Fort Hunter Liggett Soldiers, civilians undergo Media 101 Training

By Sgt. Lena Wakayama | 63rd Readiness Division | Nov. 2, 2018

FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif. — A few laughs and chuckles rang out in the classroom as Soldiers and civilians with Fort Hunter Liggett watched the viral video of Professor Robert Kelly trying to conduct an interview for the BBC as his children blundered into the background. The video was just one of a few examples of the worst interviews of 2017 that opened the Media 101 Training at Fort Hunter Liggett, California, on Oct. 25.

The purpose of the training is to educate the people who work on post on how to interact with media. The half-day training involved a lecture portion and also gave trainees the chance to put what they learned to practice through mock press conferences.

Amy Phillips, the garrison public affairs officer, noted during the lecture portion of the training the importance of interacting with the media and maintaining good relations.

“We need media relations because we want the world to know all of the great things we’re doing here,” she started. “But it’s so important to have good media relations, because it helps, especially during crises, to be able to reach out to the media to help shape the message.”

This is not simply a hypothetical for the Soldiers and civilians of Fort Hunter Liggett. Over the summer, the garrison had to respond to the media and the public after a training accident involving a tent collapse injured 22 Soldiers.

The introduction of the training came to be in part due to that incident.

“Most Army Reserve units don’t really have to worry about the media, but here, since it’s such a large post and there’s so much training going on, we need this training,” said Lt. Col. Jason R. McKenzie, the deputy commander for Fort Hunter Liggett and a participant of the training. “People need to know that they could be stopped at any moment because they’re connected to the post, and they need to know how to answer questions appropriately or at least know who to direct questions to.”

Participants of the training also had the opportunity to ask questions of and interact with members of the local media.

“The last thing you want to be is blindsided,” said Tom Wilmer, a correspondent with KCBX and host of the podcast Journeys of Discovery With Tom Wilmer. “That’s a really important reason why training ahead of time is so important.”

Wilmer cautioned against falling for “tantalizing questions that you’re going to want to answer,” and instead focus on staying on message.

The garrison plans on conducting this training multiple times a year to train their workforce, according to McKenzie.

“We’re going to learn from our mistakes, and it’s better to learn while we’re training that when we’re actually out there in front of reporters,” he said. “This is just like any other training that we do in the Army.”