MindForce: Mental Fitness & Career Stories!

Lt Hunter Dabbs - The Flight from Food Service to Air Force Public Affairs

October 11, 2023 Nathaniel Scheer Season 1 Episode 6
MindForce: Mental Fitness & Career Stories!
Lt Hunter Dabbs - The Flight from Food Service to Air Force Public Affairs
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Join us for an engaging dialogue with Hunter, a Public Affairs Officer in the United States Air Force, as he takes us on a thrilling journey through his career transition from food service to the military. Listen as he expertly navigates the parallels between the two fields, emphasizing the paramount importance of customer service, and gives us a sneak peek into his day-to-day responsibilities. Highlighted amongst these duties are unique experiences like capturing media content during high-speed flight missions. The high-octane world of the military springs to life in Robert's vivid recounting.

Through our conversation with Robert, we learned that nurturing quality relationships is critical to success in your career, especially in Public Affairs. The significance of networking, the necessity of a robust support network, and the importance of self-care are all points of discussion. We challenge the notion that quantity trumps quality in relationships, underscoring that a handful of meaningful connections can make all the difference.

Lastly, we touch on the importance of patience and the transformative power of career exploration. We encourage listeners to take their time in finding the right career path, underscoring that treating people well and being patient in your journey are invaluable life skills. Stay tuned for our future episodes; each one will continue to shed light on different career fields and the opportunities they present. You won't want to miss out on these insights!

Scheerious Positivity!

Nate Scheer:

Welcome to the show Mind Matters, the podcast on love, life and learning. Today we're going over an episode of AFSC's 1 through 9. Today we got Lieutenant Robert Dabs in the house Public Affairs. Can you start us off by telling us what your AFC is?

Hunter Dabbs:

Yeah, so hi, I'm Robert Dabs. I go by Hunter, that's my middle name and I'm a first lieutenant Public Affairs officer, so 35P.

Nate Scheer:

Is that the official title?

Hunter Dabbs:

Public Affairs officer, or 35P.

Nate Scheer:

Public Affairs officer yeah.

Hunter Dabbs:

Public Affairs officer. So you've got multiple different job titles that fall into each of the functional areas. For me, I'm the chief of media operations.

Nate Scheer:

Oh awesome, that's great stuff. How did you find PA?

Hunter Dabbs:

Yeah, so PA is a really interesting career field because it's pretty much the most not military career you can have. It's kind of like a liaison between the military world and the real world, and when I realized that there were combat photographers is actually what got me into it. I had a passion for photography growing up. When I realized you could do that for the military, I thought it was cool. Saying the world.

Nate Scheer:

So does that mean you knew you were going to be PA from a little kid? They're like I want to be a vet. I want to be a doctor. You were like I want to be PA.

Hunter Dabbs:

No, I actually didn't know. I wanted to join the military until the end of my junior year of college. I started school as a studio art major with a focus on photography. It wasn't really going anywhere for me and I couldn't afford college anymore. I was going to drop out and list because I wanted to be a combat photographer and everybody I know that's military, or friends of military, said don't list, if you're going to do it, be an officer. And so I started researching, found out about ROTC, transferred up to the University of South Carolina so I could start the Air Force ROTC program up there. And once I was there, I did have my mindset on PA.

Nate Scheer:

Awesome. That rolls us right into the next part. Tell us your origin story. What's your background?

Hunter Dabbs:

Yeah, so I, as I just said, like I always had a passion for photography. My dad kind of grew us up around some cameras and always taking pictures and not just like happy snaps. But he was always trying to teach us like the fundamentals of photography shutter speed, f-stop, iso, that kind of stuff and when I was in high school I really enjoyed my photography classes. That's what got me into being a studio art major with a focus on photography. But then from there I kind of found PA, found like this liberal arts, this little tiny piece of liberal arts that's actually in the military, and that's what I started chasing.

Nate Scheer:

That's awesome. That's good stuff. It's funny. My wife does photography as well and it's funny how it's kind of a whole nother language. She's like aperture and ISO and like I have no idea what you're talking about. I was like can you explain it to me? Like I'm five, I've tried to learn a little bit, but yeah, it's really good stuff. Tell us one lesson you've learned that you think everyone should learn in life.

Hunter Dabbs:

Let's start off with the military lesson. I would say the biggest thing that I've taken from my civilian life and put into the military world is my background in food service. I grew up working in kitchen, grew up working in restaurants, and I've always been a strong supporter of everybody should work something in the food service industry or the service industry at all, just so that you can understand what it's like to take care of people, especially taking care of people that don't necessarily have any desire to be taken care of you. That positivity goes a long way, and taking care of people, yeah.

