Afghanistan: MacDill Airman Wraps Up His Deployment

Former MacDill Airman, 1st Lt. Mark Graff, is concluding nine months as a public affairs officer with a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Farah Province, Afghanistan.

Recent news out of Afghanistan has focused mainly on protests and killings linked to the incident when U.S. forces burned some Korans allegedly used to pass messages among prisoners. But there is different news coming from outlying provinces far removed from Kabul.

I talked with Air Force 1st Lt. Mark Graff earlier this week. We got to know each other when he was stationed at Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base Public Affairs Office with the 6th Air Mobility Wing before deploying to Afghanistan nine months ago. We have talked with Graff a few times while he was serving as a member of a Provincial Reconstruction Team or PRT in the western province of Farah. He’s about to come home.

BOBBIE O’BRIEN: This was the first deployment of your military career, can you sum up what the experience has been like as a PRT member serving with civilians and members of the Army and Navy?

1st LT. MARK GRAFF: Our goal was to work with the Afghan government, the provincial government, on improving the economy, development and security for Farah Province.

O’BRIEN: Things have certainly changed dramatically in the past couple of weeks. Could you talk to me about how things that happened in Kabul, the burning of the Koran, have affected your job where you are?

GRAFF: One of the things that I always explain to people is that Afghanistan is a very vast country and despite what we all tend to read and see in the news, in eastern Afghanistan that’s not necessarily the case across the entire country.

We’re out here way out west. We call it the Wild West of Afghanistan. And things do play out a bit differently here. That’s not to say that we weren’t very aware of what was going on in Kabul with the protest, the ISAF response, the international response to what went on there. But, just like in any other military situation, we tailored our response and our actions to our specific area.

Luckily, things were quite calm here. We didn’t experience to date any negative backlash and we hope that it continues that way and we hope that that’s a product of us interacting with the Afghans in a positive, respectful way.

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