Telling the Air Force story builds the relationships we need to succeed

WHITEMAN AFB, MO -- I first met the woman who would later become my wife 11 years ago at a mall in Newport News, Va. During our initial conversation, she asked what I did for a living and I told her I was in the Air Force.  She asked is if I was a pilot. I said no and told her I was a Public Affairs officer. She then asked what did that mean and I jokingly responded that I got paid to read, write and smile for the military. It might have been a witty statement that got a minor chuckle, but it didn't accurately reflect what Public Affairs professionals really do and the important role we have in maintaining our national defense. 

We are a nation at war; and in this war, some of the most critical battles that take place may not be along the dusty streets of Iraq or in the mountains of Afghanistan. They will happen in newsrooms around the world and on the Internet. 

America has the best trained and the best equipped military on the planet. We can dominate the air, land and sea; however, the war on terror is more than just a battle of arms, it is a battle of ideas. It is a fight against the terrorists and their murderous ideology. It is a fight for the advancement of freedom and human dignity. 

This information battle is currently taking place around the world on the pages of newspapers, books and magazines. It is a visual war with both sides displaying images on television, movies and the Internet. It is an audio clash broadcast on radio stations, downloaded via podcasts and rapped about on records and CDs. 

The public information arena operates 24-hours a day, seven days a week. It is a chaotic, competitive, combative environment. Public Affairs specialists must be ready to perform their mission in media-filled wartime locations. They must apply their core competencies of providing trusted counsel to leaders; building Airmen readiness and morale; earning public trust and support; and achieving global influence and deterrence to deliver strategic, mission-enabling effects for the Air Force and joint warfighters.

Succeeding in the information realm takes a continual communication effort focused on building mutual relationships that benefit the Air Force, the Department of Defense and the publics we serve.

     Communicating continually means that every Airman must be empowered to tell the Air Force story. Although it is often the Public Affairs representative in front of the television camera or giving a speech, every Airman is an ambassador for our Air Force.  Together we are many voices delivering one message: global vigilance, global reach and global strike for America.

     It is our responsibility as advocates of air and space power to inform and educate our fellow citizens, our allies and even our enemies about who we are and what we do. That means we must understand the Air Force mission and the role we have in our nation's defense.

     Eleven years ago, I didn't know exactly how communication and Public Affairs fit in to the Air Force. Now I understand that words, symbols and pictures can have just as much power as bullets and bombs and that communication can solve problems. When we tell the Air Force story and engage with local, national and international audiences, we work to build the bonds and relationships upon on which our success ultimately depends.