A Day in the Life of a Mayor at Task Force Liberty

Task Force Liberty Major Melissa Prince

by Darius Frazier.

At Task Force Liberty on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, Afghan guests are split into three “villages” upon arrival. Each village is led by U.S. Air Force officers who are referred to as ‘mayors’.

The mayor plays a pivotal role in ensuring everyone is taken care of on the service member side as well as the Afghan guest side. It’s a role Lt. Col. Melissa Prince, an intelligence officer with the Air National Guard, did not expect but has embraced during her deployment with the task force.

“I take care of the Airmen and make sure that they know what their roles are within the village and make sure they have everything that they need to do their job,” said Prince, the mayor of Liberty Village’s Village Two. “And then I also look after the residents here at village two to make sure that their safety and well-being is looked at.”

While every day for Prince is different depending on the guests’ needs, a typical day starts early with turnover from the night shift. Prince helps address any remaining issues brought to her by her team of service members, whether that be a transportation schedule that needs adjusting or a medical need that needs coordination. Issues that need higher levels of engagement are brought to the village governor, who oversees all three villages.

Prince also holds weekly town halls for guests in the village, where important information is given and guests have the chance to ask questions. And, she does a lot of walking – to help her Airmen, and to form face-to-face relationships with the guests.

“Every day is chock full of events, but I have to say I think yesterday was the most monumental event I got to witness,” said Prince. “There was a situation where one building (in the village) was divided into half of the building needing to go into quarantine for COVID, and (the other) half the building staying there.”

Typically when the Afghan guests need to quarantine, they are taken into a separate building.

“While working with the building manager, who is a guest himself, I was able to see things from his perspective and what the emotional temperature of the people was,” said Prince. “It was also enlightening to see them talk about sacrificing for each other, about respect for each other and about what the best thing is for them. Whether the best thing was for them to send people to a separate quarantine area or for them to all quarantine together, the decision was being worked through by them.”

At the end of the discussion, the guests chose to remain together for quarantine rather than splitting up and being away from each other. It’s a testament to the close friendships that have been formed between guests.

“They had told us, “The Airmen here have done so much for us; quarantining together is the least we can do,” said Prince. “That had to have been one of my favorite moments since getting here.”

Service members here are supporting the Department of Homeland Security-led mission Operation Allies Welcome, which supports vulnerable Afghans, including those who worked alongside Americans in Afghanistan for the past two decades, as they safely resettle in the U.S. Mayors play a vital role in ensuring guests are provided transportation, temporary housing, medical screening, and general support during their temporary stay at Liberty Village.

“I feel like I’ve been able to demonstrate that we care about them,” said Prince. “I think that’s the biggest impact that any of them can have and witness from any of us.”

This mission was initially open to volunteers who were passionate about the mission – and Prince felt the draw to serve here right away.

“I love people, first of all, and second, I have a background in psychology and communication,” said Prince. “And I thought this would be a good chance to use something that I’ve studied academically for a while. I know I put it into action everyday when I interact with Airmen from all different levels in the Air Force.”

Prince says she will remember this mission as a very special moment in her career.

“Having this opportunity to be a part of Task Force Liberty has been a very unique opportunity to show goodness to humanity,” said Prince. Humans helping humans.”

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Original story by Airman 1st Class Darius Frazier entitled “A day in the life of a mayor at Task Force Liberty” published on January 13, 2022 by the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service. Content published by DVIDS is in the public domain.

Photo: U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Melissa Prince, Task Force Liberty village 2 mayor, speaks to guests and building managers while handing out announcements after a town hall meeting at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, Jan. 6, 2022.  Photo by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Fredericks.