MS. REBECCA SHEIR
So in the World Peace game students play at being things like military commanders, but at the place we'll visit next, up in suburban Maryland, you'll find grownups for whom the military is a way of life. Emily Kopp visited Fort Meade to find out how it's become a training ground for military members from other countries around the world.
MS. EMILY KOPP
The Defense Information School sits on the campus at Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County, surrounded by barbed wire and layers of security. The military has trained its public affairs officers here for years. Now, it's training other military spokespeople, too. Col. Jeremy Martin is the commandant.
COL. JEREMY MARTIN
Well, we would be what you would call a combat-multiplier. To be able to communicate with a certain audience, in whatever region of the world we may be operating in, to tell them our intent, why we are there.
This is the third time the school has had an international class. There are just four students in a trailer classroom, surrounded by books like "Twitter Power 2.0" and "The Zen of Social Marketing." Turkish Lt. Col. Ilker Temiz says his communications team back home could be more effective.
LT. COL. ILKER TEMIZ
When we make an explanation to the public, we only say the normal facts, what the situation is, but we generally forget our message that we, for example, we are here to support you. We are here to help you.
On this day Temiz and his classmates are discussing how to get the public to trust the military. One way, which can be controversial, joining up with non-governmental groups already working in the region.
MR. STEFO LEHMANN
And messaging, you talk about messaging, remember, these civilian organizations and NGOs have been in the country for years before--often times--before the military sets foot.
This is new to some of the students, but 1st Lt. Maria Arama, has been doing public affairs for years. She edits videos for the Moldovan Ministry of Defense.
She says the culture makes it harder to connect with the people.
1ST LT. MARIA ARAMA
We are currently trying to be more free in our speech. We have this right. We have this freedom, but we can't because of our mentality.
She attributes that to Moldova's Soviet past. Instructor Stefo Lehmann often sees students in Arama's position. They come from democracies that say they practice free speech.
Many students are surprised at how we approach the media. They oftentimes come here with the perception that, okay, this is a propaganda school, you know. Or no, there's no way we're gonna provide them all the information that we do. We say, that even if the information is embarrassing to our commander or your command you still have a legal obligation to provide that information. So they're surprised how open we are.
When the students aren't in class they're writing mock press releases or doing mock interviews. They also go to the Pentagon to see how spokesman George Little fields questions from reporters.
Halfway into the course, Filipino Army Captain Jeffrex Molina says he's already changing his opinion of journalists.
CAPT. JEFFREX MOLINA
We always see the media in our country before as a threat to our organization, but now, the way media is introduced during our class, during our visit to Washington, to the press people, media is a good partner of the military.
The Pentagon wants students to leave here happy about the United States in general. Bonds built here could translate into better working relations with the American military in the field. These students say they like Washington, but there's one thing about it that Ilker Temiz says he won't miss.
People here are very kind, but I think all the families have two or three cars. That's why the roads are very crowded. A big problem is transportation.
That's a lesson no one needs to be taught in a classroom. I'm Emily Kopp.
Want to get a glimpse of that class at the Defense Information School? You can see photos on our website, metroconnection.org.
Time for a break, but when we get back, 30 years of highs and lows for Salvadorans in D.C.
MS. CATALINA SOL
Unfortunately, I'd have to say that many people who came here as children or as teenagers or as adults, do you not remember Washington D.C. as being a welcoming city.
That and more in just a minute on "Metro Connection," here on WAMU 88.5.
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