By Pfc. Alicia C. Torbush, 20th Public Affairs DetachmentApril 20, 2009
U.S. Army Central (USARCENT) Public Affairs took part in an information exchange with the Kenya Army in Mombasa, Kenya April 14-16.
The event's purpose was to parallel what the representatives from both armies know about public affairs and to help each other understand the role that public affairs plays in military media operations.
"The purpose of this exchange was to build on the success of the first public affairs exchange that took place in July," said Maj. Amanda Azubuike, a media operations officer, USARCENT. "The Kenya Army requested the exchanges and decided to use the Land Forces Symposium as a practical exercise and culminating event for Phase II of a three phase exchange."
LFS is an annual forum that brings together international military leaders to discuss common challenges, exchange views and foster security cooperation throughout the region while strengthening relationships among partner nations.
"Prior to the first exchange, journalists had been recruited to strengthen the role of public affairs in Kenya's military," said Mr. Bogita Ongeri, Kenya Armed Forces Public Relations Officer. "The second public affairs exchange included the trained military journalist from the Kenya Ministry of State for Defence in the program."
Day one of the exchange emphasized the role that public affairs plays in getting the military's message to the general public and the importance of media relations to the military.
Azubuike led the class and presented a slide show presentation to explain the public affairs' role in facilitating media on the battlefield and the purpose of a media operations center.
Day two involved discussion about how to communicate necessary information to civilian media in the form of queries and press releases.
U.S. Army Master Sgt. David Rhodes, public affairs noncommissioned officer in charge, USARCENT, explained that preparation is the key to maintaining the public affairs policy of maximum disclosure of information about operations and events that take place within the military with minimum delay. He also emphasized the importance of accuracy of the information and maintaining credibility.
"We do a lot of media relations in our jobs so it is important to share this information on public communications in a bid to be more effective in public communication strategies," said Ongeri.
The exchange concluded with a round of practical exercises that demonstrated uses for all of the topics that were discussed so that those who attended could get a real world feel for the public affairs mission.
"Exchanges like this are important to share ideas and improve interoperability and cooperation among our partner nations," said U.S. Army Col. Thomas Nickerson, chief public affairs officer, USARCENT.
Similar sentiments were echoed by Ongeri.
"The goal is to harmonize the information that we are supposed to give out so that we have consistency when it comes to public communication," said Ongeri.
Kenya Armed Forces public affairs and USARCENT public affairs will work together in support of the upcoming Land Forces Symposium as the culminating event to the exchange.
There is one more exchange slated to take place so that the improvement of cooperation and interoperability between the two countries can continue to grow.