The 19th Public Affairs Detachment works to create transparency between Army, public

Captain Edward Alvarado serves as Commander of the 19th Public Affairs Detachment for the First Infantry Division stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas. (Hallie Lucas | The Collegian)

For members of The 19th Public Affairs Detachment, soldiers in the 1st Infantry Division make the best focal points for photos and the most gripping story subjects.

The 19th PAD is a unit made up of seven soldiers who handle public affairs communications.

“Our soldiers are the people that tell the story of the Army, tell the story of the 1st Infantry Division, through articles, photography, video,” Capt. Edward Alvarado, the commander of the 19th PAD, said. “We highlight what our soldiers do.”

Alvarado entered the field of public affairs with a background in photography, snapping photos in his days as a platoon leader during training events for the purpose of highlighting the group’s success for those higher in command.

Through the 19th PAD, Alvarado said he and his fellows are able to share the accomplishments of soldiers in the 1st Infantry Division with a broader audience.

“This is an opportunity to do that at a bigger stage for all the veterans and the people that are currently serving the 1st Infantry Division,” Alvarado said. “The audience is greater and we still get to provide good content so everybody can be proud of what the soldiers are doing.”

According to Staff Sgt. Jerry Griffis, 19th PAD non-commissioned officer in charge, members of the unit also work to exhibit and highlight the Army’s partnerships with other organizations from the community, such as Kansas State, by covering partnership events. This is a large part of the unit’s role in communicating public affairs, Griffis said.

“For instance, the K-State Military Appreciation Day, we’ll be all over that, as far as showing that partnership and showing why that partnership is beneficial to both the local community and the Army,” Griffis said.

Members of this unit are not necessarily public relations writers or regular news journalists, Griffis said.

“We work kind of the same way that journalists do, as far as journalistic integrity, making sure facts are straight and things like that,” Griffis said.

However, according to Sgt. Dana Moen, 19th PAD print journalist, a lot of the content produced by the detache soldiers, such as photos and videos, ends up in “The 1st Infantry Division Post.”

The 19th PAD even covers partnership events that happen overseas, Moen said.

“When I was deployed last year, we would cover the training events and events with the regional partners that we were working with over there,” Moen said. “It’s good to let people know what we’re doing because it seems like a lot of that [what happens overseas] doesn’t go anywhere — and there are reasons for that — but there’s a lot that goes on that’s pretty much just training, but it’s still interesting because it’s with people from other countries, other militaries and there are a lot of good stories about those interactions that we get the chance to tell.”

Being a part of the 19th PAD allows the soldiers to experience things differently than civilian journalists, or even differently than other soldiers do, Griffis said.

“The best part of this job is traveling around, even though some of that is being deployed, but going to these different places that maybe you wouldn’t get an opportunity to go to otherwise is cool,” Griffis said. “A lot of journalists in the civilian world have to fight to go to places like Afghanistan and Iraq, but I get to go for free.”

Alvarado and Moen recalled a time when Arnold Schwarzenegger visited Kuwait while filming a renewable energy sources documentary for National Geographic. Moen said he had the opportunity to photograph Schwarzenegger for the 19th PAD.

“Just being able to see him and how he interacted with the soldiers was pretty cool,” Alvarado said. “I probably never would’ve gotten to see that had I not been in public affairs; it’s unpredictable. Not every day is the same and when people see that you’re providing good products for them, they tend to ask for you more. It can be just simple video or photos, but people see value in what we do, so when you do it right, that’s rewarding in itself.”

According to Alvarado, the work of soldiers in the 19th PAD is important not only to the Army, but also to other members of the community.

“There’s a sense of transparency,” Alvarado said. “The American public deserves the right to know what we are doing and that’s basically what we’re here for.”

Hey there! I'm Danielle Cook. I'm currently a freshman in journalism and mass communications. I live for telling true stories, so I hope to be doing it for the rest of my life. Luckily, I also live for late nights and early mornings – as long as there's coffee and I'm in good company.