Experience is the best mentor: Rivers Johnson talks experience and mentorship in Army Public Affairs

 

Col. Rivers Johnson (Courtesy Photo)
Col. Rivers Johnson
(Courtesy Photo)

Army officers selected to work in the public affairs branch often have little to no experience about the job. The writing, speaking and public posture for the organizations they represent can be intimidating, and at times, overwhelming. At times like these, leaning on those with experience are the best option for success.

Rivers Johnson, Jr. a retired Army Colonel and Army Public Affairs Officer, serves as mentor and educator to many PAOs across all branches of the military. His experience as an Infantryman and PAO, coupled with his readiness to share knowledge, sets him apart as an expert and mentor in the Army Public Affairs branch.

Public affairs soldiers and officers are sometimes referred to as the unit photographer or “the media” by those how are not accustomed to working with them. The truth is the job of a PAO and the relationships they are required to build and maintain with media personnel are important. It is equally important that soldiers do not get these relationships confused with what they see on TV, especially for those performing the job.

“Public Affairs Officers are a combat multiplier,” said Johnson. “Meaning you can enhance the success of a mission or situation by effectively communicating whatever message you are trying to convey whether you are in a garrison environment or if you are in combat operations.”

Johnson added that PAOs simplify the complex and ideally have an important role in that they understand and sense issues before they happen.

Johnson was quoted in several articles containing high-profile military cases to include the Fort Bragg sniper shooting, the rescue of Army private Jessica Lynch, and a massive global cyber attack on U.S. government and U.N. computers in 2011. He even appeared in a documentary on General Colin Powell.

Johnson’s experience as a PAO spans a variety of tactical and strategic public affairs assignments to include the White House, Department of Defense, the U.S. Army Corps and Division levels, the Joint Task Force level, and Detachment level.

Johnson said his most challenging position was as the Public Affairs officer for the United States Cyber Command at the National Security Agency (NSA) at Fort Meade, Md.

Johnson stated that what made the job challenging was the fact that his boss, Army Gen. Keith Alexander, was not only the commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, a brand new command started in May 2010, but also the director of the NSA and the chief of the Central Security Services.

“It was also the fastest job I ever ramped up for in terms of knowing what the unit did and the key players involved,” said Johnson. “I also had the highest security clearance I’ve ever had in my military career as a counter-intelligence polygraph security clearance was required for the job in addition to having a TS/SCI clearance.”

PAOs across the Department of Defense are required to attend the Public Affairs Qualification Course at the Defense Information School at Fort Meade, Md.

Johnson, who now serves as the chief of the International Military Student Office at DINFOS, takes time to meet with students and share his wealth of knowledge by giving his personal contact information and emailing a public affairs professional development packet to be used througout the officers’ careers. He also mentors by phone at least twice a week.

“COL Johnson has had a positive, inspiring and motivating impact on my career,” said Army Lt. Col. Catina Barnes-Ricks, U.S. Army Central PAO. “He is quite a professional and … the epitome of a public affairs expert.”

Group photo
Col. Rivers Johnson (center) stands with officers attending the Public Affairs Qualification Course at the Defense Information School at Fort Meade, Md. during a mentoring session.

“One thing that has always stood out to me that he said is to make yourself a well-rounded PAO,” said Dianna Pegeuese, an operations officer for 314th Press Camp Headquarters in Birmingham, Al. “Read, read, read and write, write, write.”

Pegeuese is working on Johnson’s recommended reading list.

Johnson’s advice to current PAOs: “Write & get published. Writing is the cornerstone of what we do as public affairs officers. If you are not a strong writer, then become one with additional training, schooling and on-the-job training.”

Johnson also encourages PAOs to find a mentor or several mentors and listen to what they have to say, study the art of leadership and learn to listen.

“I can’t say that enough times,” says Johnson.

Johnson is currently working on two books: one book about leadership and career lessons, and another on effective public affairs.

Steppe Eagle 15 enters phase two

by Angel Jackson

Kazakh soldiers discuss operaitons during phase two of Steppe Eagle 15. Soldiers from eight countries, participated in a command post exercise focused on staff planning using the Military Decision Making Process.
Kazakhstani soldiers discuss operaitons during phase two of Steppe Eagle 15. Soldiers from eight countries, participated in a command post exercise focused on staff planning using the Military Decision Making Process.

