Commentary: The art of storytelling: Public Affairs specialists
link U.S. Air Force photo: Airman 1st Class Chip Slack
U.S Air Force Senior Airman Eboni Reece, 27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs photojournalist, captures images of aircraft taking off on the flightline Jan. 16 at Cannon Air Force Base. Reece, originally trained as a still photographer, has captured thousands of images during her tenure at Cannon.
27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
Photography has been my first love ever since I was 15 years old and got my hands on my father’s manual SLR camera.
Many years later, I still find myself fascinated and consumed by the world of “writing with light,” telling an entire story with a single-framed image.
In fact, my original interest in the military was fueled solely by the fact that I could possibly be a military photographer. Upon meeting with my recruiter prior to enlistment, I told him that ‘Still Photographer’ was my one and only job preference.
Unfortunately for me, my recruiter quickly deflated my balloon and Air Force dreams by telling me that jobs in that career field were no longer being distributed. Now, whether that was true or not, the fact still remains that I had to resort to plans B through Z as far as job selection was concerned.
After months of battling with the decision as to whether enlisting in the military was indeed the right direction for my life, I finally decided to be open-minded and research what other career choices might interest me.
I came up with a list slightly longer than my original one and ended up heading toward Lackland Air Force Base, Texas with hopes that I would be able to select one of those choices during Basic Military Training.
I went from being stubbornly only wanting to do one thing in the Air Force to leaving my career choice entirely up to faith and chance.
As luck would have it, during the eighth week of Basic Military Training, I received orders to Fort Meade, Maryland to receive technical training as a still photographer and then, a little less than 17 weeks after that I was in New Mexico, where I would begin my professional military journey.
Once at our first duty stations, still photographers like myself, join Airmen from two other career field specialties: Public Affairs specialists and broadcast journalists. Together, we make up the wing’s Public Affairs office and work in tandem as mass communicators to effectively publicize the Air Force mission to a worldwide audience.
In my short Air Force career, I can’t even begin to count how many times I had the following inquisitive conversation with someone about my daily duties:
“You take pictures, right?”
“That’s it? What else do you do?”
Although we are seen at every wing-wide event, retirement, special induction, community engagement, graduation and ceremony, photojournalists and videographers are more than just glorified cameramen whose sole purpose is to ‘catch your good side.’
Often carrying digital and video cameras, voice recorders and lighting equipment, Public Affairs professionals play an integral part in the overall Air Force communications strategy while shaping and maintaining its worldwide public image. We use various communication channels to gather and distribute information to communicate our mission such as base websites, media releases and popular social media outlets like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Aside from that, what other career field do you know that gets the chance to experience every Air Force Special Code across the Air Force?
All in the name of informing the public, we are afforded the opportunity and privilege of involvement in the most exciting traditions and changes that occur on base and use our words and images to both communicate our wing commander’s intent and educate the masses. When collaborating with other agencies for historical documentation or features, we are able to get the inside scoop on how each unit uniquely fits into the gigantic puzzle that makes up the Air Force big picture.
Airmen, who make up the Public Affairs office at Cannon, work silently behind-the-scenes to carry out their mission of telling the Air Force story. The art of storytelling in many different facets is a talent that Public Affairs troops work to master and use daily to showcase the world’s greatest Air Force globally.
Our lives as quiet professionals are chock-full of imagery, motion pictures and feature articles; for this reason, a remix to Theodore Roosevelt’s famous quote has always been one of my favorite mottos as a Public Affairs representative: “Talk softly and carry a big lens; you will go far.”