Know Your Story

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. Richard Devereaux
  • 82nd Training Wing commander
When I was a new Lt Col action officer at the Pentagon, my boss asked me "What's your story?" To my confused response, he replied, "As an action officer, you need to know your story. You need to be able to quickly pitch your key issues and programs to any senior officer who you might confront in a corridor or elevator. Learn your story and be prepared to deliver it." I took my boss' advice and developed my story, refined it, and delivered it often. It was one of my most effective tools as a new staff officer.

Even large institutions like our Air Force need a story. Do you know our AF Story? Could you deliver it concisely and quickly to a friend, neighbor, or relative? Our AF story is a simple one that blends descriptions of the capabilities we bring to the fight and our priorities for the future. Here is a version of that story that anyone can learn and tell:

· The AF provides Global Vigilance, Global Reach, Global Power for America. That means we are the one Service that provides broad surveillance of activities across the globe (and in space/cyberspace) using our communication, satellite and ISR platforms. We are the one Service that continually delivers combat and humanitarian supplies via air across the globe (1 AMC aircraft takes off every 90 seconds). And we are the one Service that can destroy any target on the globe, within hours, within inches, through any defenses, in any weather, day or night. Period.

· Our Air Force has three priorities:

· To Fight and Win the Global War on Terror. We are deeply engaged in the fight today. We have over 27,000 Airmen deployed to the CENTCOM AOR and a total of 38,000 across the globe. Airmen have been at war continuously for the past 17 years and are defending their country with their life, just as we have always done in our history. In fact, in WWII, 8 AF lost more Airmen in Europe than did the entire USMC throughout the war.

· To Develop and Care for our Airmen and Their Families. Our Air Force is getting smaller. In fact, today it is smaller than the Army Air Corps was on December 7th, 1941 at the beginning of WWII. This requires us to ensure we take care of and retain quality people to perform a multifaceted mission. We emphasize education as one of many development tools--85% of field grade officers hold advanced degrees. 99% of our enlisted force holds a high school degree and 73% have earned semester hours towards a college degree. Our new Associates to Baccalaureate Cooperative Program will help even more NCOs earn a college degree.

· To Recapitalize and Modernize our Air, Space, and Cyberspace Systems. In order to be prepared to fight and win the next war, we need to modernize our old, tired systems. Back in 1972, the average age of our aircraft was 8 years. Today, our much smaller fleet is rapidly approaching an average of 25 years. Our entire F-15 fleet is grounded today because of two recent accidents where the aircraft broke up in flight. Our #1 procurement priority is a new tanker aircraft--the KC-X. If this acquisition stays perfectly on track, we won't field the last one until 2043, 84 years after the KC-135, was first delivered. That's about the same span of time between the Wright Flyer and the B-2!

Achieving our priorities is challenging given the competing demands on resources. The President's Budget spends 3.2% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on defense. Compare that to 9% of GDP spent on defense during the Vietnam War.

Do you get the idea? There are plenty of tools available to help you refine and tell our AF story. For starters, look under the Strategic Communication section of the AF Portal. Another good source is AETC's Communicator's Toolkit I'd encourage you to check these out. And I'd also encourage you to consider joining the local chapter of the AF Association, a national professional organization dedicated to telling the Air Force story. You can join our local Gen Charles L. Donnelly Jr. Chapter online at or contact Maj Will Villegas, 982 MXS, and he can get you an application.

Learn our story, and tell it!