OPERATION ATLANTIC RESOLVE
by Staff Sgt. Nathan Rivard
172nd Public Affairs Detachment
Operation Atlantic Resolve has been a continuous mission occurring over the last five months and has been supplemented by National Guard and Army Reserve components. The active duty may be the boots on the ground, but the citizen Soldiers are their eyes, ears, and mouth.
"The public affairs mission during Operation Atlantic Resolve is telling the story of the activities performed here that are part of the U.S. Army Europe-led Operation Atlantic Resolve land force assurance training," said Maj. Gookin, mobile public affairs augmentation team chief, Vermont National Guard state public affairs officer. "This is to enhance multinational interoperability, strengthen relationships among allied militaries, contribute to regional stability and demonstrate U.S. commitment to NATO."
Fourteen National Guard Soldiers from four different states came together for the seventh augmented rotation. They would only have three weeks to prove their worth and for some, it was their first trip out of the country, opening the world of Army public affairs to them. Four Vermont Army National Guard Soldiers were part of this rotation.
"This is my first overseas assignment," said 1st Lt. Jeffrey Rivard, commander, 172nd Public Affairs Detachment, Vermont National Guard. "I've never actually gotten the opportunity to conduct a real world mission with my MOS [military occupation specialty] training."
For other seasoned veterans, it was another assignment to strengthen their skills. Sgt. First Class Jason Alvarez, noncommissioned officer in charge,172nd PAD, has 24 years of service and is no stranger to overseas assignments. He has been on deployment-training missions in Central America, Europe, Asia, and even that Arctic, but he always finds something new.
"I've not been to the region before and was excited to see what it's like as well as work with our NATO partners," said Alvarez. "We had many different countries involved with Kosovo Force 15 and it was a great experience. I think we boost morale here for the active components we work with. If we're getting their story out too, it gives them a sense of recognition."
Trying to reach that audience and only have three weeks to do it can be quite the challenge. With travel, getting established, and preparing to leave at the end all Soldiers needed to be ready to work and a fellow New England state was right there with Vermont to help.
No Soldier knew this better than Sgt. Angela Parady, public affairs specialist, 121st Public Affairs Detachment, Maine National Guard. She produced six news stories and published 26 photos, which contributed to the public affairs mission and led to thousands of web views.
"This whole mission has a much bigger impact than many may see on the outside," she said. "We are the link between what the Soldiers do and what the citizens see. We are the eyes and the ears for the people and we make the difference in how our actions are seen."
Soldiers are trained to accomplish their mission and getting the word out of the mission is important.
"Without Public Affairs internal and external audiences would have very little idea as to what the U.S. military is doing in Eastern Europe and it's importance to NATO," said Rivard.
"It's a great mission, but if no one knows about it, the point is lost," said Alvarez.
Telling the Army's story is the focus for the public affairs Soldiers deployed to their locations. The 1st Cavalry Division replaced the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team in Oct. The 1st Cav. was working hard with their NATO allies in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland to strengthen partnerships and reassure their allegiance to one another.
The training can be difficult, tiring, and exhausting, but the photos and videos taken by the public affairs Soldiers will hold that snapshot in time forever.
Soldiers experienced many firsts on this three-week rotation alone: the first American tank rounds ever fired in Poland and Latvia; the first American Soldiers participating in Poland's All Saints Day, similar to America's Memorial Day, after receiving an invitation from a town's Mayor; the first time young Estonian Soldiers were able to train side by side with Americans. And National Guard's public affairs Soldiers were there every step of the way to capture those historical moments.
These firsts, however, may not be what is most important to the Soldiers on the ground. What may have the most impact was the cavalry Soldiers helping cut and split wood to heat an orphanage during the coming cold months. It may be the training an Estonian soldier received from a scout that could someday save his life. Or, it could simply be the fist-bump between the Soldiers after a day of training.
The 214th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment and the 362nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Army Reserve units, replaced the four National Guard public affairs units in Europe. When Soldiers work as professionals, it doesn't matter if it's one unit or four units they get the job done. This Army Guard and Reserve rotation in Europe may have ended, but their products will stand the test of time.
"When our children look in history books and see the photographs from World War I and World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, they see the world through the eyes of our Soldiers," said Gookin who is a lifelong history student. "It is the lens of our Soldiers that capture those. Just how we study and admire the photos of our grandfathers is how these photos will be admired in years to come."