WASHINGTON: The US military has been plagued by noncombat deaths since the beginning of its campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq in recent years, accounting for what many experts call an unacceptable percentage of overall casualties.
Now the US Army Combat Readiness Center (CRC) is relying on two PR agencies to help reduce that percentage.
"We've tried to give safety a bit of a new face," said Jon Blake, CRC program manager for communication. "What we want to do is let our soldiers know that safety is not a bad thing."
Atlanta-based Pario is developing the content of the messages that will be communicated to soldiers and family members. DC-based Reingold is picking up where that work leaves off, deciding how and when those messages should be relayed.
The agencies were selected after a pitch that involved about a half-dozen agencies. The CRC is spending about $800,000 for the three-year campaign.
"Our mission is very simple: To save lives," Blake said. "The loss of every soldier [has] an impact on our readiness."
Aviation and off-duty ground accidents in the Army have risen more than 17%, compared to fiscal year 2004.
Carolyn Cole-Salisbury, Pario president and CEO, noted that the agency conducted research on both soldiers and civilians of the same age. They found that safety messages don't resonate with young people who believe they are invincible, but they are still concerned about the safety of their peers.
"Don't let your unit down - that's what resonates," Cole-Salisbury said. "It's safety, but we do it without saying safety."
Pario also created the communication materials for the CRC, including brochures, web teasers, and movie trailers to play in the Army theater.
The CRC will also target soldiers and their families through the Army's news and television services.
Kevin Miller, Reingold principal and senior account manager, noted that the agency plans to use a "top-down approach" of reaching out to the secretary of the Army and four-star generals to communicate the message.
"We're looking to develop a cultural change," Miller said.