Nate Scheer:

That's good stuff. I think there's some things you really can't learn until you live it. You can try to read it in a book or whatnot, but until you've worked something and had someone come in 10 minutes before closing and try and get a full meal and get that feeling on the other side, that's pretty tough.

Hunter Dabbs:

I was just talking to somebody about that. Recently we were going back and forth because one of my buddies he also grew up in food service, same kind of thing and when we sometimes will meet people and we'll go back and forth and like, yeah, like that guy would definitely show up like right as the restaurants closing and ask her stuff and then be a pain and that kind of thing.

Nate Scheer:

He can judge people based on your prior experience. Right, right, right, that's good stuff. So we're going to move over to the warm up. So in all sports you got to warm up, get the bullpen ready, get the muscles going, so we'll get into a little bit of a warm up. So we've got a few questions for you and a few questions for me. First one for you Can you give us an overall overview of your career field and the types of jobs or positions that fall within it?

Hunter Dabbs:

Yeah, so public affairs is broken up into three primary functional areas. First of all, you've got command information. That's going to be all of your commanders priorities, vision, mission statement, that kind of stuff. And how do you communicate that to the, to the required stakeholders? That's going to be through, you know, social media, that kind of stuff, as well as like base by emails, basically getting the word out of there. That also kind of captures all of the visual information stuff that we do the photo, the video, the media arts. Every every time we take a picture, we're really trying to connect that to a commander's intent. Why does that picture matter to what the commander wants? Right, one of our commander's priorities here is taking care of airmen and their families. When we send somebody out to the, to a retirement ceremony, often it's the retirement ceremonies are events that people don't really want to shoot but because they're just repetitions and a little boring sometimes. But you know, why is that? Why? Why is taking that picture and matter to the boss and falls under that taking care of our people, taking care of airmen, that sort of thing. Another thing that we focus on is is delivering that decisive air power down here. So when we're out there on the flight line shooting the multitude of aircraft that are here right now, how does that, you know, portray that message? The next functional area is community engagement. So that's going to be all of your local civic leaders, local government and local community types of community outreach events. We got to build relationships with those people so that when stuff does go wrong, they can come to us versus, versus the opposite, which is just complaining. And building those relationships really helps us kind of live more harmoniously. You know, overseas, especially here, there's not necessarily the same type of appreciation for the military that you would get stateside, and so having those community engagement events and building those relationships kind of help us live a more comfortable life over here. And the last section, which is the section that I'm the chief of right now, is media operations, and that's going to be your like traditional news media, right? So local media, re-cuchimpos out here, nhk, okinawa Times we handle all their media queries. Anytime they want to get on base to do an interview or do a tour or understand more about what's going on, or anytime they have a really serious question, they come to us and we feel that we also handle all the like US national media that will come through as well. Just recently I had a Mission with the P8 Poseidon, the Naval Intelligence, surveillance and Reconnaissance aircraft. We had CNN, nbc come down. We threw them on a P8 and they flew over the South China Sea and they got intercepted by a Chinese fighter jet and it was national headlines and we put them on that plane. So that's also part of what we do.

Nate Scheer:

So, out of the three sections, some career fields have kind of like a hierarchy or different things. Is there one that you normally start at, or is it kind of whichever one you're given at the current time?

Hunter Dabbs:

Yeah, so on the enlisted side, most people start in CI. The tech school for the enlisted guys is primarily focused on it's a little bit everything but capturing photo video and is their primary focus. So when they get here, most of the shooters, most of the guys on the ground with the camera. That's going to be your lower enlisted guys. As you get more senior you'll move into those community engagement and media operations roles, because it takes a little bit more experience and a little bit more understanding of how the Air Force works and how to really communicate those commanders and the commander's intent to more high brow people, not necessarily just putting them up on Facebook, but sitting in that local assembly meeting and still being able to get those messages across.

Nate Scheer:

Yeah, that makes sense. I would assume the ones that are being that close to the commander and things like that. You probably need to have a little more time.

Hunter Dabbs:

Right and PA is a really weird career field in that sense, where we actually fall under WSA, the Wing Staff Agency, and so administratively we fall under the Comptroller Squadron, but we're really on a daily basis interacting with the command team and my last two EPRs were signed by one stars and that's what's as the second lieutenant. So it's just, it's a wild opportunity for a younger person, especially like fresh out of college, fresh in the Air Force not really common.

Nate Scheer:

Yeah, that's wild, just straight to the top, right off the bat. What are some things about your job that most people don't understand?

