By Sgt. Quentin Johnson, 2nd BCT PAO, 1st Cav. Div.January 26, 2011
FORT POLK, La. - Chaplains have great listening techniques and vocal skills that allow them to speak to large groups and individuals. However, being interviewed by media and speaking to local leaders in another country may require a different set of skills in today's real-world operations.
Chaplains and their assistants from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, took part in media relations and key leader engagement training at the Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk, La.
The day long training started with media interaction, said Chaplain (Maj.) Donald Ehrke, the brigade's chaplain. Chaplains and their assistants conducted on-camera, radio, and one-on-one interviews all with the same objective-improving interactions with the media.
Even though he's been interviewed on multiple occasions, Ehrke found the training to be helpful and refreshing. He learned new ideas and now has a fresh perspective on approaching the media.
According to Ehrke, one important thing he learned is to prepare very well for every interview.
He and his assistant worked as a team and collaborated before any interview so they could ensure their messages reinforce one another.
Ehrke's team is not the only one unified by this training. Sgt. Dessa Cummings, a Corinth, Miss. native and chaplain's assistant with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Special Troops Battalion, 2nd BCT, 1st Cav. Div. said the media training has broadened the channels of communication between the 2nd STB's chaplain and herself.
"[The training] brought us closer together and we have seen what we need to work on in our weak spots with one another," she said.
Bridging the gap of communication will allow her to help her chaplain when he's expressing difficulty answering certain questions from the media, said Cummings. This kind of partnership will work with other types of engagements as well.
Meeting with a member of a non-governmental organization or the local imam, an Islamic religious leader, may require a different approach to dialogue, said Ehrke. The training helps the conversation become more intentional.
"It's not merely a conversation; not merely trying to build a relationship or friendship, but it's also one that is trying to relay some very important messages," he said.
Those important messages will go a long way when the UMT's are deployed because they can have an intense impact on such a small population, said Ehrke.
Cultural awareness was the most beneficial learning experience, said Cummings. Now having a better understanding of the female's role in a Middle Eastern culture, she can apply cultural sensitivity into her work as she deploys.
Overall, the training was successful and educational. In fact, both Ehrke and Cummings have said they would like to see more realistic training of this type during periods of non-deployment.