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    The Pen Is Mightier Than the Sword

    D.C. National Guard Public Affairs team pose in front of U.S. Capitol after 59th Presidential Inauguration

    Photo By Master Sgt. Matt Hecht | Members of the District of Columbia National Guard Public Affairs team pose for a...... read more read more



    Story by Staff Sgt. Anthony Small 

    DC National Guard

    WASHINGTON - While every presidential inauguration is a historic event, the 59th Presidential Inauguration—in the midst of a pandemic—was unprecedented in many ways. More than 26,000 National Guard members from all 50 states, three U.S. territories and the District of Columbia supported the presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C., last month. The National Guard, in a support role to local authorities, provided a safe environment for the inauguration and helped ensure a peaceful transition of power.

    The stereotypical image that many have of military service members is armed troops with survival vests and helmets. Less noticeable are those who fuel the aircraft, carry out logistics to make sure troops are fed or tote cameras to capture and tell the stories from the mission.

    Public Affairs embodies the saying, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” Members of the District of Columbia National Guard (DCNG) PA team put down their pens and step out from behind their cameras to talk about their work and contribution to the Capitol Response mission.

    “Public Affairs is important to this mission because it is our job to document the mission and tell the story of the National Guard,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Melissa Heintz, a public affairs officer with the District of Columbia Air National Guard (DCANG). “We do this through creating our own content, facilitating interviews with members of the media, covering special events with VIPs and members of Congress and holding press conferences to inform the public of our role in this mission. It is our duty to inform the American public of the military’s role in our society.”

    The PA team is led by public affairs officers. PA officers routinely sit in as active members of joint information planning teams, lending support to information operations in any number of ways. They help draft and disseminate the commander's themes and messages, provide local and international media analysis, and aid in countering misinformation.

    “Our job is to advise senior leaders on the direction of internal and external communication,” said U.S. Army Maj. Aaron Thacker, a public affairs officer and National Guard Bureau liaison to the DCNG team. “It’s a lot of instant gratification. If you do your job right, you instantly know you just diverted a problem. Its challenge is balancing the military's need for secrecy with the public's right to know.”

    Since all service members are potential spokespersons, guardsmen should be aware of the fundamental tenets that support PA strategies and guide planning and execution of PA operations.

    “At times it is a mammoth task to ensure that everyone stays on message,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Tinashe Machona, deputy director of public affairs officer with the DCNG. “To rectify that, among many other things, we craft troop cards and initiate public affairs briefings to make certain, to the best of our ability, that everyone is on the same sheet of music.”

    It takes a lot of time and creative decisions to get multimedia products from the heads of the public affairs team to the internet.

    “I oversee the content creation and digital media presence for the DCNG during the 59th Presidential Inauguration and Operation Capitol Response,” said Heintz. “I work with a group of fantastic public affairs specialists who take photos, write stories and create video packages to tell the story of the DCNG’s historic role in the peaceful transfer of power.”

    These stories are told by public affairs specialists like U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Arthur Wright, a public affairs superintendent with the 113th Wing, DCANG, and an award winning journalist in his civilian job.

    “Journalism isn’t just a product, it's a product with a purpose,” said Wright. “We have a front row seat to history, and it's our job that others get to see it.”

    Other members of the public affairs team had similar thoughts.

    “I love the creativity that I can bring to my public affairs work with the Guard and the innovation that I see from my colleagues,” said U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Deborah Ou-Yang, a public affairs officer with the 113th Wing, DCANG. “I also enjoy feeling like I make a contribution, however small, to the overall mission and in service to the American people.”

    With the world working on a 24/7 news cycle and possibility of misinformation, the PA team, all graduates of the Defense Information School (DINFOS) at Fort Meade, Maryland, always remembers the DINFOS creed: strength through truth.

    “A major challenge is countering inaccurate or incomplete narratives,” said Ou-Yang. “It's easy for a negative news story to take hold but much more difficult to correct it. Thankfully, we can work with the media and leverage social media platforms to highlight the commendable and newsworthy aspects of our mission.”

    Sometimes it's not the pen that does the work of fighting incomplete narratives—it's the cameras.

    “For the mission, it is critical that we accurately and positively portray the sacrifices and successes of Guard personnel in the defense of the U.S. Capitol,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Andrew Enriquez, a public affairs non-commissioned officer trainee with the 715th Public Affairs Detachment, DCNG. “What's most challenging about my job is making sure that I situate myself to be able to capture the most interesting image, video or interview. That is, I have to be where the interesting moments are happening and both equipped and technically capable of documenting them.”

    The one thing that everyone in public affairs knows is that the job is never complete because the 24/7 news cycle doesn’t end.

    “Some people think our job stops after we take the photo or video,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Amanda Bodony, a public affairs specialist with the 113th Wing, DCANG. “We put in countless hours when no one sees us editing and proofing products for release.”

    This is why they call DINFOS graduates “DINFOS trained killers”—they use their mighty pens to slice through misinformation, one stroke at a time.

    The National Guard has been requested to continue supporting federal law enforcement agencies with security, communications, medical evacuation, logistics and safety support to district, state and federal agencies through mid-March.



    Date Taken: 02.06.2021
    Date Posted: 02.06.2021 16:25
    Story ID: 388535
    Location: WASHINGTON, DC, US 

    Web Views: 388
    Downloads: 2