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Total Force: Everyone has a contribution to give

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
If you don't think what you contribute to the mission matters, think again. I was recently reminded of what we all contribute when I attended the 2012 Airlift Tanker Association conference as a member of the Phoenix Stripe program. I enjoyed a week of professional development as I learned more about the Air Force and the role it plays in our nation's defense.

To conclude the conference Gen. Raymond Johns Jr., the commander for Air Mobility Command, spoke about our past, present and future as a "Total Force," which put some things into perspective for me.

He brought veteran aircrews on stage who served more than 40 years ago and then brought up Airmen who are performing that same mission. The general shared with the young Airmen how the innovations from the veterans shaped the ways they're operating today.

He shared a story about another veteran aircrew who risked their own lives to provide fuel for an aircraft when their own fuel levels were low. That type of "Service Before Self" is still found in the Air Force today as he shared another similar story from a recent combat mission.

One other example that made an impact on me centered around one of our fellow Airmen who lost his leg from an IED, who still wanted to serve in the military because he loves his job.

These examples made me realize how we're all working together to complete our mission. We've relied on our veterans to lay the foundation or make necessary changes, which are just as important as the contributions Airmen make today.

This made me think about why I joined the military and what is it that I contribute ... and does that matter?

When I came into the military as a photographer, I have to admit that it wasn't something I chose to do or something that I was interested in. One day as young Airman Wade, I was taking photographs of a promotion ceremony and the Personnel Flight commander, recognizing I was new, asked "How are you? How do you like your job?"

" I am fine. I really love the base but not a big fan of photography," I said.

"Why not?"

"Because I joined the military to make a difference and to help people. How can I do that from behind a camera?"

"Well, give your job a chance. You are still new and have yet to see your contribution. If you don't like your job in four years you can cross-train."

I did give my job a chance, and I'm happy to say I didn't cross-train either. I've been a photographer for almost eight years and thanks to our career field merging with Public Affairs in 2007, I've also enjoyed the opportunity to write, which is something I've always been passionate about.

Our job is a visual one--you see the photos and the stories that we produce each week. That is what we do. But, what I didn't realize during the general's moving speech was that he re-iterated the importance of my job, too, and the reason I joined the military.

I am a storyteller. I try to motivate people. I write stories about Airmen who are making a difference and these stories will forever be a part of our nation's history. My contribution is more than just taking a photo or putting words onto paper, it's sharing and documenting those important moments like the ones the general spoke about.

So, if you think your job is not important or you don't contribute to the "Total Force," ... think again. Everyone contributes and has a story to tell. My job is to help you tell that story to the public, our leaders, our families ... our friends . I just ask that that you share your stories with me--and all Public Affairs professionals--because what you do... matters!