An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

386th AEW PA highlights decisive combat power through their lenses

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Natalie Filzen, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs Office

There’s a tale about a woman who evaded death by telling a new story to her captor every night. In cinema, a protagonist may distract their opponent with a gripping monologue that ultimately leads to the villain’s demise. There is a power in words that if used carefully, can embolden people to action, slice deeper than any knife and stop evil as effectively as a bullet. But now, more than ever, is it important for stories to be accurate, to be comprehensive, and to be fair. That is what the members of the Public Affairs team strive for every day: to deliver a message effectively and as rapidly as the agile nature of our mission. Like the fabled woman who painted a new story every day, we are doing the same–for all who tune in.

“Story telling of any kind builds relationships,” said Tech. Sgt. Patrick Evenson, who was the non-commissioned officer in charge of the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs for three months before he forward deployed to the 378th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs. “When we return home, we’ll be at a table in a coffee shop or local brewery, telling stories to our friends and family about this [deployment]. It’s the same with PA. It might be more professional or official, but relationships with our host nation, the American people and between service members on the ground are being built.”

The entire PA shop of the January to July 2022 rotation were all members of the Air National Guard, and brought the skills of their civilian professions to the PA career field in an active duty environment. Coming from a video production background on the civilian side, Evenson joined the Marine Corps in 2007 as a Combat Photographer and transitioned to Public Affairs with the Missouri Air National Guard in 2013.

“PA exists to communicate to the American public and give context to military operations and their tax dollars; friends and families of service members; leaders from squadron commanders all the way up to our leaders in D.C. to give them another tool to gain situational awareness by putting their feet in the boots of the men and women on the ground; and possibly most importantly our adversaries, so they know through strategic communication what a force we are and [deter] them,” said Evenson.

Capt. Melissa Heintz, the chief of public affairs of the 386th AEW, came to the rotation with a wealth of knowledge in the PA field, having received a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communications and Spanish, where she developed a passion for connecting with people and storytelling. She worked in various public affairs roles for the federal government as a civilian before commissioning in the Air National Guard in 2015.

“Our mission in PA is to provide a free flow of information to the public, whether it be national or international audiences, to inform them of the role of the U.S. Air Force and gain their support for our personnel, resources and missions,” said Heintz. “PA also is responsible for connecting with different publics through community engagement, whether it be a base tour with members of congress, an open house or air show featuring the Thunderbirds, advising the film industry on accurate depictions of Air Force personnel in their productions, or hosting a band concert. We also create public affairs guidance, communications plans and strategy in line with the commander’s intent and priorities, then we evaluate the effectiveness or our messaging strategies. So as you can see, it’s more than just taking pictures!”

Master Sgt. Arthur Wright, superintendent of the 386th AEW/PA, kept the stories flowing, scheduling multiple shoots and opportunities for his Airmen to capture footage and interviews. He joined Air National Guard public affairs in 2016 after serving six years in the Air Force Reserve and four years of active duty. His civilian career is in broadcast news where he works as an anchor at a local TV station. His experience set the team up for success, being the first PA specialist on the ground for the deployment rotation and running a one-man shop for the first two weeks.

“My favorite part of the job is the front row seat to where the Air Force is today and tomorrow,” said Wright. “The travel opportunities and unlimited access to the latest equipment to document is what excites me. Our efforts reached upwards of 60 million people around the world and underscored why the 386 AEW is important to this part of the globe.”

As a whole, the public affairs shop had numerous notable accomplishments. They hosted a virtual show and tell event with NASCAR for the Coca Cola Mission 600 event. They gave NASCAR driver Jeffrey Logano a tour of a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, and showcased how Air Force airplanes are specially fitted for complex maneuvers beyond commercial aircraft capability, much like a race car compared to a standard personal vehicle. They participated in a women’s Diwaniya - a forum that brought together U.S. military women and Kuwaiti women in discussions over empowerment and networking.

The technicians of the 386th AEW/PA released the most products out of any wing in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility during their rotation, unwavering from the steady beat of the mission’s rhythm of publishing articles, videos and photos weekly.

Coming from the world of information technology, Senior Airman Daira Jackson joined the D.C. Air National Guard in 2018 with an interest in PA, wanting to apply her computer knowledge and programming skills to a new kind of technical equipment. Growing up, she took a summer photography course at a design and architecture magnet program where she learned how to develop film and created a pin-hole camera.

“My favorite part of my job is helping others shine,” said Jackson. “I want to share what Airmen do and think about their careers, their accomplishments, and what the different units are doing on base [through] photography, video and articles. I vocalize their story to society.”

As for the author of this story, Senior Airman Natalie Filzen joined the D.C. National Guard in 2019, with a background in federal government and a passion for writing and creativity.

“We are like the master-of-ceremonies of a story, weaving in context as we let the narrative unfold, merging the sound bites or quotes together in a cohesive article or video, but ultimately we give the mission a voice,” said Filzen. “My favorite part of PA is that every day is different, every day we get to become immersed in a new career field and then translate the intricacies of their job for the world to understand.”

PA specialists interview service members all the way from an Airman fresh out of basic training to the top of the chain of command, including the president of the United States, ambassadors, governors, and popular media figures such as actors and actresses.

“But the most impactful thing is working with the individual Airmen that get the mission done day in and day out,” said Heintz. “They are the ones with their boots on the ground delivering decisive combat power, so it’s an honor to meet them, listen to what they have to say and tell their stories.”

Don’t forget to follow our official channels: Facebook (, Twitter (@386thAEW) and Instagram (@386aew)!