From the Frontlines: 1st Lt. Rachel Savage

  • Published
  • By By Airman 1st Class Montse Ramirez
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
In a place where civil society is run by men, her participation in government projects was a foreign concept to the locals.

Her unveiled face showed her light, freckled skin and pearly white teeth. Her camouflage uniform showcased a U.S Air Force nametag just like her male co-workers; something the local men had never seen a woman wear in their county, making them skeptical about her capabilities she said.

1st Lt. Rachel Savage, Laghman Provincial Reconstruction Team information operations officer, dealt with these challenges for nine months when she left this Air Force Global Strike Command base. She deployed to Forward Operating Base Mehtar Lam, Afghanistan, from February to November 2010, after spending three months at combat skills training.

Lieutenant Savage's mission on the team was to mentor provincial-level officials in order to build lasting capacity in the region, eventually leading to a more stable Afghan government structure.

"My job was to mentor the line director of information, culture and youth, the provincial governor's spokesman and work closely with local media," she said. "I also assisted in the task force's radio-show to broadcast messages and fostered other Afghan means of communication from their government to the local populace."

She said the job, however, wasn't easy due to the culture shock she and the Afghans experienced.

"I sometimes felt like an alien by the way they looked at me," Lieutenant Savage said. "The Afghans thought me wearing pants was inappropriate. Talking to them sometimes was difficult because they weren't as at ease with women as they were with my male counterparts."

Her mission at the FOB and her mission at Whiteman were completely different, she said. Her task here, as the deputy of public affairs, is to inform public audiences of base activities by working with the media and community members and to encourage the positive relationship they maintain with the base.

While deployed, Lieutenant Savage interacted with the locals and played with the children, which she said were some of her favorite memories.

During one of her last missions outside the wire, Lieutenant Savage took Frisbees for the children to play with.

"I taught them how to use them and we played for a while, but when I was getting ready to leave, one of the little girls followed me," Lieutenant Savage said. "Through the interpreter, the little girl wanted to know if I would ever come back to her village to play . . .For the first time it hit me that going home was bittersweet."