A great trip – US Army – Michael Molinaro

As I write my final blog for my college career, I reflect on what an amazing experience this has been. Working with this unit has been rewarding to say the least. The soldiers and civilians I got to work with throughout the week took me in from the beginning and never treated me as anybody other than one of their own. The work I got to do was simply wonderful. From creating new branding to photographing international sporting events, this semester I learned so much. This past week the unit’s service rifle team hosted a Boy Scout troop from Atlanta.

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These Soldiers are exactly who we want protecting us and representing us to the world. I mean, one minute they are competing against Russians, Chinese, Germans and the rest of the world in competitive shooting, the next day they are taking those lessons they learned and using them to train their peers who are preparing to go overseas and possibly use those skills in combat, and then they host 12- and 13-year olds and make those kids feel on top of the world.

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Few units in our Army have that capability, so I feel very fortunate to work this great organization. I will certainly take everything I learned here and in the classroom into my future endeavors. I can’t believe that in less than two weeks I get to finally walk the stage, in front of my children, and show them that if Daddy can do it, anybody can do whatever they out their minds too. I may have done college the unconventional way, waiting until I was 40 to graduate, but all that matters is that degree and being able to prove to my kids that hard work pays off.

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VIPs can result in free PR – US Army – Michael Molinaro

This past week Randy Couture, the former heavyweight champion in the UFC and one of the forefathers of mixed martial arts, stopped by the unit to spend the day with the soldiers and get to know what they do on a daily basis. They explained the unit’s unique and complex mission, and then gave him a tour of the shop and some ranges.

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Then they let him shoot with some Olympians and national champions.

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He was very cool and so honored to meet some of our country’s finest soldiers. And they were just as honored to meet him. Over the last few years these guys said they hosted Ryan Newman, a NASCAR driver; Newt Gingrich; several baseball and football players; and other VIPs. What I learned is when VIPs visit you throw out the red carpet for them because they can help spread the word about your organization and give you good, free PR. That’s a good day in my book.

Branding – US Army – Michael Molinaro

This past week I got to see some of my hard work actually be put into action here at the unit. When I first started this internship the first thing I did was take some photos for branding purposes. Branding is essential for a unit like the Marksmanship Unit because they deal with recruiting so much that they have to stand out for more than just being in the Army. So many people come to the ranges for competitions and see this as the mecca of shooting is the U.S.

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The military wants the best shooters coming up to military ages so they can try and recruit them. The unit is the best marksmanship unit in the military, so it only makes sense that they make a splash when hosting events. So I took photos and sent them up through the chain and now they came back and we installed them in various places, like the ranges.

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I also took a bunch that depicted the unit’s mission that is now hung up prominently near the front to the most-used range.

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It’s cool to look at the photos and know those are mine. Nobody else does, and that’s ok. As long as the job gets done, we are good to go.

Past, Present and Future – US Army – Michael Molinaro

I am starting to wind down this internship and my time here at CSU. This past week was really cool at the Marksmanship Unit. It was all about the past, present and future of both this unit and the Army as a whole. We are still hosting the World Cup and I got to see new stars in the sport of shooting, winning their first medals of their burgeoning career.

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I also got to see current Olympic Champions rise to the occasion once again and win a match, adding another gold medal to their large collection of hardware. It was really neat to watch the young shooters look up to the older guys and gals, asking them questions in some instances, while others were just too shy or afraid to go up to the people they have tried to emulate and are now competing against as if it is a dream.

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And then we helped celebrate the past when a former member of the unit who spent twenty years in the unit and the Army, then continued as a coach and mentor for many years, passed away. They held a memorial upon the conclusion of Saturday’s matches and training. I helped with the photography of the event.

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We stayed out of the way so those in attendance could pay tribute and pay attention to the guest speakers, but I was all ears as they read over his biography and not only the accomplishments this man made in shooting sports, but for the Army and our country. He earned the Distinguished Service Medal for his actions in Korea and if he would have paid the ultimate price during the attack, he would have probably earned the Medal of Honor.

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I firmly believe that you can’t move forward unless you know a little bit about the past. I am certainly glad I was able to help share in the celebration of a real hero.

Sports trumps politics any day – US Army – Michael Molinaro

So one would think that, after the success and work involved with the Army Strong Experience last week, we might be able to slow down a bit to catch our breath and start planning the next thing. Oh no. this is the Army and we don’t take breaks. The AMU is now hosting the first Shooting World Cup of the 2014 season.

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Shooting is one of the oldest sports in the world, has been in the Olympics since the early 1900s, and is hugely popular on Europe. So the World Cup brings the top rifle and pistol shooters from the world together three times a year to see who wins that match, and these matches are held to qualify countries and athletes for the next Summer Olympics. The next one is in 2016 in Rio, so the athletes are starting to get a little tense as 2016 approaches faster than you think. The first day the AMU gunsmiths had to inspect all of the clothing, guns, and gear shooters wear and use.

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The jackets have to have certain elasticity, the shoes can’t weigh more than a certain weight, and the rifles have to be exact to the rulebook and much more. Way more detail then to go into in this blog. Then the shooters started to train.

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It is really neat to see athletes from every continent here. We even have Chinese and Russians, which with the current political climate; it seems a little weird that they are allowed on one of our military bases. But that’s what makes sports great. Sports don’t involve politics. It’s all about sportsmanship and competition. Only here can you see a Russian, an American and a Chinese shooter share a conversation that doesn’t involve talking about their president or border or about war. It’s refreshing.

Army Strong Experience – US Army – Michael Molinaro

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

The time is here – US Army – Michael Molinaro

So the week that has been on the calendar for quite some time, the reason I was afforded this opportunity to intern for the Army Marksmanship Unit, is upon us. Tomorrow, Thursday March 13, we will host more than 1,300 civilians from around the region to Fort Benning at the Army Strong Experience (ASE). We’ll show off the Army and a lot of the force’s capabilities.

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My role has been developing branding for the event and pitching ideas to media. I expect to have all of the local media on hand and there is a chance I may even conduct an interview or two on TV. I will get them interviews of people who can talk about the event on camera, make them media kits so they have an idea on what is occurring, and I brief them on the rules for the day when it comes to media. Since guns are often involved there are places they can and can’t set up, protection like ear plugs that they need, and so forth. So it’s my duty to ensure their safety and that they get the shots they need to make a good story. It helps them do their job better but also ensures that the message we want to get out happens.

Since it’s the Army we don’t plan for one event and forget about everything else. Multiple projects are ongoing all of the time. This past week, besides planning for the ASE, I had to market one of our teams for an upcoming match they will be in.

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I also took lots of photos at a training seminar we had for civilians from the Dept. of Defense and then posted them via social media.

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Next week I’ll have all of the recaps from the ASE and photos. I am doing 40 hours on the internship this week, so while it’s a lot, it’s so rewarding and the experience is going to pay huge dividend in the future. I can’t wait to see what happens.