MED Ambassadors in Recent Events are Key to Maintaining Relationships With Local Communities

Middle East District
Published Jan. 17, 2012
Middle East District Deputy Commander Lt. Col. Russell Sears shakes hands with a veteran after his presentation in honor of Veterans Day at John Handley High School on Nov. 4. Photo by Kristin Hoelen.

WINCHESTER, Va. -- Typically, the fall season offers numerous opportunities for the Middle East District to engage with local community groups. This year was no exception.

Starting with Deputy Commander Lt. Col. Rusty Sears' keynote speech at John Handley High School's annual Veterans Day program, MED has been part of a string of local events.

On Nov. 16, two MED team members participated in a career fair at James Wood High School, with 35 other invited speakers and presenters from private industry and various local, state and federal government organizations.

Engineering Division's Richard Dipert discusses the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' five main mission areas, highlighting the diverse opportunities for engineers within the organization. Photo by Kristin Hoelen.


Engineering Division's Richard Dipert, fire protection and chemical engineer, spoke to students about what he calls "the best profession in the world." He talked about the choices that led him to this profession and discussed the outlook for students choosing to study engineering today. He answered questions on becoming an engineer, including the types of high school and college courses required.

"Math and Science are important," Dipert said, "but communications and team skills are essential for any engineer to master in order to be successful."

Information Technology Specialist Blake Burd tells students to follow their hearts and instincts to choose a career field and find success. Photo by Kristin Hoelen.


Information Management's Blake Burd, information technology specialist, told students that he was looking for opportunity and potential for advancement when he left his early dead-end work. "I found it in IT," he said. Now he has 12 years experience with the Department of Defense, as both a contractor and government employee.

"IT was and continues to be the road of the future," Burd said. "But realize this: Follow your heart. The best examples I have seen are industry leaders who followed their hearts and their instincts. You will be most successful doing what you enjoy. So do what you enjoy, something that comes natural to you, and have a great time doing it. Your success can know no bounds."

Public Affairs Officer Joan Kibler discussed her year-long deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan, with a local church group on Nov. 17.

"This group was keenly interested in the work that the Army Corps of Engineers is doing in Afghanistan," Kibler said. "The most prevalent questions were about the relationship between U.S. citizens and the Afghans with whom we work and about the Afghans' reception to U.S. and coalition assistance.

"I highlighted several of the successful projects that the South District delivered to the Afghans," she continued. "Many in this group said these are the success stories and the progress that Americans need to hear more about."

Later that evening, Deputy for Programs and Project Management Deborah Duncan spoke about the programs of the Transatlantic Division and its districts to approximately 100 members of the Design-Build Institute of America's Mid-Atlantic Region during its annual dinner and business meeting in Washington, D.C.

"DBIA members are interested in our upcoming programs overseas," Duncan said. "I provided them with lists of projects being managed by the two districts in Afghanistan and the Middle East District. They were interested in our acquisition strategies and how we use those strategies to manage risk in contingency locations.

"We try to attend contractor forums such as this to generate interest in our projects and increase competition," Duncan said. "Hosting industry days is another important outreach tool to generate this interest in design and construction for our projects. We can't deliver projects without help from industry."

The Army's policy is to support as many appropriate events as possible, without adversely affecting the mission, because the Army wants the American public to understand what the Army and its subordinate commands are doing to support the nation.

Audiences interested in but unfamiliar with MED missions, area of operations, and personnel are entitled to better understanding. Meetings and discussions in community settings are the key to that understanding. The best ambassadors for this are the MED team, being best suited for emphasizing what MED Commander Col. Jon Christensen describes as "the remarkable depths and scope of the MED mission."

According to regulations governing Army Public Affairs, there are two types of community relations programs and activities:

  • Official programs are command-initiated and especially effective in informing the public about the Army. Examples include displays, exhibits, participation in national holiday observances such as Veterans Day or Memorial Day, and hosting organized student events.
  • Unofficial programs involve direct contact with the civilian community and include team members participating in local events in a private capacity.


Normally invitations slow down during the holidays and ramp back up into the spring. There are several more events in the early planning stages where MED team members have already volunteered to support, including a guest speaking role with Shenandoah University and judging the local Frederick County Science Fair in February.

Consider serving as an ambassador for MED if asked. Nobody can talk about how your role fits into the overall mission of the organization better than you can. (For questions about community involvement or for more information, please contact the Public Affairs Office.)