By J.D. LeipoldDecember 10, 2015
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Dec. 11, 2015) -- Throughout the last 14 years, the American public saw a steady stream of information about the Army through television and newspapers. But as involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan has died down, Americans are seeing fewer Soldiers in the press. And even fewer Americans know a Soldier personally.
Through the newly-created "Meet Your Army" campaign, the Army hopes to put soldiering back in the spotlight. The program will bring the Army and Soldiers to communities throughout the United States, where both civilians and local press can interact with them and learn more about who defends their nation.
"The media environment is changing; the resources have changed and our ability to get embeds on the ground is more difficult because there are less places we can get them to," said Brig. Gen. Malcolm B. Frost, the Army's chief of public affairs. "Quite frankly, the focus of the nation and of our citizens has started to change a little bit in that they've moved away from their focus being on the wars."
Instead, Frost said, with the large-scale American involvement in the Middle East now greatly diminished, Americans are focusing more on domestic issues.
"What's happened is we've noticed there's been not as much communications of what the Army or our Soldiers are doing on behalf of our nation and its citizens," Frost said.
To bring the Soldier story back to the American public, the Army has been working to connect with different audiences across the nation through a variety of venues, including the press and social media. The Army has also engaged with the public directly at schools, universities, veteran service organizations, and meetings with business and civic leaders.
Frost said the "Meet Your Army" campaign is a multi-year engagement where the Army will put real Soldiers out among the public, so civilians will get a chance to engage with them actively, rather than just seeing them on the television.
"We've started this off with general officers ... I personally piloted the program a couple of times to try and understand the cost, the benefit, how to do this, the best locations, what resonates, what doesn't, what works, what doesn't, how performance and effectiveness are measured ... and simultaneously building a tool kit on how to do this," Frost said.
Back in July, Frost traveled to Lansing, Michigan, where he engaged with the ROTC community there at Michigan State University, or MSU. He discussed a variety of subjects, including the Army budget and troop cuts.
Frost also conducted media roundtables with local radio, television and newspapers and visited with the mayor and with the governor's office. He capped off his trip by introducing the 141-member Army Field Band and Soldiers Chorus at MSU's Wharton Center for the Performing Arts.
Frost said the biggest challenge with the "Meet Your Army" campaign is that it takes a tremendous amount of planning and understanding of who are in the communities the Army considers visiting.
"Meanwhile, we're talking about the program, demonstrating how it's done, communicating and building stakeholders and consensus with leaders and getting this plan out slowly but surely while we are testing and piloting it," he said. "Right now, those who have done it have been general officers, but we see it being more than that as we continue down the line."
Last week, during the most recent Meet Your Army event, Brig. Gen. Frank M. Muth, director of the Army Quadrennial Defense Review Office, spent several days discussing leadership in his hometown area of Baltimore. While there, he visited with students at four high schools, two of which he had attended as a student. He also met with members of the Baltimore City Council.
Muth capped off his time in Baltimore by hosting the Army Field Band in two "Sound the Bells" holiday performances at the historical, 2,300-seat Hippodrome Theatre there.
Muth told concert attendees that while the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have winded down, the U.S. Army, and young Soldiers, are still engaged around the world.
"Eleven of our 18 divisions are either forward stationed or forward deployed throughout the world ... that's 190,000 Soldiers in 140 countries who will be there throughout these holidays," he added. "Keep them in your thoughts; keep them in your prayers this season."
Frost said it's important to tell the Army story as a way to remind Americans that it is their Army - and that the American people are who allows the Army to do its job.
"That power is manifested in three ways through the American people," Frost said. "First, it's through America's trust and confidence."
Secondly, Frost said, Americans enable the Army by encouraging their own sons and daughters to serve in uniform. And finally, he said, the American people fund the Army with their tax dollars, and by doing so, they enable America "to raise and maintain the greatest Army on earth."