A Successful Brigade Public Affairs Officer
LTC Randy A. Martin, Public Affairs Officer Observer/Controller,
It seems like my unit is surrounded by all types of media: unilateral television, print, and radio reporters. There are public radio stations, major market newspapers, and television stations. I can see that there is a propaganda campaign against us or, at the very least, a serious problem with misinformation in my area of operations.
My brigade's mission is to bring stability to the chaos while fighting a determined enemy on the streets. The public is hungry for information. They will devour lies or, in the absence of information, fill the void with rumors unless I provide the truth as I know it.
For the past six months brigades have entered the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) with a resource never before available. The JRTC allows brigades to conduct public and command information in support of combat operations at the tactical level with the media as a condition of the battlefield rather than as a separate training event. Some public affairs officers (PAOs) do very well and others struggle.
The Role of the Public Affairs Officer
Brigade-level PAOs are now a part of the norm, and an Army at war requires PAOs to succeed. Clearly, there are lessons learned that should be shared. There are four common themes of successful brigade PAOs at the JRTC:
Doctrine already describes the role of the brigade PAO. Chapter 8 of Field Manual 3-61.1, Public Affairs Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTP), says, "Working as both a special staff officer and as a member of the brigade's planning team, the brigade PAO acts as the spokesperson for the unit, the advisor to the commander, and provides public affairs (PA) guidance and planning to commanders at all levels." Today, brigade PAOs sit side by side with psychological operations officers, a civil affairs (CA) team, intelligence officers, and information officers as members of the U.S. Army's new modular brigades, who have organized for success in an information environment.
The brigade's staff battle rhythm includes lethal and nonlethal targeting meetings under the emerging doctrine of effects-based operations. Arguably, nearly every operation becomes "a brigade fight with a brigade plan." There are three or more daily briefings to the commander or his designated representative. There are rehearsals of all types: combined-arms rehearsals, logistics rehearsals, communications rehearsals, and rehearsals for rehearsals. Given all the meetings, some PAOs might start to consider public and command information as a distraction. The PAO decides where he should be. Given the gravity of future operations and the need to set the conditions for his battalions' success tomorrow, successful PAOs are serving primarily as planners.
Getting the Job Done
The first dilemma facing the brigade PAO is how to divide and accomplish the tasks at hand. Soldiers are responsible for any perceived success. A successful brigade PAO organizes to conduct future and current operations. He takes the responsibility of planning future operations and allows his Soldiers to conduct current operations. He looks 24, 48, 72, and 96 hours out. In conjunction with other staff officers, he develops plans that direct battalions to perform PA tasks. This planning is accomplished through the effects-based operations process. He continually refines his plans based on feedback and analysis and shares his analysis with other staff officers. In turn, the PAO contributes to or writes fragmentary orders, separate plans, and annexes.
The PAO anticipates challenges and makes recommendations that allow the brigade to fight and win in an environment that is dominated by real-time news and information. He helps shape the environment by conducting embedded media opportunities, hosting media events, and developing public information products-engaging the media personally or through designated members of the unit.
PAOs are only successful because of the superb noncommissioned officers and young Soldiers working alongside them. Often these Soldiers come directly from advanced individual training. They are skilled at broadcast operations and print journalism, but they are new to the process of being on a staff. The PAO trains his staff, and on-the-job experience refines how it functions. The PAO continues planning for the future and relies on his Soldiers to conduct PA current operations (i.e., anything that happens in less than 24 hours). PA Soldiers track the battle in the brigade tactical operations center. They play a major role in producing public and command information. They focus on the close fight by monitoring the local media, receiving media contact reports, analyzing trends, and making assessments. They help staff PA products and keep the PAO informed while the PAO attends meetings, briefings, and planning sessions.
Brigade PA Soldiers create products such as press releases, video news releases, and radio spots in support of the PAO's plan. They read, understand, and enforce PA policies and procedures from the tactical to strategic level. They prepare for and execute media opportunities such as interviews and media events. Likewise, they train others to perform PA tasks.
Recently, one PA Soldier determined through careful tracking using a staff duty log that there was a pattern for misinformation on the local radio station. The Soldier gave the information to her PAO who, in turn, was able to use other brigade resources and minimize the effects of misinformation and propaganda. Some might argue that it was someone else's job. The PA Soldier, however, was the only one besides the public who was paying attention.
The brigade is very large in terms of number of troops and expanse across the battlefield. How does it increase its range and effectiveness?
