By Colonel Childress, U.S. Africa Command’s Public Affairs Director
I just returned from a very productive and important meeting with our friends and colleagues from U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), the Department of State (DOS), and the Pentagon.
The Conference was held in the kingdom of Bahrain. For those of you that don’t know where that is, it is an island just off the coast of Saudi Arabia and just north of Qatar in the Arabian Gulf. I arrived at 10 p.m. on the 11th of July. The city of Manama was beautiful at night. It was still very hot even at 2200. The temperature in the daytime reaches over 110 degrees Fahrenheit; it’s very hot. In fact, the government warns on signs not to go outside without wearing sunglasses.
The first day of the conference was held at the conference center of a hotel in the heart of the capital city–Manama. Rear Admiral Beck was the moderator for the conference and led it off by introducing Rear Admiral Hal Pittman, CENTCOM Director of Communication, who got things started with opening comments and announcements. The conference featured key Public Affairs professionals and a few folks from outside of the Defense Department who passed valuable lessons and messages to the CENTCOM communicators.
I found the conference invaluable to me as a communicator for several reasons. Let me share a few of my lessons learned with you from the conference:
1) No one has cornered the market on great ideas. It is vital to step outside your comfort zone and see how like-minded military and civilian professionals do their business. I learn valuable tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) each time I attend a conference held in another Combatant Commander’s Area of Responsibility.
2) Coming to these conferences offers a huge opportunity to build a network with trained professionals who are leaders in their fields. It is an invaluable experience to meet people face to face and discuss with them the issues of the day and ways in which we can work together in the future.
3) This conference was a great opportunity to recruit friends for our social media sites and introduce them to the LYnC. I had the opportunity to demo our website to a Major and a Staff Sergeant who work in CENTCOM. Both really liked our sites and promised to give them a second look.
4) Finally, it is very interesting to see the issue communicators have in the Middle East and compare them to challenges and opportunities we have in Africa. Many of the issues are precisely the same and many differ, but being able to ask questions and be immersed in the CENTCOM issues for two days reminds me that we are all on the same team and need to ensure that we cross-talk as much as possible on those issues that over lap our AOR’s.
I would like to close by sending a big Bravo Zulu (that means good job in Navy speak, see I am getting a good cross cultural education) out to CENTCOM and everyone who organized and participated in the communicator’s conference.
Communication is good, but excellent communication best.
Very Respectfully Submitted,
AFRICOM Public Affairs Officer