Hunter Dabbs:

Most people think it is just taking pictures, right. So you know, you've got your St Patrick's State 5k or you've got some other local MWR community event. They're like hey, can PA be there to take pictures? And sometimes we can. Sometimes that does cover fall into what we need to be covering, but a lot of times we're getting these HHQs from PACAF to shoot some more intense, serious stuff and it's not necessarily just taking pictures all the time that makes sense.

Nate Scheer:

You got to get that 833 in the 833,.

Hunter Dabbs:

yeah, that is the Air Force form that you have to submit in order to get photo coverage for that. That's right.

Nate Scheer:

I've done a projo event or two, oh yeah.

Hunter Dabbs:

We're dealing with loads of young CGO projos that just want to get somebody to take a picture of their event. That's right.

Nate Scheer:

Oh boy, okay, next one. What are some aspects of your job you enjoy?

Hunter Dabbs:

I love everything about my job being the Chief of Media Operations is it was super intimidating when I was coming over here, but now I love it. I just sat down. Today and yesterday we're doing a series of local media tours. We're inviting local reporters, newscasters, journalists on base, like Japanese nationals. They sit down in our office in the conference room, we give them a mission brief in Japanese. They ask me some questions. I've got an MLC that's translating for me and we get them answered and then we give them a tour around the base. Thanks, larry, it's an awesome opportunity to meet people. Right? There's thousands of service members over here and not all of them most of them probably don't actually interact with the local community and this is like an insane opportunity for me to get to meet these people and build these relationships. And then when there is a problem, they call me directly and they ask me, versus the opposite.

Nate Scheer:

That's good. Yeah, you definitely have to establish relationships before you need them. I remember I was an emergency manager and so we'd exchange business cards and stuff between the different hospitals and whatnot. You don't want to find out who the emergency manager is from a nearby hospital when things are going really terrible. He'd like to know before then. So kind of building up that roll of decks before you need it. Well, those are the warmup questions I have for you. What do you have for me?

Hunter Dabbs:

So I see you got an exact badge on your blouse over there. What were you doing before you were an exec?

Nate Scheer:

So I've done quite a few things. So I was air traffic for five years, contracting, for three years enlisted, and then I was lucky enough to be picked up for my commission for the medical service corps, some MSC, which is basically six or seven different AFSCs jammed into one, so it's all the backside of the hospital. So I love helping people. I don't do blood or needles, I pass out. So this is a sweet opportunity to help people without having to hit the deck. So we do the money, the manpower, the equipment that supplies the entire backside business side of the hospital.

Hunter Dabbs:

So for support for the med group.

Nate Scheer:

Yeah, so it's kind of like Noah's Ark. We have like one of everything. So if there's a line side function or non-medical portion of it, then we have one in house. So like, for example, we have RMO Resource Management Office that's our version of finance and they run all the budget and everything, because medical money is very specifically different than regular line side money. So there's different rules and things we have from DHA. So yeah, so by trade I was a medical logistics, so logistician anything that comes in the clinic that gets bought in any form or fashion goes through logistics. So that includes housekeeping, maintenance staff, all the contracts and then all the supplies that come through, so pharmaceuticals, narcotics, all those things. Any dollar that's spent within the med group is funneled through medical logistics.

Hunter Dabbs:

So are you trained as a loggy, or are you trained by the med group to be a loggy?

Nate Scheer:

So most of our job, for the most part, is on the job training. So we do have what's called a follow on and we have that back at Fort Sam Houston and those are two week courses and there are little appetizers, little tasters of kind of what you do. But in two weeks it's not enough to really grass everything. But they'll show you kind of how to manage the flight at that management level. So reports to run, things to keep an eye on, inspections, checklists, things to monitor from that level, but it's not enough to know everything. And one thing that's a little difficult which I think in most jobs is every clinic is so different. So you could be at a small clinic that has like 100 people. Or you can be at Travis which has four floors, five in some areas, four wings, thousands of people. So every clinic is so different, even though they're all doing health care. They're just so different. Like most clinics you do blood pressure and weight, nothing really that crazy. But then at your egg lens and Travis's and San Antonio you have surgery and really overnight stays and things that are more critical. So it really changes. And that's one thing that's difficult. I've helped people commission and come in and they're like what do I read and what do I do? And I'm like kind of pause and wait for a little bit, because it's really contingent on where you are Like overseas versus stateside completely different. So one thing that's big for us is patient travel. So when people have to go and get in place medical care for mental health or whatever the issue may be, that's really difficult out here. Obviously we're on an island by ourselves and so we have to figure out plane tickets and someone to go with them and a bunch of things that go along with that. Stateside there's clinics. You just check them into the clinic downtown, drop them off and you pick them up in a month or whatever their treatment plan it calls for. So there's just some really different things between stateside, overseas, and then the large and the small hospitals.