Stringers and Unit Public Affairs Representatives
PA Soldiers are well-trained in developing news for the commander and enabling a better understanding of lessons learned, tasks, and purposes throughout the Army. Evidence from brigades recently deployed from JRTC directly into theater shows that command information remains crucial. However, the brigade PAO team's time and range are limited. To accomplish the commander's goal, brigade PAOs use stringers and, in some cases, UPARs to support command information and public information. UPARs are trained at home station by PA Soldiers. They learn how to prepare subject matter experts (SMEs) for interviews. UPARs learn and apply communications skills with media embeds or during select media opportunities.
UPARs submit media contact reports during and after scheduled and chance encounters with the media. As part of its current operations function, the PA office refines reports and keeps the chain of command informed of the local media environment. At JRTC, one PA Soldier identified media without credentials through a contact report and with the help of other staff members was able to prevent imposters from gaining access to a forward operating base.
UPARs serve closely with battalion commanders as lower-level SMEs on PA plans and policies on embedding the media, engaging the local media, and conducting media opportunities at the battalion level. This added expertise gives the commander more time and flexibility to engage the media at the time and place of his choosing, often resulting in better preparation.
The "additional duty" of UPAR is often assigned to the battalion S1. Experience at the JRTC has shown that the best UPARs are not necessarily members of one designated staff section; rather, they are volunteers who are motivated for the task and are reliable. One battalion commander selected his fire support officer to serve as the UPAR. Another chose a CA Soldier assigned to the battalion. In both cases, the UPAR had skills and expertise the commander preferred to his S1. The results were better interviews because both UPARs were better prepared and more comfortable in the media setting.
UPARs and stringers are the brigade PAO's direct link and a liaison of sorts to battalions. UPARs function best when they are equipped with digital cameras and reliable communications equipment. Although UPARs broaden the PAO's effective range, without the necessary equipment, neither the PAO nor the UPAR will effectively aid his commander. A successful brigade PAO is resourced with communications and electronic news-gathering equipment to accomplish his tasks.
Brigade PAOs are constrained by time, terrain, and the enemy. At the JRTC, the PAO operates in an area where battalions are dispersed more than 2,700 square kilometers, with a determined foe who uses all tactics available to kill U.S. Soldiers. The PAO often lacks language skills to communicate with the local media, but he still must accomplish a mission.
Tools of the Media Trade
The brigade PAO uses his own Soldiers, stringers, and UPARs to gather images and stories with digital cameras to support urgent information requirements. Images are passed electronically from the point of action to the release authority rapidly through secure and nonsecure mediums.
Digital cameras are supplied to the brigade and battalions for the specific purpose of gathering and developing news products. The brigade PAO uses the Digital Video and Imagery Distribution System and a dedicated video editing system to produce and distribute video products to local television and the higher headquarters.
One brigade commander chose local television and radio to announce the arrival of his brigade in the area of operations (AO). His message clearly had public information value and did not violate the PAO's integrity. The PAO cleared the release through his staff and the release authority. The public met the brigade commander early by virtue of his PAO.
Dedicated voice communication is a must. One PAO was denied a dedicated phone. This situation frustrated the local media because when they called the tactical operations center either no one spoke Arabic or Soldiers did not want to speak to them. A better-resourced PAO used his phone to contact the media following a deadly attack on a newspaper office. He was able to build rapport with the journalist through an act of compassion.
One brigade commander who saw his PAO as a key asset resourced the PAO with an interpreter. With proper training, time, and trust, the interpreter helped the staff gain cultural understanding, served as an assistant for media analysis, and communicated directly with the media when the PAO could not.
The Information Environment
All the resources in the world are insufficient if a PAO does not understand the capabilities he brings and the dynamics of his information environment. As the staff's expert, the PAO must understand the local information environment in detail. Successful brigade PAOs build estimates for their AO. They consider and use all available resources for gathering news and disseminating information. They know and understand the news cycle in their area so they can make an impact on news products at the right place and time.
One brigade PAO knew the time and place for an upcoming combat operation and prepared preapproved press releases to coincide with the production of the daily newspaper. He anticipated consequences, and when the time was right tactically, he released information to the public and filled the void.
The brigade PAO understands the dominant news media and their constraints. He makes recommendations to the command on how and where to engage the media. He builds information folders on the media in his AO. With the help of his PA Soldiers, he continuously assesses the local media and refines the overall plan.