KAZAKHSTAN – Eight countries are participating in a command post exercise as part of Steppe Eagle 15 phase two at Illisky Training Area, June 21-26.

Led by U.S. Army Central, the exercise focuses on improving Kazakhstan’s interoperability in support of UN peacekeeping operations. Kazakhstan is currently in year three of a five-year period of training to execute peacekeeping tasks.

Soldiers and leaders from the U.S., U.K., Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Tajikistan, and Turkey joined Kazakhstan soldiers for a week of staff planning using the Military Decision Making Process. Some of the tasks include processing information for a common operating picture, developing planning procedures to secure civilian personnel and controlling tactical maneuver.

KAZAKHSTAN – U.S. Army Central Soldiers and civilians along with members of the Kazakhstani army discuss Steppe Eagle 15 exercise scenarios, June 21, at Illisky Training Area. Soldiers from eight countries, participated in the command post exercise focused on staff planning using the Military Decision Making Process. In its thirteenth iteration, Steppe Eagle provides multilateral forces with the opportunity to promote cooperation among participating forces, practice crisis management, and enhance readiness through realistic, modern-day interactive scenarios. (U.S. Army photo by Maj. Angel Jackson, U.S. Army Central PAO)
KAZAKHSTAN – U.S. Army Central Soldiers and civilians along with members of the Kazakhstani army discuss Steppe Eagle 15 exercise scenarios, June 21, at Illisky Training Area. Soldiers from eight countries, participated in the command post exercise focused on staff planning using the Military Decision Making Process. In its thirteenth iteration, Steppe Eagle provides multilateral forces with the opportunity to promote cooperation among participating forces, practice crisis management, and enhance readiness through realistic, modern-day interactive scenarios. (U.S. Army photo by Maj. Angel Jackson, U.S. Army Central PAO)

 

Maj. Gretchen Bolerjack, a human resources officer with Arizona Army National Guard’s 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, says the exercise is going very well and working with soldiers of other militaries is key to learning UN operations.

“The Kazakhstan army has done very well at integrating those other officers and noncommissioned officers into their operations as well as utilizing us as mentors,” said Bolerjack. “Based off of people’s views that has been here in previous years, they have definitely grown and have improved their operations over the last few years.”

The first phase of Steppe Eagle 15 included a field training exercise where Kazakhstani soldiers and leaders conducted training on cordon and search, crowd riot control, humanitarian assistance, counter improvised explosive device and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear preparedness. They also continued the ongoing self-assessment for year three of peacekeeping operations.

KAZAKHSTAN – LTC Thomas Hallowell (left), the 50th Military Engagement Team chief of staff, discusses staff functions with a Kazakhstani soldier through a translator during phase two of Steppe Eagle 15, June 21, at Illisky Training Area. Soldiers from eight countries are participating in the command post exercise focused on staff planning using the Military Decision Making Process. (U.S. Army photo by Maj. Angel Jackson, U.S. Army Central PAO)
KAZAKHSTAN – LTC Thomas Hallowell (left), the 50th Military Engagement Team chief of staff, discusses staff functions with a Kazakhstani soldier through a translator during phase two of Steppe Eagle 15, June 21, at Illisky Training Area. Soldiers from eight countries are participating in the command post exercise focused on staff planning using the Military Decision Making Process. (U.S. Army photo by Maj. Angel Jackson, U.S. Army Central PAO)

Maj. Dan Blaine, a logistician with Arizona National Guard’s 158th MEB said the Kazakhstanis working with American soldiers on MDMP during phase one of Steppe Eagle 15 was value added during phase two of the exercise.

“They come with a good foundational knowledge of the process and they have a great enthusiasm for learning, said Blaine. “They’re very receptive and very willing to take what we teach them and implement the procedures and the processes.”

Steppe Eagle exercises not only serve as a training tool for Kazakhstani soldiers, but also offer the opportunity for soldiers of other militaries to interact and test their level of interoperability.

“I’ve had the opportunity to work with officers from Nepal, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan and learn about how they do things in their country and we’ve been able to share how we do things in the United States Army and basically kind of learn and collaborate with each other,” said Bolerjack.

Soldiers from U.S. Army Central staff, 50th Military Engagement Team, 3rd Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade, and the Arizona National Guard are among those participating in the exercise.

