AFNEWS--building trust, morale and readiness for 25 years.
Thank you Bill (William C. Bodie, Director of Air Force Communications) for your gracious introduction.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, good evening. It is my great privilege to be with you tonight to honor Air Force News on the 25th Anniversary of its creation on June 1, 1978. Since its inception, you have been at the forefront of our effort to tell the Air Force story.
Although our world--and our Air Force--has changed dramatically in the past 25 years, you have been a constant, delivering first-class news, information, and entertainment to literally millions of airmen and their families as they serve our nation, at home and abroad. You've delivered on your commitment to support our airmen and their morale, and to ensure the readiness of our force in the Cold War, throughout the engagements of the 1990s, and in the global war on terrorism. Just as critical, you've been successful in fulfilling your goal of informing national and international audiences about air and space power's effect on global events.
This week you've had a chance to celebrate this wonderful heritage and reflect on the Air Force News' achievements of the past quarter century ... as you should. Joining with my distinguished partner and colleague, (Air Force Chief of Staff) General John Jumper--we offer our heartfelt congratulations to you for 25 years of incomparable integrity, service and excellence.
I wish to thank Colonel Epifano, your Air Force News Agency Commander, for inviting me to participate in this celebration. Your mission--building knowledge, morale and readiness through print, broadcast and web-based products and services, as well as your vital role in keeping the "Total Force," their families, and the American public informed during peace and war --are essential to our nation's ability to win in conflict.
As an institution, the American people trust the military more than any profession in the United States. They are confident in our ability to defend our nation at home. They trust our competence in conflict. They are keenly aware of the professionalism and skill of airmen and their contributions to our nation's victories in the first Gulf War, in the Balkans, and most recently, in Afghanistan and Iraq. And they deeply appreciate the airmen who secure the skies over this wonderful country.
Our citizens, and our friends and allies, possess this renewed sense of confidence for two reasons: because we are the best air and space force in the world; and because of the great job you've done in telling our story. The 500 professionals of Air Force Broadcasting Service, Army and Air Force Hometown News Service, and the Air Force News Service communicate, inform and entertain. In doing so, you help General Jumper and me gain support for Air Force programs and give us the leverage we need to retain our place as the world's premier air and space force. Please accept my sincere thanks for 25 years of a job well done.
There are a couple of airmen in the audience tonight whom I want to salute for their contributions to our strategic communications mission. First, let me say a few words about a man who has been a vigorous proponent of what our Air Force does for our nation. He came to the Air Force just a couple of years ago, but in this short time, he has "earned his wings" with his determined advocacy of how air and space power contributes to the joint fight. His sense of strategy, knowledge of history, and intuitive sense of the power of the military instrument in the information age has made him a trusted advisor and an invaluable colleague. He has successfully blended marketing, policy, analysis, and communications, delivering greater substance to our messages and improving every part of the communication process. We are more effective, more credible, and have more clout than ever before because of his tireless efforts. I'm talking about our Director of Air Force Communications, Mr. Bill Bodie. Thanks, Bill, for your devoted leadership of our Air Force communications team.
There's another great leader with us tonight who embodies the warrior airman and in whom I have the highest trust and confidence. I place General Ron Rand's recent deployment to Operation Iraqi Freedom in the "never been done before" category. He and Bill Bodie came to General Jumper and me earlier this year with a proposal to send him forward to lead our public affairs campaign for the war in Iraq. They convinced us of the wisdom of this approach, and it's one of the best decisions I've made in my two years in the Air Force. He is our first Director of Public Affairs to deploy as the Air Force component commander's PA advisor in conflict in the history of the Air Force.
And I must say General Rand, you and your team of communications professionals--including many of you here tonight--proved that communications can be a valuable tool in achieving our nation's strategic objectives. Through your vision, and the hard work of the global Air Force News team, our PA operations were a vital complement to our kinetic operations, and proved crucial to winning the information war. In fact, at CORONA TOP last week, General Moseley said: "I would never go to war without them." That is a salute to you General Rand; but more, it is a salute to the professionalism and performance of the entire Air Force News crew, whether deployed forward or at AFNEWS locations around the world.
A century ago, a renowned military and naval strategist, Alfred Thayer Mahan, said:
"Communications dominate war; broadly considered, they are the most important single element in strategy, political or military."
Your mission in today's dynamic, information-driven world reflects the accuracy of this prophetic wisdom. You inform, you educate, and you make sure that America's airmen--all 700,000 of them--understand what we are doing and why we are doing it. You also provide the information conduit we use to educate the Congress, other agencies of government, and the American people on what we bring to the fight.
By all measures, we are doing a great job telling this story. The U.S. public view of the Air Force is that we are smart, fast, high-tech, visionary and global in our influence. It is a perception that we have nurtured through a decade of operations in a 24/7 global information environment where the public's appetite for news and information can be satiated at the push of a button or the flick of a channel. And it is a perception you helped reinforce in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The contributions of Air Force News people and organizations in this conflict cannot be quantified easily. The combined effects of your deployed and home station operations--conceived by professional airmen, supported by state-of-the-art technology, and integrated in new and innovative ways--produce dramatic and strategic results for our coalition. The stories of Air Force News people, teams and units in conflict are as compelling as the airmen they were assigned to cover.
Consider for example the case of Mr. Bob Jensen, a public affairs civilian deployed into combat. I understand from reliable sources that he was the first "Baghdad Bob," and was so-named long before the Iraqi Information Minister gained his legendary reputation a few weeks later.
Bob Jensen served as the Chief of News for General Rand and was the energy and drive behind the PA effort in the theater. He brought together Combat Camera, Air Force Broadcasters, and Visual Information and linked them with nearly two dozen operating locations throughout the CENTCOM AOR.