Doctrine is in place. Brigade PAOs are a powerful addition to the brigade combat team and its staff. Successful PAOs are practicing planning as a primary function with a well-organized staff. They are developing their organizations through training at home station and gaining effective stringers and UPARs. They are resourced with personnel and technology to communicate with their command and the media. Successful brigade PAOs are experts in their craft and prepared to operate at the tactical level of the military information environment.
In January of 2007, the 3rd Infantry Division (3ID) was leaning forward in its foxhole as a war-fighting command and public affairs (PA) practitioners. The division public affairs officer (PAO) accompanied a reconnaissance party from Fort Stewart, GA, to forward operating bases (FOBs) in Iraq. The 25th Infantry Division was scheduled to hand over reins for Multi-National Division-North in June. The 3ID, recognizing the significant role of information on the modern battlefield and in the counterinsurgency fight, took steps to include PA in the operational plan. PAOs were accustomed to taking a back seat and fighting for their positions at the decision table. So this sort of inclusion was a welcome change.
Then news came that the plan to replace the 25th had been scrapped. President Bush announced a "surge" of forces to Iraq on January 10, 2007. A new command was built just south of the national capital. The new organization would command forces and cut the flow of accelerants (i.e., the material that perpetuated instability and violence) to Baghdad. The 3ID would command the Multi-National Division-Center (MND-C).
In the succeeding months, the MND-C earned a reputation for aggressive, proactive PA. It was tough work, but public opinion in the U.S. shifted, and the "surge" was counted as a success, both on the ground as well as in the media.
The formula for MND-C's success had four components. First, the commanding general (CG) placed a very high priority on PA. Second, the division operated a world-class media operations center (MOC). Third, PAO Soldiers and civilians were well led and carefully managed. Finally, there was a strategy for reaching all audiences from the beginning of the deployment.
Commanding General Emphasis
At predeployment training, the CG once asked of his staff, "Who here is a PAO?" He surveyed the room and said, "Every hand should have gone up. Every one of you is a PAO." His point played out in time as nearly every officer seated in the room (more than 30) had conducted at least one major interview while deployed. In the 3ID, media presence was not considered a hindrance. Rather, an engagement with a reporter was an opportunity to tell stories, and telling stories just might help sustain public support at home. That was important.
In the fight against terror, the support of the American people is vital. The CG's charge to his assembled division PA staff in Iraq was to produce a PAO staff three times its normal size, have stories play in the United States 24 hours after a newsworthy event played out on the ground in Iraq, and tell stories that would appeal to most Americans.
He allocated resources to accomplish the PA mission. He knew the importance of having a MOC, and early on, he made the MOC's renovation his top funding priority. He designated a single-story office building just across the street from the division headquarters, and it was extensively remodeled for the task. He arranged for both military and civilian contractors to augment the PAO staff.
He invested his time. One hour each Sunday was dedicated to meet with the PAO and his staff. The meeting finalized the CG's schedule to engage media in the coming week. The CG also assessed the previous week's performance and validated the concept for the top MND-C stories. The notes of these meetings were then sent out across the division so that leaders would know where to focus media in the coming week.
The CG instilled a storyteller ethos across the force. His morning battle update briefings presupposed that significant activities from overnight already had a PA exploitation plan. His question was simply, "PAO, what are we doing to get that story out?" He expected his commanders and staff to have told the 3ID story to a designated public within 24 hours. Brigade commanders briefed their own "stories of the week" on Mondays. This practice placed a heavy responsibility on the entire staff.
The PAO had to be nested with the current operations in the division operations center. Daily PAO huddles were held at 1700 in order to synchronize with brigades. Subject matter experts had to be ready for the potential to give a nationally televised interview on short notice. Contributors of specialized imagery-the stuff that sealed the deal with national TV networks-were all drilled to deliver unclassified aerial platform video products to the PAO rapidly. If the CG's staff was struggling to accomplish the task, he offered to take a personal role in the effort.
The Media Operations Center
Based on the shared experiences of the commander and the PAO staff, the unit developed a concept for the MOC building. Engineers took a draft plan and went to work to redeem the dilapidated structure. The final design would service visiting media and afford a pleasant and professional work environment. Space inside was designated for a recording studio and conference room. Engineers installed a customer service counter for efficient distribution of press products such as information packets and identification badges. One room served as workspace to broadcasters who edited videos. The media relations officer and noncommissioned officer in charge (NCOIC) were given a room in the building to provide "command and control." Finally, a room was outfitted with television monitors and computers for continuous media monitoring. The MOC also had indoor plumbing, a break area, and a small kitchen. The building was so well suited to the task that from time to time media would opt to sleep in the MOC rather than the tents used for transient billeting.
