Cadets from the Naples Cadet Squadron had their interest captured during an engaging and energetic presentation about the importance of public affairs. Group 5 Public Affairs Officer, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Carlson, brought a message that was aimed at the cadet members to remind them that their voice is important to telling the Civil Air Patrol story.
Carlson explained that experience with public affairs can develop into a marketable skill for future careers. He gave examples of how the military relies on skilled public affairs personnel to communicate with stakeholders, including; Congress, taxpayers, military personnel, and even local civilians and combatants in active military zones. He also emphasized the need for public relations talent in the private sector to present a business's message to the public.
Public affairs experience can offer “personal development to help you today in your Civil Air Patrol career and in future career opportunities”. Cadets can develop confidence for public speaking through experience at the squadron and then move outward into the community. “Our stakeholders see our professionalism as we explain our mission, it keeps the public informed and promotes goodwill”. It also helps to prepare the cadets for special boards.
He encouraged members to attend local community events. “Cadets can use these opportunities to generate interest and build relationships with stakeholders.” The Naples cadets send a message when they are visible in the community”. Participating in community service events and parades in uniform “increase CAP’s visibility and develops greater recognition of the program’s benefits”.
Carlson emphasized the importance of creating a plan to organize and maximize limited resources. He recommended that planning for each unit activity should include the question, “How can we develop this activity to generate interest?”
“Telling your stakeholders about the cadet program goals, current activity and future plans is critical to opening doors and generating support.”
In addition, Carlson remarked about CAP’s responsibility to support general aviation and the initiatives of our partner agencies. He suggested to join the voice to encouraging local pilots to maintain situational awareness of the flight environment “by checking notice to airmen (NOTAMS) as a regular part of flight planning”. Carlson used the CAP partnership in the Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR) enforcement program as an example of how the Air Force utilizes public affairs. Each month, CAP pilots from the Naples area train with Air Force alert fighter pilots to ensure safe operations during TFR interception.
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“Many communication channels exist to deliver our message,” Carlson said. “Target your audience, consider which is the best channel to reach them.” He offered the Naples’ units newsletter and social media accounts as examples of channels useful to deliver the unit messages.
Carlson holds a Master rating in Public Affairs and is a former Southeast Region Director of Public Affairs. He served as director for two Florida Wing Public Affairs Academies. In 2017, he received the National Commander’s Commendation Award from Maj. Gen. Joe Vazquez for his work as public information officer during two high-profile Air Force-assigned missions.
“Cadets hold a unique perspective on the CAP organization, Carlson added. “The Night Owls have a tradition of excellence and is currently the largest cadet squadron in Group 5. To build on the success, Carlson recommended the cadets “tell people how you plan to use your resources, how CAP can benefit the community and how they can help support the program”.