Hunter Dabbs:

Yeah, when I think about the med group, right Like I'm thinking especially on the O side, I'm thinking about doctors, you know what I mean. I'm thinking about guys that went to med school and now they came in as a captain and they don't really do the Air Force, they just kind of do the medical and they wear the uniform, but that's about it. But I also just met another individual recently who was kind of on that back end support for the med group but wore the med patch right there. Oh, so you didn't go to school for anything medical related, did you?

Nate Scheer:

No. So our program looks for management type degrees. You could have a degree Like my degree is a business admin with a concentration in contracts, and so I think sometimes I don't think it's ever written per se, but sometimes I get pulled to logistics because contracts is under logistics. So I understand budgets and colors of money and appropriations and things like that. So you get to play to your strengths. But that is one thing that's odd about our career field. Like you don't get a new AFSC, you just keep moving every 18 to 24 months, and so that throws a lot of people off because I move over to readiness and they're like wait, did you get a new job? No, same job, I just got to support a different part of the clinic. So it's really interesting and that's really what drew me in. I remember my first day I shadowed. I was like this is a thing I have to do. I get stagnant, I get bored, and so having a new job or something completely functionally different every two years is really cool to me.

Hunter Dabbs:

Yeah, I'd hear that I can't do the same thing for more than four years. Yeah, I've never held a job for more than four years before. Like I'm super intimidated to get to that three year mark because it feels like I've never done anything for three years before it's. I hear that I'm constantly changing and it kind of works out for us too right, because before I was just a public affairs officer, I kind of supported all the roles, but here now I can focus in on the media section and do that kind of stuff. But my little brother actually just commissioned last year. He graduated from Clemson, the Clemson Razzi program, and he's a contracting officer over there at Peterson Air Force Base. Oh, nice, peterson Space Force Base and they got the coolest patches. He's got like a hydra on one arm. It's nuts. But yeah, he doesn't really know anything about contracting. He knows a little bit about finance from college and they just kind of threw him in there.

Nate Scheer:

So yeah, we do a lot on the job training and I think we do a really good job as a core of helping each other out and whatnot. I'm always asked for documents or best practices or whatever it may be, and I've never been turned down. Stuff shows up in my inbox ready to go, so I think we do a good job.

Hunter Dabbs:

How long did you spend in San Antonio? Just a couple of weeks.

Nate Scheer:

So initially your first tech school is six weeks. You do four weeks of general MSC, so that's just kind of across the board on how the Med Group works and functions. And then, like I mentioned, that two week course you go to like your focused one into your functional area for your first one. But it's kind of funny, sometimes it ends up lining up with the one that you go into. And then sometimes the needs of the Air Force they need some of the difference. So you'd go for a group practice manager and then you end up in medical readiness. They don't even relate and sometimes unfortunately we don't get to the follow on courses because we're overseas or something. But we're set up to be more problem solvers. For the most part it's like can you work through network liaison with other people and get stuff done? So we don't need as much of the functional expertise because we have flight chiefs and listed in other people that can help us through that process.

Hunter Dabbs:

Yeah, I think the way to make yourself the most valuable asset as a CGO is to know people. It's to know who to call, have the hookups, have the lines with people, and yeah, for sure.

Nate Scheer:

Absolutely.

Hunter Dabbs:

I think the biggest part of that is making sure you reciprocate.

Nate Scheer:

I've seen some people they ask and ask and ask, but I always hesitate and I always try to remember I hope I help this person. Or as soon as they do call, I'll be ready to help. And you don't want to ask for something and not give something, so usually I'll send the product that I'm working on. This is what I have. I don't like it, but could you help me? Or have you seen something better? But try not to come empty handed or reviewing bullets for other people I guess we went to performance statements now, but reviewing packages back and forth or putting something in your bank account so you can pull on it later.

Hunter Dabbs:

Right, I asked about. San Antonio, because that's where I was stationed first the public affairs first assignment is only two years so I hung out in San Antonio long enough to put on first lieutenant right here. San Antonio is a good time. Love that town, love the city. I mean and you know it just from going through school there. But I mean probably the largest Service member community, va and active duty gotta be in the world. It's, I know it's the largest installation Department of Defense. And it's not just Fort Sam, right, you've got Lackland and Randolph that all fall into 502nd. So it is is absolutely insane out there and it's busy all the time. It's busy all the time out here too, but I feel like I'm taking a breather from San Antonio, but coming out here.

Nate Scheer:

That's surprising. This place is crazy, but I have heard some wild things about the medical wing out there.

Hunter Dabbs:

It's a wing.