The tools for media relations were collected before deployment. Contingency mission planning for continental U.S. deployments and previous Operation Iraqi Freedom experience along with after-action reviews were instructive on best practices and supplies for MOC operations. The NCOIC and PAO developed a list of required material and assembled the MOC kit.
Chief among required equipment was the Digital Video Information Distribution System (DVIDS). DVIDS, in spite of not being a modification tables of organizations and equipment item, remains the best answer for disseminating video and other large files from the frontlines to home. The DVIDS is essentially a PAO pacing item at a time when PA has become operationally significant. A spare DVIDS system was held in reserve at division to be used as a float, which paid dividends again and again. All Soldiers were trained on DVIDS operations before deploying. Maintenance above the operator level required a technical team from outside the division or the system was shipped to the manufacturer.
Other tools, such as a professional backdrop and wide-screen television monitor; TVs; a multiplex box for audio; an AM/FM radio scanner; computers for unclassified and classified data; and a healthy unit basic load of video tapes, DVDs, batteries, and power converters were packaged for the contingency MOC. To validate that the MOC had all the tools that PAOs would need when deployed, the PAO established the division's MOC during all predeployment field training. PAO Soldiers practiced setting up their workspaces and conducted media events with role play and actual media in training exercises right up to deployment.
The MOC functioned on a 24-hour basis. Soldiers and contractors staffed workstations. An NCO continued coordination for embeds and helped expand the effort to tell stories during prime time in the U.S., long after the sun had set in Iraq. The audience was on east coast time in the U.S., and the MOC had to be aligned with that market.
The staff section was organized into three major sections: media relations/current operations, command information, and future operations (FUOPS)/plans. A field grade officer or the staff section master sergeant/NCOIC led each section. The deputy PAO was the media relations officer. She was also the contracting officer representative for a supporting contractor who helped with strategic communication. The division PAO plans officer served as the PAO chief of current operations. The PAO NCOIC was responsible for all command information. The attached mobile public affairs detachment (MPAD) commander was the FUOPS planner. All other Soldiers and staff members were aligned under these sections.
The division and its brigades were not fully staffed during the train up and deployment. Help was not immediately available on the ground either. All active component PA units were deployed or in line to deploy when President Bush announced the "surge." Because Army PA relies on reserve component forces, there would be a long lead-time for getting an MPAD to help the division. To correct the shortfall, the Multi-National Corps-Iraq (MNC-I) cross-leveled seven PA Soldiers from three MPADs and one PAD for 45 days. This situation was not sufficient but it was a start. MNC-I later attached half of the 302nd MPAD, a United States Army Reserve unit from Bell, CA. Divisions allocated Soldiers to PAO staff sections according to their skills and training them to compensate for any deficiencies in experience.
An NCO managed embedded media. A contracting agency rounded out the media relations staff with four to five contractors on the ground in Iraq. It also provided a "reach back" capability to the U.S., where five more contractors stationed in Washington, D.C., provided around-the-clock media monitoring. The contracting agency brought commercial experience to the PA staff. The contracting agency provided metrics for outreach both on the ground and in the U.S. and advised the PAO on new methods for communicating with the media. The contracting agency's list of media contacts and understanding of the power of Web logs or "blog" audiences paid dividends. The contracting agency also managed the division's Web page and assisted in advertising strategies to support the Web site. taskforcemarne.com
The division placed a 24-hour current operations staff on the division operations center floor. The PA current operations section collocated with the G-7 in order to share the Command Post of the Future (CPOF) computer for situational awareness. CPOF also provided a continuous common operating picture, situational awareness of events at the lowest level, and rapid identification of potential news stories. The current operations staff monitored the media, wrote fragmentary orders (FRAGOs), and authored "immediate" press releases.
In three of four brigades, MPAD Soldiers filled vacancies in the brigade PAO staff. At other times, PAO Soldiers were prepositioned to support major operations in a main effort unit. As a rule, PAO Soldiers were under the operational control of the supported unit. The staff issued a FRAGO so the PAO Soldiers understood their relationship with the supported command and its tasks and purposes.
FUOPS/plans consisted of one officer and one NCO. While current operations focused on 72-hour and less planning, with guidance provided in fragmentary orders, FUOPS focused on the 72-hour and greater plan. FUOPS worked on special projects and developed PA annexes to support major operations in conjunction with the G-5 staff.
