The Department of Defense recently launched a new initiative called “This is Your Military,” designed to address the growing civilian-military divide — something Secretary of Defense James Mattis has made a priority.
It seems that too few Americans know anyone serving in the military anymore. And with all the military movies coming out of Hollywood primarily portraying troops suffering from post-traumatic stress, it seems that 63 percent of youth ages 16 to 24 believe it is “likely” or “very likely” that a person leaving the military today has psychological or emotional problems, according to Lernes Hebert, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for military personnel policy.
The same survey quoted by Hebert found that 61 percent of youth believe it likely or very likely someone leaving the military today will have difficulty readjusting to everyday life and 48 percent believe they’d probably leave the military with a physical injury.
That would certainly hurt the recruiting department, as what kid wants to join if the military will do nothing but give him mental and physical problems?
When the military had a budget, advertising was a good way of putting out the good things the services had to offer. Under sequestration and back-to-back continuing resolutions, money for advertising simply does not exist. So how to counter that and show the good things our soldiers are doing?
Well, a good commander would pull his public affairs officer to the side to discuss building a healthy public relations campaign. There are so many tools available to get the word out to towns large and small all across the United States and, by using them, it can help debunk some of the myths today’s youth believe.
Have a soldier who did an outstanding job at something? Saved the Army tons of money, pulled a civilian out of a burning car or talked someone out of committing suicide? Don’t just give that soldier a coin or a commendation medal — put him or her in front of PAO and get a story done about them.
Send that story to the local newspaper that covers your unit. Heck, you can shoot me an email and I’ll run that story. Use the Hometown News program and get the story sent back to your soldier’s hometown newspapers, so his high school buddy Jodie can read about it or her best friend, Susie, can gossip about it to the entire town.
This is how to combat that stream of negative views. And building a healthy public affairs program doesn’t just tell your soldiers’ stories; it tells the Army story.
David A. Bryant is an Army retiree and a military journalist for the Killeen Daily Herald. You can reach him at email@example.com or 254-501-7554.