KAZAKHSTAN – Air Force Capt. Adam Howland (left) assigned to the Combined Security Assistance Command-Afghanistan, discusses the differences between peacekeeping and wartime operations with leaders of the Afghan army during phase two of Steppe Eagle 15, June 21, at Illisky Training Area. Soldiers from eight countries are participating in a command post exercise focused on staff planning using the Military Decision Making Process. (U.S. Army photo by Maj. Angel Jackson, U.S. Army Central PAO)
KAZAKHSTAN – Air Force Capt. Adam Howland (left) assigned to the Combined Security Assistance Command-Afghanistan, discusses the differences between peacekeeping and wartime operations with leaders of the Afghan army during phase two of Steppe Eagle 15, June 21, at Illisky Training Area. Soldiers from eight countries are participating in a command post exercise focused on staff planning using the Military Decision Making Process. (U.S. Army photo by Maj. Angel Jackson, U.S. Army Central PAO)

In its thirteenth iteration, Steppe Eagle provides multilateral forces with the opportunity to promote cooperation among participating forces, practice crisis management, and enhance readiness through realistic, modern-day interactive scenarios.

For more information on Steppe Eagle 15 or to follow this year’s events, visit the Steppe Eagle Facebook page or the Steppe Eagle feature page.

U.S. Army Central to host youth conference for Sumter teens

U.S. Army Central hosts youth conference for teens

U.S. Army Central, in coordination with the Sumter County Police Department, will host a youth conference Jun 12, on Shaw Air Force Base.

Sumter high school students will join USARCENT soldiers and members of the Sumter County Police Department for a day of fun and fitness. Students will get the opportunity to participate in Army physical training and view the equipment used by soldiers.

Media interested in covering the event should contact the USARCENT Public Affairs Office at 803-885-8266.

For more information, contact MAJ Neysa Williams, Community Relations Officer at Commercial: (803) 885-8266, or usarmy.shaw.usarcent.mbx.public-affairs.mil@mail.mil

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U.S. Army Central has been resident in Central Asia and the Middle East for more than 20 years. With forward headquarters in Kuwait, Qatar, and Afghanistan, our presence preserves regional stability and prosperity. USARCENT provides the strategic land power that prevents conflict, shapes the environment, and when necessary, wins the Nation’s wars.

Patton’s Own – Third, Always First!

Visit our web page at: http://www.arcent.army.mil or visit us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/usarmycentral

Stranger danger: How to keep your kids safe online

Social media, interactive games and apps are great ways to keep in touch with friends and family, but they can also serve as breeding grounds for child predators and other individuals who could hurt your child.

Therefore, here are a few steps to keep your kids safe while online.

Commonsensemedia.org offers these three simple rules:

  1. Never talk to strangers
  2. Don’t over share
  3. Never disclose your location

These helpful tips, along with this video from Common Sense Media, teach kids to be more responsible when gaming, posting, and sharing information online.

According to WebMD, the internet poses four dangers to kids: cyber bullying, sexual predators, pornography and damaged reputations.

With 90% of teens having used some form of social media and 75% with a profile on a social network, it is important for parents to understand the dangers and know how to teach kids to be safe online. In this highly digital world, it is still possible to keep your kids safe while surfing the internet.

Psychology Today, states that it is important to negotiate media use with kids. Most web browsers and video games allow parental controls to help parents block information their child receives online and while playing games. Placing limits on the amount of time kids spend online also leaves room for human interaction.

Protecting information at the source is a great way to help your child stay safe online. Kids who do not share personally identifiable information are less likely to become victims of online dangers. Information like names, phone numbers, and photos could put your child at risk. The metadata from one photo shared online could give away the very location of your son or daughter.

For more tips on keeping your child safe while surfing the Internet, check out the 4 Dangers of the Internet and remember to stay vigilant and stay involved when allowing your kids to get online.

Dad Changes Everything

Dad helps son with homework
A father helps his son learn how to tell time using a homemade clock.

 

Kids in America need your help to stop the trend missing no Dad at home

According to the U.S Census Bureau, more than 24 million children in the U.S. are growing up without a biological dad present in the home. The time has come for a shift in this trend.

The National Fatherhood Initiative website states that kids who grow up without a father in the home are more likely to be juvenile offenders, risk teen pregnancy and deal with childhood obesity.

There is no special formula to raising kids. Parenting can be challenging and sometimes even difficult. Having a positive father influence along for the journey increases a child’s opportunities for success in life.

Join the fight against fatherless homes in America. Go to www.fatherhood.org for more information and discover the many ways you can get involved in the Fatherhood Factor.