The rewards of a public affairs career in two military branches

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I have heard it said that journalism is the first draft of history. For the military, public affairs also stands directly at that intersection of current events that become inscribed into history.

As someone who has served as a public affairs specialist in two branches of the military, both the Air Force Reserve and the Louisiana Army National Guard, this has allowed me to highlight events that I would have never witnessed and talk to people that I would never have met if not for this career field.

My previous service years in the Louisiana Army National Guard centered on covering the Guard’s repeated responses to state declared emergencies. 

As a public affairs soldier, I was among the troops who trudged in flood waters through devastated communities. I’ve shot flood video footage aboard Blackhawk helicopters, from the cargo backs of military vehicles, and carried my camera through waist deep waters when even heavy garbage dumpsters floated in the streets. 

There was also a moving video profile of the Louisiana National Guard Blackhawk crew describing the aerial rescue of people from rising waters during a flood emergency. Another video profile features soldiers sharing personal recollections of a daring night rescue to save an injured deputy sheriff from raging flood waters. 

While the footage of natural disasters is dramatic, my most personal memories are documenting the heartfelt efforts of the Guard soldiers evacuating people to safety, staffing flood shelters, and handing out food to survivors.

Some of my public affairs videos are quick but compelling one-shots with the camera seeming to “glide” along like a drone or steady-cam production, such as video clip featuring the ‘rat-a-tat-tat’ sounds of an M249 weapons range.

In 2018, I shifted from the Louisiana Army National Guard to the Air Force Reserve and began my “second life” in military public affairs.

You get to do some unexpected things in this career field.

I’ve buckled up beside the Black Daggers, the official U.S. Army Special Operations Command Parachute Demonstration Team, aboard a 815th Airlift Squadron C130J aircraft on a practice jump flight for their participation in the Thunder Over the Sound Air and Space Show.

I traced over three decades of the 403rd Wing’s history through an Aircraft Maintenance Squadron production superintendent’s perspective in a feature article, along with photos of him performing his duties and the retirement ceremony.

I also covered the debut flight of an 815th Airlift Squadron loadmaster after his long struggle to heal from three fractured vertebrae. This allowed me to create three categories of media: a dynamic one minute video I produced for social media, a feature article, and a series of photos.

I have written profiles of the Keesler Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program that supports survivors, as well as a profile of a 403rd Wing Chaplain who saw the effects of terrorism as a young person in Nigeria, Kenya, and the United States which inspired him to join the U.S. Air Force. A suicide prevention video that I produced featured the 403rd Force Support Squadron First Sergeant opening up about a personally difficult period in his life. These were particularly meaningful subjects to research, write, photograph or record video for to publish on the 403rd Wing home website.

There were also fun subjects I got to cover such as the “sports dynamic” of the 41st Aerial Port Squadron “Port Dawg Challenge” featuring teams of Airmen competing in physically demanding and knowledge-based tasks, and the article I wrote about the authorization of shorts as a uniform option “to beat the heat” on the flightline for 403rd Maintenance Group and the 41st Aerial Port Squadron Airmen, and a 403rd Wing video highlighting Women’s History Month spotlight.

My unique perspective of writing articles that “paint” with words, capturing moments in photos, and producing videos by telling all of these stories and the many more to come; give me the reward of sharing with others what I am allowed to experience through my military public affairs service.