Exercise VERITAS THUNDER prepares Public Affairs Officers for duty

A Public Affairs Officer (far left) is interviewed by simulated media at a mock aircraft crash scene at Connaught Ranges and Primary Training Centre in Ottawa on June 19 during Exercise VERITAS THUNDER 18. Photo: Acting Sub-Lieutenant Pamela Bussiere, DPALC

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Aspiring Public Affairs Officers (PAOs) put their newly acquired skills to the test during Exercise VERITAS THUNDER 18, a four-day final training exercise held at Connaught Ranges and Primary Training Centre in Ottawa from June 16-19.

The exercise simulated the deployment of PAOs in support of Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) operations. It served as the final evaluation phase for the intensive three-month Basic Public Affairs Officer Course (BPAOC) 18 at the Defence Public Affairs Learning Centre (DPALC) in Gatineau, Québec. It consolidated months of Public Affairs (PA) training provided to 22 candidates, both Regular and Reserve Forces, who were assessed on their ability to perform military PA duties in the CAF.

“The exercise scenario was a CAF expeditionary deployment in support of a United Nations resolution to bring peace, security and stability to the fictitious continent of South Amber,” said Major Sandra Lévesque, Chief Instructor at DPALC. “Over the past two months, the candidates followed the evolution of exercise-specific news articles, intelligence reports, and internal information updates that shaped the operational environment prior to their actual deployment.”

The candidates were divided into four Public Affairs Detachments (PADs) who worked as a team to resolve PA challenges as part of a joint task force headquarters. Each PAD needed to respond to various operational scenarios while providing PA support to simulated embedded media, higher headquarters (i.e. Canadian Joint Operations Command) and tactical-level operational commanders as required.

The PADs carried out media interviews, scrums, briefings and various other PA initiatives in response to simulated protest demonstrations, Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC) patrols, use of force incidents and mock emergencies. They also produced various PA products ranging from news releases to high-resolution still and video imagery as well as various social media content.

“We are pleased with the performance of our newest PAOs and we think that they will be outstanding additions to the military PA function,” said Commander H. Diane Grover, Head of DPALC. “They worked hard and successfully applied what they have learned during their training to provide exemplary PA support under very demanding conditions. Bravo Zulu!”

“Assistant Deputy Minister (PA), Chris Henderson, Director General PA, Joe De Mora and myself were very much impressed with what we saw during a brief visit to the exercise,” said Colonel Luc Gaudet, PA Branch Advisor. “The BPAOC plays a crucial role in the continuing transformation of the PA function through the delivery of a modernized, condensed, and re-focused PA training program. This revamped training curriculum, in concert with other ongoing and future initiatives, will enable military PAOs to be more responsive to the needs of the CAF and allow us to adapt and thrive in a rapidly-evolving complex information environment.”

Image gallery

  • Exercise VERITAS THUNDER 18
  • Captain Karina Smith, Mr. Chris Henderson, Assistant Deputy Minister (Public Affairs), Colonel Luc Gaudet and Mr. Joe De Mora, Director General Public Affairs
  • Exercise VERITAS THUNDER 18 participants
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