Public affairs Soldiers from the Madison, Wisconsin-based 112th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment left a lasting impression on a major NATO operation in Europe after three weeks serving in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.
The Wisconsin Army National Guard's 112th MPAD dispatched teams to Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia for three weeks, spanning from mid-February to mid-March, to provide public affairs support to U.S. Army Europe by embedding teams with the 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment. The 2nd Cavalry Regiment deployed to locations across Eastern Europe in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve in January.
Atlantic Resolve is a NATO exercise led by U.S. Army Europe to test the alliance's interoperability with Polish, Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian military forces while demonstrating the U.S. military's commitment to a safe and prosperous Europe.
Nine 112th MPAD Soldiers were augmented by two additional public affairs Soldiers — one from the 32nd Infantry Brigade's public affairs team, and another from the 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade. The teams produced more than 20 print stories, approximately two dozen video products, submitted more than 450 photos, escorted local media, and worked hand-in-hand with public affairs assets in each host nation.
The MPAD's products were picked up by several media outlets and marketed by embassies. Some of the unit's photos also appeared prominently on different military media platforms.
Team Poland consisted of Capt. Joe Trovato, 1st Sgt. Jim Wagner, Sgt. Oscar Gollaz, and Spc. Tianna Field. They embedded with 3rd Squadron's K Troop, and a Polish mechanized infantry unit in Drawsko Pomorskie, Poland. The team conducted media relations with local news outlets, and covered a series of joint military training exercises that included medevac, raid, mortar, and assault missions.
Capt. Emily Ytrri and Sgt. Katie Eggers made up Team Latvia. The two provided public affairs support and covered a variety of training and community engagement events. They reported on an ice plunge during a winter training exercise, an effort to chop firewood for an orphanage in a local Latvian community, medical training between Latvian and American Soldiers, and a live-fire exercise.
"This has been a great experience," said Eggers, a print journalist with the 157th MEB. "I feel very fortunate to be able to spread the word about all of the good things American and Latvian Soldiers are doing.
"Every Soldier has shown a higher level of respect for each other, no matter what the nationality," she added.
The two-person team of the MPAD's Staff Sgt. Megan Leuck and Spc. Arianna Schmitz, a broadcast journalist assigned to the 32nd Brigade, comprised Team Lithuania and supported 3rd Squadron's L Troop. The duo embedded with U.S. and Lithuanian infantrymen during a joint assault training exercise.
"This was the most realistic training I have ever covered," said Leuck, a veteran MPAD print journalist who deployed with the unit to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2008. "It definitely challenged me in getting action photos, but I had a good experience covering this exercise."
For Schmitz, the trip was her first significant experience performing her duties as a broadcast journalist.
"The high intensity and the abrupt, unexpected firing from both sides really increased the adrenaline and the feeling of being in a real enemy combat zone," she said.
The trio of 1st Lt. Paul Nadolski, Sgt. Kimberly Mianecki and Sgt. Marena Erickson traveled to Estonia. There they covered 3rd Squadron's I Troop and had the unique opportunity to participate in Estonia's independence day celebration.
"The event was an excellent opportunity to see NATO at work," said Erickson, the team's broadcast journalist, who noted that it was encouraging to see NATO countries standing side-by-side in solidarity.
Nadolski, the group's team leader, said the mission went well with some of their products hosted on the military's Digital and Video Information Distribution System and featured in the Washington Post.
"The most important thing, though, is that we told the story of what I Troop is doing here, and how they are supporting our NATO allies," he added.
"We are really appreciative of you being here and telling our story," L Troop's Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Kabat said about the importance of public affairs to Operation Atlantic Resolve. "It's great that our friends and family are able to see what we do."
Col. John Meyer, commander of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, said that public affairs plays a significant role in Operation Atlantic Resolve.
"You're the ones that are helping us send the strategic message on the operational importance of the tactical operations that we are conducting here every single day," he said of the public affairs mission.
The message that the 112th MPAD and other public affairs assets are able to deliver during Operation Atlantic Resolve to the allied countries is that the U.S. is a credible partner in the alliance, Meyer said.
"I think it's also sending a message to any potential adversaries that the U.S. Army and NATO are here and we are here to stay," he added. "We could not get that message out without public affairs."