By Capt. Robert TaylorNovember 30, 2017
BOISE, Idaho - Community relation events, known as COMRELs, inform the public about the Idaho Army National Guard and help the organization maintain a viable and visible relationship with the 21 communities throughout the state where units are located.
"It's important we create unity with the public," said 1Lt. A.J. Edwards, the Idaho Army National Guard's community relations officer. "A lot of people are always appreciative and grateful when we participate in their event. It also helps us educate the public on Idaho Army National Guard assets."
During the past fiscal year, the Idaho Army National Guard participated in more than 260 COMREL events.
COMREL requests include tours of Gowen Field or local armories; the use of the leadership reaction course and vehicle or weapon simulators on Gowen Field; vehicle and aircraft static displays; aircraft flyovers; the use of the 25th Army Band and the honor guard at public events; and the usage of local facilities for public events.
COMREL requests can be initiated by members of the public, by unit representatives or by the Idaho Army National Guard's command team.
Edwards processes all requests and coordinates across units as necessary. Requests get reviewed by the impacted unit, the state public affairs and legal offices and the Idaho Army National Guard's senior leadership.
Most requests should be made at least 30 days in advance and for larger events, such as large vehicles or aircraft display and flyovers, Edwards recommends requesting those assets 90 days before the event.
In August John and Marjo Tonks of Pocatello requested the Idaho Army National Guard's honor guard present the state and national flags at their Cub Scout pack meeting. The meeting's focus was on patriotism and included representatives from the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Tonks said he was surprised to learn that there was more to requesting the Idaho Army National Guard's participation than just calling the local Pocatello armory but that the process worked for him. He said he plans to request Idaho Army National Guard participation in the future for additional Cub Scout events.
"It added a lot to our program to have the Idaho Army National Guard there," said John Tonks. "We're not just trying to have a good time. We want to teach the boys something to become better men."
"We want them to understand patriotism is important, and we want them to see that it's possible that some day that they could do something like this as a possible career field. It's good for them to see young men and women in that capacity."
While the goal of the COMREL program is not to recruit new Soldiers, there are some benefits for local units to team up with recruiters at major events, such as community fairs or other large events.
"Having a tank at an event helps create brand awareness," said Maj. Stephen Pratt, operations officer for the Idaho Army National Guard's recruiting and retention battalion. "But it really improves our event to have technical experts and unit members on the ground to answer questions and give the public information about that vehicle."
Members of the public can interact with the Idaho Army National Guard at local events in their communities.
The Lake Hazel Branch Library, part of the Ada Community Libraries system, invited the Idaho Army National Guard to participate in its first annual Touch-a-Truck event in August. The event gave children the chance to touch and interact with local emergency, construction and military equipment, including an Idaho Army National Guard Humvee.
"It was really cool for them to see a Humvee," said Jana Gregory, the event's coordinator. "That's not the kind of truck that they see regularly. It was really cool for them to see it and hear about it."
1st Lt. A.J. Edwards can be contacted at (208) 272-4142 or firstname.lastname@example.org.