BASRA, Iraq – Iraqi Security Force public information officers met with their U.S. counterparts at Contingency Operating Base Basra May 19 for classes designed to improve their public affairs and media relations capabilities.
Representing police, army and border guard units throughout Basra province, the PIOs were led through class work and then tested on their skills in an on-camera interview.
"One of your biggest jobs is explaining what you do in the ISF," said Lt. Col. Matt Hackathorn, United States Division-South and 1st Infantry Division public affairs officer.
A primary function of ISF public information is clearly communicating goals and objectives. In order to do that, most representatives, who receive little training in media engagements and interviews, face a steep learning curve.
Currently, the Ministry of Defense allows ISF to engage media only with direct written consent. By training personnel in media relations, the goal is to prepare ISF leaders at all levels of command to interact with the local media and get their story out.
The Iraqi policeman and Soldiers asked questions about how to handle press inquiries and what information they should release.
Hackathorn stressed the fundamentals of dealing with the media; telling the truth, providing timely information, maintaining security of the source, maintaining the unity of the message at all levels, and telling the MoD's story.
Every military and civilian member of the MoD should help provide accurate information about the armed forces and national defense operations to the public, he said.
TV is by far the most-used medium in Iraq, so the training emphasized on-camera interview skills and prepping spokespeople for interviews
Alaa Alden Abbas, a traffic control officer with the Basra Police, was thankful for the opportunity to work on-camera and for pointers on how to act, as he has been interviewed by local media before.
The training was very helpful, Abbas said through an interpreter. When previously interviewed by Iraqiya TV while working, he was very nervous and started sweating and swaying back and forth.
The training, which covered interviewing, standing up straight and remaining relaxed, helped tremendously, he said.
The classes ended after participants were critiqued on their interview and given advice on how they could improve.
After promising to continue the training partnership, Hackathorn reminded them of the importance of their mission of informing the populace.
"Remember, they are looking at you as an official member of ISF," he said.
This work, Iraqi media officers train, by SSG Christopher Carney, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.