By Mrs. Martha Yoshida (Leonard Wood)January 5, 2017
Tucked away on Fort Leonard Wood's 62,000-acre Army installation, is a single-story, brick building that serves as the Public Affairs Office where Mike Bowers, a 41-year public affairs veteran, managed the GUIDON newspaper for the past three years.
Bowers, a North Carolina native, will soon be leaving the GUIDON to retire to scenic Alpine landscapes along the Rhine River in Germany, but not without leaving a lasting impression on Fort Leonard Wood and the Public Affairs community.
"Somewhere along the way I developed the knack of writing to encourage people to read the whole story," he said. "In newspaper, you've got to have that hook. You've got to have something that grabs them."
It's that "somewhere along the way" that has influenced Bowers' ability to make it seem effortless as he managed the weekly paper with a printed circulation of 10,000 copies and online version at myguidon.com.
"We have been very fortunate to have Mike here," Tiffany Wood, Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office director, said. "His level and depth of experience has been vital to communicating the mission and function of Fort Leonard Wood. On a yearly basis, he has been responsible for editing more than 400 articles, designing and laying out more than 250 pages and overseeing the production of 50 issues of the GUIDON."
"Mike pays attention to what is going on around post and knows what is newsworthy," she said. "He has been the link to many successful endeavors in telling the Fort Leonard Wood story."
"Not only do our local readers enjoy his work, but the Army frequently publishes Mike's stories to share on a national and global level," Wood added.
In addition to technical competency, Bowers, who entered Public Affairs in August of 1975, when he started his 20-year journey with the U.S. Air Force, attributes his professional work ethic to his mother and the military training he received as a noncommissioned officer.
"My mom was tougher than any drill sergeant," he said. "She emphasized hard work, discipline and simple values."
Those NCO values came in handy when it was time to lead others in the Public Affairs profession as a Defense Information School journalism instructor and when he entered civilian service with the U.S. Army as a staff writer and editor in Mannheim, Germany.
"As an NCO, I never asked anyone to do anything that I cannot or will not do myself," he said.
"In this profession, you have to be creative, responsive and diplomatic," Bowers said.
One of his favorite jobs was being assigned as a sports reporter for European Stars and Stripes.
"That was a dream job," he said. "I traveled to Monaco to report on and got to meet the Dream Team. My job took me throughout Germany and England."
"Public Affairs still remains the best job that one could have, because it's different every day," he said. "It's challenging and rewarding. I've never regretted a day coming to work. It's all about the people you meet."
Going forward, Bowers hopes advances in technology are used to complement the profession, while still allowing PA specialists to focus on Soldiers' stories and people.
"Instant news feeds have changed what we have to do," said Bowers, who started his career using a proportion wheel and hand delivering news pages for editing before the advent of email. "It has changed a lot."
According to Bowers, one thing that hasn't changed is "the importance of telling the story of the people who are getting the job done."
At Fort Leonard Wood, he mentored not one, but two Moss-Holland Civilian Journalist of the Year winners for the Department of the Army and Thomas Jefferson winners for the Department of Defense, along with numerous staff writers. Bowers lives up to his words, holding honors as the 1996 U.S. Army Europe and 7th Army Civilian Journalist of the Year.
After the release of the final 2016 edition of the GUIDON, Bowers moved on to life in Germany, where he plans to travel, catch up on reading and reunite with his Family.
"I will go back to work with the most demanding boss, my wife, Jutta," Bowers said, before leaving Fort Leonard Wood. "She has got my goals laid out for the next 10 years. Probably the only editing will be Family documents but without the deadlines."