Social media is key to communicating with troops

It’s no secret that the overwhelming majority of young people get their news from social media. Every day, the military’s public affairs machines strive to get their messages to the junior enlisted. Since most of that audience won’t ever read a newspaper, product promotion must be done online.

Marine Corporal Cedric Haller is a great example of the importance of harnessing social media. If a story airs on television he’ll never see it.

“I don’t own a television,” the 21-year-old Haller said. “There’s no way I’m paying a monthly bill to access something I can do immediately on the phone.”

U.S. Marines Twitter
The U.S. Army uses Instagram to deliver small bites of news in photo format.

And that brings up the second point, mobile compatibility. If a website doesn’t play well with a consumer’s cell phone or tablet, that’s a very bad thing. It’s something the military struggles with.

“Because you have an increased security requirement on these military sites, getting the proper plug-ins is more difficult,” said Carrie McLeroy, Chief of Army Production Web and Social Media. “We don’t have mobile-friendly sites where we should.”

Having recognized the power of social media, the United States military is slowly getting a grip on how to use the big three: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. They’ll be just in time for the next generation of applications.

On Fort Meade, Sydney Johns is more than a boss

The center of the military public affairs world is located on Fort Meade, Md., in a building called Defense Media Activity.  As the destination of frequent tour groups, the facility must be kept spotless. It falls to a small cleaning crew and its street-wise leader to complete this often thankless task.

As the sun sets on another hot Maryland summer day, Sydney Johns is checking on the progress of his four-person team. The daytime employees have all gone home, but for the nighttime cleaning crew, work is just beginning. The former correctional officer has supervised this group for five years, working closely to see that they succeed, and not just on the job.

“My time at the correctional facility taught me a few things,” Johns said. “I was able to bring some of that with me, to teach these young men and women how to succeed.”

Johns and his employees are staffed through Goodwill Industries International, and many of them have disabilities. Because of the unique makeup of this group, he’s taken on the extra titles of mentor and role model. Johns has made time to teach one of his floor techs, 29-year-old Morgan Brandford, important life skills.

“He was teaching me how to save your money,” Brandford said. “How to be responsible, you know, with your bills. He’s a really good person.”

As the night wears on, Johns switches between roles as they go about cleaning the building. He laughs easily with his people and guides them firmly to keep things on track. A simple motto sums up what they’re doing here.

“Just do the very very best you possibly can,” Johns said. “That’s all. Just care about what you do.”

Navy public affairs students host 10th Anniversary celebration

One month in, and it’s already been a busy summer for the Navy MC students on Fort Meade. They’ve been churning out successful events like the Pasta Prom, but a major milestone gave them a chance to shine even brighter.

In 2006, the Mass Communication Specialist rating was born. This was a huge deal because it combined four jobs into one, meaning a former Photographer’s Mate now had to learn to write stories, for example. The youngest batch of MCs just had the honor of hosting the community’s  10-year anniversary after-party.

The barbecue was held at the student barracks, and saw influential storytellers arrive from around the world. It was a day for mingling old school with the new. Seaman Apprentice Ian Kinkead was a bit shell shocked to see such heavy hitters.

“When I was in boot camp, I thought I’d never see a master chief walking around,” he said. “I figured if I did, it would be because I was in serious trouble.”

He’s the president of the local chapter of CSADD, or Coalition of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions. His group is absolutely killing it this year. With assistance from the Petty Officers Association, they held various fundraisers to finance the BBQ.

If the students’ performance is a sign of what’s to come, the fleet should expect great things from their newest Mass Communication Specialists.