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UPAR course teaches how to tell the story

Capt. Mike Petersen, Connecticut National Guard State Public Affairs Officer, teaches unit public affairs representative trainees how to interact with the civilian media during the 2016 UPAR training course at the Regional Training Institute, Camp Niantic, Jan 30-31. UPARs were also instructed on basic writing skills, unit social media conduct, developing  story ideas and taking photos. (Photo by Allison L. Joanis, State Public Affairs Office)

Capt. Mike Petersen, Connecticut National Guard State Public Affairs Officer, teaches unit public affairs representative trainees how to interact with the civilian media during the 2016 UPAR training course at the Regional Training Institute, Camp Niantic, Jan 30-31. UPARs were also instructed on basic writing skills, unit social media conduct, developing story ideas and taking photos. (Photo by Allison L. Joanis, State Public Affairs Office)

Sgt. Marc Paquette, Connecticut Training Center, Pfc. Pranav Razdan, A Co. 1-102nd Infantry Regiment and Senior Airman Amy Dziewaltowski, 103rd Logistics Readiness Squadron, attend the 2016 Unit Public Affairs Representative Training at the Regional Training Institute, Camp Niantic, Jan. 30-31. Guardsmen from more than 20 units of the Connecticut Army and Air National Guard and State Militia attended the course to learn how to assist the 103rd Airlift Wing and State Public Affairs offices in telling the Connecticut National Guard story. (Photo by Allison L. Joanis, State Public Affairs Office)

Sgt. Marc Paquette, Connecticut Training Center, Pfc. Pranav Razdan, A Co. 1-102nd Infantry Regiment and Senior Airman Amy Dziewaltowski, 103rd Logistics Readiness Squadron, attend the 2016 Unit Public Affairs Representative Training at the Regional Training Institute, Camp Niantic, Jan. 30-31. Guardsmen from more than 20 units of the Connecticut Army and Air National Guard and State Militia attended the course to learn how to assist the 103rd Airlift Wing and State Public Affairs offices in telling the Connecticut National Guard story. (Photo by Allison L. Joanis, State Public Affairs Office)

CAMP NIANTIC, Niantic, Conn. -- Although the Connecticut National Guard has a full-time staff dedicated to public affairs, it is not nearly enough to provide coverage of all the outstanding achievements and events happening every month.

Once a year, the Public Affairs staff members teach a two-day course to train Unit Public Affairs Representatives--Guardsmen and members of the state militia that can serve as their unit's "eyes and ears".

The 2016 course graduated 25 students from 23 different units who are now armed with a better idea of how they can better tell the story of their unit through the Connecticut National Guard's multiple media platforms.

"I would have to say (the biggest takeaway from the class) is the effect you can have on your organization by telling the story of the people and events," said 1st Lt. Andrew Bartlett, Executive Officer of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-102nd Infantry Battalion and 2016 UPAR graduate. "You can show off all the awesome stuff your unit is doing that is otherwise not shared with others in the organization."

UPARs have made their presence felt in just the last 18 months alone. Photo coverage of the 192nd Engineer Battalion preparing for potential State Active Duty in response to Winter Storm Juno made the rounds on local civilian media, all thanks to the situational awareness of Sgt. Sylvia Papageorge. Papageorge's photo of Soldiers performing preventive maintenance checks and services on a military vehicle in January 2015 was picked up by WTIC 1080 and other local affiliates during coverage of the storm response.

Blocks of instruction in the UPAR course included sections on public affairs policy, social media usage and photography tips. The class culminated with a practical exercise that required students to consider how civilian media might impact their training during potential real-world scenarios like ice storms and an open house.

"I think it is vital for units to provide their own coverage, as they are the subject matter experts in their own environment," said Bartlett. "They typically have the pulse of the unit and know of the exciting things that are going on. They also greatly support the unit's history, as to be better able to tell our story to future generations."