CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M.- Maximum disclosure, minimum delay - few words that barely scratch the surface of what Public Affairs is all about. The task of telling the Air Force story to a global audience requires not only skills in communication, but also journalism, photography, broadcasting and public relations. Public Affairs specialists play an integral part in shaping and maintaining the public image of not just each installation they are assigned to, but the Air Force as a whole.
It falls on the shoulders of these mass communicators to portray the Air Force in the best possible light and let the world know what Air Force members are accomplishing around the world - any time, any place.
Public Affairs members at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., fall directly under the 27th Special Operations Wing, rooted in the Wing Staff Agency. While customer service typically ranges from passport and visa photos to official award photos, there are a multitude of support functions Public Affairs troops fulfill to help meet the direct needs of the installation commander and the overarching Air Force Special Operations Command mission.
"Most people might not realize that our job isn't just about writing stories and taking pretty pictures, we have a very broad area of responsibility when it comes to disseminating critical information that is often expressed as the official word of our wing, commander and base," said Senior Airman Whitney Tucker, 27 SOW Public Affairs specialist. "Our unique line of work exposes us to every facet of military life - the good, the bad and the ugly."
"We are silent professionals who often have to push aside emotions to execute challenges that our line of work presents us with," she stated. "Worst case scenario, we are part of the first-response team on scene at major accidents to photograph damage and causalities - no amount of training can prepare you to face those challenges - but the public relies on our coverage to release accurate, honest information in the most timely manner possible."
News, feature, sports and commentary coverage for publication is the tip of the iceberg for Public Affairs specialists. Local, national and regional news agencies work closely with Public Affairs to gather credible information from base websites, media releases and social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter to keep the public informed on Air Force operations.
"Our job isn't about withholding information or covering up mistakes, it's actually the opposite," said Senior Airman Jette Carr, 27 SOW Public Affairs specialist. "When we go through training at the Defense Information School, we are taught over and over that as Public Affairs we are entrusted by the public to provide truthful, credible, accurate and timely information to key audiences. This information helps enhance understanding of Air Force capabilities, missions, joint combat operations and national security objectives."
All military branches within the Department of Defense have Public Affairs specialists. The Air Force utilizes Public Affairs to provide trusted council to leaders, foster Airman morale and readiness, and enhance public trust and support. Every member of the Air Force is considered a global ambassador; Public Affairs troops are entrusted to train members how to effectively communicate the Air Force mission to a global audience.
"Community relations are another huge facet of our profession," Tucker added. "If we don't have the public's trust and support, we cannot effectively carry out our mission. We have to commit ourselves to excellence each and every day to meet the needs of our base, people, nation and Air Force. By making this commitment, we build the loyalty of our public."
Public Affairs also requires knowledge of Air Force operations, careers and military life and the ability to forecast the impact proposed actions will have. These specialists must be well-versed in all things relevant to their respective installation, as they are typically the main hub of information when questions and concerns arise.
"Each time we collaborate with another unit or spotlight an Air Force Specialty Code, we gain insight into their unique capabilities, mission contributions and overall job requirements - we absorb that and become that much more versed in big-picture Air Force," said Airman 1st Class Kristen Coager, 27 SOW Public Affairs broadcaster. "That is one of the most unique and fascinating aspects of our career field. We are presented with the opportunity to experience nearly every AFSC across the Air Force, which in turn allows us to truly tell and showcase the Air Force story."