Public Affairs Situation
1. Situation. You are the Commander of 1-4 Support Battalion. Your unit is conducting a disaster relief operation in Azerbaijan in the aftermath of a lengthy drought. Your general missions are water purification, transportation, and delivery of food and medical supplies to NGOs for distribution to the populace. Yesterday, at 1345, a group of locals rioted in your unit's area and attempted to loot the food storage area in your perimeter. They injured three of your Soldiers as they tried to stop the incident. Those three Soldiers, feeling themselves threatened, began firing into the crowd, possibly injuring some of the locals. It is now 0530. In 60 minutes, you will conduct a live press conference with several major network news agencies.
2. Additional Information. You have been in country for 35 days and there have been no other incidents like this. Your mission specifically is to store and secure food supplies and deliver them to NGO/PVO sites where the food is actually given out. You do not give food directly to the populace.
Your ROE with regard to this situation is that coalition Soldiers have the responsibility to use deadly force if they are in jeopardy of losing life or limb, or if that threat applies to another coalition Soldier.
You have found, after an ammunition inventory, that 22 rounds were fired from three weapons.
The crowd was armed with sticks, clubs, and possibly knifes. The entire crowd disappeared and all of the dead or wounded (assuming there were some) were either dragged away or walked away on their own.
This was a squad-sized patrol area. Three Soldiers suffered injuries from the locals. Those three Soldiers fired their weapons. None of the other Soldiers were involved.
Your entire unit underwent training to react to situations such as this before deployment. This included STX lanes and other such training exercises during their 3-week Mission Rehearsal Exercise (MRE) at Fort Polk, Louisiana.
The three Soldiers involved have been removed from duties where they could be in direct contact with the Azerbaijanians until a complete investigation has taken place.
You, the commander, have directed your XO to conduct an investigation.
Three Soldiers were involved: Specialists Johnson and Holmes, and Private First Class Jones. SSG Wilson is the section leader in charge of the 12-person guard detail.
Specialist Johnson Statement: "Sir, all I know is they came over the wire and started beating the crap out of Jones. I thought they were going to kill him, so I opened up. One of them hit me with a club right before they ran away. We tried to tell them to back away before we shot, but they were just going wild. I shot a couple of rounds and then SSG Wilson ran over yelling 'cease fire'. ... I was scared to death and I know Jones and Holmes were scared too. Holmes got hit pretty bad in the stomach with a club."
SSG Wilson Statement: "The people had been gathering by the wire all day in small numbers. I was keeping an eye on them, but I was moving with the other guards as well. At about 1330 or so, there was like a hundred of them, like they came from out of nowhere. The three guards there were telling them to get back and I was in the process of activating the reaction force. I looked back over there a few minutes later and they had come over the wire and were beating all three of them. Before I got there, the Soldiers started shooting and then I saw the people leave pretty quickly. I yelled, "Cease fire!" as I was running up to them. By the time I got there, none of the Azerbaijanians were there."
From the Coalition Task Force Commander Statement: "We've all been expecting this ... I think we have a situation where the needs of the people are greater than what we expected. The food and water is just not going out quickly enough. I think our method and pace of delivering supplies to the NGOs is fine...it's the NGOs/PVOs that need to improve their rate of distribution. This is bad, but it will get worse if we don't fix the problem and let people know what we're trying to do. I want you to explain this to the media. People need to know that we're doing what we can, but they also need to know that we are also going to protect our Soldiers, no matter what. I know your guys probably did the right thing, and let's hope for now that no one was killed or seriously injured. But if they were, we'll just have to suck it up and keep on with what we're doing. This isn't going to change our mission."
3. Discussion Questions/Requirement.
a. What additional information do you need to know?
b. What are/should be YOUR command messages?
c. Develop a 30-second sound bite synopsis for release to the media at the beginning of your upcoming press conference.
d. Develop 10 anticipated questions and their answers to ensure you are prepared to address the media.
As you answer this query, tplease ry to strike a fine balance with concern for your men and restoration of international relations. Here are some samples to assist you:
Media interview ideas are discussed. The expert determines how to prepare for a media interview.