Sunday, July 17, 2016
I had a good laugh this morning reading an editorial by a career public affairs sergeant bemoaning the fact that the Army is downsizing Public Affairs.
When I spent a year in Public Affairs on my first enlistment in the late 70s, most PA soldiers wanted to be journalists. We wanted to be writers, photographers, broadcasters and film makers. We wanted to be journalists or artists. Our heroes were the best journalists. We saw ourselves as storytellers who were sharpening our skills in the Army to go out and use out skills in the big, wide world.
The current Public Affairs soldier, as I noted recently, hates the media as a rule.
This is partly a matter of who is in the career field. During the draft era and immediately after, the military was a place to learn a skill before moving on to "real life." Career soldiers were much more rare than the current force. So the PA soldiers I knew on my first enlistment were in their early 20s. And they planned to get out.
Everyone I know in Public Affairs on my current enlistment is a career soldier. They never plan to be journalists. They don't pretend to be journalists as we used to do, and they don't even pretend to like journalists.
So now the Army is finding that Public Affairs can be downsized. Of course it can. It should have been done long ago. It is the curse of public affairs in civilian life that if you really succeed, you lose the client. When I worked at an agency, I got one of our clients on the cover of the biggest magazine in their industry. We lost the client the next month. I was stunned. My boss was not. He told me about the other times it happened. In the mind of the client, once they were on the cover, they were set. Why pay us?
The public trusts the military more than almost any other institution in America. A civilian client with an eye on their budget would cut back public affairs.