Leadership Lessons: Celebrating Our People

  • Published
  • By Tim Flack
  • 319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs Officer
People often ask me what an Air Force public affairs specialist does.

I could run down the whole list of assigned duties, from developing communication plans and running the photo lab to answering media queries and arranging community relations events. But I usually just say, "I get to help tell the Air Force story." Hands-down, that's the best part of the job.

Each and every single day, Airmen are doing amazing things at Grand Forks Air Force Base. And it's easy for us to take that for granted; members of the Air Force team, both military and civilian, put in the long hours for mission success because that's how we're wired.

A big part of my job is to communicate those success stories to both our own internal Air Force family and to the general public. That's where the trained journalists and photographers who work in public affairs come into play. They're out there daily looking for newsworthy, unique, quirky and interesting news, feature and sports stories.

I recently reviewed what the PA office produced in 2013, and I'd like to point out a few of the more interesting stories - almost a GFAFB year-in-review. It's easy to remember the big news stories, the awards, the change-of-commands, etc. But I'm hoping that you'll enjoy some of my favorites that highlighted our most important asset: our people.

Here they are, in no particular order:
· Retired Air Force Staff Sgt. Kristoffer Schneider, and his wife, Amanda, took the time to share a story of "tragedy to triumph" with the Grand Forks/East Grand Forks Military Affairs Committee. Schneider was en route from England to Afghanistan on March 2, 2011. His team had landed in Frankfurt, Germany, and was going to take an Air Force bus to Ramstein Air Base, when a gunman opened fire. Doctors gave Schneider a two-percent chance of surviving his head wound, but he beat the odds. "The hardest thing to deal with is the stuff you can't see," Schneider told the committee about his wounds. "It's hard, and it's scary." http://www.grandforks.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123333716

· Four Airmen from Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., were recognized for their outstanding volunteerism. Capt. Matthew Moberg, 1st Lt. Jody Crisp, Chief Master Sgt. Karl Ohrn and Staff Sgt. Jere Ross all earned the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal. "Each of you now has the honor of wearing this medal because of your selfless and steadfast volunteerism," said Chaplain (Maj.) Steven T. Dabbs, who submitted the Airmen for the award. "On behalf of my team and all who benefit from your ministry, we're extremely proud of you and especially grateful to God for your outstanding volunteer support." http://www.grandforks.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123344793

· Three Warriors of the North were recognized heroic actions assisting with a fatal traffic accident at a deployed location in Southwest Asia. Airman 1st Class Charles Coushaine, from the 319th Force Support Squadron, and Airmen 1st Class Benjamin Hitzelberger and Vanessa Oros, from the 319th Civil Engineer Squadron, took it upon themselves to assist after witnessing the March 23 accident. "The scariest moment for me was after running over to the car and not being able to see anything but the two front seats because the back seats were caved in," said Coushaine. "I knew there was going to be a fatality." http://www.grandforks.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123345712

· The awards just keep rolling in for local teen Xander Burch. After earning his second straight Youth of the Year Award, Xander learned he was named the U.S. Navy's 2013 Military Child of the Year. Wait ... Navy? Yes - Navy. Although his mother, Joanne, is an Air Force employee, his father, David, is a retired chief petty officer. Xander is an honors student and chess enthusiast who logged 400 hours of volunteer service in 2012, which included creating a video for an anti-bullying campaign and helping children in Africa by collecting running shoes and shorts for two months last summer. http://www.grandforks.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123342096

· Sgt. Christopher Giles, 319th Security Forces Squadron, was recognized for his volunteer work as a member of the Young Men's Christian Association youth mentorship program during the Grand Forks Optimists' Club Respect for the Law Luncheon on May 1. "I really don't do it for the recognition," said Giles. "I just believe that people need to be the change they wish to see in the next generation. Change comes from the bottom-up, not top-down." http://www.grandforks.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123348908

· Senior Airman Taylor Lilley decided to start volunteering at the Altru Cancer Center in Grand Forks after her own mother was diagnosed with cancer. "I personally struggled with being so far away and not being able to help her as much as I wanted to while being in Grand Forks," Lilley said. "It occurred to me that just because I couldn't help her as she underwent treatment, there would surely be other cancer patients in the local area that I could assist." When she noticed many of the patients in Grand Forks were unable to pay for their own meals, she organized a fundraiser and was able to donate more than $500 before leaving Grand Forks for a new duty station. http://www.grandforks.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123351519

As we're transitioning now into another year, I'll challenge you - the Warriors of the North - to help us identify more of the folks out there with interesting stories. Call the Public Affairs office at 747-5023 and tell us about the great folks you work with.

Help us celebrate our family.