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DoD Program Educates Civilian Leaders About the Military

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 30, 2003 – About 50 influential men and women sat in a Pentagon conference room Jan. 28, awaiting briefings, chatting among themselves while perusing papers tucked inside blue folders bearing the DoD seal.

These people weren't journalists on the Pentagon "beat," but business and community leaders -- and, for the first time, returning alumni -- of the secretary of defense- sponsored Joint Civilian Orientation Conference program.

Senior department leaders believe the public should know more about the military's views of itself and defense issues -- and what service members actually do.

That's where JCOC comes in, remarked Air Force Lt. Col. Felecia Tavares, program director. Started in the late 1940s when DoD was created, JCOC educates civilian business and community leaders about the military through briefings, troop visits, and other activities.

The JCOC alumni, who had come to the Pentagon from locations across America, received briefings on the war on terrorism, military transformation, Afghanistan reconstruction, and other topics.

JCOC participants are selected from nominations gathered from major offices, military commands and the service branches in DoD, the Coast Guard, and JCOC alumni. Historically, more than 400 people have been nominated every year for the annual weeklong program. Up until this year, just 60 participants were selected. This year, DoD intends to expand the program, Tavares noted.

The JCOC comes under Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Victoria Clarke, explained Brent Krueger, OSD-PA's director for community relations and public liaison. His operation coordinates public outreach for the secretary and the deputy defense secretary, he noted.

Americans' understanding of what the Defense Department is and does is especially important today as DoD fights the war on terrorism, prepares for possible war with Iraq, and simultaneously transforms itself to become a more efficient steward of taxpayers' dollars, Krueger said. Accordingly, he said, he regards JCOC as a key conduit for DoD to reach out to a non-Washington audience and explain departmental actions and policies.

At midday, after listening to briefings on the global war on terrorism and Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's oppression of his people, businessman D. Frank Pitts of Huntsville, Ala., agreed with Krueger.

"I think the events in the last couple of years have indicated that the Defense Department continuing this type of educational process for business leaders is probably more important that ever," Pitts remarked.

At the briefings' conclusion, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld arrived, thanking the JCOC alumni for their participation and updating them on the situations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

With so much information about DoD being generated, JCOC "is a great place potentially for us to be able to sort out fact from fiction," added David Cowan, a businessman from Wellington, Fla.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageJoint Civilian Orientation Conference alumni (from left) David Cowan, Patricia Du Mont and D. Frank Pitts discuss Defense Department issues Jan. 28, 2003, at the Pentagon. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageJessie J. Knight Jr., president and chief executive officer of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce (left), and Randy W. Bernard, chief executive officer of the Professional Bull Riders, from Colorado Springs, Colo., discuss DoD issues Jan. 28, 2003, while taking part in the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference at the Pentagon. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDefense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld signs his autograph onto a photo of him from an issue of Vanity Fair magazine for Florida businesswoman Patricia Du Mont Jan. 28, 2003, at the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference in the Pentagon. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.   
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