The information plan wove command information and media relations to tell the division's story to multiple audiences simultaneously. The plan was conceived before deployment but refined in theater to meet the CG's intent.
The division PAO built a four-page newsletter that was distributed six days a week. The Dog Face Daily (DFD) contained stories and pictures that came from brigade PA offices. The newsletter published both operational, as well as fewer "newsy" traditional command information stories. Distribution was via the classified and unclassified computer networks, on email, or posted to Web sites. The DFD was also posted to the DVIDS Web site and the task force Web site. Soldiers reported that they perpetuated distribution to their own personal contacts.
The division published From the Front, a quarterly photo magazine. A division staffer sorted material that came from the brigades. Each brigade had its own chapter. A digital version of the magazine was then forwarded to an Iraqi publication company. Delivery was made to all outlying bases by traditional logistics convoys. A twice-monthly newspaper, Marne Focus, was also published and distributed in a similar fashion. Once published, both were sent in their electronic form to 1,500 email recipients.
The division produced a weekly television newscast called Marne Forward. Marne Forward aired weekly in dining facilities throughout the MND-C, thanks to careful transfer of DVDs. A digital version of the newscast was sent to DVIDS and downloaded for play on Marne Television at Fort Stewart, GA, and, by special arrangement, the Pentagon Channel. All broadcast products were made available for public viewing on the Internet.
Media relations included live and taped interviews with stateside media, embedded reporters, and battlefield circulation personnel. Lining up media opportunities was everyone's business. The DVIDS staff marketed stories, the division staff cold-called media with story ideas, and the contracting agency helped break into new media markets. Individual officers and NCOs were even encouraged to call their hometown media in order to offer a local perspective of the surge. Late in the deployment, media relations even teamed with the garrison PA office to market potential interviews to local and national television.
The division conducted monthly "Baghdad Bureau Chiefs' Luncheons" (BBCL). These luncheons brought media to a central location where they could meet with the CG for a formal question and answer session on the record. The CG determined the theme for each session. Each session was scheduled to coincide with a major division operation. The BBCL allowed guest speakers, usually brigade commanders or deputy CGs, the opportunity to build relationships with media during the informal lunch session. One objective at each BBCL was to find potential embeds. The division was active at recruiting embedded media all the time. Western media were picked up inside the "Green Zone" and transported to FOBs by helicopter. Then the media representatives were linked with designated escorts. Planning and preparation for embeds was formalized with the publication of a daily FRAGO that gave a task and purpose for each embed. The CG and the deputies also escorted media as part of their battlefield circulation. Traveling with a member of the command group appealed to reporters because they received access, security, and were guaranteed to get an interview with an authority figure. When a civilian reporter from the national pool was not available, a PAO Soldier would travel along with him.
MND-C was aggressive and focused on storytelling. Storytelling was the business of command, and all resources were applied in order to do so. Success came from having CG emphasis, an effective MOC, PAO professionals well led and carefully managed, and a good strategy for reaching all audiences from the beginning.
MAJ Vinston L. Porter, Jr.
It is almost midnight Baghdad time when Fox News cuts to breaking news: "Straight to our developing story out of Iraq right now. This picture just in to us from the American military. Take a look at this."
What follows is a report: Soldiers, acting on a tip from local Iraqis, discovered five rockets aimed at the Soldiers' patrol base. Included with the report are pictures of the recovered rockets and a taped interview with an officer from the unit. It is just eight hours from the time of the initial push to national TV outlets until the time of broadcast. This broadcast is an actual example of a quick turnaround on a newsworthy event that occurred in the 3rd Infantry Division (3ID) operational area as compiled from the various situational information products.
Several tactics, techniques, and procedures made airing this story possible:
Knowing where to look for stories made a difference in finding the story moments after the event was reported versus seeing the event reported (much later) in the daily brief to the commanding general (CG) on the following day.
The primary source used to search for the story was the Command Post of the Future (CPOF). Advances in information technology, such as CPOF, enhance war-fighting and battle-tracking capabilities, making it possible for staff sections to view an event occurring on the battlefield in real time. Scrolling over the various icons on the CPOF digital (situational) map allowed for a quick snapshot of each reported event, including a brief event summary.
As a PAO, I used the event summary to identify information that warranted a follow-up call to a brigade combat team (BCT) PAO or a visit to the respective BCT liaison officer (LNO) for clarification. Whether it was a planned operation or an event recently reported via CPOF, in many cases the BCT PAOs had visibility of the same events at their level. Once I identified an event for follow-up, the BCT PAOs gathered the detailed information surrounding the event.