Nate Scheer:

Yeah, it's a wing, it's not a group I think they have six group commanders just at the med group. Yeah that's insane. So let's dive more into your AFSC. So what does an average day look like for you? I'm sure it's kind of tough. Every day looks different, but can you walk us through and get us off the Google version that someone would look up?

Hunter Dabbs:

Yeah, definitely hit it on the head right there by saying every day looks different, right? The the biggest thing that we do, probably the most consistent part about my job, is putting out fires, putting out random fires, right? So you know, I was just on call last week. I get a phone call when, when somebody gets a DUI which is super easy to do out here because the BAC is point zero three versus point zero eight I get a phone call when a marine punches another marine in the face outside of gate two. Which happens a lot which happens kind of a lot, and yeah, it's, it's crazy there's. My normal workflow is is run through emails and coordinating the next big thing, the next event, the next engagement. But you know, I Love that because I get the opportunity to fly sometimes, I get the opportunity to go on these tours, I can meet these other people. I I do Air Force things on other installations. Just recently, a couple weeks ago I've probably a couple months ago now went up with the 33rd guys In an H860. We did a little. We had a document, the exercise that they were doing, cope angel, which is a bilateral rescue mission where Jazdiff, japanese Air Self Defense Force and United States Air Force PJs rescue people, and and so they dropped myself, a captain who was like the, the person in distress and in an IDMT, individually deployable medical technician, off on an island off the coast of Kinawa and we hung out for a few hours while the helicopters were looking for us and then they came down, threw them on a stretcher, took them up and then that was the end of the exercises. It was wild and you know I Love that part of my job. Right, I can, I can kind of go up and shoot and take photos of anything at any time. But obviously I do have some fun. Admins sit in the office Work on email type stuff as well.

Nate Scheer:

That's good stuff. So you had to break down your day an average day quote-unquote, which isn't really a thing. What would you say? It looks like like 30% admin, 30% scheduling and something else.

Hunter Dabbs:

Yeah, I would probably say I Would definitely say 30% admin right. I got it throughout that inbox and that's either looking at requests or Reviewing documents. I we do a lot of. I just had a lieutenant colonel send me a Research from the med group, actually send me a research paper. He's like an entomologist as well and he did some Research on mosquitoes on Okinawa, whether or not they're carrying Japanese encephalitis, and he referenced their force a few times and he referenced the, the Marine Corps, a few times because he did some research on those installations and captured mosquitoes there. So We've got to review those documents and to make sure that there's no kind of the Air Force and dorses this research by blah, blah, blah, right. So that's not necessarily the admin stuff but that's another thing that we do. So that can take up a few hours in a day and as a, as a CGO right, a lot of it is also interacting with the airman. We've got about two dozen Photographers, videographers, graphic artists. We used to be split up by that specific Discipline but now they've kind of merged all of the enlisted career fields into one, the three ends, and they're supposed to be able to know how to do all that stuff. So helping them understand that kind of stuff, and I fortunately have a background in and creating media content and I Can kind of help them out and then when I go shoot to they also give me some feedback, so that's a good pull.

Nate Scheer:

That's awesome. So there's about 24 and then just a couple more over the different sections to go about 25 or so within.

Hunter Dabbs:

So all of our enlisted guys we do, they all kind of cover down on on that CI portion. So some of them help us out on the other side, but them in conjunction with our, our MLCs, we kind of, yeah, evenly split up, I would say, the workload for all the sections.

Nate Scheer:

So you kind of highlighted a really cool opportunity there with the helicopter and pack angel, but I wanted to give you another opportunity. Is there any other things from your job you'd like to highlight?

Hunter Dabbs:

I Got plenty of them. I, it's nuts, I get to do cool stuff all the time. When I was in San Antonio, we had an air show at Randolph. It was, you know, something like 500 or 600,000 people over the course of the weekend. But they called me a week before I'm like Tuesday or Wednesday and they said, hey, we're gonna take a C5 there's 433 which is a airlift wing down there at Lackland They've got C5's. They said, hey, we're gonna take a C5 up to Fort Hood and pick up in M1 Abrams and a Bradley and and bring them down a static displays for the air show. Do you want to go? And I was like heck.

Nate Scheer:

Yeah.

Hunter Dabbs:

So I jumped on a C5 with the vice commander and we made some some Instagram videos so he could promote the air show and I got to to watch them Really do their job. That the the biggest thing that the airwings do is deliver Ground forces right, and, or the most, maybe the most mission-centric thing that they do is deliver those ground forces and deliver Ground assets. And watching a tank getting blowed up into a airplane is pretty freaking cool.

