News Stories

DINFOS students learn public affairs during Andrews air show

By Staff Sgt. David W. Carbajal | Defense Information School | January 05, 2016

FORT MEADE, Md. --

“Mommy, how fast does that one fly?”

“Daddy, how many people can that one fly?”

“Daddy, do you think I will ever get to fly one of those?”

One can overhear a lot of questions while at an air show. But if you attended the 2015 Joint Base Andrews Air Show, you probably heard another one: “Would you like a map of the air show?” or “What can I help you with?”

This voice belongs to Air Force Airman 1st Class Travis Beihl, a Defense Information School student at Fort Meade, who arrived to Joint Base Andrews to assist air show visitors while working at one of the information booths.

Beihl is one of 20 DINFOS Air Force Basic Photojournalist Course 050-15 students who learned real-world Public Affairs principles while augmenting the JB Andrews Public Affairs staff during the Andrews air show.

“We initially reached out to Andrews to see if they wanted some extra volunteers, but we then realized it would be a great real-world training opportunity for our students,” said Sarah Clagett, BPJC lead instructor at the Public Affairs Department at DINFOS.

While at DINFOS, BPJC students learn various aspects of PA to include photography, external and command information and community engagement skills.

The students, who recently entered the final 30 days of training, were put to the test during the air show as the students facilitated civilian media access, aided visitors from the information booths, and took photos of visitors and air show performances.

“The students working the information booths had to have a working knowledge of the air show activities and where points of interest were located,” said Clagett, who is also an Air Force veteran with 13 years of PA experience. “They also practiced responding to questions from the public and they helped build relationships with people in the surrounding community.”

The other students also gained from this training exercise.

“Some students worked at our media credentialing table, where they had a chance to see how PAs interact with media and they gained experience escorting them to the media viewing area (at the air show),” said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys, 11th Wing NCO in charge of media relations. “Media relations can be very challenging for new PA specialists, but this kind of experience could be very valuable for them in the future.”

The remaining students had the opportunity to practice their photography skills.

“I think this air show gives them the opportunity to practice taking photos that they’ll actually take when they get into the career field,” said Air Force Airman 1st Class Philip Bryant, 11th Wing photojournalist and a recent graduate of BPJC. “It also forces them to talk to people to get caption information.”

Overall the students benefitted in different ways, but they all gained a working knowledge of public affairs tasks during one of the largest events in the local area, said Cloys.

“The air show allowed them to see how public affairs interacts with the community,” said Cloys. “It also gives them the opportunity to see how social media works - they get to see all Public Affairs pieces come together.”

In the end it’s all about training, said Clagett.

“We put the students through a rigorous 87-days of training, but there is no substitute for the real-world experience they received during the air show,” said Clagett. “We’re always looking for ways to reinforce our curriculum and what better way than have them do the job alongside public affairs specialists in the operational Air Force.”