Episode 10 - Lucretia Cunningham From The Air Force
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This is the American military Britt,
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shedding light on the realities of military life. Now, here's your host, US Air Force Staff Sergeant Christopher Clark. Hello, and welcome to the American military Brit podcast. This is a podcast where we talk to different military members to figure out the full story about the military, not just the rumors, but the actual story from those who were there and took part in military service.
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Hello, everyone. Welcome to the American military Brit podcast. For the podcast today. Again, I've got I use for most of the guests I've had on the show. I've had people that I that I know and that I've, you know, been stationed with or worked with or whatever. But well, I suppose the two of us do work together, but we just don't really like we're both in the in the Reserves at Nellis Air Force Base. And we have actually, I guess, crossed paths, but we've never really spoken up to this point. So I've got Lucretia Cunningham on the on the podcast today. I think I said her name right. So hopefully I did. But yeah. Do you want to just kind of, you know, tell the audience who you are and whatnot. Sure. So my name is Lucretia Cunningham. I'm a tech sergeant in the Air Force Reserves. I've been in the Air Force for about 16 years and that's like, through the reserves, active duty and guard. I'm also a military spouse my husband's active duty.
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Yeah, and we just got stationed here at Nellis, which is probably why we don't exactly know each other because I just started with the unit back in October.
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Right after we PCs here from Virginia from Langley, Langley, Okay, nice. Yeah. How is Langley, I've always heard Langley, he's like, it's good. It's like big because they've got like the CIA and all those people there. That's a common misconception. So there's two languages. There's Langley in Northern Virginia, where there's the CIA headquarters in that sort of thing. And then there's Langley Joint Base, Langley, Eustis in Southern Virginia, like Southeast Virginia, which is Hampton
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Inn, Hampton Roads area. And it was it was nice. It's,
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it was a cool base, it was still really busy. For sure. With F 20. twos and rafters and that kind of thing. So, okay. All right, cool.
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So a question I always ask people is, of course, like, why did you join the Air Force? Like was there? Like, for me, it was, you know, my life sucked. I just wanted to change my life and stuff like that. So like, for you like, why did you join? Yeah. When I think of myself at the age that I joined the military, I think of myself as like, someone who didn't have an exact goal or trajectory of where I was going. So kind of similar, I guess. And not, it wasn't intentional. I didn't think that the military would change my life or redirect me in the way it did. Honestly, I was living with like, my boyfriend's grandparents or something like that. Something like that. From high school, I was attempting to go back to school to college, I had just dropped out of major university.
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wanted wanted to continue going to community college, but that just wasn't realistic, in how much it cost. I had two jobs. I was working at Home Depot, I was working at a daycare center. And I honestly was looking into the Peace Corps. But apparently the Peace Corps wants like really trained, educated people. Which makes sense, but I didn't think about that at the time. And I feel like an Air Force recruiter called me out of nowhere. And my idea was to say, Well, what else have I got to lose? Like, what have I got going on? What am I doing? So why not? Basically? Yeah, that's fair enough. Yeah. And then like, as far as
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you know, you do you do a lot of I guess, journalism, or you did communications. So you're, you're in a, you know, similar field to me.
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Are you doing you're doing journalism in or you're doing public affairs is called right. Yeah. The military journalists are the journalist of the military. Yeah. So how's how's that whole thing? I love public affairs. And I love communications and journalism. And this is like, was a life goal for me or something that I didn't think that I could achieve as a kid? I remember idolizing news anchors or V J's. Do you remember MTV V. J's? I don't know. Well, like Carson Daly? Oh, yeah, of course. Yeah. And those were like, the people that I idolized and I knew that I wanted to be like when I got older, but it didn't seem like a realistic goal. Almost like I want to be an actress or I want to be a famous singer. Same thing going on in my head.
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But I actually when I came into the military, I came in open
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General. And what that means is that basically the military picks your job for you.
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And people I didn't have, like I said, much guidance or where I was going, nobody was there to tell me like, this is what that means. This is what could happen. I just did it. And I think somebody dropped out last minute. And so I wasn't, I wasn't in the DEP program for maybe a week, the delayed entry program. So I just went straight to basic right after making the decision to join, and they gave me open General. Luckily enough, I ended up becoming a medic, I was an aerospace medical technician for more than 10 years, which is a good career field to Landon, if you came in open general, because it could have been, it could have been real bad real fast.
