NEW YORK --
Marine leadership from around the country came here for a week-long conference on Mairnes and the media.
Lt. Col. Michael L. Norton, commanding officer, Marine Training Unit 17, led the 48th Annual East Coast Media Symposium.
“Our objective is to train commanders to be prepared for the media,” said Norton. The cornerstone of that lesson is avoiding reacting to news stories and instead focus on having an active relationship with journalist, he said. To help make that point Norton and his Marines brought in national TV and print journalists to speak about their experiences as embeds with the military and to advise them on the needs of the media.
Sergeant Maj. Scott Mykoo, sergeant major, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Ga., has been trying to breed that trusting relationship since he arrived there.
“We don’t want them finding out (the story) themselves – good or bad,” Mykoo explained. He takes that relationship seriously, keeping the media outside his base aware of everything from motorcycle safety courses to accidents.
As both the home for deploying service members and the largest employer in the area, his base is a big part of the community and the media. After hearing the speakers reinforce Mykoo’s ideas, he’s planning his own workshop with leaders on his base.
Colonel Farrell Sullivan, commanding officer, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, recently returned from southern Afghanistan where he dealt with news media on a daily basis.
Whereas Sullivan dealt primarily with radio journalists in Afghanistan, at the symposium he practiced on-camera, live remote interviews. Norton choose to place commanders in the most difficult and uncomfortable of settings for their limited practice time. Marines sat one at a time in a room starting at a camera and could hear their interviewer only through a small earpiece a room. This was the ideal situation to punctuate the week’s lessons, and it worked.
“They were a little tough on you, but it’s great to do it,” said Sullivan. “If you do an interview in front of a camera, you know you can do it.”
That’s the kind of confidence breeding experience that Sullivan had heard about before coming up here and the reason why he calls this workshop a “must do for battalion commanders.”
Norton credits Marine experiences in both Iraq and Afghanistan with a more open attitude toward the media.
“In the past a Marine, over 20-30 years, might have had one combat tour. These guys are veterans, they’ve had three, four, or five tours and are going back for more,” he said.
They’ve seen the media help tell the story of the Marines serving abroad, and after this symposium these commanders leave more willing and able to help the American people follow their Marines as they go abroad to do their country's bidding.