A second source of information was the division G3 operations section. The G3 chief of operations has the most information in the DOC. Unit reporting goes to and through this individual. Maintaining a close relationship with the chief of operations allowed the public affairs section to remain in the loop on issues and events (especially those that may not be displayed in the CPOF).
The division staff conducted a daily synchronization meeting. As the LNO for each BCT briefed its upcoming operations, the PAO representative took note of which were potentially newsworthy operations. Embedded reporter and internal PAO asset coverage options were considered; the former was the priority.
The division PAO section could convey information gathered from scanning the CPOF events and the daily division synchronization (synch) meeting during the PAO daily synch meeting later the same day. This meeting helped ensure the division PAO staff had visibility of BCT events in which the BCT PAOs might need assistance in attracting an embedded reporter. Additionally, the meeting allowed the BCT PAOs an opportunity to talk about their experiences with recently embedded reporters. The CG also passed down any guidance for the BCT PAOs at this meeting.
This daily PAO synchronization provided a focus for the types of events to exploit with internal assets or embedded coverage. If it was an upcoming mission, the background details served to add context to the event when soliciting the interest of the Western media outlets. Knowledge of newsworthy events occurring in the operational environment coupled with vertical and lateral coordination was only possible because of the coordination between the public affairs representative and representatives of other agencies.
Keeping an open dialogue with the LNOs proved beneficial in acquiring specific details about an event or incident. The respective BCT LNO can clarify anything not already delineated in the CPOF summary. The LNO's direct line to the BCT staff facilitated getting accurate numbers for events.
A strong PAO-air liaison officer (ALO) relationship helped the ALO personnel understand the news cycle and how their initiative could help the PAO stay in front. The ALO personnel were vital in their assistance with acquiring weapon systems' video from fixed-wing engagements in support of ground troops and expediting the declassification of this video.
The PAO's relationship with the combat aviation brigade (CAB) LNO helped determine if weapon systems' video from an air weapons team engagement would be a part of telling a particular story. In some cases, the aircraft were still airborne at the time of the reported engagement. The CAB LNO's visibility on aircraft station times helped to determine if video from the engagement would be a part of initially telling the story to Western media outlets.
The contracted operator/analysts monitoring the unmanned aerial system (UAS) feeds across the division's operational area had visibility on many events in real time. This visibility has provided the PAO with another resource for telling the division's stories. There were many occasions in which an unmanned aerial vehicle was flying over an event and the outcome became a good news story. The UAS operators were able to capture still images and record video from the UAS imagery feeds. The most valuable capability PAO had in the DOC was the ability to declassify images and video in less than ten minutes. Because of the quick turnaround, UAS footage became the primary source for footage of many lethal engagements. The relationship worked so well that when there were key lethal engagements overnight, the operator/analysts would have a declassified copy ready for PAO first thing in the morning.
How do we get media interested in the story? There are good news events happening throughout the country, albeit at the local level. So what can increase the media's interest in a story? Imagery, either still or video.
In the case of the 3ID, PAOs used several tools to enhance a story-the unclassified storyboard, still and video imagery, designated speakers, and a media advisory. Upon identifying a good news event in the operational area, PAOs used the storyboard submitted to division by the BCT. Classified information was removed in order to incorporate the new declassified storyboard as part of the story package. In that situation, the BCT PAO ensured the individual .jpeg photos files were sent up as part of the press release. At the same time, the BCT PAO identified and prepared a subject matter expert interviewee about the event via telephone or Digital Video and Imagery Distribution System. While still imagery helped paint a picture of an event, quality video footage enhanced a story's appeal to a media outlet.
Over the course of the deployment, many lethal events involved UAS footage and/or weapon systems' video from the aircraft involved in the event. Before this footage was used for marketing the story, the classified information on the display had to be removed. The owning agency declassified video from fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft . The operator analysts in the DOC declassified footage from the UAS. These proved to be the quickest respondents in providing video footage for use with a story.
Ultimately, the command group needed to approve the footage, but the quick turnaround on UAS footage expedited that process. Whereas a rotary-wing asset would likely still be in the air several hours after the good news event took place, the UAS footage of the event was readily available for possible release as soon as several minutes after the UAS recorded the event. Rotary- and fixed-wing footage had to undergo a lengthier declassification process before it could be used with a story. The diagram on the following page outlines the process for acquiring approval to release video weapon systems' video or UAS footage.
