Tag Archives: combat camera

Getting it right in Afghanistan

As more and more attention is placed on the military’s efforts in Afghanistan, there is a distinct and concerted effort to “get it right.” The fear is that if we mess this up, all our efforts here will have been in vain. If we leave before the Afghan government has the means necessary to assert its authority as a legitimate body, the Taliban will return. The people who helped us will be targeted. And we’ll have left Afghanistan in much worse shape than when we found it. And that’s saying something.

Military leaders here have refocused efforts and strategy specific to the needs and conditions of Afghanistan. We often hear, “What worked in Iraq will not necessarily work in Afghanistan.” There is some comfort in knowing that those as the top see this as more than just a military campaign. The whole notion of “winning the hearts and minds” is a tired cliche. But there are some who are actually walking the walk.

Like in Panjshir.

Provinces of Afghanistan
Provinces of Afghanistan

In the Panjshir Province, the Airmen, Soldiers and (solo) Sailor with the provincial reconstruction team (PRT) there are making a real difference. The way their commander, Lt. Col. Eric Hommel, explains it, no progress can be made without security. Well in Panjshir, they’ve got the security part down, so the focus is on governance, education and construction — and doing it all properly. Building a school is great and all, but for every school, you need teachers, faculty, administration, supplies, etc. So that’s what they do in Panjshir.

I spent a couple of weeks with the Panjshir PRT and I was amazed at how much different it is there compared to the rest of the country. My complete story is here.

Colonel Hommel is a fellow New Yorker. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, deeply affected every American; New Yorkers took it personally. So to see the Queens native there and talk with him about the importance of what they’re doing deeply affected me. The people with the PRT believe in the mission there. I left Panjshir with a renewed sense of hope that if they can be the model for every other province in Afghanistan, if every other PRT can have success similar to that of Colonel Hommel’s team, there is great promise for the people of Afghanistan. They’re the ones doing it right. One down, 33 to go.

Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski is a public affairs journalist currently deployed with a Combat Camera Unit. They travel around the Middle East to report on and document the efforts of Airmen in the joint fight.

Creating a World Wide Rave at Air Force Public Affairs Conference

For the past week, 350 Airmen and Air Force civilians have been meeting in Dulles, VA, at the 2009 U.S. Air Force Public Affairs Professional Development Seminar (we just call it the Worldwide).

UPDATE: March 25, 2009: Check out this post from the Acting Director of Air Force Public Affairs, Colonel Mike Caldwell.

The conference is a chance for everyone who works in public affairs (PA) to get together to share ideas and learn what others have been doing in their PA shop.

We discuss communication techniques that run from traditional media relations, to partnerships, to Combat Camera and Defense Visual Information. A big focus this year has been New Media Tactics. The Emerging Technology Division of AFPAA premiered their new book and video, both entitled “New Media and the Air Force,” and has been Tweeting (along with numerous other attendees) live updates from the event (follow #afpaww on Twitter). Though we’ve been engaging new media for little over a year through blogging, Air Force BlueTube, and Twitter, this conference has been the first chance to share these tools with other MAJCOMS and Airmen. The government and military have faced numerous challenges trying to get leadership buy-in to use social media. This is evident when we attend the Armed Services Social Media Working Group and hear the challenges our sister branches are facing. But we are making strides. Leadership is getting a little more comfortable with the idea of social media. President Obama’s executive order regarding transparency has also helped push this movement because government and military agencies now want to be sure that they’re sharing their stories in every media avenue. The reality is that social media is not going away and the government is going to have to adopt or miss out.

As more evidence of our strides, just look at who we had for our keynote speaker yesterday. David Meerman

David Meerman Scott
David Meerman Scott

Scott, author of five books, including The New Rules of Marketing and PR and the just-published World Wide Rave. Why does that matter? Because Scott is a communicator with ideas that are atuned to new media, which is not the traditional thought process for military PAs. He discussed some of the ideas from World Wide Rave and how you can change your way of thinking to create a new, captivating product that gets noticed. Some of these ideas fall under the notion of “viral” marketing, some are just a complete shift on how to advertise your product. Will this work for the military? It’s hard to say, but it is apparent that Scott empowered the Airmen to think of media and communications differently. Now the Airmen are armed with new ideas to practice public affairs, and more importantly, a new way to tell the Air Force story to the public. Follow us online and look for more social media from other MAJCOMs and wings. Share your stories and suggestions and join the conversation. We’d love to hear what you have to say.

Air Force Airman recognized as DOD ‘Hero’

One of our fellow PA communicators tells it like it is.  Listen to the audio interview and see Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Lock’s story here. See more from the Tension here.
Sgt. Lock’s story: It’s 1 p.m., Aug. 16, 2006, on a white-hot highway 70 miles west of Baghdad. One soldier is down after being hit by a sniper, and bullets kick up dust a few yards from Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock. “Cover me!” he yells to a U.S. gunner. Adrenaline floods his body, and he runs as fast as he can, faster than he thought possible, to get even closer to the action.
Lock photographed soldiers crouching behind cars as bullets whizzed in from a field. He turned his lens toward the soldiers tending to the fallen GI. Lock saw they needed a hand. He picked up the wounded soldier’s M-4 rifle and provided cover until the GI was pulled to safety. Lock then switched back to his camera. The wounded soldier survived. It was this battle and Lock’s ability to switch from photographer to fighter in a split second without thought that earned him a Bronze Star.
“A good photo will tell the whole story in a split-second of a frame,” Lock said. “It leaves a lasting impression and will be etched into your mind.”