By Ashley Curd, senior at Grand Valley State University On Wednesday, March 20th, aimWest joined with WMPRSA to host Lt. Matthew Allen, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Navy. Lt. Allen has been in the Navy for the past 17 years, during his service he has spent time in the Middle East, received his APR accreditation and is currently working at the Navy news desk in Washington D.C.
Lt. Allen provided an overview of the Navy’s duties and all they do for not only the U.S., but also the rest of the world. He also discussed Navy crisis communication and provided examples of how they have used their PR efforts to manage four difficult situations within the last year.
The first crisis Lt. Allen spoke about was when the USS Guardian landed on a protected reef located off the coast of the Philippines in January. The electronic maps that were provided to the Navy showed the reef located 7 miles from where it actually was, causing the ship to ground the reef. The Navy’s communication efforts about the event were delayed and led to a misunderstanding of the situation among the Philippine citizens causing them to protest outside the U.S. Embassy. Ultimately, the Navy made the decision to dismantle the ship in the hopes that they could minimize the damage to the reef by doing so.
The next crisis discussed was when a F-18 jet belonging to the Navy had both of it’s engines fail and it crashed into an apartment complex in Virginia Beach. Thankfully, none of the residents of the complex were injured and the pilots were able to eject themselves from the aircraft and survived as well. After the crash the Navy focused on putting the community first, which ultimately allowed them to maintain their relationship with the local population.
The third crisis discussed was the shooting at the Aurora, Colorado movie theatre during the screening of the Batman movie this past summer. When speaking to the media about the tragic event, it was the goal of the Navy to take the focus off the killer and bring it back to the victims, including one of the Navy’s own, Petty Officer John Larimer, who died trying to protect his date.
The final topic discussed was Sequestration and the role it has played in the Navy’s budget cuts, which led to the delayed deployment of the U.S.S. Harry S. Truman. Both crew members of the Truman as well as their families have been affected and according to Lt. Allen, the Navy is currently in internal communication crisis mode.
Overall, Lt. Allen said that his role as a Public Affairs Officer is to be a bridge to get both the brand and sacrifice of the Navy’s sailors into public knowledge.