News: Enhancing communication skills
DOULA, Cameroon - Approximately 17 delegates from African nations and the African Union applied the skills learned from a public affairs workshop to Africa Endeavor’s exercise scenario, running June 18-27, in Douala, Cameroon.
The four-day workshop—facilitated by U.S., Canadian and Dutch representatives—is the first iteration during the largest military communications exercise on the African continent.
With more than 50 nations comprising the African continent, U.S. Army Col. Tom Davis, U.S. Africa Command’s director of public affairs, decided to team with the annual communications exercise to begin to bring the PA counterparts together.
“It is my goal to do workshops like this as much as I can,” Davis said. “There is a real desire from our African PA counterparts to get to know one another and discuss the roles and responsibilities of our field.”
This is the first African public affairs workshop of this scale hosted by U.S. African Command and attended by representatives from 13 countries and the African Union.
Through interpreters, public affairs officers ranging from civilians to lieutenant colonels discussed procedures and covered topics such as coaching subject matter experts, conducting interviews, preparing command messages and interacting with media.
"It is important to understand where your communication goes and understand what reach it has [in order] to react appropriately," said Cameroon Lt. Col. Didier Badjeck, a public affairs officer with the Ministry of Communication who attended the workshop.
Burkina Faso Army Maj. Karim Ouily commented in a group discussion that in his experience public affairs is too reactive and should be included earlier in planning for operations.
“As public affairs officers, we have to be relevant for our commanders so we have a seat at the table and we can advise our commander on all matters media,” Davis said during a discussion with the PA participants. “We’re in a global environment.”
"The workshop has been quite beneficial to me," said Capt. Ould Hedeid Sidi Mohamed, an army public affairs officer from Mauritania. "There have been interesting discussions," he added. "Getting feedback and input from my colleagues on the interview I conducted was invaluable especially since I'm the spokesperson in my country."
The scenario portion of the exercise began June 23 with an earthquake devastating a fictitious country. In the days following the natural disaster, public affairs representatives embedded with the regional brigade and battalion headquarters, applying the knowledge acquired during the first four days of workshop discussion and collaboration.
During a group discussion many of the workshop attendees voiced their endorsement of the workshop, noting that it enhanced their skills as public affairs officers and enabled them to build relationships between colleagues.
“The richest experience was the human interaction,” Ouily said.