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Spanish army
Ministry of Defence
Spanish army

Ejército de Tierra

Feature Articles

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Number: 58

Objective: To communicate the mission.

The Public Affairs Officers (PAO) is the responsible of the communication in operations abroad and has, as main objective, to advise the chief of the contingent in this field.

Communication is fundamental in a mission, both outside and inside the deployed contingent in zone of operations. The responsible of the communication is the PAO (Public Affairs Officers, in its acronym in English). The official of public matters is the principle advicer of the contingent's chief advicer in this matter. The designation is not the same in all the armies and missions. Although the NATO's countries consider it as PAO, there are other extended ways of naming it such as the PIO (Public Information Officer). This is the designation employed by the United Nations, for instance, in the case of Lebanon. Both figures are similar at practical level, however, at theoretical level PAO's figure will deal with all the public matters, apart from the information.
All the missions in which Spain is involved  currently have a responsible of communication. The structure of the PAO's office depends on the volume of the deployed contingent in the area. In some occasions it is combined with other responsabilities and, in others, it has an exclusive dedication. In any case, the visibility of the mission and its prestige depend of its job and of the Institution to which it serves.
 

The PAO is the responsible of communication in missions abroad

The PAO is the responsible of communication in missions abroad. PHOTO: DECET

 

PAO's MAIN FUNCTIONSO

Current deployed PAO

Current deployed PAO. DECET

  • It is the principal advisor in communication and image topics of the contingent's chief..
  • It organizes the Office of Public Information and deals with internal and external demands.
  • It manages journalists and the media's demands of information.
  • It provides the required data from network of national command, through the Command of Operations. It supplies the information demanded by the network of international command, through the PIO/PAO of the coalition.
  • It creates products which give visibility to the mission. It devises and elaborates photographic and audiovisual reports, as well as announcements and informative notes through the command network. It develops proposal for social media.
  • It manages the communication of institutional visits to this zone of operations. It creates informative materia for the deployed soldiers in the missions (radio programmes, humour magazines...).
  • It manages the crisis of communication so that the stability of the contingent is not disturbed. It carries out a detailed report, in its return, about the development of the mission concerning the matter of communication.

Practice

 

Deployed PAO in Lebanon

Deployed PAO in Lebanon. PHOTO: DECET

The PAO covering an important visit.

The PAO covering an important visit. PHOTO: DECET

Like the rest of the contingent, the PAO, apart from its recognized functions, it has to adapt itself to the stage of the mission, so its performance will be related with the zone of operations when the deployment takes place. Captain Fernández del Hoyo, based in his experience, explains two different situations in which his performance had to be adapted. "In Lebanon, the contact with the civil population in the zone was constant- and fundamental- for a successful development of the missions that we conduct.

However, in Iraq the Spanish contigent's mission is carried out inside a great training centre, in which it hardly exists contact with the civil population and where the journalists, most of them from foreign countries, do not have an eassy access. "In this case, I found a stage in which the production for the national network of communication and of the Coalition, together with the internal communication, revealed a huge interest, so the most part of our time was dedicated to the creation of products", explains the Captain. The office of comunication's structure is different in each mission. Lebanon has the biggest office of communication because of the volume of the mission.

The current Spanish PAO in Lebanon is Lieutenant Colonel Pérez Amo, who is also the chief of the PIO team belonging to the Multinational Brigade Eastern Sector of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (FINUL in Spanish). "At ONU's level the figure of the PIO depends on the director of Civil and Politic Matters, which is the first command level", points out the Lieutenant Colonel.