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All Airmen must tell the Air Force story

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- A few months ago, I read an article in the New York Times titled "Up, Up and Out" by Paul Kane. In his article, Mr. Kane "recommends disbanding the Air Force because of vague claims that ours is a redundant service and apparently not at war." Fortunately, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force articulated an appropriate rebuttal.

The purpose of this commentary is not to craft another rebuttal, but more importantly, to question why the Air Force is constantly under attack and marginalized as a non-player in the current irregular warfare environment in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

We don't have to look very far to find the root cause. So here it goes ... we, as Airman, are the "root cause" because we fail to articulate the value of the Air Force in irregular warfare. We must tell the Air Force story. If you don't believe me, walk around your squadron and ask your coworkers what the Air Force contributes to the joint fight in Iraq and Afghanistan and then ask them to explain the value of the Air Force contribution. More than likely, you will be underwhelmed just like the American public.

Now that we have identified the "root cause," how do we fix it? In fighter pilot jargon, "the fix is," we as Airmen "have a unique war fighting perspective shaped by a century-long quest to gain and maintain the high ground. We must be able to articulate Air Force capabilities and contributions to the irregular warfare fight, with its unique attributes and requirements. Employed properly, airpower (to include air, space and cyberspace capabilities) produces asymmetric advantages that can be effectively leveraged by joint force commanders in virtually every aspect of irregular warfare."

So what are some of the Air Force's capabilities in irregular warfare? Some major Air Force capabilities are as follows: building partnership capacity; combat aviation advisory missions; all source intelligence - collection, analysis and targeting; network warfare operations; electronic warfare; influence operations - psychological operations, military deception, counterpropaganda, public affairs and operational security; agile combat support; and command and control to just name a few.

Armed with the knowledge of Air Force capabilities in irregular warfare, we must now explain the value and contribution of these capabilities. In short, the Air Force provides minimal intrusiveness, rapid response - rapid mobility and engagement, and improves strategic, operational and tactical situational awareness. Specific to Mountain Home Airmen, we predominately provide nontraditional intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance and rapid engagement response. Our armed over-watch missions prevent the enemy from massing and enable distributed small-unit action on the ground - especially in Afghanistan where freedom of movement is limited by the rugged terrain. Many Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen sleep well at night in forward operating bases because they know the enemy cannot mass against them.

In sum, we all must do a better job telling the Air Force story in times of irregular warfare because many of our missions are "out of sight and out of mind." We need to articulate the Air Force's capabilities and contributions to our joint friends and the American public. Hopefully, this commentary helps you spread the Air Force's story word or at least has provided you some points to ponder with friends. Thanks for your service in the world's greatest Air Force.