by Staff Sgt. Vanessa Young
Defense Media Activity-San Antonio
8/27/2010 - NEW YORK (AFNS) -- The secretary of the Air Force awarded a public relations pioneer with the highest public service award given to a civilian here Aug. 24.
Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley presented Chester Burger the Distinguished Public Service Award for his 15 years of volunteer service as an Air Force advocate under the Public Affairs Advisory Group in New York City.
"You have strengthened local and national support for vital Air Force programs, strategies and missions," Secretary Donley said to Mr. Burger while presenting him the award. "Bringing together New York City's brightest public relations' minds provided unparalleled advice and counsel to former Air Force secretaries. Thank you for your dedication and all that you have done for the Air Force."
Mr. Burger is a World War II veteran, the nation's first TV news reporter, the president of the nation's first communications management consulting firm, and he worked for more than 50 years as a public relations professional, educator and consultant. For the past 15 years, his goal has been to get public relations professionals from New York City to help tell the Air Force story and help Air Force leaders shape their communication strategies.
"The prevailing attitude 15 years ago was that New York was just marginal to the Pentagon and the Beltway. What we tried to do most of all was to convince Air Force leaders that New York City was the media capital of the country," Mr. Burger said. "It was terribly important not just to have Air Force ceremonies and parades, but also to cultivate relationships with the key people in New York so they would understand the responsibilities the Air Force and what it was doing for the national defense.
"I think it's hard for people in the service to realize how isolated the military is from the civilian community," he said. "For instance, there is no military base in New York City, the result is if you are a civilian in New York, you don't know anyone from the military. There's no base nearby, and there's no sense of who (military members) are, what they are doing, what their burdens are, or the sacrifices they are making."
This week, during first Air Force Week New York City, Airmen are engaging members of the local community through volunteer events, concerts and exhibits to educate them on Air Force life and showcase the Air Force's capabilities.
During this week, New York citizens will learn about the "training and the responsibility" that Mr. Burger said he admires so much.
"I had an incident a couple of years ago, when a general said to me, 'You see that plane over there, that's mine,' It cost I don't know how many millions of dollars," Mr. Burger said. "Then (the general) said, '...you see that kid over there, 25-years old, he takes care of it for me. I don't worry about it. I know it's going to be done right, 100 percent right. I never worry.' You wouldn't find that in civilian life. You wouldn't find first of all a 25-year-old with that kind of life and death responsibility, and you wouldn't find somebody knowing that it's going to be done right 100 percent of the time. That's the wonderful thing about the Air Force."
"There is nobody that I met in my long life, and I'm about to be 90, that has the sense of responsibility, public service, and real integrity and meaning than the folks I've worked with in the Air Force and what a rich experience that has been," he added.