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JA and PA: Only One Letter Separates Us

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash.-- --

A local story about an attack on a pilot carrying a Confederate flag goes viral and the Chief of Staff wants details.  An “opinion first, facts second” blog alleges apparent misdeeds at your base and NAF and MAJCOM commanders want to know what’s going on.  Area residents learn your aircrew are transporting possible Ebola patients, and the Wing Commander wants to do a Town Hall meeting covered by local media.  What do all these have in common?  In each scenario, the Wing Commander will make two calls: First, he’ll call Public Affairs and second, he’ll call JA.    

The scenarios listed above are all true.  They happened when we worked together as Staff Judge Advocate and Chief, Public Affairs at the 62nd Airlift Wing, McChord Field, Washington.  They illusrate an important point:  While relationships between legal offices and AFOSI have been rightly emphasized in recent years, SJAs also need to nurture strong relationships with PA.  Too often we think of PA as necessary only for the occassional high-profile court-martial.  However, like JA, PA touches virtually every wing mission. Their activities include media operations, community engagement, command information, environmental program support and many others. These activities often overlap in legal and ethical lanes and working closely together protects them, you and most importantly, your Boss. Moreover, PA operations are dizzying, they require close coordination up and down the chain and on and off the installation.  

So, the time to strengthen your relationship with your Public Affairs office is now.  Partner with them on something outside a middle of the night phone call.  Invite them over to talk about what you do.  Play sports with them.  Make them a regular stop on your way to see your Boss. Today’s frantic age of breaking headlines and immediacy, social medial and fake news means there is no such thing as a local story. Are you ready?