January 10, 2005

Infantry unit embeds media in local training


Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment conducted live fire training during their November drill. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office) Click HERE to see more photos.

By Maj. Cotton Puryear
Army Guard Public Affairs Officer

Anyone watching news coverage of military operations in Afghanistan or Iraq should be familiar with the concept of embedding media into a military unit, but 2nd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment has applied the concept to their training right here in Virginia. The unit invited media to embed with them during their squad live fire training at their November drill at Ft. A.P. Hill.

The intent of commander Maj. John M. Epperly was threefold. First he said he wanted his Soldiers to be comfortable with the media because they will be likely to have them with the unit in combat operations. Secondly, he wants to tell his local community about the great things that are going on in the Virginia Guard. Finally, he said the media embed helps with his unit’s retention efforts.

“I firmly believe if we tell our story to the community we will improve our recruiting environment and position in the community,” Epperly said. “The media I have worked with so far have been very positive and very willing to tell our story. They universally have appreciated being asked to embed with us.”

At the end of the November drill, a local radio station set up at the armory in Lexington and did a live broadcast as the unit returned to home station via Blackhawks carrying Soldiers AND reporters.

“Because of the media embeds, we got radio advertising that drew a crowd to a superb training event that showed the Guard staying ready to defend the Commonwealth and the nation,” Epperly said. The unit received eight referrals as a result of the event.

Epperly said there is no doubt he will continue to involve the local media in his training. “They are important to my training,” he said. “Ignoring media is ignoring how the modern battlefield looks.”

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