By Staff Sgt. Julius Delos Reyes
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
Caring made all the difference.
A year ago, an Afghan colonel’s perspective on women was bordering chauvinistic, maybe rooted from his country’s culture and history. He didn’t want to work with a woman because they “don’t understand.”
Then he met an American lieutenant.
First Lt. Marcianna Pease deployed to Afghanistan August 2012 for a year-long tour as the biometric advisor for the Afghan Ministry of Interior. The biometrics program had been established in 2008 to collect the fingerprints, iris scans and facial images of Afghan national security forces, prisoners in jail, arrest suspects, Afghan Peace and Reconciliation Program participants, Pakistani truck drivers under the Afghan-Pakistan Transit Trucker Agreement, civil service job applicants and any border crossers. The purpose of the program is to provide evidence in support of criminal investigations and prosecutions, and to keep criminals and insurgents from infiltrating the Afghan army and police force.
“We would give our advice to our Afghan counterparts and help expand the program,” Pease said. “It’s really important for the coalition. If any of the bad guys try to join the military, the biometrics program would know.”
Initially, Pease’s knowledge of the program was limited. She is a 50th Operations Support Squadron Wideband Global SATCOM satellite instructor by trade. The Killeen, Texas, native teaches new Airmen unit specific operations following their generalized training at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
As an instructor, Pease ensures the students can perform tasks on their own. She makes sure the students receive real-world experience on the operations floor and they are current on their training.
“I expect instructors in my flight to not only train students on how to properly do their job, but to also be an example of excellence through championing professionalism, physical fitness and the core values,” said Capt. John Paek, 50 OSS Current Operations Flight commander. “Lieutenant Pease not only met these expectations, but exceeded them. She had an amazing work ethic that was fueled by her initiative and willingness to take risks and find creative ways to improve the training program. She continues to be admired by the Airmen in her training section for her inspiring professionalism and resiliency.”
Paek said being an instructor is a tough job in the Air Force. They need to not only possess a deep understanding of mission requirements, but must also impart this knowledge into others with great efficacy. This requires extraordinary communication and critical thinking skills to effectively engage their students.
“I believe her time as an instructor helped her to communicate effectively with the members of the joint and coalition community,” Paek said. “She was handpicked due to her strong communication skills to accomplish several high-visibility briefings to key leadership members during her deployment.”
Learning about the biometrics program seemed like a trial by fire for Pease. She only received an overview about the coalition’s biometrics program, not even the Afghan system.
“As an advisor, you use leadership, mentorship and management skills more than actually knowing about the biometrics process,” said Pease.
Pease’s team, which consisted of four service members and a civilian from Army, Air Force and Navy as well as three interpreters, worked with their Afghan counterparts almost on a daily basis. To help the local nationals, the team developed a contract with the American University of Afghanistan to offer information technology classes for the students so they could gather additional skills.
“Everything we try to do always came back to building a sustainable program,” Pease said.
When Pease and her team got to the biometrics center, the Afghans used them as a crutch.
“We would go with them to their leadership and help advocate the biometrics program for them,” she said. “Slowly, we would start trimming our roles to where they did most of the decision making.”
The team visited the ministry nearly every day, encouraging and supporting the Afghans involvement in the program.
“From our perspective, we have a good working relationship with them,” Pease said. “They go out of their way to meet certain tasks we gave them.”
Additionally, her skills as an instructor were directly used to establish an English language training program for the Afghan National Police, for which she personally managed more than 315 hours of English language instruction to 30 coalition members.
This was despite the dangers Pease’s team faced as they traveled every day from their base to the ministry and throughout the Kabul City area.
“You have your everyday threats of local people throwing rocks at you, extorting money from you,” she said. “There were always the possibilities of improvised explosive devices and more. Accidents were probably the biggest threat.”
During her deployment, Pease commanded 60 joint members in 175 different convoys. As a convoy commander, she was responsible for the whole group. She had to wake up early, read all the threats, and learn the primary and alternate routes. She also ensured the team had communication devices.
“You just have to get your team to your destination and back to the base safely,” Pease said.
With the deployment, Pease learned and gained a new perspective.
“It made me a better person as I learned to be patient,” Pease said. “Some people have to be allowed to do stuff in their time.
She said something that takes three weeks in America to do may take three months in Afghanistan. For Americans, if people are not getting things done in at certain time, it seems something is wrong. For Afghans, it’s different.
“It made me think that if somebody is not up to your standard, they are not giving their all,” she said. “You just definitely have to be aware of adjusting your leadership style.”
Pease’s deployment also changed the Afghan colonel’s perspective. When she left, the colonel cried because of what Pease did for his program.
“He was sad to see me leave and he wanted me to stay,” she said. “That came from somebody who just a year earlier said he didn’t want any females in the biometrics program because they just don’t get it. I thought I was able to change his perspective on women. He was able to admit that.”