Don’t judge a book by its cover

I am a photojournalist for the 115th Fighter Wing. It’s my job to tell the story of our Airmen through news articles, feature stories, commentaries and this very blog post you’re reading right now.

The best part of my job is taking photos of our Airmen and, of course, the F-16 Fighting Falcons!

When my supervisor informed me that we would be having a civilian photographer come fly in the D-model and get aerial shots of our Aircraft, I was immediately jealous. Why would we have someone else come take photos when that’s what I’m trained to do? In my mind that was like allowing a random guy who cranks wrenches on the civilian side, come to base to work on a jet.

I steamed about it in my head for two solid weeks.

Then, once he was here, I was informed he’d stop by to share his knowledge with the team. Again, I wasn’t a happy camper. Why would I spend valuable time listening to another random guy tell me how to take a photo?

I sucked up my pride and met the guy.

James Haseltine came in wearing a flight suit, looking the part of a pilot. After going through logistical public affairs stuff, he started talking about his life experiences.

Turns out he was an Air Force brat growing up, he has always loved flying, and he knew more than I’ll ever know about the ins-and-outs of aircraft, munitions and flight patterns. He has more than 1,000 flying hours in USAF aircraft – 260 hours in the F-16 alone.

The more he talked, the more I listened. This guy was legit.

I piped in with a few questions about equipment, shooting styles, etc. and rather than holding back all of his knowledge and protecting his skill, he gave it all to me: his tricks-of-the-trade, the knowledge he has gained about forming partnerships with the pilots before flying, the checklist he goes through before every flight to ensure he utilizes his flight time to its maximum capacity.

Boy did I feel dumb. The day before I was talking smack and here he showed up, offering all the knowledge he’s gained over the last 20 plus years.

Whether you’re active duty, guard, reserve or a civilian, we all have knowledge built up from our life experiences. I encourage you to avoid doing what I did. Don’t judge someone before you’ve had a chance to meet them. We are all a team, and working together to accomplish our goals will make our lives easier and more enjoyable, and will allow us to meet our objectives. I can only imagine how great we can become if we continue to lean on each other, sharing the knowledge, skills and expertise we’ve gained throughout the years.

Here’s my shout out to James Haseltine (Hazy) – Thank you so very much for sharing your knowledge! I can’t wait to put it to the test…the day I get my chance to fly in the D-model!

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About Tech. Sgt. Andrea F. Rhode

Tech. Sgt. Andrea F. Rhode is a photojournalist for the 115th Fighter Wing in Madison, Wisconsin.