JIB communicates Northern Edge 2006 mission

  • Published
  • By Capt. Amy Hansen
  • Alaskan Command Public Affairs
Most people think of men and women in uniform wearing Kevlar vests and armed with rifles when they hear “military.”

For the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines working here in the joint information bureau at Exercise Northern Edge 2006, pens, notebooks and cameras are just as critical as their battlefield weapons.

Public affairs professionals from around the globe converged on Elmendorf and Eielson Air Force bases this week to provide a central clearinghouse for information about Alaska’s largest exercise. Members of the JIB take photos, write stories, produce TV and radio news, and facilitate media coverage of Northern Edge.

“We have a responsibility to the American people to let them know what their military is doing,” said Maj. Richard Sater, Elmendorf JIB chief and a reservist assigned to Pacific Air Forces. “They have a right to know, and we have a great story to tell.”

Although Northern Edge is a series of exercise scenarios, the mission of the JIB is real, Major Sater said.

“I produce TV stories to show on military news stations, like the American Forces Network and the Pentagon Channel, as well as radio stories to air on military broadcast stations worldwide,” said Senior Airman Tim Howard, a videographer from Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base, Va. “The stories we tell help explain to both military and civilian viewers the direct benefits of joint exercises like Northern Edge.”

Lance Cpl. Ethan Hoaldridge, a photojournalist deployed to the JIB from U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific, has a slightly different job with a similar goal.

“One of my missions at Northern Edge is to tell the stories of the participating servicemembers by writing articles and taking pictures of how they support the joint mission,” he said.

“When servicemembers see one of my stories on the Web, they know that someone took notice and recognized their efforts,” Corporal Hoaldridge said. “It also gives parents, families and friends at home the chance to see the tasks their loved ones have been given and how important their jobs are to our nation.”

The 10-member staff at the JIB works together with the Alaska National Guard office and participating Coast Guard units, as well.

“The military today is joint. There are no real-world missions the services perform independently, and we need to train like we fight,” Major Sater said. “Working together in an exercise gives us that joint experience and helps to foster an understanding among PA specialists that is essential in any real operation.”

The JIB members also have noticed a practical benefit to working in the same room as troops from the other service branches.

“It’s helpful to have a Navy rep and a Marine rep, because ranks, abbreviations and acronyms are so difficult, and it’s so important to get them right,” Airman Howard said.

For most participating public affairs professionals, the joint experience is a valuable learning opportunity.

“I’ve learned during this exercise how much I appreciate working in a joint environment,” said Lt. Mike Flint, a reservist with the Pacific Fleet’s Navy Office of Information. “We have outstanding people in the Navy, but when you work in a joint environment, you see in person the strengths of the other services. In turn, that improves how we do our mission.”

The total force integration of the office adds another element of diversity to the Northern Edge 2006 JIB and breaks down stereotypes regarding part-time military members.

“I think reservists bring something to the table that plays a key role in accomplishing the mission in Northern Edge,” Corporal Hoaldridge said. “They have military training and experience in the outside world that they contribute. For example, the Navy reservist in our JIB makes his living as a talent manager in Hollywood, and he brings excellent marketing skills that he can apply to getting the Northern Edge story out to the media.”

“A well-trained reservist will fit in seamlessly with his active-duty counterparts, while at the same time bring his (or her) unique civilian strengths to support the mission,” Lieutenant Flint said.

The efficiency and professionalism of the total force joint team working together at the Elmendorf JIB are apparent in the products it has produced during the first few days of Northern Edge.

Three media advisories, four news releases, three print articles, eight video news stories, four radio news stories, and more than 30 photos have been released to the public as of June 13. In addition, the JIB organized four civilian media visits resulting in front-page newspaper coverage across Alaska, stories on the local evening news, coverage of the F-22 Raptor’s first participation in an exercise, pictures and stories in a national magazine, and an article on a worldwide news wire service.

“We’ve got a great team,” Major Sater said. “Our challenge each day is to top what we accomplished the day before and learn something while we’re doing it.”