Is The Suggestion Box Open?

Civil Air Patrol

By Ken | CAP-PAO News

— Suggestion from former Unit PAO to National HQ —

Hello folks:

First by introduction I am a former squadron level PAO (having served over five years in that role) and had also been selected for Wing PAO and Region PAO of the year. I had the best TV media news coverage in the wing for many years. I specifically left the PAO volunteer position
because I received a marginal during an SUI and felt the entire process to evaluate squadron PAO’s was flawed and didn’t want to spend my time doing this anymore to just get frustrated (and I can now spend more time on my new hobby of photography as well as concentrate on CAP radio communications). BTW currently our region and wing are looking for PAO’s to staff those level functions.

Here’s some things I think we need to address and change:

SQUADRON PAO PLANNING SIMPLIFY IT — Better than 95% of the units inspected in my region were written up for not doing the four step plan. I didn’t have the plan because it is just too time consuming to do this and the examples given our poor and the measurements are really impossible to determine; BUT I did have one sheet of paper with our goals for the year and also maintained a log (in word format) of all PAO activities with the results (this would include copies of the news releases, copies of what was printed, and/or website cross links to TV media video) in electronic format. This shows simply accomplishment of the PAO in relation to the goals. Our contingency plan had been completed BUT the unit commander at the time had forgotten to send it to wing (but wing had never requested it either) due to some serious family issues (passing of two immediate family members in a short period of time ). Even for the contingency plan, at least one wing has an overall plan with groups/squadron as annexes. Our past squadron leadership had always wanted for wing (we have no groups) to get involved if we had any negative press, so from my standpoint wing was always going to be involved. We need to be much more simple in our planning especially at the squadron level, IF we can get external (and of course internal coverage (website/Facebook) for all our activities, personnel’s accomplishments, & general public awareness we have met the goals of the program and that is what needs to be emphasized in any inspection report. Volunteers have limited time that time should be spent accomplishing the basic mission which is “get the good news out about CAP locally”!

SOCIAL MEDIA EFFECTIVENESS NEEDS TO BE CAREFULLY EXAMINED — I think the jury is still out on what we really achieve with some of the social media methods. Surely an up to date regions/wings/groups/squadrons website & public access Facebook pages is IMHO primarily where the effort needs to be and with most volunteers having limited time to spend on too much social media (but frankly we’ve met some people that apparently that’s all they do and showed up at a CAP activity just to meet some of our social media posters, with really no interest in the organization LOL !!!!). Generally when anyone is considering joining a volunteer organization, they will checking out that organization’s website/Facebook site as well as doing a google news search to see what they come up with. Many of the cadets we recruit are due to other cadets talking about the program to their peers in school versus any media sources. Senior members will vary BUT most will look at websites etc. I might add that its’ important to ensure that old web sites/pages are taken down IF at all possible since sometimes the search engines find those pages. The current CAP membership may not have any control or even know who originally had the website. Might be a good “how to do (get old sites taken down)” article to post on the CAP PAO training site IF there’s been success in website removal.

NATIONAL WEBSITE NEEDS TO BE CHANGED — Since CAP is suppose to be all inclusive regardless of race, age, disability, ethnic origin, etc. the current recruiting IMHO website fails to readily show this. There a static picture of three young minority members in CAP flight suit. I believe in order to meet the non- discrimination requirements we should portray all of our members (old, disabled, race, ethnic, sex, size, etc) with perhaps changing pictures ever 10/15 seconds or so (which should include those three minority members in flight suits). My firm belief is recruiting retired older personnel for many of our volunteer positions might actually work out better for the organization due to their availability — If someone can give us 5 to 10 years of dedicated service I think that’s great. HOWEVER, again a mix of young, old, middle age, various races & ethnicity, etc should be what we display on our recruiting website, so there no doubt what we stand for.

PAO SKILLS UPGRADE IS ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE — Surely, anything one can accomplish online as FEMA training and/or participation requirements in ES exercises/actual missions is a reasonable requirements. What is unreasonable is some of the requirements for FEMA courses that require classroom attendance. In some states those classes aren’t even available and when available normally are held during the weekdays so volunteers would have to take vacation from their employment in order to attend. BTW offering such a class one time a year at a National Conference is likely cost prohibitive to many members.

