Senior NCO creates, strengthens partnerships between two countries

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Andrew Lee
  • 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force-Iraq Public Affairs
Helping others navigate through unfamiliar territory and toward a successful future is a difficult task. With great leadership skills, patience, respect and professionalism, a senior NCO deployed from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., broke through language and cultural barriers to create and strengthen partnerships between U.S. military members and the people of Iraq.

With 21 years of service and six deployments to his name, Senior Master Sgt. Dean Miller used his public affairs experience to assist Iraqi Air Force officials in developing their own professional communicators.

Deployed to Camp Victory, Iraq, Sergeant Miller served as the team chief for the Air Component Coordination Element-Iraq Public Affairs team. Initially, the changing mission in Iraq had him a little concerned regarding whether or not there would be enough PA work to do.

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

Already assigned as the ACCE-I PA team lead, Sergeant Miller received another opportunity during his deployment. He would also serve as the Iraq Training and Advisory Mission-Air Force PA adviser and be the ground breaker to formalize the Iraqi air force PA advisory program. 

Sergeant 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," Sergeant 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 most important challenge was deciding where to start," Sergeant 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. From there, we moved forward rapidly."

Throughout his deployment, he worked directly with the Iraqi Air Force Headquarters PA team, quickly overcoming language and cultural barriers. After learning the Iraqi Air Force PA chief's goals, he developed a plan to achieve them. Rapport with the Iraqi team improved throughout his deployment, along with the professional accomplishments of the Iraqis. The Iraqi PA airmen supported the U.S. Forces-Iraq change of command and transition to Operation New Dawn, 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," Sergeant Miller said. "Uniting both the U.S. and Iraqi air force PA teams established a trusting partnership and enduring friendship."

One success 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.

By this point, 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 efficiently.

As the relationship developed, the Iraqi PA team members went to great efforts to share their culture, introducing local foods and teaching Arabic.

Sergeant Miller reciprocated by bringing the Iraqis to USO events and meals with the ACCE-I PA team to introduce a different side of U.S. culture.

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

Sergeant Miller's role with the ACCE-I PA team and the Iraqi air force PA team helped contribute to accomplishments of both teams' goals and greatly increase development of PA products, a success attributed to the increasingly combined field efforts of both PA teams.

"We need the relationship with the U.S.," said the Iraqi air force PA chief. "This is very important for my country and we look forward to this great partnership."

That partnership was Sergeant Miller's focus while deployed.

"The more the U.S. Air Force PA team and the Iraqi air force PA team were able to learn from each other professionally, the more efficiently they would complete their respective PA missions," Sergeant Miller said. "Watching my two teams develop a partnership and achieve success after success made this the most rewarding mission I've ever been a part of."