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Public Affairs director defines wing commander’s role in communication efforts

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- The director of public affairs for the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force challenged more than 25 Air Force incoming wing commanders to, "go on the offensive, take control and be transparent," while in command during the wing commanders' seminar at the Ira C. Eaker College for Professional Development's Commanders' Professional Development School here June 19.

Col. Les Kodlick, the director of public affairs, is responsible for 3,000 bandsmen, broadcasters, multimedia and public affairs professionals while advising the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force on public affairs matters in Washington D.C.

He is also responsible for developing and implementing communication processes to build understanding and support for the Air Force.

The USAF wing commanders' seminar is a one-week course designed to ensure the commanders have the most current information on Department of Defense and Air Force leadership and management issues. The course is taught entirely by adjunct faculty, senior subject matter experts from the Department of Defense, Air Staff and major commands, or MAJCOMs. Sitting in on each course is a senior mentor who offers experience and advice to the incoming commanders.

During Colonel Kodlick's visit with the commanders, he shared the importance of utilizing installation PA offices to publicize personnel achievements, program successes and the mission.

"There are lots of good stories to tell," Colonel Kodlick said. "You can help do that."
One commander shared how he plans to engage his public affairs team once in command.

"Public Affairs is essential to tie in the wing commander's message, command messages and Air Force priorities to the public," said Col. Rob Givens, incoming 8th Fighter Wing commander, Kunsan Air Base, Korea. "I'm going to an overseas base so Public Affairs will have a dual role - supporting our Korean allies and the families at home."

Colonel Kodlick emphasized that commanders also need to know how to effectively communicate with their Airmen.

He shared the results of a recent survey, which showed 64 percent of active-duty Airmen prefers emails directly from leadership as a means of communicating key messages, and 79 percent will read an email within 48 hours of receipt.

In addition, Colonel Kodlick touched on the current Air Force communication priorities of reinvigorating nuclear enterprise, partnering with joint and coalition teams, developing and caring for Airmen, modernizing inventories and acquisition excellence.

He reiterated the immediacy of public access to information using the internet and how to use it as an advantage.

"We can restore the national trust and confidence in our Air Force by rebuilding our external credibility," the colonel said.

In regards to working with the local media, Colonel Kodlick shared that the quick release of information inspires trust in the whole Air Force.

"You know when issues resonate with your troops, with the families and with the mission where it's important," he shared. "When you step forward, it brings importance, attention and it brings priority to [the issue]," the colonel said.

Colonel Kodlick encouraged the commanders to interact and form positive relationships with the local media and community leaders.

"There will likely be a defining moment during their tenure as commanders that will put them in the public domain," said Brig. Gen. Charles Lyon, director for Joint Integration, Directorate of Operational Capability Requirements, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Plans and Requirements, Headquarters Air Force and senior mentor for the commanders' seminar. "What they will have gotten from this briefing is that while they may not be experts, they know who the experts are and know how to get access ... to manage that defining moment."

In response to Colonel Kodlick's briefing one commander shared his public affairs to-do-list upon taking command.

"I think strategic communications is the key," said Col. Greg Tims, incoming 90th Missile Wing commander, F.E. Warren, Wyo. "One of the key items I plan to do is to create a strategic communication plan to target the young and senior communities, the military affairs committee and the civilian populations."

Colonel Kodlick previously served as the chief of public affairs for U.S. Strategic Command, Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., and has served as commander three times, including a combat tour at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. He has also worked in New York City as an account executive for Hill & Knowlton, Inc., an international public relations firm as part of the Air Force's Education with Industry program.