General Jumper and I often like to remind audiences that we view all officers, enlisted and civilian members of our service as "airmen" ... that's airman with a small "a." I'm sure the Chief would agree with me there is no better example of a "civilian airman" than Bob Jensen.
Then there's the story of Master Sgt Ron Przysucha and his Army-Air Force Hometown News Team that traveled throughout Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and into Iraq to capture the stories of the troops in combat. His four-person Army-Air Force team produced 154 television stories, 163 radio stories and 318 print stories. Just as Edward R. Murrow won acclaim for his vivid accounts of World War II and the Korean War, and Ernie Pyle's "worms-eye view" of combat set the standard for his era, Master Sergeant "P" and his team led the charge in frontline reporting in this 21st Century global war. It is comforting for to know that MSgt "P" will be working for me in this life, or in the Army.
The Air Forces News Service Directorate provided other terrific examples of communications contributions to the war effort. Leveraging the latest technology to support the media effort, you gave new meaning to the concept of reachback, building the OIF website at little additional cost, and producing an on-line media kit that was distributed to 900 media worldwide.
And in a great example of integrating operations--our third core competency--you brought together writers from a variety of publications to function as virtual embedded reporters. Conveying hundreds of stories on our operations and our airmen, you overcame the obstacles we experienced in theater when our host-nation allies refused to allow embedded reporters on their military bases. Of course, once we entered Iraq, host-nation permission was not a problem, and, while the embeds provided a snapshot view of the action from the battlefield in the short term; the story being told now from a more strategic perspective demonstrates the positive and wide-ranging contributions of air and space power to our ultimate victory.
Finally, in addition to these many accomplishments, there were the behind-the-scenes contributions of the Air Force Broadcasting Service, which produced some of the video clips used by Brigadier General Brooks in his daily CENTCOM press briefings from Qatar. Millions worldwide watched as the work of your broadcasters became the video record of our military victory in Iraq.
The achievements of the Air Force News team in this operation have completed your transformation from an internal news service--your mission when you were originally conceived 25 years ago--to a global source of information. Consider for a moment the breadth--and the influence--of your OIF media operations:
* During the four weeks of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Air Force Link Website had over 18 million hits, and 60 percent of those were from non-military sources.
* You created the single best source of information on combat operations in Iraq available in the nation--the Air Force Link OIF website was the #1 listed site on the Google search engine.
* Daily "war data" was provided to 25 major media outlets and to senior statesmen who were providing "expert commentary" on national news shows.
* Some of the most respected and well-known national defense correspondents used your information as a source for their reports on the war: CNN's Jamie McIntyre, ABC's John McWethy, CBS's David Martin and NBC's Jim Micklaszewski were repeat consumers of Air Force News data.
* We conducted three "satellite media tours" that aired in 60 media outlets and reached more than 12 million viewers and listeners.
* We introduced the world to "Buzz-isms," Buzz Quotes and other words of wisdom for the back on an Aggie's pick-up truck.
* And in a huge compliment to your operations, there were more than 400 Air Force OIF-related print articles in national media--and they continue.
Several notable examples capture quite nicely the message you were communicating from the AOR and around the world:
* The Chicago Tribune said: "Air War Credited in Baghdad's Fall"
* The Washington Post captured the innovation of our air campaign: "Air War: Striking in Ways We Haven't Seen"
* And in the ultimate compliment to our brave airmen, the Washington Post headline on April 27 touted the great effect of our "Air War of Might."
We all know that we were part of a joint and combined campaign. But, it's nice to see the Combat Air Forces (USAF, USN, USMC and the coalition) recognized. These headlines were made possible through the combined efforts of warrior airmen putting their lives on the line for our nation, and by you--the communications professionals who told their story to a global audience anxious to learn more about our air and space capabilities.
The world we live in is quite different in the 21st Century than in the past. We have new enemies and face new tactics that threaten our nation and our allies. Of the many lessons we've learned over the past decade, most important of all, we've learned that to succeed we must always be straight with our airmen and the American people. Credibility, accuracy, and completeness are critical. Public support is rooted in trust, understanding and common purpose. And, you are a very important part of our ability to retain this trust.
Just as critical, in today's information intensive world, the nation that wins the information war--on the battlefield and in the airwaves--is the nation that will prevail in conflict. We must ensure our story is told, to build the support of the American people, to steal their will, to boost our troops' morale, and to win.
Warfare has now entered the information age. Your excellence and ability to get our story told has been one of our asymmetric weapons for 25 years--and will remain so for generations to come.
A decade of experience working public affairs for the Northrop Grumman Corporation taught me the invaluable role you play in the success of our mission. Three fundamental beliefs have guided my approach to this critical element of strategic leadership:
* First, strategy requires communications. Having a strategy is a good first step in any organization, but the members of a team must know it and execute it before it can be successful.
* Second, the internal audiences are as important to our success as external ones.
* And, most important, Public Affairs must be a party to the pulse of an operation to be successful. They help leadership inform, educate and motivate--and in doing so, are essential to our overall mission success. That is how we approached strategic communications at Northrop, it is how Bill Bodie serves our Air Force today, it is what General Rand did for us in the CAOC. And it is what you do for us everyday.
So, it is indeed a great honor to recognize your anniversary this evening. You have my deepest gratitude for your loyalty and honorable service to this great nation. Thank you, and may God Bless America.
James G. Roche, secretary of the Air Force
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|Title Annotation:||Air Force secretary James G. Roche|
|Publication:||Air Force Speeches|
|Date:||Jun 13, 2003|
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