before departing for their training. Sergeant Vogel and her team provided the Iraqis with the proper forms and guidelines to make their trip successful.

"We helped with their background information, which was sent to the State Department to make sure the individual or their families are not associated with Al Qaida," said Sergeant Vogel. "Every once in awhile, a family name gets a hit and the State Department investigates the family members."

The State Department would then determine whether the individual was someone the department wanted to send to the states based upon the associated risk.
Sergeant Vogel's responsibilities also included helping the Iraqis with their visas, orders and departure briefings.

"The Iraqis have never been on a plane out of Iraq, much less to a place like New York or Chicago," said Sergeant Vogel. "We walked them through their itinerary step by step, we'd explain customs, tell them which flightline to enter and how to meet with their point of contact on the other end."

Sergeant Vogel smiled when she recalled an incident with one Iraqi individual who carried all the money needed for the trip in a suitcase.

"They don't have government travel cards," Sergeant Vogel said. "So if they needed $10,000 for their trip, rather than having a GTC, they'd literally carry bundles of money in briefcases. We'd tell them 'You can't do that; you wouldn't make it out of the airport in Chicago!'"

Sergeant Vogel said she gained perspective into a different culture and appreciates working hand-in-hand with the Iraqi students.
The Iraqi people take their relationships to heart, whether personal or professional, she said.

"I was able to see their culture, their different ways of life and learn about their families," the sergeant said. "That's one of the things the Iraqis said, they'd grow accustom to us and then we'd be gone and they'd have to adapt to someone else."

Sergeant Vogel and her team's hard work paid off, and they sent more than 60 Iraqis to the US during the time she was deployed.

"The majority of the people we sent were officers, and it was one of our goals to send, mature the careers of, and grow their enlisted," she said. "My proudest accomplishment was getting the enlisted person through the academy. They don't treat their enlisted the way we do--they don't have the responsibilities we do. It was a new experience for them."

Sergeant Vogel said if it weren't for the fact she'd miss her family, she'd opt to stay longer.

"It was a great deployment. I think everyone needs to have that experience," she said.

"When you go there and you get to know them, you find out they're just like us. They want the best for their country."