10 May 2008

"Bronx Girl" Drives 120 Convoys in Afghanistan

Senior Airman Vanessa Velez, a convoy driver with the Bagram Provincial Reconstruction Team, poses for a photo in front of the humvee she will be driving just before her next mission outside the wire here Feb. 10. Velez, who is a vehicle maintenance controller with the 6th Logistics Readiness Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., has driven at least 120 convoys during her 365-day deployment in Afghanistan.

As a member of the most elite Air Force in history, today’s Airmen often get the news that Senior Airman Vanessa Velez received when she was first notified of her 365-day deployment.

“I was told, ‘you won’t be working vehicle maintenance; you will be a driver,’” said Airman Velez, who took the news in stride. “At Fort Bragg, I found out I wouldn’t be driving shuttles, distinguished visitors, or commanders around in a car or bus like I was mistakenly told at my duty station. I would be driving a fully-loaded Humvee outside the wire in enemy territory at least five times a week.”

Airman Velez recalls Lt. Col. Bobby Robinson, who would end up being her Provincial Reconstruction Team commander, telling the team they would be living in tents and riding outside the wire.

“That’s when reality set in. At first, I was shocked and couldn’t believe that a girl from the Bronx, N.Y., was about to be a driver in a hostile situation,” said Airman Velez. ...

When she’s outside the wire, Airman Velez is somewhat of a celebrity with the Afghan children. “They get excited because they see a female Airman. They want to touch my hair and earrings,” she said. “The Afghans want to learn and have a lot of questions. They want to work and take care of their families like most ordinary people do.”

This is Airman Velez’s third deployment in three years, but she has no regrets.

“I am an Airman first, just like all the services have been preaching,” she added. “This shows, in this day and age, you could be tasked to do anything to support the war on terror.

“My job satisfaction comes from constantly thinking about all the people’s lives I have in my hands,” said Airman Velez, who’s primary job is getting people back and forth from a mission safely. “My vehicle is my job. I drive so much that my Humvee is my office. I don’t have a computer, e-mail, or an office. I have a Humvee.”

Read the rest of the story about Airman Velez, the "Bronx Girl" in Afghanistan.

No comments: