The army's logo for public affairs places a sword in the foreground
and a pen in the background. But the pen is growing in importance as the
army places increasing reliance on public affairs officers like Lt.
Colonel Lewis Boone to convince the public about the need to be
Boone is the special assistant for public affairs to army chief of staff
Eric Shinseki, a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Shinseki bears
responsibility for the recruiting, training, equipping, and deployment
of his service.
But his style of dealing with the media is markedly different from some
of his predecessors who were more active in courting the news media.
Boone, married to a freelance ABC News correspondent Monica Shuman, whom
he met while she was covering Operation Desert Shield, says,
'Shin-seki's strength is not in going behind the podium at a defense
department briefing room where he has 30 reporters crowding around.'
So Boone organizes media breakfasts, smaller news conferences and plane
trips with select reporters. But local media are treated just as well as
top tier outlets. When Shinseki visited Fort Bragg in February, Boone
set up a meeting with a local paper to reassure active and retired army
personnel that plans for transforming the army still include a vital
role for paratroopers.
As well as external press, Boone also deals with the military media,
including in-house army TV and radio, in order to promote plans for a
transformational army. But generally Boone steers away from the TV
'TV's time constraints aren't very conducive to the complicated and
complex message we have.' Boone, however, will set up the occasional TV
For example, Shinseki did agree to be interviewed for over two hours for
a Frontline PBS documentary on the future of war that aired last
Ideally Boone would like to see his boss on NPR's Morning Edition or All
Things Considered, seeing those shows as a great way to reach opinion
Boone has to manage the give and take between being open and the
military's natural inclination to exert tight control over
Jim Fetig, now director of media relations for Lockheed Martin, was the
first to hold the position of special assistant for public affairs to
the chief of staff. He explains the difficulties of doing army PR. 'The
hallmark of military service is selfless service. Within the military
culture you don't show off.'
However the army realizes that convincing the public, Capitol Hill, and
opinion makers about the importance of military preparedness, should
remain an important objective.
And as Fetig's immediate successor, Don McGrath, director of global
media relations at electronic company Rockwell, asks rhetorically:
'Who's a better person to tell the Army's story than the chief of
Boone jumped into his role with the gusto of the paratrooper he had
originally trained to be. But he initially had to make some adjustments
to his approach, 'In practice, we're trained to speak for the
organization, not the individual,' says Boone, noting that there is a
learning curve when it comes to 'who your boss is and what are his likes
As well as working hard on messaging, Boone has to react to leaks such
as one in February about the proposed basing of two 'interim' brigade
combat teams. These teams are designed to provide rapid response
capabilities that are indicative of the changes underway in the new
'transformational' army (an ambitious project aimed at preparing the
army to handle an anticipated wider variety of missions than it faced
during the Cold War).
Boone was contacted by an Army Times reporter who received information
about where brigades would be located. Boone arranged to have background
provided to ensure the story was reported accurately, as opposed to
based on speculation. But army public affairs officers were worried
about the flack they'd received over what had happened. 'You've got to
tell the truth, right?' Boone says in an assertive tone. 'The American
people have a right to know what their military is doing. They pay for
While this particular leak was a good story for the army, there are
other issues to deal with. 'That was information not meant for the
general public at this early date.' Congress had not even been
officially informed of the plans, but Boone sticks by his decision to
give factual background once leaks are out.
Boone admits the army has not always done the best job in public
affairs, even compared to other services. But he sees that changing. Now
officers in mock combat exercises find themselves not only having to
deal with the 'enemy' but also the media and civilians, as they have in
conflicts such as Bosnia and Operation Desert Storm.
Boone's own days at the Pentagon start at 6am and go on until the early
evening. He often meets with other army public affairs officials to
coordinate on messaging. Then, he goes home to his wife and son. Shuman
says there are some things she knows not to press him on. 'We're very,
very good at keeping work at work,' she says.
Boone sees his job as important, noting that the American leadership had
little idea in 1900 that they would soon find themselves fighting a
Boone, always the spokesman, says: '(Shinseki) likes to use it as an
example because we sit at the beginning of the 21st Century without any
idea whatsoever what the next 10 or 15 years holds.' In Boone's mind,
it's his job to make sure America learns it must be prepared to meet the
LT. COL. LEWIS MARSHALL BOONE
Army infantry officer and PA officer
Fort Bragg, NC. 82nd Airborne Division, public affairs officer
US European Command, action officer/chief media relations
Office of the chief of public affairs, action officer, media relations
Special assistant for public affairs to Eric Shinseki, chief of staff of