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Forces Command provides communication support.

The overwhelming allied victory in the Gulf has been matched by positive sentiment and strong public support in the US. In both cases--although you won't find them on the cover of supermarket tabloids--much of the credit goes to Forces Command.

It is the US Army's largest major command, responsible for the training of one million active, reserve and National Guard soldiers. Through Forces Command, or FORSCOM, 180,000 soldiers were mobilized, trained and deployed in the Gulf.

The responsibility for mustering the public affairs support necessary to make that deployment successful, and to assist the Army's overall communication commitment before, during and after the war, falls squarely into the lap of Col. Andrew S. Dulina III, Forces Command director of public affairs, stationed at FORSCOM headquarters in Fort McPherson, Ga.

No Peace for

Public Affairs Staff

A poster on Dulina's office door depicts a tank throwing up sand under the headline: "Desert Shield." In mid-January, the word "Shield" was crossed out and replaced with "Storm," which in turn was struck through in favor of "Rout." Even that bragging, if accurate, word has been marked through; the last word in the series is "Calm."

But at the public affairs office, the level of activity is anything but calm. Despite the cessation of hostilities and the existence of a cease fire in the Gulf, the public affairs staff at Forces Command faces an even bigger challenge than keeping the public, the troops and their families informed.

The public affairs staff at FORSCOM operates much like any corporate communication headquarters that supplies information to branches. As a "four-star" headquarters, they send communication materials to the public affairs staff at three-star and two-star (combat divisions) headquarters. This also includes the 135 public affairs personnel stationed overseas in the theater of operations.

Advertising agencies serve as the model for servicing these myriad, diverse groups. "We break down the couple of hundred people we serve into accounts," explains Dulina. "Each member of my staff is responsible for maintaining contact with and supporting his or her accounts."

Additionally, the FORSCOM staff provides information for the upward flow that goes to the Department of Defense via the Army public affairs department at the Pentagon. This upward, downward and overseas flow of information will continue as the armed forces prepare for the final, crucial phase of the war: withdrawal.

"The first seven months were the easiest part from a communication aspect," says Dulina. "There was a lot of excitement and a tremendous story to tell. Now the challenge has increased tenfold. We have to sustain that level of support as we bring back the troops. It will be a long process, and there are still a lot of problems."

As with most of the communication during the war, the public affairs staff has three audiences: the soldiers, their families and friends, and the media covering activities for the general public. The public affairs staff must therefore concentrate not only on maintaining morale so soldiers remain focused on their tasks, but also on telling a family why their loved one isn't coming home on the first plane. Additionally, they want to sustain public enthusiasm for those still serving in the Gulf, so that when Johnny (and Jenny) do come marching home, it's to cheers.

Building Hometown Support

To maintain interest in the massive job of demobilization, the public affairs staff is considering re-establishing one of the most successful prewar public affairs programs.

Called the "hometown media program," it allowed reporters from television stations and newspapers in smaller markets to travel on military planes to the Gulf to interview soldiers and reservists from their hometowns. While the reporters' time on the ground was limited (about 48 hours), Dulina says the resulting stories were extremely positive, showing people that "the young men and women in the Gulf were safe and sound."

In all, approximately 150 members of the US media were sent to the Gulf prior to the outbreak of war on January 16 as part of the hometown media program.

The idea came about when the public affairs staff realized that the large, national media had the personnel and resources to send reporters to the Gulf, but the local media did not. When the war broke out and the program had to be suspended, there was a waiting list of reporters who wanted to participate.

The hometown media program was one way the public affairs staff was able to involve local and regional media in covering the war. FORSCOM, through its base public affairs, found another way to bring the war to reporters. They discovered that the families of the soldiers were staunch supporters of the war who gave articulate interviews about their fears and hopes. They encouraged the media to conduct interviews with the families, and facilitated the process whenever possible. The results were moving, personal glimpses of a special sort of bravery.

An Extended

Internal Audience

The families provided effective interviews primarily because they were well-informed. Nancy Haynie-Mooney, team chief, Strategy and Leadership Support Branch, helped get the news out to the bases, where it could be published, posted and otherwise distributed. Haynie-Mooney had learned that she had to reach a very extended audience during her stint as newsletter editor at Fort Sill, Okla.

"We discovered that the soldier was only 10 percent of our total readership," she recalls. "The remainder was his family, retired soldiers and their families, civilian employees, contract employees, reservists and the National Guard."

With her knowledge of what was needed in the field, Haynie-Mooney has concentrated her efforts at FORSCOM on helping to provide information that other public affairs staff members can use. That includes sending (to a mailing list of 300) talking points for the speakers bureau, backgrounders on how and why the war started, overviews of Islam and the Middle East, reprints of articles and speeches, and countless news bulletins on items ranging from terrorism to sending mail to soldiers stationed in the Gulf.

But that's just the print material. Through DIALCOMM, the public affairs personnel across the world also can communicate via computer in real-time. That makes information dissemination not only easy, but also timely as well.

More traditional methods of communication included the installation of an 800 number, which was used 62,000 times in the first quarter of 1991, and the expansion of existing speakers bureaus.