Nate Scheer:

That's awesome. Those heavy C5s are just massive. I remember at Travis They'd bring them out for Static displays every once in a while and you can throw a football down, like it's. That's crazy. It's crazy to think that you could fit two tanks and anything right, right, that's, that's insane. I did have one question kind of side topic, but I love cars and I've seen some people. Shoot some pretty cool rollers. So it makes me think how do you shoot an aircraft Flying around like a jet, like that seems insane. They're going so fast. How do you dial that in? You got any tips for amateur photographers?

Hunter Dabbs:

Yeah, so we actually are really fortunate out here with the 909th, because that's the air refueling squadron out here and one of the things that we get to shoot most often is aerial refueling and with these temporary deployments out here, the 22s, 35, 16s we get to shoot them flying right up behind the, behind the KC 135s, the tankers and and get in their face and it's incredible, the shots are insane. I've as a tip I don't know I think when something is moving you want it to look like it's moving. You want a little bit of motion blur. The best rollers shots that I see of cars are shot between like 1.50 and like 1.125 on the shutter speed side of things, and that'll catch the car. Still, as long as your car is moving the same speed as the one that you're shooting, it'll catch the car in place, but all the background will be blurry and the wheels that are spinning will be blurry, and so it kind of captures that motion. The biggest faux pas for us shooting aircraft, especially helicopters, is helicopters that look like they're floating in the air. You got to shoot it a little slow, enough shutter speed so that you can see the rotors actually getting some motion blur, or else it just looks like a floating helicopter and you want to see that it is flying.

Nate Scheer:

Yeah, that would be kind of creepy. I remember I was up for a calendar contest and so we took some pictures but the car was basically it was moving, but you couldn't tell it was moving. So my wife did some Photoshop and tried to motion blur it. But it was funny. Everyone was calling out like oh, how come you can't see it in the wheels and the reflection in the windows?

Hunter Dabbs:

The biggest punch in the face was when iPhones came out with portrait mode, because it was basically fake. Wider apertures so to get that shallow depth of field, you need a wider aperture, you need to be shooting like a 1-8-2-8-3-5, that kind of thing, but what iPhones were doing was basically using AI to pick out what was the subject and blurring everything else. And it wasn't perfect, right? You could still see the gap in the arm where it was still in focus in the back, and it really shouldn't have been. So everybody became a professional photographer when they got portrait mode, but the people that really care about it can tell when it's not an actual shallow depth of field.

Nate Scheer:

Wow, that's interesting. I thought it actually was blurring it correctly.

Hunter Dabbs:

If you zoom in you'll see on some portrait mode photos.

Nate Scheer:

Interesting. Well, you highlighted that you love your career field, which is super awesome. I'm glad you found something you love, but I want to make sure all the listeners are getting a good, complete picture of the jobs that are out there If they're looking for cross training, commissioning, whatever it may be. So what are some things about your jobs that are less desirable?

Hunter Dabbs:

The coolest part about jobs are when I get to go see people doing ops. People that work in the ops group, right, people that wear the pickle suits. You always see them and you're like dang, like maybe I could be doing that right. And I know I could. Actually before I had a public affairs position like a line position or a line number. I had an ABM slot. So PA is really what I wanted to be doing, which is why I gave up the ABM slot. But yeah. I got a bunch of buddies that I commissioned with that fly airplanes or they sit in the back of airplanes on a more regular basis and I guess the only thing that I don't like about my job is that I'm not doing that every day. You know what I mean. But I think I like my job better because I know there's a lot of not fun stuff that they have to do and I would get over the fun stuff pretty quickly if I was doing it all the time.

Nate Scheer:

Yeah, it's definitely true. I think the pilots get roped into a lot of admin, executive and other things where they really try flying planes.

Hunter Dabbs:

Every pilot has six other jobs and there you always talk about that six hours of briefing and debriefing for every hour of flight, and I'm good on that.

Nate Scheer:

Good stuff. Well, you highlighted some really cool stuff with the Pack Angel, like I had mentioned, but are there other unique opportunities for like certifications or training or other things? I know our job. We got board certifications. Some other stuff Is there, like cool training opportunities?

