A former Dover airman talks about his deployment to Baghdad, including what his experience of working with his Iraqi counterpart.

About Master Sgt. Andrew Rapp
Hometown Easton, Pa.
Stationed at Dover AFB 1995 to 2006
Current assignment Kirtland AFB, Albuquerque, N.M.
Temporary assignment to Baghdad, Iraq July 2009
Retirement date April 2011

Not everyone is sent to a warzone to fight. Some go to help rebuild a shattered nation.
Air Force financial management superintendent Master Sgt. Andrew Rapp is one of those troops. A member of the Iraqi Training and Advisory Mission-Air Force, his weapon is knowledge; his goal is to help the Iraqi Air Force become a functioning reality.

Q What’s it like working with your Iraqi counterparts?
A My primary mission is to get them up to speed on controlling their own Air Force when we roll out of here. The Iraqis are very laid back and they don’t have a big sense of urgency for anything. It’s part of their culture.

When interacting with the Iraqis, you have to get their viewpoint. We had 12 Iraqi lieutenants learning about the budgeting career field and we gave them a sort of Budget 101 workshop. They didn’t have a lot of questions, but afterward they asked a lot of questions about family. They want to learn about who we are as a people, about our culture, about what we do for fun.

Q This is your fourth deployment in the Middle East, but the first in Iraq. What’s your daily routine like?
A When I learned I was coming here for a year, I was reluctant. But this isn’t like my other deployments, where I had charge of money and had to pay for things. I’m acting as an advisor and we’re trying to build the Iraqis up and make them self-sustaining.

We have small rooms in what are like cargo containers, little rooms with a bed and a wall locker. I usually get up at 6 a.m., have breakfast at a dining facility and go to work at 7. I travel to the Iraqi base about 5 miles away and work with them for a few hours, then after lunch we take care of staff items. I usually leave at 7 at night to have some chow and try to get in a run. We have a decent gym with treadmills and weights.

Then I shower up, do some time on Facebook or Skype, and play games online.

Q Your wife and the rest of your family are here in Dover. How do you keep in touch?
A Most of the time we talk through Skype or by phone calls through Dover AFB, depending on the connection. The other day we talked for only five minutes then got disconnected. I also have a lot of friends on Facebook.

Q You’re due to leave Iraq in July and retire in April 2011. What did you like about Dover and might you return to live here?
A. I love going to the NASCAR races, and I missed only one when I was stationed at Dover. I used to help out raising money for my squadron during the NASCAR races.
My wife wants me to come back to Dover, but there’s not a lot going on there. I know if I stayed in Albuquerque I could hook up a job.

Q Do you think you’ll miss anything about Iraq?
A No. But I have a lot of friends over here and we’ve become a tight-knit family. When you see your friends leave, you’re happy for them because you know soon it will be your turn. I see someone leave, and I go, “Yes, I’m one day closer to leaving.”