So what is it that you do here? An Army Public Affairs Officer in a tactical-level unit can find himself wondering what significant contributions he/she are making to the betterment of the team.
A brigade combat team public affairs office is comprised of two personnel, an officer and a non-commissioned officer. This, in comparison to the sections that have upward of 10 personnel, makes it hard to justify value to an organization designed to be operationally focused on warrior tasks and battle drills and collective training events. If it comes to making a choice to shoot, move, communicate, survive, and adapt, or, to tell the story and shape the information environment; trigger pullers and those directly supporting are going to be chosen over the latter every time.
Throughout the near two decades of continuous conflict across the middle-east and Southwest Asia we have seen what happens when non-lethal effects are not taken in consideration. Multi-domain operations has continued to gain traction and replace emphasis on counter-insurgency operations and a linear focus on conventional decisive action without incorporating non-lethal effects to shape the information environment.
Current doctrine places public affairs under the Mission Command Warfighting function to produce themes and messages to shape the media space through internal news products and key leader media engagements. However, would it be better to move public affairs under the Fires Warfighting Function to synchronize the other non-lethal effects enablers such as Civil Affairs, Psychological Operations, and Electronic Warfare?
The BCT structure allocates a major for the PAO billet and captains for the rest of the non-lethal effects billets. Surely a seasoned PAO who is Tactical-Information Operations certified can drive the non-lethal cell to contribute significantly during the Targeting Process and shaping for the BCT's fight. Who other than the section that interfaces with the community, produces internal-news, and manages the unit's character presence on real-world social media platforms is better equipped to understand the depth of inform and influence activities?
A PAO that doesn't understand Find, Fix, Finish, Exploit, Analyze, and Disseminate (F3EAD) is behind the power curve. Every story should have a purpose, every media platform should have a target audience for a desired effect, and every engagement should have a deliverable. Do not solely coincide deliverable or target audience with deception.
Our military, as well as information operations, are driven by American Tax-payer dollars and are conducted to protect and defend our nation and the American people. The intent of this opinionative editorial is to give next generation public affairs practitioners a way to immediately add value to the team and to the commander's public affairs program. Understanding the breadth of IO and being able to synchronize organic assets and those that are echelons above the brigade will immediately give PAOs the credibility amongst their peers because of the complexity of the problem set.
Tankers know tanks, Infantrymen know maneuver, Aviators know their aircrafts and airspace coordination, but when you look at the scope of public affairs or other non-lethal enablers, fortifying expertise is a hard sell. PAOs are savvy with the media and amplifying high-visibility events for the organization to tell the story. Civil Affairs, PSYOPs, and EW professionals have very important skill sets that are integral to ensuring combined arms maneuver and wide area security operations are successful; however, each of these enablers are bound by authorizations and treaties that leave them out of the day-to-day garrison battle rhythm.
Training objectives for a one to two-person section is an afterthought when gunnery, field training exercises, and live-fire crew certifications involve so much of the planning and logistics bandwidth. PAOs often fall back on the adage "I do my real-world mission every day." This is not a fabrication of the truth, but how is this assessed? Is there a measure of effectiveness of how often a unit is exploited on Army W.T.F! Moments?
"Know your job, know your skill, and join the team," stated Brig. Gen. Amy Hannah, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe public affairs officer. The real test of a staff officer's value is often weighted on his/her ability to integrate with other staff members during planning to drive operations. Not just laterally, but at higher and lower echelons as well. Once a savvy PAO earns their Maverick Badge they'll have the credibility to add to, or, offer constructive criticism to shape the operation based on the commander's intent and civil considerations. One team!
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect those of the U.S. Army or the U.S. Government.