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DINFOS Mobile Training Program Getting our Lessons on the Road

By Maj. Jennifer Bocanegra, deputy director of training, Defense Information School

Grab your iPads and your passports — we are taking the Defense Information School on the road! We're not just staying within the bubble of the Washington, D.C., area or even around the U.S. — we are headed across the ocean to countries you may need to Google.

U.S. Army Maj. Jennifer Bocanegra is the Defense Information School deputy director of training.

DINFOS training is in high demand

We work tirelessly year-round to train more than 2,500 students in our 32 resident and distance learning courses. However, the opportunity exists to deliver the lessons, presentation skills and coaching techniques globally to further the U.S. government’s national and strategic-level priorities. We are in a position to help shape and standardize the public communication practices of our international teammates with whom we may work alongside in the future.

To help meet the high demand for exportable training, our Course Development Office and Directorate of Training are working two initiatives:

  1. Stand up a mobile training team
  2. Build a digital toolbox
Shane Keller, a DINFOS instructor, discusses still photography techniques with staff officers from the Ukrainian armed forces at the Ukraine National Defense University, Kiev, Ukraine, May 18, 2018. (U.S. Army photo by Maj. Jennifer Bocanegra, deputy director of training, DINFOS)

The Directorate of Training receives requests for on-location training and exportable training packages two-to-three times a month. Many requests come from U.S. government agencies, security cooperation officers, combatant commands, theater commands and our partner nations looking for the DINFOS brand of training to help build and improve their public affairs programs.

Broadening and showcasing the skills of our instructors

Showcasing the skills of our talented instructors is appealing because it helps grow the DINFOS brand while expanding and refreshing our training toolbox.

U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Alex Lim presents a lesson on Crisis Communication during a public affairs exchange in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo, July 12, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Maj. Jennifer Bocanegra, deputy director of training, DINFOS)

Every time we send our instructors to train with outside organizations, they reconnect with real-world communication challenges and update their lesson plans with current and relevant tactics, techniques and procedures. Other benefits include networking, interacting with different cultures and swapping war stories with fellow practitioners.

Military officers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo listen to DINFOS instructors and U.S. African Command Public Affairs staff share lessons learned during a mobile training team mission in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo, July 11, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Maj. Jennifer Bocanegra, deputy director of training, DINFOS)

I have been on mobile training teams where we taught a group from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to respond to negative news coverage of U.N. efforts in Central Africa, and another to Eastern Ukraine, where we conducted battle drills to show the importance of bringing communications capabilities together to counter an adversary’s negative information campaign. From personal experience, interacting with fellow communicators on the front lines — many with limited training and resources — helped open my eyes to the world outside of DINFOS.

Shane Keller, a DINFOS instructor, speaks with officers from the Ukrainian armed forces about his experience capturing imagery while supporting military operations, Kiev, Ukraine, May 14, 2018. (U.S. Army photo by Maj. Jennifer Bocanegra, deputy director of training, DINFOS)

Status of the Mobile Training Team program

Right now, the DINFOS Mobile Training Team program is in the planning stages. We have the program outlined and aim to be fully operational by spring 2019. The program is proposed to fall under the International Military Student Office, where Mr. Rivers Johnson will oversee its planning and execution.

Ukrainian information officers develop a response to a crisis situation during a practical exercise during the U.S. European Command Information Operations Seminar in Kiev, Ukraine, May 18, 2018. (U.S. Department of Defense photo by Shane Keller, instructor, DINFOS)

To date, we completed a proof-of-concept mission by deploying a three-person instructor team for seven days to support a public affairs training seminar hosted by U.S. African Command (AFRICOM). Over the past five months, DINFOS has worked with the U.S. European Command and the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense to pave the way for future public affairs and visual communications training, enhancing the skills of their senior staff officers and military technicians.

Lt. Cmdr. Christine Brown, U.S. Africa Command communication planner, Maj. Stephen Short, U.S. Army Public Affairs Center, and Mustapha Kjaouj, U.S. Africa Command language specialist and cultural advisor, discuss ways to integrate public affairs support into peacekeeping operations with a group of Republic of the Congo military members during a public affairs exchange July 10, 2017, Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Jason Welch, public affairs planner, U.S. Army Africa)
A Ukrainian information operations officer briefs his team's plan to respond to a crisis situation leveraging all of the information-related capabilities during the EUCOM-led Information Operations Seminar in Kiev, Ukraine, May 18, 2018. (U.S. Department of Defense photo by Shane Keller, instructor, DINFOS)

Right now, we are taking small steps to get the program up and running. We are expanding our outreach efforts and coordinating opportunities to send instructors on mobile missions where they can share their knowledge, skills and experience.

Soon, our organization will not only offer practical, innovative and creative training through resident and distance learning courses. We will also have the ability to export useful, quality training packages that will serve as a resource for our partners in government agencies, combatant commands and foreign nations.

A Ukrainian information operations officer works through the Military Decision Making Process to develop a response to a crisis situation leveraging all of the information-related capabilities during the EUCOM-led Information Operations Seminar in Kiev, Ukraine, May 18, 2018. (U.S. Department of Defense photo by Shane Keller, instructor, DINFOS)

In the meantime, we will continue to invest the imagination and inspiration of our instructors each day while training our future communicators.

A special thanks to U.S. Army Lt. Col. Travis Dettmer who poured his energy into researching and drafting a concept for a DINFOS MTT program. I also want to recognize DINFOS faculty members U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Alex Lim, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Steve Short and Shane Keller for serving as pioneers and investing in the Mobile Training Team concept while successfully executing overseas training missions and capturing lessons learned to share across the organization.

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