Life has been busy lately. As the summer seems to be cooking off and showing hints of fall, the world keeps spinning. It feels like this year has gone by incredibly fast. Whether that is good or bad, I cannot say.
Regardless, I cannot change time any more than I can stop the rotation of the seasons. I don’t think I would really want to though. Change is part of life, and natural. No matter what element of life you look at, change is there.
In my Army Reserve job, we had a recent big change. We welcomed a new commander. As a public affairs officer, my job is unique and frankly, pretty fun. The most obvious task I do is take pictures. In fact, some fellow Soldiers think that is all public affairs officers really do. Picture taking is an important factor of story telling of course. However, there are so many other key tasks we do.
Take this recent ceremony for example. When we welcome a new commander, military units conduct a traditional ceremony. It is either an assumption of command or a change of command. The difference between the two is whether or not the outgoing commander plays a part in the formation. If the outgoing commander cannot be at the ceremony for whatever reason (already at next assignment, deployed, personal conflict, etc.), the appropriate ceremony is called an Assumption of Command. If the outgoing commander is there, it is called a Change of Command. No matter what they call it, the job is the same for the rest of us Soldiers. A ceremony and all of its elements must be planned. And for public affairs officers, it is a lot more than just showing up and taking pictures.
Weeks before the ceremony, information (ceremony times/locations, in- and outgoing commander biographies) must be gathered to assist in the editing of ceremony programs and media planning. Media advisories, which are basically invitations to the civilian media, are then created and sent out. Then comes the fielding of any questions from the media about the ceremony in order for them to prepare.
On the day of the actual ceremony, the heavy work begins. In this particular ceremony, I was a one-Soldier media team. I greeted the media (two television station reporters and a team of one newspaper reporter and one photographer) upon their arrival, pointed them to the right places, brought them Soldiers to interview, watched the interviews for later feedback to the Soldiers themselves (said too many ‘ums’ or looked nervous), took pictures to document the events, and recorded quotes and notes for a later article.
Oh, and in between all of that, you are trying to watch what is going on elsewhere in case another media person needs help or there is something you need to photograph. You also take candid shots of the Soldiers for moral purposes and later use, and just because they look really cool.
Normally, for large media events, there are more public affairs Soldiers. In this case, it would have been nice to have some experienced help, but there just wasn’t any other public affairs Soldiers available. And after 15 years in the public affairs field, I knew I would be busy, but it was still manageable.
After the event, most Soldiers involved in the ceremony are pretty much done, outside of clean up and the returning/cleaning of whatever items where borrowed or used. For public affairs Soldiers, our work is only half complete. Now, we have an array of post-production work. Media who came to the ceremony may call with some last minute questions. Pictures must be edited/captioned, posted to unit social media sites, marketed to various news agencies, and copied for historical purposes. Notes and quotes from the ceremony must be molded into a journalistic article that is either in a news or feature format, like any Associate Press style article you would read. (My recent article can be found here.)
Once that is complete, public affairs officers will then search websites, newspapers, social media platforms and TV stations for any coverage on the unit. Like any business, leaders want follow-on reports that list media links and public comments. We also upload ceremony products and monitor feedback on the unit’s various platforms: Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, website, and more.
The job involves a lot of elements and is vastly misunderstood, even by fellow Soldiers. There is the assumption we only take pictures and play on Facebook. While we do have to complete those tasks, there is a much larger picture. (Pun intended.) We are the storytellers of our Soldiers. We are the media managers and handlers. We are the documenters of events. We are the monitors of public perception.
In journalism college, they taught us a simple rule. If something is not documented, it is like it never happened. We record the mood, comments and facts of an event. It is not that we create history, but we are there to ensure history is not forgotten. Now take this job to the battle field or a foreign country where your sons, daughters, brothers, sisters or parents are serving, and it is even more critical. The public affairs job reveals what our Soldiers are doing for the American public to see. It motivates our Soldiers and reminds them that their job is indeed making a difference. Add those elements to the fact that I get to take pictures and write stories, and it is the best job in the Army – well, at least for me.
So in honor of the love of photography, and as a submission to Cardinal Guzman’s Changing Seasons Challenge, here is a visual reflection of what my September looked like.
For those of you not familiar with Cardinal’s challenge, click here to see a detailed explanation. But essentially, it is a monthly challenge where you document your month. It may be with photos, a poem, a recipe or some other creative means. So check it out and join in on the fun.
Either way, click over to Cardinal’s page if you like amazing photographs, interesting stories or yummy recipes. He really has a plethora of quality content on there. Heck, he can even sell you a shirt or two. How is that for variety?
Well, take care and enjoy your month:)
For Cardinal’s September post, just click the badge.