NATIONAL NEEDS TO ASSIST PAO MORE — As an example the National Staff should consider preparing theme news release for each month of the year to aid local PAO in getting coverage. For example September was “National Preparedness Month”, how many units did media releases with this theme as far as what CAP as an organization does to prepare? I’m sure for every month we could come up with something.

WINGS SUPPORT TO GROUP/SQUADRON PAO’S — I also think that when a CI is conducted their needs to be more emphasis of what the wing PAO is doing to assist the various units and also should be checking to ensure the wing PAO has gotten the required PAO goals/contingency plans. Personally I liked the quarterly report that use to be submitted because it specifically looked at squadron new releases (print, radio, TV) (and I would now include internal information such as posting to Facebook squadron web pages) as well as all squadron community activities. So wing could readily see if there was an active program at the unit.

MAKING APPROPRIATE COMMENT ABOUT CAP ON NEWS MEDIA WEBSITES IN RELATION TO THE SENSITIVITY TO THE NEWS STORY — Some media outlets allow the readers/viewers to comment on stories. For awhile there was one CAP member that was basically just posting the CAP tag line in the comments area without any thought to what the story was about. In one example a community very cherished parish priest flying his aircraft crashed and was killed. CAP found the aircraft. Perhaps a more personal crafted message, something along the lines of CAP was successful in finding the aircraft BUT were saddened that the pilot did not survive, might be more appropriate as the first line in the post and then a bit more about the organization.

So there it is from my point of view. So is the suggestion box open or closed?

BTW thanks to all of the dedicated PAO’s who are always trying to get the good word out on CAP!



— Rude Response from CAP National Public Affairs Manager —

Because you haven’t posted your last name I can’t look in my archives to check and see if I’ve ever met or talked to you before Ken. But I don’t think I have. Anyway, your name doesn’t ring a bell.

Like yourself, I was a Wing PAO, and like yourself a PAO of the year and Region PAO OTY (but in two different Regions). When I was a Wing PAO I also saw things that I thought could be better.

But instead of resigning as a PAO like you did, or posting a dozen open-ended bullet points on a forum that is not monitored by NHQ/PA, I composed professional, polite and detailed suggestions and sent them up the chain of command for consideration. Not surprisingly, NHQ responded by appointing me chair of a working group that put together the first How-to Guide for PAOs (and Arthur Woodgate was a key member of that group and has worked tirelessly on follow-up revisions.)

I was named National PA Team leader by Maj Gen Courter, National PAO by Maj Gen Carr and National PA Manager by Maj Gen Vazquez. During this time we’ve eliminated the outdated AFAIDIL course, revised CAPR 190-1 several times, instituted a National PAO Academy, revised the PAO Specialty Track, produced a Branding Guide and a Style Guide, instituted a robust social media program, promoted the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony and the Total Force announcement and we’re working hard on how CAP will publicize our 75th anniversary. And then there are the ongoing projects, such as an annual report, Legislative Day, the National Conference and countless media requests for information, etc. that fall to NHQ/PA to handle.

All of this is done with a paid staff of three at NHQ/PA and a volunteer CAP/PA team of three. Does it sound like we’ve been slacking off?

As I write this reply to your two lists, while you’re sitting in the comfort and safety of your home, I’m the lead FEMA PIO in Lake County, CA, which the President declared eligible for assistance after the horrific Valley Wildfire. I’m working 7 to 7, seven days a week. Cellphone coverage, WiFi connectivity and passable roads are all in short supply. So when I read that you don’t like the way I post comments on online news stories, I take exception to the cheap-shot. I’m working my ass off, for my country.

The bottom line is this. Nobody wants to be handed a list of problems. You’ve got great ideas? Then hand us a list of solutions — WITH your offer to personally take on the project. That’s how we make progress.

Lt Col Steven Solomon, CAP
National Public Affairs Manager

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