HOHENFELS, Germany - The 112th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, based out of Madison, Wis., left for Hohenfels, Germany, Jan. 16 to provide public affairs support during a training exercise for Soldiers preparing for a nine-month deployment to Kosovo.
Some of the Soldiers training here will replace the Soldiers currently deployed to Kosovo as part of the Kosovo Forces 18 mission. KFOR has been a part of NATO efforts to support peace in Kosovo since June 1999. The Soldiers of KFOR 18 will be continuing the NATO mission to provide a safe and secure environment in Kosovo while ensuring freedom of movement throughout the country.
The 112th MPAD is working in conjunction with the Joint Multinational Readiness Center Public Affairs Office to provide realistic media training for Soldiers from the U.S., Romania, Slovenia, and Armenia during their pre-deployment training.
Capt. Randy Ready, commander of the 4th Public Affairs Detachment of KFOR 17 currently deployed to Kosovo, as well as the observer-coach-trainer for the exercise, explained the mission.
"It's the job of the JMRC PAO to replicate the environment in Kosovo," Ready said. "This is the last training opportunity for the deploying unit before taking over the KFOR mission."
Ready emphasized the importance of creating a realistic training environment for the KFOR 18 Soldiers.
"We try to make it as real as possible so that when the next unit moves in to replace the last rotation in Kosovo, they've already validated their training," he said. "They're prepared, which ensures a smooth transition that's only possible when the new unit is confident in their abilities."
The pre-deployment training exercise is not only beneficial to the Soldiers of KFOR 18, but for the 112th MPAD as well.
The 112th MPAD and JMRC PAO act as role players during the exercise, honing their skills by conducting interviews, writing stories, taking photos, shooting video, doing stand-up interviews and producing coherent media packages.
1st Lt. Joe Trovato, officer-in-charge of the overseas duty training for the 112th MPAD, explained how training the deploying units facilitates a learning environment for the public affairs specialists acting as role players.
"This is a great experience for the 112th MPAD," Trovato said. "First, we get to experience different cultures and interact with people from different countries, which is something we'd do if we deployed. Not only that, but it's also great training for our military occupation specialty competencies too.
"This is also a really good opportunity for the younger Soldiers," Trovato continued. "With this exercise, the Soldiers get quality training and it allows them to see how media relations play out in a real-world environment like Kosovo."
Spc. Marena Erickson, a broadcast specialist for the 112th MPAD, expressed her enthusiasm for the hands-on nature of the unit's training mission.
"I think it's really important for Soldiers not to sit on their skills," Erickson said. "They need to use them actively. Without annual trainings like this one, it's more difficult to be mission-ready.
"Putting Soldiers in an environment away from home, with all the different cultural and language barriers, really sets us up to be successful in the future," she continued. "I jumped at the chance to come here. It's quite an opportunity to travel and see the world, and I know I'm developing professionally and personally."
Trovato and Ready shared similar sentiments about the value of the training for the 112th MPAD.
"It really improves our readiness to be able to do our jobs effectively at home and abroad," Trovato said about the training at Hohenfels.
"Having National Guard and Reserve units here is great for us," Ready said. "These Soldiers have public affairs experience and knowledge, they know which questions to ask, and they know how to make these media interactions real. The training value is exponential."
The 112th MPAD Soldiers will return home at the conclusion of the exercise in early February.