Hunter Dabbs:

We don't necessarily have stuff like that. There's not a lot of like certs that you can get that would apply on the outside for us. There is one program that happens at Syracuse and you can get, basically to put on a reserve status and go to Syracuse and get a journalism degree or like a photojournalism degree Very selective program, not a lot of people that actually get to go do that and you know they make you pay for it. On the back end you got to sign that extra long service commitment afterwards. I think especially on the outside the opportunity for just real life job experience to interact with big, actual media companies. There's two jobs that I really want, actually. One is the ELO, the Inter-Internet Liaison Office in Los Angeles. When they want to put airplanes on the Transformers movie, they go through them and then we've got the big media outreach that falls under the SAFPA in Manhattan, and whenever we got to put a general on NBC for the morning news, they work through the media outreach office up in Manhattan and it's an opportunity to really professionally network and have an insane job resume. For if you want to get out and you want to get back into that field, how does the process go for that? Just knowing the right people, you can apply for it just like every other job you put on your dream sheet, knowing the right people definitely helps out a lot. I don't know because I don't have that job yet. I put in for it before I came here, but it's usually like a senior captain that goes and a second lieutenant putting on first lieutenant was not really an ideal choice for that job. So we'll see. I'll try again.

Nate Scheer:

Out of here. This is the one. The next one's going to be for you. That would be pretty sweet. We'll put some positive vibes out into the air. I like it. What's one piece of advice you'd give to someone starting out in your career?

Hunter Dabbs:

It's kind of impossible to pretend like you know what you're doing. My job is very obvious when you don't know what you're doing, so just being how did you commission?

Nate Scheer:

You had a dose, right yeah?

Hunter Dabbs:

I've heard that most ROTC cadets that commission they get a pretty good dose of this. But to like boldly claim your ignorance, look for your NCOs. Understand that you're not the expert and know who is. So I think, coming out fresh out of school, coming into PA, like I had to learn so much about the Air Force so fast and if I kind of ignore the Air Force side of things, it would not have worked out for me the way that it's working out for me right now.

Nate Scheer:

Yeah, that's good stuff. I remember I was prior enlisted and I was super thankful and glad that I was, because I remember becoming an MSC, I graduated from tech school and I had like 20 blue folders handed to me and they were all the appointment letters that were now my name on there and I'm an expert in all these different things and so so much job learning. But I was so thankful for at least knowing where the portals are and how to put it and leave and how to run a bullet and things like that. I had a co-worker. She's a professional softball player, amazing person. She was able to learn all that functional stuff and learn all the other stuff along the way and I just remember looking at her and like not even being able to imagine. She's like where do I get the forms from? I'm like EPUBs.

Hunter Dabbs:

She's like looking at me and I'm like oh no.

Nate Scheer:

So I was glad I was able to slightly focus, even though it felt like drinking from a fire hose. At least I only had to focus on that one aspect versus the other. But attaching to a senior NCO is always super important. That's one thing I really wish I could have done better. I was at a pretty small clinic, so a lot of the senior NCOs got pulled into the superintendent slots. They were attached to the commanders and so there wasn't as many senior NCOs as we would have liked. But that's definitely a good piece of feedback trying to get that squared away.

Hunter Dabbs:

Yeah, now I feel like if I wanted to cross train, I could cross train into any career field because I have like Now I understand how the Air Force works a little bit more and I know how to get on EPUBs and look at my VMPF and do all of these things, and if I was trying to go to like a more strenuous training program without having any of that knowledge, it would have been insane.

Nate Scheer:

Oh, we've been real rough. What is one? Not one, but what's one of the most important personality traits or strengths someone needs to be successful in your industry?

Hunter Dabbs:

I think networking is the most valuable asset in public affairs, because not only are you being that liaison between the civilian world and the military world, but Like for me right now when I get these media queries, people ask questions about everything and I've got to know who belongs to the Med Group, who belongs to the FSS, who belongs to Mission Support Group, who belongs to Ops. That can answer that question for me and allow me to accurately answer that question. And then I have to tie like a command priority to that right. So we got this A lot of F-15s returning back to the United States, the CND Eagles they're getting a little bit too old to fly out here and we've got temporary deployments of newer and more advanced aircraft coming out and Making sure that there's no gap in that fighter coverage. But I have to know, hey, this person just came or this unit just came. I need to call them to get an answer about that aircraft. And then I also have to tie it back to ensuring that it's free and open Indo-Pacific and maintaining regional stability and security on top of that answer that I get from that person.

Nate Scheer:

Yeah, that's a good point. It kind of reminds me of being an exec. I get these random questions in the front office and I don't know everything about the men group, but throughout the men group I know the overall structure and organization and so I can be like oh, that's public health and that sounds like a bio question, that sounds like flight med or wherever it is, so I can get you there. I don't know all the answers, but knowing who sits where and kind of what they do is really how I get through the day, because I don't know everything about flight med or taking care of patients and whatnot, but I know kind of what everyone does. So it's a good point. You got to know who does what at a minimum, at least to be able to work through some of those things.

