Through the Lens of the Nebraska National Guard Public Affairs

155th Air Refueling Wing, Nebraska Air National Guard
Story by Senior Master Sgt. Shannon Nielsen

Date: 05.06.2018
Posted: 05.15.2018 13:50
News ID: 277085

Twelve members of the Nebraska National Guard’s public affairs took part in joint training during the 41st Lincoln National Guard Marathon, May 5-7, 2017 at the Nebraska National Guard air base in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Soldiers from the 111th Public Affairs Detachment and Airmen from the 155th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs office combined forces as a joint media operation center to provide real-time training in support of the marathon.

“The biggest thing was to take the lessons learned from last year’s hurricane operations and try to replicate the conditions and pass them on to the public affairs specialists,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Hynes, Nebraska National Guard state public affairs officer. “The marathon is a good opportunity for this type of training because we have all the public affairs members in one place, same drill and same assignments for the marathon. We have done this for 41 years and to take a situation like this and turn it into a training effort is invaluable.”

The Army and Air Force public affairs personnel set up a joint media operations center for the first time. The MOC is the abbreviated name for the center where public affairs personnel come in the event of an incident or state of emergency. During domestic emergency operations where military public affairs specialists work with their counterparts from other emergency response agencies, this is often called a Joint Information Center. At this location the teams receive information about the situation and then develop ground rules and directions for the public affairs specialists assigned to document the event on the ground.

This was replicated for this year’s marathon.

“If you look at what happened during the hurricanes, we sent 1-2 public affairs personnel with our troops that were called up with very little notice and with only the equipment they had,” said Hynes. “They were working with people they have never worked with before and they will be put into these type of situations if they are deployed in the future.”
“We want them to get them in a mindset of thinking through their problems and simulate the stresses of what a public affairs person will go through if they get called up,” he added.

The teams consisted of one member from the Army and Air National Guard. Each team had a requirement to stop at 2-3 checkpoints, take photos, write captions, and send back real-time information via email to the MOC. They were also given a story to write.

The teams had time the day before the marathon to work through issues as to what equipment they each needed to bring, what checkpoints they were going to stop at and any road blocks that may come up as they send their requirements in during the marathon.

The MOC was set up at the 155th Air Refueling Wing’s public affairs office where 1st Lt. Edward Bosland, 111th Public Affairs Detachment commander, and Senior Master Sgt. Shannon Nielsen, the 155th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs superintendent, awaited the first team’s photos and captions to come through. They evaluated each teams’ photos and captions as they were received before sending the photos to Hynes for final review. With the challenge of finding available Wi-Fi, they also made sure each team had internet so they could send their photos.

“These teams were outstanding and they took this opportunity and ran with it,” said Bosland. “Working in a joint environment for all of us was a learning experience for all of us. We had members that have been part of public affairs for over 20 years, some for almost 3 years and even one member who is in a student flight status. They seemed to enjoy working with our fellow service members to accomplish their tasks which put less pressure on each individual after the marathon was over to produce their products in a time constraint. These teams were asked to cover 160 military marathon runners from 45 states and two territories.”
“I cannot express in words how it feels to watch our members work and with such pride; we have dedicated Soldiers and Airman to tell our story,” he added.

All forces must train and sustain to be ready to respond at home or abroad at any given time. Consistently training in different environments helps build a stronger sense of confidence and gets their minds thinking about all aspects of their requirements.

“I was pretty nervous at first, not sure how things would go but I trusted the leadership to know what they were doing,” said Airman 1st Class Jamie Titus, a photojournalist with the 155th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs. “Afterwards I realized that it was easier than it was the previous year and less stressful since I was able to tag-team with my Army team member, and we were able to split up the work load. I didn’t feel that there was as much as responsibility for me to get every single National Guard marathon runner in photos since she would get what I missed or I would get what she missed.”

Titus and her joint team member, Sgt. Jessica Villwok, a photojournalist with the 111th Public Affairs Detachment, called themselves the “Photoj Queens.” She said the exercise was a great way to get to know more people in the Nebraska National Guard Public Affairs community.
“The joint training was good because we never know who we are going to be put together with and being out of the shell of who we work with on a day-to-day basis,” said Villwok.

Overall, the training was successful in giving the members a feel for how it would be in a real-world situation.

“I thought it went very well for the first time in joining our Soldiers and Airman. They all seemed to do very well and took it as an opportunity. Our goal is to take this year and consistently refine the process and make it a better training environment and take something different away from it each time,” said Hynes. “Trying something different for the marathon worked way better then we could have imagined and hopefully they learned something they can take back to their units as they continue in the professions.”