By Mrs Melissa K Buckley (Leonard Wood)February 2, 2012
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- The media is all around us -- television, radio, newspaper, the Internet. That is why one of the classes offered to troops here at Fort Leonard Wood is devoted to mass communication, teaching the Army's future leaders how to deal with the media.
"Many of these students will become future commanders. They will interact with both the public and information engagement on a fairly regular basis," said Capt. Sean Carmody, Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Captains Career Course small group leader. "It's extremely important. They will learn how to engage the media and how to execute public relations from both a planning and execution stand point. For example, press conferences or press releases."
The Public Affairs/Media Interaction briefing is an overview of Army Public Affairs, interaction with the news media, developing and delivering command messages and Social Media. Public Affairs Specialist Shatara Seymour teaches this class once or twice a quarter.
Seymour covers several aspects of mass communication in the class, which is taught in three different courses offered on post: the Captains Career Course, Warrant Officer Basic/Advanced Course, and the First Sergeants/Commanders Course.
"The students will learn the role of the public affairs officer, the different functions (command information, media relations, and community relations), how to interact with the news media, develop and deliver command messages and how to interact in the social media domain," Seymour said. "It's a foundational course, which lays down the groundwork for interacting with news media."
Most troops don't come in contact with the media every day at work, so for some students this is a welcome reminder.
"It's refreshing me on topics that I have gone over with the Public Affairs Office, working at brigade staff level," said Capt. Christopher Doyle, Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Captains Career Course student. "This class brings forward the importance the public affairs officer brings to the fight."
Seymour agreed. She said this class is important because troops must learn to practice security at the source.
"It's great to tell the Army story, but there are limitations. Without being taught and trained, how would we know what information is releasable to the public, understand our role in interacting with the media? DOD spokespeople are recruiters in a sense for the military, and the communication medium has transitioned from the traditional newspaper and television medium to the social media domain, but what we communicate is still the same," Seymour said.
Seymour said understanding the role troops play in the media is also important, because it is an opportunity to get the Army story out there.
"The American people and military members need to be informed; it helps us to better understand how to present factual information. If our subject-matter experts don't talk, then some other source will, and they need to know that there must a free flow of information, which should be released in a timely manner. Information will not be withheld unless it is a matter of national security (or) could compromise our missions or cause harm to our troops."
Seymour went so far as to say all Department of Defense personnel are spokespeople for our agency.
"Training helps us to be better prepared when we have to respond to the media, and we better understand our role in telling the DOD story," Seymour said.