This is my very first post. I don’t have much time a the moment to really get into the whole reason I am starting this blog. However, I will say that today has been a roller coaster of emotions, mostly down hill. More than anything, I suppose this is an outlet to vent, to share my talents (as paltry as they may seem at times) and really to attempt to get more serious about writing for myself.
You see, I have been a journalist for the Air Force for the past 15 years, and as I near the twilight of my military career, I need to focus a bit more on how I can ply my craft in such a way that it benefits me more than it does Big Blue. I have written stories about firefighters, mechanics, wounded veterans, and even the elementary school on base.
However, no one really cares. Sure, the folks whom I have interviewed read the stories, and the wing commander reads it, but beyond that, nope. I was fortunate enough to be involved in some pretty unique situations, in Baghdad, and with the Thunderbirds, but at nearly 42 years old, I don’t have any Pulitzer prize winning articles floating around out there. My literary career has been mediocre at best, with the highlight coming more than a decade ago when I was the Air Force’s Photojournalist of the Year.
The award came in 2004 when I was the editor for the base newspaper at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. The package included several stories, but the article that sealed the deal was about a controlled burn on base. It was coordinated by the on-base fire department, along with the safety office, and some local wildlife firefighters. The images really were spectacular, if I do say so myself. The problem was that a few months after winning that award, I was pulled away from the newspaper to do other stuff. It started out fine: I built the base website, and a few other interesting online projects. But when I was pulled away from writing entirely was when things started to go south for my writing.
I must point out that I do not mean that things started to go down hill for my career. Although I was dragged kicking and screaming, figuratively of course, into the Community Relations section at work, it turned out to be a good thing for my Air Force career. I didn’t really enjoy working with Ms. Greene, but after I was in that section for a while, an opening for the Community Relations NCO came available for the US Air Force Thunderbirds. I can opine about that particular position in another post, but suffice it to say, it was an amazing opportunity that I am extremely grateful to have been selected for. The only problem with that job was that I almost never got a chance to write.
After that, I was moved to Virginia to be the NCO in Charge of the Command Information section at the 633d Air Base Wing at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia. I had the opportunity to write occasionally, but for teh most part, I was the editor for articles that appeared on the base website and the base newspaper. To be fair, this sharpened my critical reading skills quite a bit, well, at least when it comes to word use and punctuation. However, I think I wrote less than a dozen articles in the 3 years I was there.
My next career move was a short one, at least physically. I was transferred to Air Combat Command Headquarters, which is also at Langley AFB. I worked in the Media Operations section for the most part, where I was a media liaison. I took queries from local, national, and international news outlets who with any interest in anything that ACC was up to. Whether they had questions about combat operations overseas, policy questions, or the use of drones in American airspace, those questions came through my office. I didn’t necessarily have the answers they were looking for, but I had the resources to find out who did have the answers. I would set up interviews and make sure CNN, Fox News, or the Washington Post got the answers they were looking for. Of course, the answers were not always what they wanted to hear… sometimes “No” is the answer.
I never got to say that because we had to be unbelievably PC, but I certainly wanted to… a lot. I got some of the most irritating reporters, who wanted the answers to their questions immediately. Most of the time, I personally wanted to just say, “I don’t know the answer to your asinine question. And don’t call back.” However, I would take their questions, and try to find someone who did know. Sometimes, the answers were hard to come by, especially if there was any whiff of controversy involved. Those reporters were handled with kid gloves, which leads me into PAG.
Public Affairs Guidance, colloquially known as PAG, is a source document that provides the Air Force’s answer to any given topic, usually a controversial one. Aircraft crash? There’s PAG. Gays in the military? PAG again. Zika virus going to wipe out the population of southern Florida? You guessed it, there’s PAG for that too. I wrote a lot of PAG while I was there. Yet, no one outside of ACC will ever lay eyes on it. It is what as known as FOUO, or For Official Use Only. It’s kind of frustrating actually, I was there for more than 3 years, and I don’t have anything published from that entire time.
My most recent assignment brought me to MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. Currently I am the Superintendent for the 6th Air Mobility Wing’s Public Affairs office. It is a nice, fancy sounding title, but I am really just a manager. I have a staff of about 15 who work in various sections, Community Relations, Media Operations, and Command Information. As you can see, I have experience in all of these areas, and now I am the boss. I am very grateful for the opportunity to be the guy in charge, as opposed to the guy catching the crap, bur like I said, I miss writing.
So, let’s see where this thing takes us shall we? I hope to write quite a bit, and there are a myriad of topics to cover. This post ended up being more about the Air Force and my career than I intended, but I suppose that Big Blue is going to seep into a lot of what I write since I have been in for so long. I hope to write more about motorcycling and my faith. Those two topics are really important to me. I’ll get into why in later posts I suppose. For now though, it is Sunday evening, and I want to spend some time with my family.