I’ve seen the posting on all the job boards: public affairs for the army (or the navy, or whatever). I never really gave it much thought. My brother just came back from training, and that’s the only reason the posting even registered on my radar. And then I came across this:
The post covers one PR pro’s journey to becoming part of the Army’s public affairs staff.
The program is run in three phases, each of which is designed to help young PR professionals learn the art and science of public affairs.
For the first part, you spend a year training at an Army post somewhere in the U.S. This part requires a bit of flexibility, because the Army will assign where you train for the year. I did my training at Fort Lewis, outside Seattle. It was a culture shock to say the least, especially since I had no prior background or understanding of the military. I could barely tell the difference between a sergeant and a general. But during this training, you not only learn about military culture and what it means to serve in the Army, but the on-the-ground tactics of military PR. I got to write for the post’s award winning newspaper, the Northwest Guardian, run a comprehensive community relations program, and respond to media queries on high-profile and challenging situations, including the death of former NFL star Pat Tillman.
Part two is a three-month course at the Defense Information School at Fort Meade, Md., or what I affectionately call PR boot camp. You are still a federal employee, so you get paid to go to school. For three months, you learn the theory of public communication, the rules and regulations that govern public communication for the government, and get the chance to test your skills during a four-day war-time simulation.
The last part of training is a three-month rotation at the Pentagon, in my current office. There, you get to work for ARNEWS, the Army’s news wire; the Army Outreach Division, which focuses on event planning, community engagement and pitching Soldier stories in non-traditional media venues; and in the Media Relations Division, where Pentagon correspondents routinely come and go, pressing for answers on the hot Army issue of the day.
After the 18-months of training, you get a promotion and a permanent job in civil service. The reputation of the training program in the public affairs community is so high that many interns are promoted again shortly after that.
I did mention that my brother just came back from training. Being the couch potato (social butterfly) that I am… I can’t imagine signing up for this. Even if I was a beginner, once again.