Unknown Speaker 5:44
Next, we'll talk about basic and tech school. So you did mention one thing I forgot I wanted to bring up you mentioned the DEP or delayed entry program. So you said you were in for a week I was I was in for I was in for like four months? I think it was Yeah. Because I signed. Because you know, you go to your recruiter and you they sign you up, you do all your stuff. And then that begins you being in depth, I believe. So that was in January for me and I left in May. So that was, yeah, that was an interesting experience. But concerning, like, basic training, where I don't even think I asked where you're where you're from, like, where did you fly to basic training from? I flew from Florida, from Tampa, Florida, but I'm not from Tampa, Florida. I'm originally from Chicago.
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So why Tampa, Florida, you know, so it's all a blur.
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But if that's where my boyfriend's parents or his grandparents were living, he was not there. I was just living with them. And so
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yeah, I wasn't living with my parents. My dad I have my dad is in Florida. And I think that was kind of the goal that I wanted to be near where my dad was because I hadn't grown up with him. But not necessarily, like with him with him, because I hadn't grown up with him. So I don't know, lots, lots to unpack there. But I flew from Tampa, Florida, and I remember my dad coming to the airport. And it was like, like I said, I'm one of those people that kind of like things happen in my life. And then I like pack it away for another day, like, but I remember him coming to the airport and giving me like a lecture or like an I'm so proud of you thing and then I don't and I was like, okay, okay, because in my head, my very immature brain at that time. This was not a big deal. Like this. Me joining the military was like,
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I don't know, a Wednesday, I had no idea.
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I had no idea what I was up against. I had no idea what I was facing I had was in the debt program for a week. So when I got there, and other girls were like, Yeah, I had been working on my run for this many months. And I got my time down. I was like, What are you talking about?
Unknown Speaker 8:11
What are you talking about? And where did they say that? Like nobody told me this information. So I literally came into it blind. And here I am. 16 years later. Yeah, my angels. Like I was I was going crazy. Speaking of that, I was going crazy running all the time. I was doing push ups and sit ups because you know, obviously I had, you know, like I said, I had like four months to prepare. But I was preparing even before that and plan. Yeah, had a plan. And you knew what you wanted to do? Yeah. Yeah, I cannot say the same. Yeah. But you get there. And there's just people who are just like, No, no, I didn't work out before. And they were, you know, because they put us in those different color groups as well. I don't know if they did that. Because you went in 2006. Okay, I went in 2011. Okay, yeah, they got the different color groups, they had, you know, Red was the people in the worst shape. And then it was yellow, and it was green. And it was really blue. Or thank goodness, I was blue. By the way. I was blue. Thank goodness for me, I would have been in the red
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when I was there, because you know, they had the they had like the the PT pad that you run on. And they'd like cone off areas. So the people in the red had like the small little area to run around. And then people in blue, were just running like, all the way up, but they could be the opposite. Like they would help the people in the red to give them more space so that they could run more. Yeah, I don't know. But then you got promoted. You got promoted to different levels, if you like, if the red people improved, they go to yellow and so on and so on. Yes. But as far as your basic experience went like, yeah, how was that for you? Because I'm always interested to hear people's stories because I didn't you know, I didn't really get yelled at that much and stuff like that. And I thought it was kind of funny. I thought I wanted to leave after like
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First day, but yeah, I mean, overall I thought it was okay. But how was your? Yeah, it was, um, traumatic.
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I, like I said was very ill prepared and like kind of which just going
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very spontaneous. I was a very spontaneous, I guess, person at that time and didn't listen to anyone and didn't care what anybody else had to say about what I was doing. So I was just going with the flow.
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But when I got there, we lived, it was different. It was 2006 I had a cell phone, but it was not like commonly used I know in basic training at some point they were letting people have their phones. Social media wasn't like a big thing. Yeah, so we didn't get our phones. We used to pay phone. We had, like, coins back. Yeah, you use a payphone and it was timed. So you had like this much time and you took your turn on the payphone on Sundays, or whatever the case was. I remember that.
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We lived in the barracks with 50, I lived with 50 other girls and it was a shared shower.
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And I will really don't want to see, like I didn't think that I was gonna see the things that I saw girls do in the shower.
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Like I just had no idea.
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Yeah, sometimes girls aren't sometimes they're like gross, like hygienic hygiene wise, like they. And that was weird.
