Lieutenant Commander, United States Navy - Human Resources Officer
The United States Navy is now sending both active-duty troops and reservists to Afghanistan and Iraq to help relieve Army troops that have been deployed two to three times. I am part of an Embedded Training Team (ETT) with the Afghanistan National Army (ANA). These Navy teams are made up of specialists in engineering, logistics, medicine, information technology, and human resources who are sent to the bases in Afghanistan to advise the ANA on how to run the bases as efficiently as possible. My team is located at Camp Shir Zai—the ANA headquarters for the Southern 205th Corps located just outside of Kandahar.
As a human resources expert, I mentor the base administration officer, public affairs officer, and cultural and religious affairs officer. In this advisory role, I give them tips on leadership, improved processes and procedures for efficiency, and training. While all of the positions are fascinating in their own way, the different officers and programs are at various stages of development. Some may need guidance in how to do the more administrative functions, some may need computer assistance, and some are brand new and just starting their mission.
Until now, the United States (via myself and other pay teams) has been paying the soldiers of the ANA since its inception in 2002. In March 2006, the Afghanistan government started paying the ANA soldiers at 205th Corps. Following the transition after the fall of the Taliban, the Afghanistan government was formed, the army was established, the civil infrastructure was developed, and the tax base was built. After four short years, the country has established a system of government strong enough to solidly support its own army of approximately 35,000 soldiers. This is a huge transition and a positive step toward the independence of the country. In the next couple months, part of my mission is to guide the 205th Corps and base staff to manage all the functions critical for pay: attendance, leave, promotions, job positions, new arrivals and transfers, and pay complaints. The goal is complete independence of these tasks before my departure.
Another critical aspect in the development and self-sustainability in Afghanistan is the education of its people. The literacy rate of Afghanistan is anywhere from 10 to 30 percent (depending on the source). This war-torn country has skipped an entire generation in the education system. Many soldiers think they are now too old to learn these basic skills. I am working with the cultural and religious affairs officer to advertise and recruit soldiers to participate in a program to (1) train the Afghan soldiers how to be good Muslims; (2) teach about the importance of family; and (3) train soldiers in basic skills, i.e. reading, writing, and math. The anti-government forces target all efforts that aid in the stability of Afghanistan such as police, ANA, and even schools for children. The best chance for a positive future of Afghanistan is in educating the people—old and young. I am incredibly proud of this part of my mission and pray for its success.
Working everyday with the soldiers of the Afghanistan National Army is an incredibly valuable and rewarding mission. In fact, I am the first female mentor working in my camp. At first I was tentative about this, but I kept an open mind and decided to take the time to build the personal relationships that are so important in their culture. When I walked into my first meeting with the cultural and religious affairs officer, he learned his first English phrase: "You are welcome." And when I take a picture with them, they can show their friends their American sister. This heartwarming acceptance is pleasantly surprising. I am deeply honored and flattered by their respect and openness to my ideas, suggestions, and support.
By and large, the majority of people here in Afghanistan are grateful for the United States and international forces efforts to help them rebuild their country. Seeing how much-needed help is being delivered here gives me renewed vigor that the United States must be successful in our mission here. The better I do my job, the sooner Afghanistan will be independent and American and international forces will not be needed to help anymore.
My experiences at Pepperdine as part of Cadre 9 in the educational technology doctorate program have broadened my awareness of international and cultural issues. The cadre often investigated global perspectives within the context of our course subjects. This group interest derived from the multicultural composition of our cadre and the international curiosity of the students. From this experience, I have an increased understanding of the many things cultures can learn from each other and how to work with people from different backgrounds. This foundation has been critical to my success here.
My husband, Michael H. Bush, is also a doctoral student in the GSEP educational technology program. At Pepperdine, I plan on completing comprehensive exams upon my return.