Random Thoughts on the Army Public Affairs Hall of Fame

It’s all about the people!

First off, I’m deeply honored and humbled by my selection to the Army PA HOF.  It only happened because of the people, military and civilian, junior and senior, who took the time to mentor me!  I learned at least as much from the folks who worked for me, as those I worked for.  Without each and every individual, I never would have survived, let alone reach the HOF!

Learning from others can be very simple.  I always tried to learn from other’s mistakes rather than have people learn from mine.  However, despite my best efforts, many were able to learn from my mistakes.

Knowing your subject, knowing your craft is very important.  As a career field, we’ve morphed from being the spokesman, in front of the camera (80s to mid-90s), to the point now, where we prepare leaders to go on camera…and then “prep the battlefield” to give them the best chance of success.  I’ve found that prepping somebody else is much more difficult than doing the briefing or interview myself.

Our career field has become much more complex and demanding over the last 20 years.  Technology has advanced at a blinding rate.  Staying current with technology and social media is a full-time job, in addition to your full time job!  Most of our Army leaders have stepped up to do multiple interviews over the last 15 years of war.  This is what the American people expect and deserve.  The downside is that we’ve developed a culture of “experts” based solely on one aspect of public affairs.

I am in awe of the quality, capabilities and education of our current crop of PAOs.  There is not a finer, more professional career field in the Army…or in the world!

Integrity beyond reproach.  That line was mandatory on OERs.  If it wasn’t there…you had a problem.  As PAOs, we live in a gray area…but you can’t cross that line or you lose your credibility forever.

I was lucky.  I only hit that line twice.  First, as an infantry battalion BMO, when I was ordered to falsify the readiness report…Second, when I was directed to put out information from the podium that I knew was completely untrue.  They were actually very easy split second decisions.  How could I look my kids in the eye and tell them to “do what’s right” if I had given in to the pressure.  That’s how I personally looked at it.  Professionally, if you lie, you will lose all credibility.  As a PAO, if you lose your credibility, you have nothing.

Opportunities are different things to different people.  Opportunities for me usually meant that my wife would have to raise the kids herself for a few more months.  I will admit…for the most part…the deployed environment is where I found the most professional fulfillment.  Being on the “first plane in” is what I strived for.  I was “lucky” enough to get my wish a number of times over my career.  These deployments brought out the best in our Soldiers…and thru osmosis… I believe it brought out the best in me, as well.  Each deployment built upon a previous deployment…I began to see what worked and what didn’t.  But the common thread throughout each and every deployment was the ability of each and every Public Affairs Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine and Civilian to do a difficult job in a difficult environment. (throw in some State Department, British, Australian, Kuwaiti, Polish, Danish, Canadian, Italian, as well!)  it was all about the people.

People and opportunities.  The great people in the public affairs community carried me through the opportunities that were presented.  With a bit of luck…I survived, both figuratively, as well as actually!  It was a great ride that I wouldn’t trade for any other career path!

— Guy Shields

(Note: Guy is a retired Army colonel who served in public affairs. He is part of the Class of 2016 Hall of Fame. His blog is part of a series we are publishing on our recognition programs.)