Whirlwind career takes Kentucky Guardsman to Nepal

Story by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

Opening Ceremonies

Capt. Andi Hahn sits with a platoon from Indonesia at the Shanti Prayas-2 peacekeeping exercise opening ceremonies in Panthkhal, Nepal, March 20, 2013. The two-week event combined 22 countries as part of the Global Peace Operations Initiative. (Courtesy photo)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — When Capt. Andrea Hahn enlisted into the Kentucky National Guard, serving outside the Commonwealth was a small thought in her mind. A chemistry major at Eastern Kentucky University, the idea of serving her country and her new found home in Kentucky (she’s originally from Montana) were strong motivators. And the education benefits didn’t hurt either. But the military and life in general has ways of surprising us all.

In March of 2013, Hahn added to the bewilderment of her career as she agreed to become a public affairs liaison in Nepal for a peace-keeping exercise.

After eight years in uniform, multiple overseas deployments and dedication to a professionally gratifying career in public affairs, Hahn is content in her role in the Kentucky Guard. And she’s still surprised by what the Guard has and continues to do for her.

“I never thought in my wildest dreams it would take me to Iraq twice, Afghanistan, Ecuador, Germany, Nepal and soon Cuba,” said Hahn.  “The opportunities this organization has given me has been life-changing and I’m so grateful and proud to call myself a Kentucky guardsman.”

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Military representatives from various countries stand in formation during the opening ceremonies of a multi-national training exercise in Kathmandu, Nepal, March 20, 2013. A U.S. public affairs contingent was on hand to document the exercise for the U.S. Military. (Kentucky National Guard photo by Capt. Andi Hahn)

Based on her past experiences in the field, Hahn was asked by U.S. Army Pacific Command to join the public affairs detachment covering a two-week exercise outside the Nepalese capital city of Kathmandu, March 20 – April 9. Named Shanti-Prayas-2, the exercise was part of the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI), a U.S. State Department program executed in the region by facilitators from the U.S. Military. The training addressed major gaps in international peacekeeping operations. The program aims to build and maintain capability, capacity, and effectiveness of peacekeepers deploying to United Nations missions.

Click here for more information on Shanti-Prayas-2.

Hahn worked as the public affairs liaison to the U.S. embassy in Nepal, coordinating the production and marketing of stories, photos and videos of the exercise back out to participating countries.  She helped manage a mobile public affairs detachment (MPAD) from the Oregon National Guard there providing the coverage.

“I advised and assisted the MPAD team to gather and produce stories, articles and videos on each country represented. It was my job to ensure all product was marketed to the right audience. We were able to produce 30 print stories and 15 videos highlighting the exercise, the countries and the soldiers participating in it. We worked overtime to send the stories back home to their countries, as well as publish them locally for Pacific Command and the host nation of Nepal.”

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Capt. Andi Hahn with the Kentucky National Guard photographs an officer of the India Army, also on hand to  document a training exercise in Kathmandu, Nepal, March 20, 2013. Hahn assisted in the public affairs coverage of the event for the U.S. Army’s Pacific Command. (Oregon National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. April Davis)

The team worked with 22 different countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ghana, Indonesia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Paraguay, Philippines, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, Canada, India, Japan, South Korea and United Kingdom.

“It was an experience that is hard to put into words unless you have lived it,” she said. ” I was literally exposed to the world and reminded how huge it is. But at the same time, I watched so many different nations, cultures and people come together and work to achieve the same goal of promoting peace around the world. It was incredible.”

Hahn said the fact that five of the six team members were from the National Guard really highlights the qualities and the reach of the Guard. Many believe that Guardsmen serve only their state and occasionally serve in combat zones. But for five Guardsmen a half a world away from home, they are just doing their job. A job they love and one that allows them the opportunity to experience once-in-a-lifetime moments – sometimes more than once.

“I was continually humbled by the people I met and the experiences they had. I have life-long friends literally all around the world now, and I have the Kentucky National Guard to thank for that.”

Hahn will continue her whirlwind duties this year as she deploys to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as the commander of the 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.

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