EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --
The photographer, interviewer, and journalist often go unnoticed as their work typically goes untold. As a result, their contribution to the field is greatly underestimated. The role of a Public Affairs Specialist is frequently misconstrued as merely posting photos on social media, similar to that of an overly enthusiastic parent. This perception overlooks the complex and multi-faceted nature of the job.
“No one would ever know that I was a part of all of these big historical events because I am the one behind the camera,” said Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Schoubroek, 354th Fighter Wing public affairs specialist.
The Public Affairs office plays a crucial role in managing and communicating information about the United States Air Force’s mission, people, and activities to the public. This team of professionals are responsible for developing and executing effective communication strategies that promote the Air Force’s image and values to a wide range of audiences.
One of the main duties of a Public Affairs Specialist is to respond to media inquiries and coordinate interviews with Airmen and other base personnel. They ensure messaging is communicated accurately and effectively to the media, which in turn reaches a large and diverse audience. This is important in maintaining the public's trust and understanding of the Air Force’s mission and objectives.
“One of the best parts of my job is all the different organizations my office has worked with,” said Schoubroek. “We have had the privilege of collaborating with a number of remarkable organizations and people, including National Geographic, Forbes magazine, NFL teams, scientists at DARPA, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Air Force and so many others.”
To help Airmen and other personnel communicate effectively with the public, a Public Affairs Specialist also provides media training. This includes teaching the subject matter experts how to respond to media inquiries, how to handle sensitive information, and how to communicate the Air Force’s message in a compelling and professional manner.
“The media can be a great tool to tell our story,” Staff Sgt. Danielle Sukhlall, 354th Fighter Wing non-commissioned officer-in-charge of media relations explains. “Our job is to help our team feel prepared and confident to talk to media outlets. This involves a great deal of research, coordination and training to prepare our Airmen for these engagements.”
In addition to media relations, a Public Affairs Specialist is also responsible for writing, editing, and producing various types of written materials, such as news releases, speeches, social media posts and even articles like the one you are reading at this very moment. This allows them to convey the Air Force’s messaging in a clear, concise, and engaging manner that resonates with the intended audience.
“Keeping our audiences engaged in any format helps us showcase all the Airmen that keep the mission going,” said Staff Sgt. Parker Dubois, 354th Fighter Wing non-commissioned officer-in-charge of command information. “The best part of our job is meeting all different types of people and seeing how their contributions impact the everyday mission. Everything and everyone is interconnected.”
Furthermore, the public affairs office collaborates with other departments and organizations within the military and civilian communities to ensure consistent and accurate information dissemination. Often, Public Affairs Specialists work to engage with the local community by getting involved in organizing and participating in open houses, air shows, and school visits, which helps to build positive relationships with local communities and promote the USAF's mission.
“We are visitors in these people’s home, it’s best to leave it in better shape than how we found it,” said SSgt Beaux Hebert, 354th FW Public Affairs noncommissioned officer in charge of community relations. “My job is to ensure the base and the public have a mutually beneficial relationship that allows both parties to work with each other on common goals and play off each other’s strengths. The job can vary from attending official luncheons to advocate for the base and Airmen to taking down noise complaints and figuring out how to mitigate the effects of jet noise on the local population.”
Finally, a Public Affairs Specialist is responsible for monitoring and analyzing public sentiment about the U.S. Air Force and providing regular updates to leadership. This helps the base commander stay ahead of potential issues, address any concerns, and maintain the public's trust and support.
The job of a Public Affairs Specialist is a vital and challenging one, requiring a unique combination of communication skills, strategic thinking, and community engagement.