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NEWS | April 20, 2011

Deployed warrior lays ground work across Iraq

By Senior Airman Andrew Lee U.S. Air Forces Central, Baghdad Media Outreach team

When Senior Airman Michael Payne arrived in Iraq for his first deployment, he wasn't fazed. He had his mind set on doing his job to the best of his abilities. After all, this was why he joined the Air Force. Now he would be able to put his training to good use by helping others.

The 20 year-old Airman stationed at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., eagerly hopped from base to base across Iraq and in four short months has become a major player in the success of the missions he's been a part of.

Assigned to the 467th Expedition Prime Beef Squadron as an engineering assistant, Airman Payne works with the Marez Facility Engineering Team. He has been to five different locations throughout Iraq helping with construction management and site surveys as well as drafting and printing maps of each location.

Airman Payne began his tour in Iraq at Contingency Operating Site Erbil, where in less than a month, his team worked on a $100 million construction project, building a three mile stretch of roads, ditches and fuel pits.

"We put in a lot of work at Erbil," Airman Payne said. "The fact that we completed our work in less than a month was great, but knowing it's going to make things easier for the Iraqis feels even better."

While at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, Airman Payne was also able to put in extra hours to help others, but this time it was for the Iraqi military.

"When I was at Al Asad AB, I helped lay the groundwork for an Iraqi military dining facility," the St. Louis native said. "It was going to be their first one. It was nice knowing I was helping an allied foreign military in a big way."

Airman Payne now focuses his efforts ensuring the transition of Iraqi bases back into the hands of the Iraqis goes smoothly. Airman Payne and his team have to accurately produce maps showing that what the U.S military says it is returning is actually there.

"Construction management and ground work is a big portion of the job, but site surveying and drafting and printing maps is a large percentage of the job," said Airman Payne. "When we go out to do a site survey and use our equipment, we have to be very detailed oriented and precise. If we don't do our jobs correctly and our maps are inaccurate, we lose our credibility."

Most young men and women are only familiar with the U.S military's involvement in the Middle East from the internet or television. Airman Payne is seeing it in person. He is making his mark on history by contributing to the future success of Iraq.

"The job I have here has given me the opportunity to travel and see Iraq," Airman Payne said. "Knowing that I am participating in something historical and helping the people of Iraq is a rewarding experience."