Changing the Narrative

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. James M. Powell III
  • 97th Medical Group
Our Air Force has experienced some tough times with respect to its image and reputation over the past 12 months. Headlines such as cheating scandals, misconduct among training instructors and sexual assaults have kept us in the news for all the wrong reasons.

If you're like me, you've become frustrated with all the negative attention given the fact that we know these miscues represent only a small portion of our Air Force and are not indicative of who we are as Airmen. What adds to the problem is that the aperture from which we are viewed consist of media outlets that are in motion 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and not to mention that by merely typing in a phrase associated with Air Force, search engines on the internet will give you anything you ever wanted to know about the Air Force and the current crisis going on.

Knowing all this, it is very easy to become skeptical and defensive when you see or read these things in the national media. But for all that is reported, printed or blogged that is negative about the Air Force, I know we could all counter it with several stories that have gone right on a routine basis that will never make the headlines.

If I've got one criticism about reporting it's that not enough of the good news is highlighted. I'm not naïve and I certainly understand that most of the time drama and scandal sells and gets widely reported. So the question of the day is how do we "Airmen" change the narrative of what gets reported? I think the first step starts with self-accountability. If we all challenge ourselves to uphold the standards to which we have been charged, this would go a long way towards stamping out some of the negative behaviors. Once we can hold ourselves accountable, then and only then can we hold others around us accountable.

Accountability is the crux of the solution. Refocus our attitudes and mindset. Recognize that in large majority, we are not the Air Force that is negatively portrayed in the media. We only need to look to the missions that get done every day at bases around the U.S and overseas to solidify that fact. What other organization can be decentralized in location, have a diverse mix of people, culture, talents, skillsets and platforms and carry out a single unified mission 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 without fail? I would venture to say that no company that is in the business of protecting our nation could accomplish this as well as we do. The fact that we do this despite the hiccups that get reported in the media is truly remarkable.

This is our Air Force narrative every day. So our challenge is not to change the narrative by pushing back against negative media reports with words, but to simply let our actions speak for themselves and the narrative will change on its own.