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I remember courtesy flushes because there was just a bunch of girls in one bathroom.
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But I did I did get yelled at a lot. Because I don't know if you can tell but like I have like a baby face and like these. My Dimples and I smile.
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Smiling. I smile a lot. And I laugh a lot. And I smile through conversations. And I smile and laugh the worst when you make me nervous. So like, I remember being the door guard one time and they give you this thing to recite
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entry control control point stuff. I did not could not memorize that. And I started getting yelled at through the door by the TI his face in the window. And I laughed at him.
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You will get in trouble for that. Oh, yeah, I laughed at him. So yeah, that was and then they put me on my face. Right? Did you know that turn on your face? On your back on your face on your back with a flutter? Like you alternate with flutter kicks and I laughed my way through that too. So moving on to tech school. Where was where was your tech school? Yeah, I did tech school in Texas San Antonio. I didn't go very far for tech school. Oh, that's right. Because you were medical. That was medical. And I also did medical we have to at the time we had two phases where you did like your EMT book study certification portion in San Antonio and then you could be lucky enough to get us a phase two at a different location like some people went to Travis or other places as long as it was like a large hospital and I stayed there in San Antonio. Was it Fort Sam Houston or is it somewhere else? Nope. It was back when? I don't know what is it called? Was it just? Was it just the hospital? Lackland? Yeah, Lachlan, oh, just that hospital. They didn't they didn't combine Lachlan in Fort Sam Houston until later on, I think like 2013 ish. Okay, later, okay.
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Okay, let's talk about your assignments. So
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I always talk about how unfortunate I was because I in tech school, I learned that my first assignment was going to be Missouri. I was in Missouri for like, almost five years. Whiteman Air Force Base. Yeah. And of course, I didn't want to go there. Because everyone was getting like all these overseas assignments go to Korea and stuff. My Yeah, that's cool. And then they're like, yeah, yeah, where were you going on like, Missouri. Whiteman Air Force Base. Like it's just it's not the sexiest thing is it? Really? It's not the best assignment. So what was your What was your first assignment? Oh, man, like yours? Scott Air Force Base in Southern Illinois. Yeah. In the middle of the cornfields and Skuta. Illinois. Yeah, but you're from you said you're from Chicago from Chicago. You were close to home, right? Yeah. So I did it was close to home and that was good. And I liked that. And maybe again, those are my angels watching over me because that's where I ended up having like, very, very shortly after I got to my first base I found out I was pregnant with my first child and needed, my parents are needed. My mom's for sure. And she was about four and a half hours away.
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was working in a clinic that had like a condensed schedule. So we would work nine hours for four days, and then we get like every other Friday off or something like that. So I would go home every other weekend. I would go home. So yeah, and I was there for like, seven years. I had two kids there. I had my oldest daughter and then four years later, I had my son, Scott. Oh, wow, seven years. Yeah, that's, you know, when the Air Force puts you somewhere like a cornfield and Masuda Illinois, they're gonna keep you there forever. Yeah, cuz I, the the, the way I got out of Missouri was I pushed the, as people call it, you push the nuclear bomb and you go to Korea? Yeah, I'll volunteer to go to Korea.
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So yeah, that was that was how that happened. But your, your husband is he was he What is where does he come into play? Oh, yeah. So my husband and I, we actually joined, we always say that it was like a story of fate, right, like, forces pushing us together. So he's from Tennessee. He is from Dickson, Tennessee, which is like the middle I think Middletown, central Tennessee. But we joined the Air Force on the same day, we both have the same enlistment date. And then we were at basic at the same time. And then we went to the same tech school. He's also a medic, we were at the tech school at the same time. And then we both ended up at Scott at the same time.
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At the same time, working in the same clinic. Yeah, together. Everything was the same. Okay, yes, we were always together. But we didn't end up getting married until 2010. So like a few years later, he ended up deploying, and we were like, we were trying very hard. I don't know, like Active Duty wise, if you ever talk about relationships and the way relationships work in the military, but it goes very quickly, right? So we were really trying to get married for a while. And it just for some reason, never happened and never lined up, or whatever the case was. And he deployed. We were trying to get married before he deployed, but he deployed. And
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we, when he came back, we ended up having like a big wedding in the middle of a cornfield
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in Southern Illinois.
