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What Do You Want the Public to Know?

by CPT Scott C. Stearns, Chief of Field Production, NTC

Sustaining the Operational Momentum
Table of Contents
MOUT and the U.S. Army:  Give Us Time to Train

Instant communication changed the way the media will report future wars. Digital video and satellite telephones give national media representatives the ability to report live from the battlefield. This fact is forcing commanders to develop a deliberate plan on how their units facilitate media in their area of responsibility. The media plan, a well-written public affairs annex, should appear in the Operations Plans (OPLAN) or Operations Orders (OPORD) as Annex V.

Current public affairs doctrine assigns a public affairs officer (PAO), in the rank of Major/Lieutenant Colonel, to each divisional staff. These PAOs must aggressively develop information strategies while simultaneously representing the division as the command spokesman. Deliberate public affairs planning requires the division PAO to develop an Annex V to the Division OPLAN/ OPORD. Annex V must reflect the division commander's guidance and it must adhere to Department of Defense Principles of Information. A well-written annex covers all conceivable contingencies while guiding subordinate brigades through their public affairs tasks. Unfortunately, brigades are not assigned permanent PAOs or staffs, so the development of information strategies and the deliberate public affairs planning, at best, is curtailed, and, at worst, tends to stop.

FM 46-1, Public Affairs Operations, states that "the brigade public affairs section provides public affairs support to combat or separate brigades, or brigade-level task forces deployed in support of combined or joint operations." Brigade public affairs sections will probably be a division PAO attachment consisting of a couple of enlisted print journalists.

A "fully funded" brigade public affairs section, a Public Affairs Detachment (PAD), includes a captain, an NCOIC, two broadcasters, and three print journalists. PAD commanders are trained PAOs, but with only 11 PADs in the Active Army, a deployment of any size or duration will quickly exhaust the available supply. End state is that many deployed brigades, especially those coming to the NTC, do so without trained public affairs personnel.

Most brigade combat teams solve the problem at the NTC by assigning public affairs duties to a junior officer or senior noncommissioned officer from the brigade staff. This option works, but since it's not their primary duty, deliberate public affairs planning suffers. A solution to this challenge is to restrict brigade public affairs focus to a few, extremely important areas. Don't ignore MDMP, but in time-sensitive situations, an abbreviated decision-making process should be employed. Keeping the focus on deliberate planning that is restricted to a limited number of areas allows brigade public affairs representatives to produce an Annex V to the brigade OPLAN/OPORD that provides the required critical guidance needed by subordinate commanders.

Public affairs annexes are written in the standard five-paragraph operations order format of: situation, mission, execution, service support, and command and signal. Depending on the operation, the annex may also have numerous appendices containing specific guidance. The first paragraph, situation, addresses the standard areas of enemy forces, friendly forces, attachments, detachments, and assumptions. Enemy forces are normally addressed in Annex B, Intelligence. The subparagraphs on friendly forces, attachments, and detachments should focus on public affairs elements. The assumptions subparagraph reflects your media content analysis. Areas of primary focus are:

a. The information conditions within the area of operations.
b. Media activity, both U.S. and foreign, within the area of responsibility.
c. Host-nation ability to control or otherwise effect media relations.
d. Prediction of future U.S. and foreign reporting.

The second paragraph, mission, is a clear, concise statement addressing the who, what, where, when, and why of the public affairs element. The third paragraph, execution, contains a large amount of important information, but the areas of critical concern are: the concept of the operation, coordinating instructions, and the additional paragraphs (if needed). The primary areas covered in the concept are:

a. Phases of the Operation -- pre-deployment, deployment, operation, and re-deployment.
b. Priority of Effort -- internal or command information.
c. Audience -- internal (unit) or external (public).
d. Command Messages - focused on the mission and/or unit personnel.

The elements of the concept change with each phase of the operation. An example is:

During the Deployment Phase -

The priority of effort: Internal information.
The primary audience: Internal - junior officer/enlisted, family members.
The command message: This unit is superbly trained, well led, and prepared to accomplish this mission.
We will also focus on taking care of the family members left behind.

Coordinating instructions are tasks that apply to two or more subordinate elements. Brigade PADs should develop coordinating instructions that assist the unit's media facilitation. Coordinating instructions will vary from mission to mission, but some examples are:

a. Daily reporting requirements.
b. Release authority for certain types of information (attempt to delegate this requirement to the lowest level possible).
c. Media contact reporting procedures.
d. Media registration standards.
e. Specific events effecting more then one task force.

Additional paragraphs to the execution paragraph may be needed to help subordinate units complete the public affairs mission. Examples of possible additional paragraphs are:

a. Mission-specific OPSEC considerations.
b. Media access procedures and limitations.
c. Military escort requirements.
d. Specific internal or command information.
e. Media pool considerations and requirements.
f. Embedded media plan.
g. Anticipated questions with suggested answers (generic).
h. DA-approved messages.
i. Public affairs guidance.
j. Execution matrix.

The fourth paragraph, service support, becomes critical if the brigade is required to provide logistical support to the media. This logistical support should only be required for embedded media. Embedded media logistical considerations should be part of the coordinating instructions. Further guidance should be included in the appendices if the embedded media are a substantial part of the public affairs mission.

The fifth paragraph, command and signal, may need emphasis in the area of communications. National media representatives, especially embedded media, may need access to word processors, telephones and fax machines. Brigades must plan to assist the media representatives. The U.S. Army allows the media to use Army equipment to file their stories, but brigades rarely have the assets to support this type of operation. Helping the media representatives, when possible, can only improve your military-media relationship.

Appendices to brigade's Annex V should contain guidance to cover possible contingencies. Annex V, 52 ID Operations Order, as used at the NTC, contains seven appendices, ranging from media relations guidance to media clearance requests. These appendices were developed in response to situations units have faced in "Mojavia."

Success at the NTC, and in other parts of the real world, require the brigade to demonstrate strong planning skills and deliver a high quality Annex V to their operations order. Commanders who understand the areas outlined above have the best chance of success.

Sustaining the Operational Momentum
Table of Contents
MOUT and the U.S. Army:  Give Us Time to Train

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