By Skye A. Marthaler, AMSC Public AffairsMarch 22, 2011
On March 17, 40 public affairs representatives from throughout the Belvoir community met at Barden Education Center on Fort Belvoir to meet their fellow colleagues and gain a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges facing their community. Belvoir's Public Affairs Office organized the Belvoir PAO Summit, as the inaugural event to gather public affairs representatives.
With 160 organizations on Belvoir, composed of Army units and agencies across the federal government; and a worldwide mission, Belvoir provides opportunities and challenges different from other Army installations, which can make a daunting task for public affairs officers.
"Every single day, everyone in your work forces comes to work and does something that reaches outside the gates of Fort Belvoir and enables and empowers and supports a commander or Soldier in the field," said Don Carr, Director of Public Affairs for Belvoir. "Not everyone has an organic PAO here. They derive their support from other places. But, the reality is that those little shops and program management offices come to us for public affairs support."
Belvoir Garrison Command Team, Col. John Strycula, garrison commander; Command Sgt. Maj. Gabriel Berhane; and Stephen Brooks, deputy to the garrison commander, stressed the importance of partnering and the bigger Fort Belvoir community.
"It is about getting "our" message out, not just the garrison's, but our Belvoir partners," Strycula said. "When we try to get our message out, we have to reach out to our entire Belvoir audience. It's all about getting the word out. By partnering, we get our messages coordinated and reach a larger audience."
Over the four-hour summit, the public affairs representatives were updated on Belvoir BRAC issues, including construction and transportation; media relations; social media engagement; community relations; upcoming events and command historian support. Above all, though, the focus was on telling the Fort Belvoir community story.
"The Belvoir story is bigger than the garrison; it is the 160 organizations that make up our community," Carr said. "We have to tell the total Belvoir story and we need your help getting the story out."
Summit participants walked away with a better understanding of their own public affairs community and the wide variety of forums to get their messages out.
"My biggest takeaway was a unique opportunity to meet colleagues and very good opportunity collaborate with like minds and find out some opportunities down the road to benefit from each other's forums to get our message out," said Gary Biggs, outreach officer, Office of Corporate Communications, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.
Lt. Col. Monica Womack, Army Reserve Communications National Outreach, said, "I'm looking forward to the Army Reserve developing a working relationship with Fort Belvoir Public Affairs, and, hopefully, we can assist with some of our general officers in the Fort Belvoir Speaker's Bureau and help tell the BRAC story."
She further stated, "Overall, it was a very worthwhile event and would definitely recommend PAOs from the National Capital Region and the Fort Belvoir community to attend the next one."
Future iterations of the Belvoir PAO Summit will focus on Fort Belvoir partner challenges and opportunities and using the collected talent and experiences of the PAOs to find solutions and recommendations. The meetings are planned to occur three times a year.