For the past week I have had the pleasure of being part of the JEPAC – Joint Expeditionary Public Affairs Course. The course is designed for officers who will be functioning as a part of a Joint Expeditionary Task Force. I was assigned two roles: J5 (Strategic Plans and Policy) and the Information Operations (IO) Chief.
As the J5 my job is to be the driving force behind developing plans and alternative courses of future action for the CDR. The IO officer is the Conductor of an information orchestra consisting of: PSYOP, Computer Network Operations (CNO), Electronic Warfare (EW), Military Deception (MILDEC), and Information Operations with an extended supporting cast to include Public Affairs, Combat Camera, Civil Military Operations, etc.
The students represented all of the services (except the Coast Guard) and the pay grades went from 1st Lieutenant (02) to Lieutenant Colonel (05) and of course, the levels of experience varied widely.
Setting the stage, this was the first time that the exercise included individuals who were nut purely Public Affairs Officers (PAO). The exercise started in a ‘garrison’ environment with the planning phase on a Friday, moved to the field on Monday and continued through Wednesday afternoon. While there was a skeleton structure of underlying operations and events, much of what went on was unstructured and a function of student response to the circumstances and operational tempo.
My role, and that of my colleagues, was to represent our respective areas (I love acting like a grumpy Colonel) and when appropriate to bring out teaching points and act as mentors. Frankly, there is no more of a satisfying feeling than to see a student learn from a situation, adjust their responses and shine as a result of your input.
It is also a satisfying feeling to confirm that you can function in a pressured environment and bring innovative ideas as well as experience to bear when needed.
As with any experience there are lessons learned. In my case, the old adage from Rogers’ Rangers “don’t forget nothing” applied. Since DOD doesn’t allow the use of thumb drives, I had to rely on my good friends to help me get materials I needed. Next time I’ll e-mail stuff to myself or cut a CD.
I also learned that packaged Tuna lunches are OK for a day, but lose their appeal 3 days in a row. The best chips to take to the field are Pringles because they don’t break in the box and you can buy small cans so you don’t eat the whole large can at one time. Resisting the urge to eat MREs (at 3,000+ calories) proved pretty easy and there’s nothing like a hot cup of chicken soup in the field!