Tag Archives: Public Affairs

A New Policy Brings a Change in Communication Attitude

A new policy goes into effect today: Journalists are allowed to “view the dignified transfer of the remains of service members returning from overseas,” DOD’s media advisory says.  See more on the process here.  The families of the fallen continue to grieve and the process and people in place will allow them to maintain honor and privacy if they choose.  We thank those families, and we thank our brothers and sisters in arms who have given all. It is our duty as Americans to never forget them.

We will never forget.
We will never forget.

This post won’t discuss the decision to allow or deny access to reporters.  This post discusses the communicators behind the scenes who are helping the media share this story because that’s what I know about.  This event marks a significant change in the way Air Force has done Public Affairs in the past, IMHO. 

First off, the new site looks great, but what’s probably not evident is the planning that went into the production, implementation and sustainment of the dedicated communication team behind this effort. In nine years on active duty, I’ve not seen an effort so committed to ensuring family members were taken care of and that the story was told in the right way with honor and respect first and foremost. A first class operation for first class people who are no longer with us; they gave all and we owe it to them and their families. Our Chief of Staff understands the value of the media and he also understands the need for solid communication on this matter.  This is changing the way the Air Force does business and we applaud him. 

Captain Mike Andrews, assigned to the Pentagon but supporting the media efforts at Dover AFB, Delaware’s Mortuary Affairs Operations Center said: “This Web site reflects the honor, dignity and respect the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations center affords all of our fallen and the care, service and support we provide the families. I’m honored to be a part of this team of professionals who carry out this mission with such a selfless sense of service.”

According to the Air Force Mortuary site, it’s “the mission and privilege of Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center to fulfill our nation’s sacred commitment of ensuring dignity, honor, and respect to our fallen and care, service, and support to their families.”  This is our goal as an Air Force first and foremost, to ensure dignity, honor and respect for our Airmen and their families.  

The communication planning for this event and the team supporting it are first rate.  Air Force understands that we need to communicate differently about what’s happening in the world around us and this is one way it’s being done.  Air Force leadership understood the media pressure that was about to envelop Dover Air Force Base and the Airmen there, so a plan was set forth and additional support was called in to truthfully and transparently represent the fallen servicemembers’ family’s wishes should media be allowed to cover events while still balancing the demand for timely information for the public.

The Air Force is trying to engage, talk and share our story.  And we know that there have been issues in the past but these are steps in the right direction.  You can see photos here, video here and a story from Capt. Shannon Collins here. She’s on the ground with the communication’s team as well.

Thank you to the families and friends of the fallen and all those who support our men and women in uniform. I cannot say enough how sorry we are for your loss.




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.”