Rich Galen

I know you are expecting a screed about the Democrats' decision to use the "deemed passed" parliamentary trick to pass the healthcare legislation without a direct vote, but that will have to wait until Friday.

Today, I want to share a few minutes with you of how I spent my day yesterday in Bossier City, Louisiana which, along with being the location of a bunch of casinos, is also the home of the U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command Headquarters at Barksdale Air Force Base.

I was invited to speak to a conference of public affairs personnel - enlisted and officers - about why what they do is really, really important.

I was invited by the head of the public affairs shop, Lt. Col. John Thomas with whom I served in Iraq, and then again in Baton Rouge after Hurricane Katrina.

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Most of these service members were in their late twenties or early thirties. I told them about my Army National Guard career - a six year ordeal for both me and the military during which I rose to the rank of sergeant for about 90 minutes before being busted back to E-4.

I told them that I was in the Guard when mules were the principal form of propulsion. Hyperbole, but not by much. I suspect of the roomful of airmen not more than a handful were even born when the Vietnam war was being fought.

I told them that back in the day it was suggested we go to our National Guard drills in civilian clothes, and change in the armory. I pointed out the difference between those days and these when, very often, someone in line at Starbucks will order their Grande Mocha and then, pointing to the man or woman in uniform behind them, will say "and whatever he/she is having."

For those who may have come in late, I spent about six months in Iraq back in 2003 and 2004. Hard to believe it was that long ago. I was a civilian employee of the Department of Defense, but I formed a strong bond with the men and women who have chosen to make the military a career.

The public affairs activity in the military is a far, far different animal than the press or communications function in politics or government. For one thing, if we shade the truth to a reporter it is often put down as "good spin." In the military lying to the press (and, by extension the American people) is actionable by court martial.


The folks I spoke to on Tuesday are all assigned to bases in the United States. But, judging from the head nods when I recounted stories of derring-do in Iraq (some parts of some of the stories were actually true).

Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at