In the end, when it came to story production, the DOC public affairs representative brought all the pieces of the puzzle together in order to provide a detailed story to the media. Serving as the conduit between the DOC and the media operations portion of public affairs, it was paramount for the PAO to know where to look for the story, to know the key points of contact within the DOC, and to quickly process any video imagery associated with the story. If packaged right, the true success was the story playing on the news.
Independent local, national, and international media coverage of our military operations and our enemies' activities is critical to our success in the global information environment. This is particularly true in today's 24-hour news environment. Unfortunately, our enemies in Iraq have won a significant victory by forcing most Western media to report only from secure compounds, to use embeds with coalition forces, or to retail second-hand information gained from local Iraq stringers, some of whom have questionable agendas and loyalties.
-LTG Peter W. Chiarelli, "Learning from Our Modern Wars:
The most important factor that underpins public support of the armed forces at war is clear articulation of political and military objectives. This step involves truthful and forthright information provided to all press outlets. Each "on-the-ground" public affairs officer (PAO) is important and valuable, regardless of location at the brigade combat team, division, or corps level. Each PAO is a strategic-level communicator (either directly or indirectly) and hence must be thinking as such, no matter what position he/she holds. With this in mind, the mobile public affairs detachment (MPAD) of today is staffed, structured, sourced, equipped, and trained to accomplish the mission that best suits today's information requirements
Training for public affairs (PA) units should support current doctrine. Soldiers assigned to PA units should be trained to perform tasks that support the doctrinal missions of PA units per Field Manual (FM) 46-1, Public Affairs Operations. Units deploying to war should anticipate performing increased roles with regard to media relations, often at the expense of traditional command information efforts.
Traditional versus Contemporary Information Mission Requirements: Mobile Public Affairs Detachments as the Workhorses of a Public Affairs Organization
MPADs are designed as the workhorses of any PA organization. The MPAD modification table of organization and equipment (MTOE) (2007) is structured to support command information and public information requirements. According to FM 46-1, the MPAD's primary tasks are to:
There are 31 PA units in the Army Reserve, consisting of a combination of MPADs, public affairs detachments (PADs), broadcast operations detachments, and public affairs operations centers (PAOCs). All have either deployed in support of a Global War on Terrorism mission (Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Guantanamo Bay) and the Balkans or are currently mobilized.
Posturing Mobile Public Affairs Detachment Structure to Match Augmentation Demand-Supporting the Corps Public Affairs Requirements
The 302nd MPAD under MNC-I supported two major subordinate commands: one in support of the 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command (ESC) (in Balad, at LSA-A) and the other with the 3rd Infantry Division (3ID) as part of MND-C. FM 46-1 states that the MPAD normally augments a corps PA section or a PAOC; however, in this case, the MPAD (as with most MPADs since the start of the war) augmented a division-sized element and provided labor and equipment to establish and operate a media operations center in support of "the surge" contingency operation.
At the division level, PA operations are normally segregated into three sections: media relations, command information, and current operations. In most cases, MPADs are aligned to support command information requirements. Traditionally, this has been "all that is required"-feed the Army internal need for information. Today, command information is just not enough, and PA as an operational practice demands that its PA workhorses bear a greater role in the information fight.
In hindsight, the 302nd MPAD was best positioned to conduct the 316th ESC mission for several reasons. Primarily, the 316th ESC mission remained focused on command information. The 302nd MPAD (as with all Reserve and National Guard MPADs trained by First Army) trained with a command information focus in mind. There is relatively little formal training for enlisted PA Soldiers in the tasks that the MPAD is designed to perform according to FM 46-1. Typically, the task and, therefore, most training associated with external media relations are relegated to the commissioned officers in the PA unit. Therefore, 15 of 20 authorized personnel are usually dedicated to capturing and creating print and broadcast products to disperse to internal audiences. With 75 percent of the MPAD equipped and trained to focus products toward an internal audience, the remaining 25 percent, the unit's officers, were left to engage the external media through various other methods of media relations.
