Why We Serve: Air Force Captain Relates Afghanistan Experience

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 4, 2007 - An Air Force logistics officer essentially traded in his blue uniform for Army green during his stint as a convoy commander in Afghanistan.

Air Force Capt. Michael J. Frasco, 35, who hails from Albuquerque, N.M., volunteered to be a supply convoy commander during a tour in Afghanistan in 2006, a job traditionally performed by an Army officer. He also served as a trainer for the Afghan National Army.

Frasco is among a group of eight servicemembers who served in Iraq, Afghanistan or the Horn of Africa who have been selected to tell the military's story to the American people at community, business, veterans' and other gatherings as part of the Defense Department's "Why We Serve" public outreach program.

The "Why We Serve" program, initially the idea of Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, began last fall, noted Air Force Maj. Ann N. Biggers, the program's director. Eight military members, two from each service, are selected to participate in the program, which is conducted in quarterly segments, she explained.

"We know that the American public is hungry to hear about what these young men and women have been during," Biggers said. "It's important for our speakers, as well, because they are out there serving their country and they want to be able to tell their stories."

Looking for challenges and an opportunity to serve his country, Frasco enlisted in the Air Force in 1992. A decade later, he had earned a degree at the University of Oklahoma and an officer's commission through the school's ROTC program.

After receiving two months of Army ground-combat skills and convoy training at Camp Shelby, Miss., Frasco headed to Afghanistan in early 2006, he said.

"I stepped off of that airplane ready to go and confident enough that there was nothing that I couldn't go out and do," recalled Frasco, who's now assigned at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

Frasco commanded more than 90 supply convoys that traversed thousands of miles of dangerous, rugged terrain across Afghanistan. His vehicles successfully delivered more than 100 passengers and more than 70,000 tons of cargo.

"We got from Point A to Point B successfully and accomplished whatever mission that we had to accomplish and got home safely," Frasco said, noting he'd commanded soldiers and Marines, as well as airmen.

Challenges facing military convoys in Afghanistan include washed-out roads and the possibility of roadside bombs and ambushes, Frasco said.

Frasco's leadership philosophy boils down to "while taking care of the people, we take care of the mission." He saluted the "amazing" ability and stamina possessed by the servicemembers he commanded, as well as the high caliber of his superiors.

Asked if he'd volunteer for convoy duty again, Frasco responded: "Absolutely. I'd do it tomorrow."

Frasco's Army ground combat training was also put to use when civil unrest erupted in Kabul, Afghanistan's capital city. The Air Force captain led a platoon that rescued a group of airmen who had been stranded outside Camp Eggers during the violence.

The Air Force officer also mentored Afghan National Army noncommissioned officers and officers as an embedded trainer. That mission, he said, was "to get them to a point where they are proficient and can defend their own country."

Helping Afghans to remain free from the Taliban "in turn, protects America," Frasco pointed out.

Frasco remembers working 30 consecutive 16-hour days during his first month in Afghanistan. However, he said, it's worth the effort to help the Afghans get back onto their feet after enduring years of brutal rule under the Taliban.

"Despite all the long hours, despite all the hardships that we'd gone through and despite all the difficult things that we'd faced during our deployment, servicemembers are ready to go back" to assist the Afghans to make them stronger, Frasco said.

[Web Version:]