Ten years ago this week I joined the Air Force Reseve. I always look back on the day I enlisted and remember that I really didn’t know what I was getting into. A decade later, I know there are ups and downs to being in the Air Force. Every time I have to drive three hours to another city to sport my uniform and spend a frantic weekend performing my job and filling out paperwork, I wonder to myself why I couldn’t have chosen a normal career. Every time I forget my password and have to make nine million phone calls to fix it, I curse the bureaucracy that is the hallmark of life in the military. But every time I get to step inside an Air Force plane and snap photos and meet the rocking cool people who make them fly, I think myself one lucky Airman.
America has the most technologically advanced Air Force in the world. Yeah, yeah, America’s good at a lot of things. But seriously people, our Air Force has some crazy crazy stuff. This weekend I got to ride in a gas station that flies. We seriously pump gas from one plane to another while in the sky. THIS IS AMAZING PEOPLE! And I get to see it in action. I get to ask the questions and write down the answers. I get to take the photos and spend time meeting people. That’s my job. I get paid to tote around my beloved camera and chitchat. That’s how I roll.
But then there’s the pang of longing to really participate in what the Air Force is doing out there. When you are actually refueling a plane, you get to see your work in action. Gas from one tank into the other in the air via your hands. Mechanics know planes take off because of the wrenches they turn. So many Airman know that lives are saved because of the help they provide. This is stuff that really matters.
It’s like that for a lot of jobs in the Air Force, but not quite so for me. Telling stories is an exercise in delayed gratification. People appreciate the work that you do because it reminds them that what they do is important. Public affairs is all about enabling Airman to do their jobs well by garnering public and leadership support for the work they do. I know I’m not saving lives, I’m not making things fly, and I’m not contributing to the fight in a real-time, concrete manner. That makes me a little sad sometimes, but I take comfort in knowing that I love my job. It suits me. And I’m constantly honored to work alongside Airman in action, because the Air Force is full of badasses. Yup, that’s right, including me. Thanks for your service, fellow Airmen. Air Power, and on to the next few years.