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Public affairs Soldiers prepare for the future

By Staff Sgt. Brigitte Morgan | Exercise News Day | July 23, 2019

FORT McCOY, Wi —

 In the face of ever-changing technology, emerging media platforms and shifts in readers’ interests, U.S. Army Reserve public affairs Soldiers have been adapting to meet the needs of commanders on the battlefield. 

The job of public affairs Soldiers is to tell the Army story through images, articles and videos.

In years past, their career field was split into two main specialties. Soldiers trained in either video or print photojournalism. Now the Army requires all public affairs Soldiers to have the knowledge and equipment to do it all. 

U.S. Army Reserve Public Affairs Soldiers participated in a dual-training video and photo conversion course called Task Force 46S. Throughout the course the Broadcast Specialists (46R) videographers trained in print and photojournalism and the Public Affairs Specialist (46Q) print and photojournalists learned videography. 

Once the classroom portion was complete, Soldiers put their added skills to the test during an end-of-course validation exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. In all, the training lasted two weeks from July 12-24, 2019. 

Task Force 46S has been in the making for more than two years already. The team at USARC spearheaded the Department of the Army’s order to merge the separate skills and create an inclusive military occupational specialty called Mass Communication Specialists (46S), said Lt. Col. Kristin Porter, chief of training and readiness for the U.S. Army Reserve Command (USARC) out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

“(We’re here) to train new Soldiers to meet the requirements of what mission they receive. I have faith that this is what we are doing because our instructors aren’t just basically pencil whipping a certification … Soldiers are actually proving that they can perform at that level and the tasks that are required,” said Porter.

During the 7-day classroom portion, Soldiers learned fundamentals of photography, videography, feature writing, photo editing, video editing and the steps to conduct an on-camera interview. 

“It’s a lot. I know that early on (when) I was standing in front of the class as the instructor, I could see the look in (their) faces when I’d be talking about the exposure triangle, and I know some people felt like they were in trouble … their faces were screaming for help. But we took the training one bite at a time,” said U.S. Army Reserve Master Sgt. Michel Sauret, a photography and print journalism instructor for Task Force 46S from USARC.

“It scared me a little bit,” said U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. James Garvin, a Broadcast Specialist from the 354th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, from Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, in regard to how he felt in the beginning about the writing portion of the course.

Garvin said he loves creative writing but was nervous about the boundaries and stipulations involved in Army writing. 

At the end of the classroom portion, each Soldier received an individual mission to cover. Story assignments included a noncommissioned officer induction ceremony, live-fire maneuver range and military vehicle maintenance training, among others. Instructors required Soldiers to turn in products within a 24-hour deadline. 

“I feel like I have enough knowledge now through this course and through my past mistakes on exercises, that I’ll be able to pass (validation),” said Garvin.

The Department of the Army will field new media kits to all mass communication specialist Soldiers over the next few years. The kit will include a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera and cinematic video cameras, said U.S. Army Reserve Master Sgt. Michael Chann, training and readiness noncommissioned officer in charge from USARC.

The kits are designed to be more versatile and cinematic, equipping Soldiers to produce stories in various mediums

Chann said the updated equipment will enhance Soldiers’ abilities to assess any mission and determine whether to produce photos, video or both to best convey the story.

“I think it’s an exciting time for public affairs right now,” said Chann. “Being able to go into a unit and rely on any (Soldier) to do any kind of coverage … They’re able to have confidence in doing both sides and really focus on how to best take [the] story and share it with the rest of the world.”