By Army Sgt. Josiah Pugh
NUREMBERG, Germany (Sept. 12, 2014) - In our first overseas duty training since 2005, we had the opportunity to stretch our concept about what it means to be military journalists and get a feel for how civilian media operates on the battlefield. We are the Texas Army National Guard’s 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment based in Austin, Texas.
We flew to Nuremberg, Germany and made our way to U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfels, August 23-Sept. 12, 2014. For three weeks we participated in Saber Junction, a multi-week exercise combining nearly 6,000 troops from 17 countries to train in a joint and combined environment.
Many times, various countries will join together to support military operations and peace-keeping missions. For example, at the height of Operation Enduring Freedom more than 20 nation’s militaries worked together to support operations. This type of training helps prepare for international contingency operations.
Our part in all this? To role-play civilian journalists working for newspapers and television stations in the fictitious countries Atropia and Ariana. This type of training helps to mimic the fact that in a warzone, media often plays a significant role in shaping the direction of a war by swaying the hearts and minds of citizens.
Each day, we headed into “the Box,” where the multitude of international troops had converged to train side-by-side. Inside the Box our reporters ventured into a number of mock cities populated with role players. They spoke with these locals to gather material for their stories with the help of German translators who worked alongside us. After we finished editing our stories, they were then inserted into the exercise to help shape the direction of the war.
Spc. Michael Giles, a print journalist with the MPAD, found the experience helped him grow professionally.
“It’s the best opportunity I’ve had so far in my military public affairs training to improve my skills at writing and taking photos,” he said. “It’s also given me a great opportunity to see how the Public Affairs structure works and why it’s an important part of military operations.”
Army Sgt. Suzanne Carter, another print journalist in the MPAD, found interacting with people was exceptionally fulfilling.
“They created this world that we got to be a part of and have an impact based on what we reported. The players each had their own character, and many of them fully embraced the scenario,” she said. “The best part for me was figuring out their characters and who would support my side of the scenario. As I got to know the individuals in character, they would slowly reveal parts of their true selves. This is my favorite part of the job, both in real situations and in scenario-based trainings.”
Annual trainings normally last only two weeks, but because we supported this mission for three weeks, we took the opportunity to have the broadcast and print journalists switch jobs for a day. This gave us the opportunity to become proficient in both public affairs skill sets, which is important because flexibility is crucial to the MPAD’s mission success.
“Now that I know how much goes into creating a video story, I have even more respect for the broadcasters and I am extremely excited to be on the path towards doing what they do,” said Giles.
The accurate representation of media that we portrayed proved valuable to commanders of all levels and helped identify key weaknesses in their unit’s performance. Operational Environment Training Specialist with the U.S. Army – Joint Multinational Readiness Center, James Dorough-Lewis Jr., had good things to say about the products we provided for the exercise.
“It’s greatly contributing to presenting an immersive picture of the operating environment for the Rotational Training Unit,” said Dorough-Lewis.
It was a great experience for us and a great opportunity to help support our military counterparts and allies.
“We love having Reserve and National Guard elements come out to cover these exercises,” said Mark Van Treuren, Media Advisor Joint Multinational Readiness Center Public Affairs Office Operations Team. “We can’t do this without you.”