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And so we were just worked out that way. And then a year later, we had our son so Okay, yeah.
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So yeah, after, after Illinois, like where did you go? Yeah. So we were mil to mil, both active duty. And we together decided to push the nuclear button and we volunteered for a we volunteered for a remote, a remote duty station in Turkey. And it was a short. What are they called? Short tours, a short tour in Turkey where we could take our kids and we could be together.
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And so we went to Turkey to Incirlik for three years. And that was the kids still talk about it. Our youngest was born while we were stationed in Turkey. And one of the most interesting things about that is that military people, we're not allowed to have kids to not to we're not allowed to give birth in Turkey. Okay. Yeah. So I have an interesting birth story. Basically, she was born in Tennessee in Nashville. Wait, so you have sort of how does that work? You have to like fly somewhere. And, yeah, so at the time, I was actually in charge of what they call the stork messaging program. And that's a known program throughout the military. It's called stork nesting where you don't give birth where you are stationed that the military will fly you somewhere else. And for us, it was Ramstein, I think, yeah, so I should have had her at Ramstein. But again, we were mil to mil, and my husband was working ambulance services, 24 hour shifts, and there was a big nuclear inspection coming coming up. And the kids were not allowed to go with me to Germany, I would have to go alone. My husband could come. But he couldn't because of this nuclear inspection coming up. And I had a commander look me in my face and say,
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I just want to let you know, he's not going anywhere until this is over.
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Yeah, it was a nuclear surety inspection. And I said okay, and that's when I knew enough I had enough medical know how I had enough know how about the program, the start nursing program, to basically look into going home and taking my kids to Nashville where his mom and his family was, and staying with my brother and sister in law until I had my daughter at
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Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville. Yep. And then he made it there. He made it there in time for her birth, but it was like he had to take a train plane bus. It was It was intense.
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So you've been in the guard on the reserve, right? So
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I'm curious because like, I transitioned from active duty to the garden reserve, or sorry, just to the reserve I went to.
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And I'm curious about the transition for you, because I found it quite easy as far as the, like military to military transition, like going from active to reserve, but it was the, it was kind of the civilian transition, transition, like going from, you know, your just your whole life as the military. And then suddenly, you're actually free now, and you can do what you want. And it's just very weird, because you're not, you're not on that set schedule all the time. So like, for you, obviously, it's a little bit different, because I was single, you have your family and stuff. So like, how does that How did that whole thing go? Yeah, um, I think initially, that's how I felt like, Oh, I'm free now, to just do whatever.
Unknown Speaker 21:04
But I don't, I think the biggest transition for me was the was the cultural shift. I don't know if you've noticed, but especially going from active to guard to reserve, I can see the difference in cultures, even from guard to reserve, there's a difference in just how we view things or how we interact or how we, that sort of thing. So there's a cultural shift, believe it or not, even though it's all Air Force, it's just different cultures.
Unknown Speaker 21:34
So I think I think my transition was okay, but I don't feel like I fully am free like a civilian free. Yeah, maybe it's also because my husband's active duty, and I continue, I still live through day to day military stuff, right. But also, but also, like, I didn't realize until I got out how much how much I have become.
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I've become Tech Sergeant Cunningham. Like until I got out, I think, and I think that's different for people. But before I was Tech Sergeant Cunningham, I was a person, like I said, who was just on a path to Nowhere, didn't know what I was doing, or whatever the case is, being in the military gives me a direction, and it gives me a goal.
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And so I take every opportunity to be involved with my unit to be on orders, like if you want to give me three months of orders, I'm taking it.
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Like I'm taking it.
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And then everything else just falls in line. I'm also a military spouse, like I said, so having a career or having something outside of the military is is very difficult. If you could interview or if you talk to other military spouses who aren't in the military, they'll say like, they have to leave, they dedicate themselves to their studies, and they dedicate themselves to their work. But it's really difficult to hold on to that. And that's a known issue in the military in general. So I think I hold on to my military service, in that sense, where that's what I do, and then everything else can just fall in line. I often joke that I have four quarter time jobs
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for quarter time jobs, and that's because the military has taken precedent. Like I'm on orders right now full time orders right now. And then I have a part time gig at a at a public news public radio station, freelance for this company, I freelance for that company, but my military is my, my center. So I don't know if I can say, Yeah, okay, so, but yeah, so you first went to the guard. And it was interesting how you brought up kind of the shift in kind of the difference between like Active Duty Guard Reserve, because like, when I was, you know, when I was active duty, we always kind of looked down on those people. But yeah, we did. We did work with a lot of guard guys when I was in Missouri. And I know one of them actually listens to this podcast. And they were just they were funny, though, because they were just so chilled. They call each other by like, no matter what their rank was, they call each other by first names. They were just so like, chilled out and just such like cool guys, but like, you know, and then you have the active guys who are just so like, we're so stuck.
