U.S. Army Central public affairs conducted a media relations exchange with Tajikistan military and government communications officers April 18 - 22 in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
Topics of discussion included media engagement, social media, public affairs support to natural disasters, and Army public affairs support to the entertainment industry. Col. Wayne Marotto, USARCENT chief of public affairs gave an overview of U.S. Army public affairs and its role in the overall Army mission.
Social media and free press generated the most discussion. Tajik communications officers were interested in the amount of freedom U.S. Soldiers have to obtain and maintain a personal presence on social media platforms.
“The Tajik public affairs officers were very interested in our use of social media,” said Col. Thomas Gilleran, USARCENT deputy chief of public affairs. “They were amazed that we allow unsolicited interaction.”
Army public affairs professionals rely heavily on social media to connect with their audiences and Soldiers are often the best storytellers. Although unwanted or embarrassing content is occasionally shared on personal social media platforms, USARCENT public affairs personnel explained the importance of Soldier’s freedom of speech and their obligation to abide by the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
“The most important thing we did during the exchange was to discuss the value of a free press with our Tajik counterparts,” said Gilleran.
U.S. and Tajik public affairs officers share many of the same business practices to include community engagement and highlighting military efforts. One difference is the relationship with the media. Gilleran discussed the unique relationship of Army public affairs with the media, and he described what freedom of the press means in the U.S.
“Freedom of the press has a different meaning in different countries,” said Khusrov Aminov, Tajikistan Ministry of Defense communications officer.
Gilleran and Maj. Neysa Williams, USARCENT public affairs community and media relations officer, gave examples of how bad press sometimes results in good changes.
“The media sometimes draws attention to issues that force changes in an organization,” said Williams. “For example, some veterans were having a hard time getting medical care and when the media started talking about it, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs started to make changes or at least share more information.”
Aminov said he appreciated the opportunity to discuss Army public Affairs with the USARCENT team, and looked forward to future engagements, hopefully in the U.S.
The exchange was one of many partnership events conducted by U.S. Army Central throughout the year in efforts to maintain relationships, build partner capacity and enhance interoperability with Tajikistan.