We finally held our big event of the year, the 2014 Army Strong Experience (ASE), on Thursday March 13 at Fort Benning. We had around 950 students, future soldiers and teachers come out to learn more about the Army then what they see on TV and in commercials, and get a real sense of the jobs that the Army has to offer.
My main focus the day of the event was handling media relations. I went and picked up reporters from a number of TV stations, such as WTVM and WLTZ, and also two reporters from the Ledger-Enquirer. The Army also sent down a broadcast crew from Washington DC, so it was a big deal. After I picked them up we went to one of the ranges where I handed them a press kit I made and briefed them on how the day would unfold. Then I was asked to do a few on-camera interviews, so I obliged. The week leading up to the event I prepared myself for this opportunity and went over the key messages and themes we wanted to get out to the public about the event.
The students started showing up and we got the day going. It started with a demonstration by Army Rangers, and then members of the Marksmanship Unit did a shotgun demonstration, where they shot all kinds of traditional and non-traditional targets out of the sky. They made a salad by shooting parts of fruit and veggies, like lettuce and watermelons. It was awesome.
Then the media did some more interviews that I facilitated. After that part was over we went to the Airborne school where some of the students got to jump out of 34-foot training towers, just like Soldiers in training do. They were scared for the most part but after they got the guts to jump and went down once, they wanted to go again and again.
On Friday we had what is called an after-action review and discussed what went right and what went wrong, along with suggestions to make next year’s event even better. This whole week was a great experience and I learned a lot about effective PR. Treating the media well leading up to the event really paid off as we got great press from the event.