Unknown Speaker 24:31
I didn't I don't think when I look from the guard perspective to active duty, I don't think it's that they're stuck up. I think that's that they're angry. Yeah, we're always annoyed because our lives are miserable. Yeah, exactly. They're angry and they are trapped and they have not discovered the best kept secret in the military is to join the Guard or Reserve.
Unknown Speaker 24:56
Alright, so just to finish off here. We were talking before
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And you were talking about like an interesting experience you brought up that you were a part of the whole capital riot thing, or you are at least involved in that. So just just talk about that. Like, what was that? What was that all about? Yeah. So the guard didn't respond to the insurrection at the Capitol until after it happened. And that was a major story. I don't know anything about that. Because, you know, it's above my paygrade. But, but,
Unknown Speaker 25:28
yeah, so I was actually on active duty orders with my guard unit at that time. That started in March, early March of 2020. We didn't know COVID was going to come at us the way it did. As a matter of fact, right. Before I started my orders, I wrote a story with a newspaper that I was working with. And it was a teacher who taught online classes. She taught English to Chinese students in China online. And she was telling me like, we need to band together and just send like, mask and things like that to China, because there's just no more. I remember writing that story. I remember starting my orders. And then by mid March, they had told us that we needed to go home for two weeks. Right? And because, you know, it was just two weeks to flatten the curve, basically, right?
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Next month turned into like, two years,
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the year two and a half. But, um, so when the insurrection happened, I remember actually being in the office by myself, and I don't remember what I was working on, or whatever the case was, but nobody else was there, which is why I was there. Because we could come into the office, we just had to be separated.
Unknown Speaker 26:41
And I remember watching the TV and telling my co workers and texting them, like, do you guys see what's happening at the Capitol, because those are the exact type of things that the guard is,
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is, is organized for right, like emergency. So it set off a red flag for me being like, we're gonna go somewhere soon. Or I'm gonna bet that we're going to be involved somewhere somehow, after this happened.
Unknown Speaker 27:10
And within a matter of hours, our security forces was organized, and they were getting ready to mobilize and go. And I'm public affairs. So I'm not going to go respond with a weapon and a tactical vest, I'm gonna go to Document historic for historic references, and I'm gonna go document so that the people in Virginia know that their military is doing something and know that how we're involved in what we're doing, and how we're using our training and that sort of thing. And that's really the Public Affairs goal, right as to say,
Unknown Speaker 27:44
your tax dollars are paying for, for us to do training to do this, to do this to get this equipment. And this is how we use it. That's Public Affairs, our job to tell that story. So that's what it was. So I knew our security forces was going. And my job as public affairs is to brief security forces on this is going to be a national story, this is going to be a big story. So if people walk up to you with cameras, you direct them to me, or you don't know anything, because you don't know anything. You're just going because they told you to be here.
Unknown Speaker 28:21
And then after that,
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I actually went there. And it was the same thing. We set up shop, we had like a public affairs corner
Unknown Speaker 28:32
in the Library of Congress. So that those experiences for me though, like that's why I do what I do. That's why I stay in the military, I always have this desire to serve a greater purpose. Like if I'm supposed to be there to, to tell this story about the things that these airmen are doing for their country on a national scale. Like, I want to be there. So we set up shop. And basically our job was to
Unknown Speaker 29:05
media inquiries, things that came in from our local news stations, that sort of stuff, interviews, but also getting B roll and photos and things like that for our media to use
Unknown Speaker 29:20
on the local channels. So that was cool. But yeah, well, yeah, I guess we'll leave it there. I just want to, obviously, thank you for coming on the podcast because it's always nice to get a different perspective from you know, somebody I mean, somebody who's been in both the guard on reserve, like I haven't had anybody on the show yet that's done that. So yeah, cool. That's cool. But yeah, thank you. Thanks.
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