News>Feature - Boots on the ground: An Airman's perspective
SrA Monique Benedict documents the building of a new wall around a school near Bagram Air Base. The unit she was attached to, spent 6 months building this wall as security for the students. (Courtesy photo)
by Staff Sgt Erica Horner
65th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
9/14/2012 - LAJES FIELD, Azores -- "As soon as you leave the gate, the threat level rises. Not to mention, I have to depend on a unit that I've only known for a few hours or a couple days to have a plan of action if or when something happens."
This is a typical scenario for Senior Airman Monique Benedict, an AFN broadcaster from Lajes who is currently deployed to Bagram Air Base.
"My job as a broadcaster is to document the mission and tell everyone's story," said Benedict, who is attached to an AFN detachment but is also visiting other Forward Operating Bases. "I go out to different FOBs and tell the stories of our troops, and their contributions to the war efforts. Every single person has a story to tell. Every story needs to be told; no matter how big or how small it may seem, the part they play contributes to the overall mission."
Benedict's first story was about Afghanistan Air Force pilots in training who graduated from an English course. In this class, was the first female Afghan pilot in training; there were four other female pilots but they conducted their training in the United States.
"She was the first female to complete pilot training in country, so it was a pretty big deal," said Benedict. "When I asked if I could interview her for a feature story, she said she didn't mind- only that she didn't want her face to be shown on camera for the safety of her and her family. That was pretty eye-opening. This woman is pushing past gender obstacles that have stood in the way for decades, and risking her life to become someone who can help better her country."
While deployed, Benedict has produced many stories, to include a medical evacuation video which has received hundreds of views and over a dozen downloads from the Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System website, which is a marketing service between media and the military.
"When I see that, it's like a pat on the back," said Benedict. "When someone downloads a story, I'm proud to know that I told the story, that had it not been for my efforts that story wouldn't be there for people to see."
Benedict travels between many FOBs and therefore, spends a lot of time outside the wire.
"Every time I go outside the wire I get briefed on 'what to expect,'" said Benedict. "So at that moment, it kind of hits you that your safe guard isn't up anymore, you're out in the open, and anything could happen. When I'm riding in a convoy, my muscles are flexed the entire ride; I'm clutching my weapon and my camera gear, just preparing for the impact of an IED."
This was Benedict's first deployment and it has made a mark in her life, she said.
"This experience, being in Afghanistan, going outside the wire and seeing more than any one person ever sees during their deployment, is something that I will never forget," said Benedict. "I can say 'I went out and did this; I went out and saw that. I told his story. I documented that mission.' I am very proud and honored that I have the opportunity to do that. "