The three MPAD PAOs located at 3ID had experience and were placed in a variety of roles at both the division and brigade combat team (BCT) levels. For the 302nd MPAD officers, these roles included the PA future plans officer, the division PA operations officer (night shift), and an assistant BCT PAO. These capabilities included:
Posturing Mobile Public Affairs Detachment Structure to Match Different Augmentation Requirements-Looking toward Future Improvements Based on Current Demand
The mission requirements for the 316th ESC and 3ID, while similar in some ways, were different. While the 316th ESC remained in a "supporting effort" role under MNC-I, 3ID (Task Force Marne) conversely held "main effort" operations in conjunction with other MNDs (in the north and in Baghdad) and demanded a greater emphasis on media relations versus the traditional MPAD focus of command information. While the Soldiers at the 316th ESC and 3ID focused on the command information task of acquiring, producing, and transmitting information products throughout the theater, the 3ID focus promoted greater emphasis on media relations. Eighty percent of the focus for most of the 15 months on the ground was external media outreach.
The 3ID PAO's primary task was creating and disseminating print, photographic, audio, and video products for external release directly to civilian media both in and out of the theater of operations. Meeting this 80 percent requirement with only 25 percent structural MPAD capability left much to be desired in the area of manning, training, and sourcing. As with most MPADs, 3ID staffed four media relations officers. The rest of the Soldiers were either print or broadcast journalists. The task of external media outreach fell under the media relations division. The media relations division pooled media relations officers and senior noncommissioned officers for all other marketing outreach duties. Most of these Soldiers were not formally trained to the level required to meet the challenging measures of effectiveness demanded by division-level commanders of today.
Matching Public Affairs Tasks to the Expanding Role of Public Affairs Outreach
While traditional PA doctrine outlines capabilities that are supposed to be sourced by a collectively trained MPAD, MPADs today are not trained nor equipped to be commensurate with the tasks. MPADs should be able to assist the division PA staff to aggressively and decisively articulate tactical and operational activities in support of strategic national policy and those political and military objectives that shape American perceptions. Hopefully, these actions will promote positive organizational recognition. What was needed in 3ID were the PA requirements to: (1) monitor and assess the perceptions of external audiences through access to civilian commercial news sources; (2) conduct assessments of the information environment, to include development of a PA estimate of the situation as the initial part of operational planning; and, (3) plan and develop information products, which will be produced through contracted services and/or the use of organic equipment and facilities. These capabilities do not necessarily come organic in a division PA staff, however, and by doctrinal standards, are supposed to be sourced by an augmenting MPAD.
As development of products and reaching the national media became the measure of effectiveness in 3ID, it became increasingly clear that the MPAD's skill and development level needed more training on media relations and "marketing to external media sources," even if it meant perhaps less in command information product development. On today's battlefield, even at the tactical BCT level, print and broadcast journalists need to "think forward" in order to shape internal products for use with external interests.
MPAD training shortfalls remain in the following areas: (1) management of media approach planning; (2) prototype product development; (3) commercial-quality production; (4) operational media analysis; (5) product distribution and dissemination to external media markets; (6) strategic communications planning and execution; (7) Web site development and interface; (8) "new media" (blog interaction); and (9) media effects analysis. In an age where "independent local, national, and international media coverage of our military operations and our enemies' activities are critical to our success in the global information environment," these lanes are the last where we would want to assume with less than aggressive and decisive effort.
The Area of Future Focus
As "war reporting" will likely continue to drop significantly this year, taking a back seat to the 2008 presidential campaign, it becomes more important to enhance our outreach methods in order to entice and hold media interest. This enhancement starts with expanding the training and expertise of those conduits doing the outreach; namely, MPAD workhorses at the division level. Enhancement in the traditional areas of strategic planning; senior leader talking points preparation, production, and editing; and processing of press releases and other written products for release to the media are imperative during training. Other nontraditional but required actions might include tracking product play and reach; media monitoring of U.S. and international press; reaching "new media" tools; and designing, developing, and managing a comprehensive Web site.
Media outreach and the embed programs are ways to inform the Western public, execute U.S. political objectives, provide public understanding, and garner American support. In the dawn of the sixth year of the fight in Iraq and the 3ID's conclusion of its third deployment, the Reserve forces continue to move through recurring mobilizations. In light of ongoing deployments, MPAD commanders must ensure that MPAD capabilities, training, and expertise match information requirements at "individual division" yet "collective corps" levels. Sustainment of American support demands that these converging information necessities are sourced with Soldiers who can provide successful and insightful strategic communications plans that address complex issues. Assessing global information and media environments through a process that actually implements information campaigns that thoroughly inform decision makers and public audiences may not necessarily be demanded by all commands to the same level that existed in MND-C, but, most certainly, it should.
Last Reviewed: May 18, 2012