New look for Public Affairs, information operations at Tyndall AFB
By Senior Master Sgt. Robert Sabonis, 104FW/ Public Affairs NCOIC
/ Published April 21, 2011
(Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.) -- On October 1, 2007, the Air Force and Air National Guard merged the Multimedia office with Public Affairs, removing Multimedia from the Communications Flight. In doing so, this has altered the Multimedia Support Center's mission from a customer support office, to an office with an information operation focus. The PA team captures historical information, and provides commanders tools for their strategic communication use.
Formerly known as the base Multimedia Support Center or "Multimedia", the merger has changed the name of the office back to Visual Information (VI). VI now, primarily collects historical information by using digital still photography and videography to capture and store the information for historical purposes, and also share that information with the world through the Public Affairs venue. The 3V Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) for VI has been eliminated, so all VI personnel now hold the Public Affairs 3N AFSC. During the merger process, the AF and ANG also eliminated the Graphic Arts career field, thus limiting support for any graphic arts and related support. The title of still-photographers remains the same, but the title of the videographers has changed to Broadcaster/Combat Correspondent. So, the support which these career fields provide to the base and its personnel has changed slightly.
Now that Visual Information (VI), previously Multimedia, works directly within the Public Affairs office their mission has changed to incorporate the three tenants of Public Affairs and Information Operations. In general, Public Affairs works within three areas, providing commander's information (Airscoop, websites, etc.), working community outreach (base tours, ESGR partnership, etc.), and working with the media (press releases, news conferences, etc.); all three disciplines require different tools, but they all come together through a strategic plan.
The Weapon Systems Evaluation Program (WSEP) trip to Tyndall AFB, Florida is providing a few of the Public Affairs personnel with their first opportunity to deploy as a PA team consisting of a journalist and photographers to "document" the trip. While on the trip, the team is required to conduct interviews with unit personnel, gather facts and information about the people and the exercise, write stories, capture supporting visual imagery, and send all of this information up through the proper channels so it can be disseminated throughout many different PA media venues. From beginning to end, this is a very lengthy process, and most people only see a small part of what PA personnel actually do. Speaking from a photographer's point of view, "most people only see a small portion of the entire photo process, which is when the photographer is out taking the photos", says Technical Sgt. Melanie Casineau, unit photographer. The time consuming work starts after the photos and videos are taken, when the imagery needs to be downloaded, assigned an AF naming sequence, edited, captioned, resized for multiple media venues, and routed to the PA officer for approval.
The goal of all PA professionals is to tell the Airman's story. This is done through utilizing Defense Imagery Management Operations Center (DIMOC), the Air Force Public Affairs Agency (AFPAA), Air Force News, as well as other local and base media outlets. Any were an event is taking place or a story is unfolding, Public Affairs is there to cover it.
The Visual Information office still provides a photo and video customer based support to unit members, but it's now limited or geared more to the overall PA mission and strategic communication, which is its first priority.