CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait -- “Maximum disclosure, minimum delay.” Like a prize fighter sparring in the gym, this is something that is pounded into service members studying to become public affairs mass communication specialists at the Defense Information School to remind themselves to provide the American public unclassified information about the U.S. Military and its activities. Aiding the public affairs office, unit public affairs representatives (UPAR) are non-public affairs Soldiers identified to increase public affairs (PA) capability across the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility (USCENTCOM AOR). On July 25, 2023, U.S. Army Central (USARCENT) public affairs Sgt. Maj. Jeremy Bunkley held a UPAR Brief to inform UPARs of their responsibilities and capabilities, at Camp Buehring, Kuwait.
“Due to the distributed nature of forces throughout the CENTCOM AOR, the role of the UPAR is imperative in assisting higher echelon PA in telling the holistic public affairs and CENTCOM story,” said Bunkley. “Public affairs officers (PAOs) and noncommissioned officers (NCOs) are assigned at the brigade level and higher. Because of this, the role of the UPARs is extremely important at the battalion level and lower, as they serve closely with battalion commanders as lower-level subject matter experts on PA plans and policies, gather video and photography to create public affairs communication products, and conducting media opportunities at the battalion level.”
Army Regulation 360-1 defines the PA Program as the guide to conducting public communication strategy for information, command information, leader engagements, and community outreach activities directed toward both the external and internal publics with interest in the Department of Defense. PA policies and principles apply across the range of military and peacetime operations and states the guidelines for UPARs.
UPARs serve closely with battalion commanders as lower-level subject matter experts on PA plans and policies on embedding the media, engaging the local media, and conducting media opportunities at the battalion level. Commanders appoint a UPAR to any unit that is not supported by a designated public affairs officer.
“During my time in public affairs, our field has constantly been understrength,” said California Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Lani Pascual, the public affairs operations NCO, assigned to 40th Infantry Division, Task Force Spartan. “UPARs make a huge impact by augmenting our collective efforts. They are the on-ground experts who are embedded and can cover their unit's missions.”
Pascual added that the PA mission is information-based and to be successful they must connect to Soldiers and glean their stories. UPARs can share the experiences of the Soldiers they serve with that the public affairs office may not have the opportunity to know.
Prior to being appointed a UPAR with 642nd ASB, Spc. Courtney Scholl, a human resources specialist and UPAR, assigned to HSC, 642nd Aviation Support Battalion, had not used a professional camera but was happy with the opportunity and personal growth that she found.
“I had never done something like this before,” said Scholl. “This was my first time using a professional camera and taking photos. I soon began to enjoy this extra duty that I had along with my everyday tasks. As the UPAR for my battalion I hope to broadcast all that Soldiers are doing in hopes for other people to understand what Soldiers do, their impact on the mission and the Army as a whole.”
Army Reserve 1st Lt. Larry Subramanian, a transportation officer assigned to 382nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, wanted to attend UPAR training because he wanted to share the experiences of his unit with like-minded Soldiers.
“I witness great work achieved by the CSSB team to support our units daily,” said Subramanian. “UPARs give us an opportunity to provide to our higher commands, allies, families, friends and the American taxpayer exposure to our day-to-day work and we are appreciative of what they do.”
USARCENT operates under the values that people, partnerships, readiness, and innovation are the best way to sustain and improve the operational practicality that leads to mission success.
“Ultimately, teamwork and information sharing are key,” said Bunkley. “…especially for the Soldiers who are new to the UPAR responsibilities. We wanted to bring them together to share the USARCENT commander’s public affairs campaign plan and discuss the ways in which they can best support that and their own commander’s communications objectives. This is an important additional duty, and we want them to know that as public affairs practitioners, we are here to help them succeed… this was a great turnout, and it shows how important winning in the information environment is to our commanders across the USARCENT footprint.”