Leslie* served in the as an Intelligence Officer in the Air Operations Center in Qatar and UAE. Learn a little more about what goes on behind the scenes. Not all work is done at the ground level.
Rank during deployment:
Branch of Service:
Current rank/current job if you have left the military:
Major, Active Duty
Where did you deploy to?
Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)
What was you or your team’s mission?
Air Operations Center
Can you explain what an Air Operations Center does and what their mission is?
An Air and Space Operations Center (AOC) is a type of command center used by the Air Force. An AOC (using non-doctrine, easy to understand terms) controls the air campaign for the Air Force. It is used to coordinate air space and also to plan future air missions in a theater of operations (larger than a single country).
What was your job?
What were you daily tasks as an Intelligence Officer?
We did various tasks ranging from targeting; support to the flying units; analysis, correlation and fusion (All-source type intel products); support current ops in the air at the time; etc.
What cultural differences do you remember between the country you went to and the United States?
Barter at the souqs! And beautiful hijabs on ladies downtown. The Arabic military officers we worked with couldn’t ask my female military members about anything not work related. The men all talked about home. We talked about work only.
What does barter at the souqs mean?
Bartering–no set price. You haggle with the merchant for what you’ll pay. Souq–it’s a shop or cart or stall in the different countries in the Middle East. I used to go to the Souq in Qutar for pashminas and scarves, woodworking, gold, almost anything and there was never a price. You argued/haggled until you either got what you wanted or walked out.
What landscape differences do you remember between Qutar/UAE and the United States?
So much desert! But UAE has a huge environmental investment in trees and flowers. Abu Dhabi was an oasis in the desert! But it was so hot and humid. The ac ran overtime.
Were there any particular foods that you ate while in Qutar/UAE that was different from the United States?
Middle eastern food is amazing. Fresh vegetables and hummus as appetizers. Braised lamb. Lentil soup. Baba gannoush is this amazing smoky roasted eggplant dip like hummus. Can’t get enough of that stuff. And the fresh desserts made with rose water. Iranian and Lebanese desserts are to die for.
What was the hardest thing you faced with the cultural difference in Qutar/UAE?
Women needing to dress very conservatively. Trips to the embassy in August required closed shoes long pants and long sleeves to respect modesty laws. It was so hot out.
As a female, do you remember being treated differently because of your sex, explain?
From a professional standpoint when discussing work no. Not ever treated differently. But the dress requirements were far more onerous for the ladies. No sandals. No shorts. No public swimming or water activities. As long as the women dressed conservatively no one had any problems.
What challenges did you face?
I was afraid that driving alone and getting a flat tire would be a disaster if I had to call for help. Never dealt with it though thankfully!
UAE and Qatar are very progressive but it’s still a foreign culture. Actually, a male friend of mine wanted to get his hair professionally colored and he couldn’t because all the coloring specialists were in female only salons. So, I think he had more challenges than I did!
Did you have any regular frustrating situations or a frustrating situation you can share about?
Just the difference in getting things done. Arabic culture is much slower than ours. Insha’Allah–God willing–mindset makes everything much harder to get a commitment on getting things done. Americans want decisions and actions quickly. The Arabic world takes their times. Not conducive to military agreements.
What is the one thing you remember most from your deployment?
Oh, the good food! Arabic culture is very giving and gracious. All meetings downtown had tea, dates, Arabic cookies and wonderful conversations. Those memories are some of the best in my life. I always felt very welcomed for professional exchanges.
What question do you get when people find out you deployed?
They want to know if I was in combat. We run the range of experiences when we deploy and the quality of life is normally very different than stark combat deployments. We had great food, good water, we could drive, go shopping at the mall downtown, and had wonderful relationships with our host nation personnel. We advanced the mission through partnership and exchange. Wars aren’t always won with bullets. Most of the winning is done through conversation and assistance missions.
This is Day 22 of 31 Days of Deployment Stories. If you want to see the complete series, click here. Yesterday I shared a spouse spotlight: Deployed again? Tomorrow, I’ll share a perspective from Qutar: Target Development. Don’t miss a post. Join my weekly email list here.
*Name has been changed for privacy