Hunter Dabbs:

Yeah, I've always been known as a jack of all trades, but definitely a master of none, right, Like I'm not great at anything but I'm super okay at a bunch of stuff and that kind of plays into like me learning a little bit about everybody's career field and kind of understanding what they do. I was on the golf course the other day and I got paired up with these guys and he said something about, oh, we're guinea pigs for engines or we're guinea pigs for size, and something about being a guinea pig. And I said, oh, you work at the engine test facility. He was like you're the first person that I've ever made that joke to and then connected it to working in the engine test facility. I was like yeah, I heard this like a really cool facility, like I want to go check it out. Last week I ended up going over there and I sat next to an F 16 engine that was at full afterburner from like a couple feet away indoors and it was insane. But I got to do that just because I kind of built a quick relationship with that guy on the golf course and it was awesome.

Nate Scheer:

Building relationships, taking care of people. You never know the things that can pay off. It's funny we talk about like the honey versus vinegar or whatever phrase, but it's times like that when it really comes through, where you're just being a good person and building relationships pays off. If we're going to move on to our last question here, the overall topic or overall theme of the podcast is mental health, or mental fitness as we're calling it here, continuously working on ourselves and talking about it and kind of breaking the stigma of not being able to talk about mental fitness. It should be an ongoing issue, so we're going to weave these into every single episode, and so can you tell us a tip, trick or personal story about mental fitness?

Hunter Dabbs:

Yeah, my biggest way to combat mental fitness is combat any type of mental struggle is having that support network around me. I built these professional relationships, but I also have a lot of personal relationships, a lot of people that I would consider mentors and different aspects of my life. Like I have people that I go to for financial advice, I have people that I go to for spiritual advice, for relationship, family advice, that kind of stuff. And having that network of, really honestly, people that I would take a bullet for and people that I feel like would take a bullet for me, kind of makes me feel like I'm unstoppable, because I know that they're always going to be there to help me out.

Nate Scheer:

One thing I've learned and really honed in the last couple of years which I'm surprised it took me this long but I remember in high school I kind of knew everybody because I liked to skate, so I hung out with those guys and I swam so I hung out with people that like to do sports and AP classes and all these different stuff. So I knew everybody, but I didn't dive deep with anybody and so when I left I didn't really have any solid connection. So as I get older, I'm really trying to work on the quality over the quantity, because you can know a bunch of people, but I feel like that kind of hones in on what you're saying, like the people that are really important, that'll really be there If you pick up that phone and call. I think that's where that empowerment comes from, like you're feeling awesome, not because you know like 30 people or you have a thousand people on your friends list on Facebook or whatever, but you got those three people that you know. No matter what time or what the issue would be, they'd be there. So that's a good one, really honing in on the quality, making sure that people are really there for you.

Hunter Dabbs:

Right, I got that crew that. I know these guys are going to be the groomsmen at my wedding. You know what I mean. Like that, those guys.

Nate Scheer:

That's, that's the perfect way to do it. Well, today we talked about public affairs. We talked about the good, the bad. It sounds like a really amazing career field seeing some stuff for engines on full blast and aerial refueling and lots of different stuff. If you're looking for something where every day is completely different, it sounds like definitely a good spot for you, or if you have a background in media and things like that. But I do want to give you one last chance to pass out some last words of wisdom.

Hunter Dabbs:

My words of wisdom go back to food service. Every job is a customer service job. It doesn't matter if you're, if you're a maintainer, it doesn't matter if you're a pilot, it doesn't matter if you're working in public affairs or if you're not in the military at all. The way that you treat people is going to make an incredibly huge difference on the way that you, on whether or not you enjoy your job. Big golden rule guy right Treat other people the way that you want to be treated. It's. It really is that easy.

Nate Scheer:

Yeah, and I think a lot of that. I mean, if you, you know, are doing it for the right reasons, things will pay off. And people kind of feel like that doesn't pay off initially. But I think that sometimes it's the long haul you don't know, and it's going to be down the road and then you bump into that person again or whatnot. Then they're going to remember you helped them or did something. Sometimes, I think, with Google and modern technology and things, we're getting closer to instant gratification. We want it now, now, now, and so sometimes if you don't get something instantly, it's like why do it? But that's not the best practice. Definitely, taking care of people for the right reasons and I strongly believe in the universe being a powerful thing it might not be tomorrow or next week, but it'll come back at some point depending on how you treated people so well. Thanks for listening to AFSE's one through nine. Remember, exploring different career fields is an important step in finding the right path for you. Join us next time as we continue to explore different career fields and the opportunities they offer. If you have any questions or want to share your own unique career story, please contact us. We'll see you next time.

Public Affairs Career Exploration
Air Force Medical Logistics and Support
Air Force Public Affairs Job Overview
Building Relationships and Mental Fitness
Patience and Career Exploration's Power