Teleconferencing has been another communication tool used frequently to maintain contact, says Haynie-Mooney. "I understand we're on the forefront of its use. We are connected to most installations and we have monthly meetings with public affairs staff from all over the country--electronically."

The facilities were even used for overseas news conferences. "One commander stationed overseas went to a teleconferencing facility there and linked up to his base in Texas, where he talked with the news media. It was very successful," she recalls. "It was that kind of interaction that helped mold and solidify public opinion toward the war."

Using Every

Communication Avenue

"Maybe we didn't use carrier pigeons, but we tried everything else at least once," laughs Dulina, thinking about the many alternatives his staff has tried to get news out.

Probably the most useful was the telephone, he admits. The telecommunication technology in Saudi Arabia is superb, so talking with the public affairs personnel stationed at the front was as easy--and as clear--as calling next door.

The only problem was the time difference. "And since they were working almost 24 hours a day, you could usually pick up the phone and get someone," Dulina says. A press of a special key and conversation was coded for any top secret issues.

"We were able to talk to most of our folks once a week and discuss public affairs issues. That was our saving grace: being able to talk derectly instead of going through voluminous correspondence," he adds.

Dulina credits the 135 public affairs staffers stationed in 10 locations throughout the Gulf theater of operations for successful coverage of the war. "They've been dealing with the 1,400 or 1,500 US media in the theater through the war. They've been going 24 hours a day, seven days a week since August."

Serving on the Front Line

While interactions with the media eat up a lot of the time of the overseas staff, the staff is still committed to providing soldiers with information about a myriad of issues, ranging from the war to US sporting events. Working the front line are Public Affairs Teams (PATs)--five-member crews composed of a captain, three print journalists and one broadcast journalist.

Each combat division has its own public affairs team. Bill Witcraft, the sergeant major at FORSCOM headquarters responsible for coordinating activities of the PATs, likes to brag about his young charges.

"They've had pictures published in Newsweek and Time magazines," he says with pride. "Because they like going out to the field where the action is, and they like living in the field with the soldiers, they've turned out to be some of the best journalists we have."

With state-of-the-art equipment and front row seats of the fighting, Witcraft believes the public will see another side of the war when the teams return and their footage and writing becomes available.

While in the field, the teams have been publishing newsletters for the troops. They range from hunt-and-peck typed, mimeographed news sheets to the Desert Dragon, a slick, two-color, eight-page tabloid that goes out weekly to the approximately 100,000 members of the XVIII Airborne Corps.

"One of the editors of that publication, Specialist Michael J. Hixson, happened to answer the phone when I called recently," says Witcraft. "He was due to leave the Army last September. He wasn't complaining, but here's this 22- or 23-year old who had made plans for his life. Instead he's putting out a newsletter in the middle of the desert."

When not covering wars, the public affairs teams help fulfill another part of the FORSCOM mission: providing support for natural disasters. Three teams remain on alert every month, available to travel to the site of a hurricane, devastating fire or other catastrophe.

Packaging Lessons Learned

for Future Training

While the public affairs teams and other staff exercise their skills routinely the special demands of a full-fledged war are something that training just can't cover, says Dulina. "Troops engage in endless exercises. But for public affairs, most of our challenges are real-time, real-world problems.

"We trained them to a point, then the rest is up to them," he adds. "We just had to push them out of the nest and see if they could fly. And there weren't any incidence where they didn't."

Now the public affairs staff must package the lessons learned and push that information down to the new recruits in training. "That's a challenge in and of itself," Dulina says. "We've had some marvelous lessons."

Looking back at the public affairs support during the war, Dulina sees some areas that might be worth examining in the future. "We've made a big investment in video technology, and I'm not sure we need it all. We thought the media would be relying on the military for footage, and that just didn't happen, even though some of our equipment was as good or bettr than that of the networks. It's not really a failure, but it will cause us to look at our allocation of resources in the future."

The tight controls over the release of information and the activities of the media was a necessary part of fighting the war, Dulina believes. "Our first thought has to be, 'What would be the ultimate effect on a young soldier in the field?' The leadership was straightforward about the restrictions on the media.

"There's always been an adversarial relationship between the military and the media," Dulina muses. "I accept that and I think they do, too. But I feel we got a fair shake in Desert Strom."

Some of that fairness can be attributed to the sophisticated public relations approach that was taken by the military. Public affairs has gone through significant changes in the military, Dulina claims. "It used to be that the public affairs person generally was not good enough to do anything else. That's changed."

Dulina, who spent 15 years as an infantryman before moving into public affairs (which had ranked as a second or third choice), exemplifies the dedicated, visionary leader that the Army has put into a field now considered crucial. and while disappointed that he missed the action, he revels in his role.

"I've got the best job next to the commander," Dulina says with a smile, "because I get to tell the story."

Lynn P. Hood is vice president, public relations, Hood & associates, Atlanta, Ga.
COPYRIGHT 1991 International Association of Business Communicators
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Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:US Army's training division
Author:Hood, Lynn
Publication:Communication World
Date:Jun 1, 1991
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