How about a little perspective?

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Michael O'Connor
  • 31st Fighter Wing public affairs
How do you view the work you do in your office, back shop, medical facility, vehicle or aircraft? How does your career field contribute to the success of your unit, base, and the Air Force as a whole?

Since joining the Air Force in 1991, I've had 17 different direct supervisors, I've been permanently assigned to four overseas and four stateside bases, I've been on six temporary duties and three deployments to eight overseas countries, I've re-enlisted four times thus far and somewhere in the middle of all of this I took on marriage and started a family of my own. Sounds about par for the course for your average Airman in today's Air Force.

While I've made many choices throughout my life and these past 17-plus years in the Air Force, the one constant through it all are the mentors and leaders who have shared their perspective with me as to whether what I thought or was doing was on track and up to par.

From my early years as an equipment management clerk when I redistributed hundreds of millions of dollars worth of assets to other bases, to my later years as a public affairs craftsman keeping the public informed and telling the Air Force story to a diverse audience in an infinite number of ways through a variety of mediums, no matter what the task or situation at hand, I've been fortunate to have had the right mix of leadership and mentorship along the way, and when it wasn't directly available, I sought it out elsewhere.

Each senior leader I consulted shared their perspective with me. Through their personal experiences, education and training, each one enhanced my vision and understanding of how I fit into the bigger Air Force picture.

My grandfather, a former Airman, taught me as a child, the value of a dollar and earning my keep. My step-father, a former Marine, taught me as a teenager, the importance of always going above and beyond what is asked. Kevin Rooney, a former Airman and supply supervisor, taught me as an airman first class that every Airman is important and can directly impact the mission. Lee Hansen, a former Airman and supply NCO-in-charge of a section I worked in, taught me as a senior airman the importance of using my chain of command and keeping them informed. There have also been several senior NCOs along the way who helped fill in the gray areas and made for great sounding boards. And last, but most certainly not least, is Lt. Col. John Dorrian, a very wise PA officer who as a major, taught me as a newly cross-trained staff sergeant into the PA career field, the importance of conducting successful public affairs operations.

I've learned through the years that we can't put a price on what we do in support of our nation and other nations around the world.

From a PA perspective, I've also learned that we cannot put a price on the memories we provide to our Airmen who are at the forefront of combating terrorism around the world. Having served three years in Air Force Recruiting Service, I look at what we do in PA in the context of the well-known recruiting phrase, "Perpetuate! Perpetuate! Perpetuate!"

I believe a part of what we do in PA is to perpetuate the trust and support we in the military need in order for us to be successful. I also believe what we do in PA is to perpetuate the feeling of pride, satisfaction and esprit de corps in our fellow Airmen. We do this so they will communicate their experiences in a positive manner to their family and friends back home so that others may decide to follow in their footsteps in maintaining our all volunteer force. We also do what we do to maintain the readiness of the world's most powerful air and space force by perpetuating to our fellow Airmen timely information that is accurate, brief and concise, and in ensuring that the morale of the Airmen stays high.

When Airmen look back at their careers, be it after one enlistment or for a 20- or 30-year career, some of their fondest memories are the stories, photos and videos which they were featured in. Not just because the Airman got his or her 15 minutes of fame, but because the PA products we produced captured a moment in time that the Airman can reflect on for the rest of his or her life.

Each time an Airman re-enlists and shares their knowledge, experience and leadership with others, it feels like payment in full for what we do in PA.

When we in PA talk about winning the hearts and minds of the people, I don't think of it in terms of civilians only, it's about our Airmen as well. It's about building and maintaining Airman morale and readiness. What we do as journalists, photographers, videographers and bandsmen has a direct impact on morale which in-turn has a direct correlation with readiness. In an ever-shrinking military, maintaining an Airman's morale has never been more important as we continue to engage in the Global War on Terror.

I encourage all Airmen to look within, to reach out for that which they do not know, and to reflect on their career in the Air Force and make a point to share their knowledge, experience and leadership with their fellow Airmen, families and friends.

Now, how's that for a little perspective? So what's yours?