Since the attack by terrorists on American soil on September 11, 2001, hundreds of thousands of Americans have been deployed to foreign soils in a series of wars against both nations and terrorist groups.
During the end of the year, where many religions and ethnicities celebrate their holidays of faith and thankfulness, the impact of missing family members hits hardest. While civilian public relations and public affairs practitioners are finishing up their work for the year, colleagues continue their missions abroad for the US Armed Forces. Through the gracious help of both civilian and military professionals in the US, PRWeek.com was able to connect with public affairs representatives deployed in combat to get a sense of their work, the successes they're seeing, and interaction with the international media. Below you will find 11 Q&As, submitted by e-mail, from public affairs officers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Please click on the PAO's name to read the Q&A. Their e-mail addresses are listed at the end of the Q&A should anyone wish to contact them and wish them a happy holiday season.
Lieutenant Colonel Steven A. Boylan; Baghdad, Iraq:"If the work the CPIC does informs the public on what we are doing and why and provides them the information to make rational and informed decisions, then I have met my mission and the reason for being here as this new country if formed."
Major Sean Clements; Al Asad base, Iraq: "Being a reservist, I actually have a full-time position at a communications agency in Philadelphia. This has been a refreshing break. The pace is much quicker and more engaging."
Colonel Jenny Holbert; Camp Fallujah, Iraq: "If I can get the truth out there to a wide audience of media, even while the enemy is reporting their propaganda, we can expect balance, so that the people receive more than one side of a situation."
Air Force Lt. J. Elaine Hunnicutt; Afghanistan: "I am thankful that I am here and if I can help the Afghan children in any way then I know my daughters will be proud of me. Everything I do is for my daughters."
Lieutenant Colonel James E. Hutton; Baghdad, Iraq: "The Iraqi reporters are interested in how their lives are going to be affected by our actions. They want to understand the details of our civil works projects, how we're assisting their new government, and what our commitment is to them."
LTC Pamela Keeton; Afghanistan: ?We literally watched the birth of a democracy and I will never forget the pride I saw in the people of Afghanistan. They take their newfound freedoms very seriously.?
Staff Sgt. Fred Minnick; Mosul, Iraq: "We rebuilt the school, furnished it with desks, and supplied hundreds of books. Before we did this, the children attempted to learn in a concrete building that had no air conditioning.... The children were so thankful that one child wrote an essay in English.... He spoke better English than I did at 12. It was a very touching moment."
Capt. David Nevers; Kalsu, Iraq: "The greatest reward comes from being part of an extraordinary fraternity, serving in a superb unit with a sense of purpose, and making a contribution to the most important cause of our time, the War on Terror."
Captain Mike Nicholson; Kabul, Afghanistan: ?Many of the locals had never seen a digital camera or video camera and were just amazed to see their own pictures on the camera screens when we would show them.?
Major Neal E. O'Brien; Tikrit, Iraq: "If you're up front and honest with the media, provide them with the information and access to be successful, and treat them with the respect they deserve, they will produce accurate stories, which is all you can ask for."
Master Sergeant Kelley S. Ramsey; Fallujah, Iraq: "At the time of this print, we also don't have the luxury of setting up an appointment with a client, hopping into a vehicle and "doing lunch." As this country moves toward reconstruction, that concept may be possible in the future."
Sergeant Joseph Sanchez; Mosul, Iraq: "What is really nice about working PA or PR in the military is that you don't have to pitch stories because the media bangs down your door for information."
1SG Steve Valley; Baghdad, Iraq: "I have said many times that PA has a seat at the table, not as a policy maker, but as a counselor that offers views and suggestions on the ramifications of a leader's decisions. We have a seat at the table in Iraq, but someone has to do something with it."