Introducing Damien Powell, VFAI Summer Intern

Hello everyone! My name is Damien Powell and I am a new intern working with the Vets for American Ideals (VFAI) team at Human Rights First. I am thankful for this wonderful opportunity to learn more about this great organization and to help bolster the work my fellow veterans are doing for their communities and our allies abroad.  

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A little bit about me: I joined the United States Air Force as an Intelligence Analyst after a year of college and served from 2009-2015. I was stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base where I provided intelligence training to C-130 student pilots and loadmasters in training, as well as current threat briefs to commanders, and country specific briefs to traveling Airmen.  

While in, I did two deployments to Afghanistan. The first deployment I worked with the exploitation of intelligence information gathered from items collected while detaining potential insurgents. We would analyze collected data and pass it on to interpreters for translation. After determining any potentially malicious intelligence, we would then send it over to the bases law enforcement personnel who would use it to determine what happens next. 

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My next deployment I worked alongside the Afghan Detention Facility. During this deployment we were given information collected regarding detained individuals, which we would then eventually pass to the Afghan Judges. These disseminated documents would first be translated by one of our translation partners and then disseminated out to the court systems.  

During both deployments, and at my home station, I worked with our international partners to get the mission done. Overseas, our cross-cultural engagement was crucial to providing products that would benefit the United States, Afghanistan, and our other international partners. Stateside, we had multiple international students who attended training at our base and who enjoyed the amenities that our base offered. 

However, let us not also forget the countless foreign partners who sacrificed their lives as they supported our war against terrorism. When my Forward Operating Base was attacked during the Summer of 2012, it was not just American lives that were lost. During my time in uniform, I watched tens of thousands of video clips captured from insurgents that depicted them targeting Afghans, Iraqis and other foreign nationals who aided Americans.  

Our fight against terrorism is being fought on foreign soil with international partners from around the world. Our Middle East and Southwest Asia allies have provided us with land, personnel, interpreters, equipment, and their loyalty. I am proud to work with the VFAI team to advocate for these personnel who have put their lives. 

I also hope to gain crucial experience that I can use during my time as a University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law School student, as well as a student at their Clinton School of Public Service. After obtaining my J.D. and Master of Public Service, I hope to continue advocating for those who need a louder voice or supporting them through legal measures, whether it be for Human Rights, Civil Rights, Political Rights, or to fight crimes against humanity.  

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