by Lauren Davidson
The public perception of the military can be fickle, but as the Public Affairs Officer (PAO) for the 3rd Infantry Division, Lt. Col. Brian Fickel ’98 works to combat misperceptions and share news stories, photos, video and social media posts that let the community in.
“I think the biggest challenge public affairs officers face in our current operating environment is the need to inform the public while maintaining operational security,” explains Fickel, who also served as a spokesman for U.S. Central Command. “Much of our work today in places like Iraq and Syria and other countries does not allow for embedding media with our military personnel, which creates tension between the military and the media. It’s a PAO’s job to ease that tension as much as possible.”
It’s not a job he initially signed on for—he was drawn to the excitement and superhero essence of the military from a young age, and had gotten to live out many of those expectations, like jumping out of airplanes, shooting an automatic grenade launcher and traveling the world, even in a V-22 Osprey. But his first job was as the speechwriter for a three-star general, and his abilities and interests in the area grew.
“Hands down, the most memorable speech I wrote was a naturalization ceremony speech for soldiers who were serving in Iraq and about to become citizens,” he recalls. “I don’t think many people realize how many soldiers we actually have serving in the military who are not citizens. It is hard to describe the feeling of seeing several hundred soldiers receive their citizenship in one of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces in Baghdad.”
Through the time he’s spent in Iraq and other war-torn places, Fickel has seen the positive impact the military presence can have. “The Army works very hard to engage with communities throughout the country to bridge the gap,” he says. “We should continue to search for opportunities to interact, share and learn from each other.”
And he believes Dickinson is equipped to continue to build those bridges.
“Dickinson is doing a tremendous job connecting with the military—both on campus and off. Much like our soldiers who serve something larger than themselves, Dickinson creates alumni who are serving all over the world to improve the condition of others and to make a difference.”
Published March 30, 2017