Andy Rooney Recognizes Top Military Communicators
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md., May 16, 2008 Award-winning columnist and commentator Andy Rooney feted top Defense Department communicators here today, musing about his own days as a reporter for Stars and Stripes and the challenges and rewards of telling the story of a military at war.
Rooney, who got his journalist start covering World War II operations in Europe, was the keynote speaker at the 2008 Department of Defense Communicators of Excellence Awards Ceremony, held here at the Defense Information School, known as DINFOS.
The annual competition recognizes the best military journalists, broadcasters, photographers, graphic artists and videographers, all trained at DINFOS.
Navy Capt. Curry Graham, DINFOS commandant, called winners in the highly competitive competition “truly the best of the best in their field.”
“Through their lenses and with their pens, their work helped communicate to the world the true sacrifice and commitment of the men and women in the U.S. military,” he said.
Rooney remembered his own days as a war correspondent, working alongside other journalistic greats including Walter Cronkite, Ernie Pyle and Lindsey Nelson.
The experience, he said, exposed him to unspeakable horrors, but also to unexpected positives: deep bonds developed among comrades, a home-front industry that rallied to support its warfighters, and a unified country that stood behind its military. “I’m puzzled how anything as bad as war can be so good in so many different ways,” he said.
“If war brings out the worst in people, it also brings out the very best,” Rooney continued. “In a war, we do more. We accomplish more. Most of our lives are lived at half speed. But in war, we fulfill our potential for accomplishment. Man explores depths of his strength and his emotions that he didn’t know were down there. He lives at full speed in war.”
Rooney shared Graham’s assertion that “truth, trust and credibility matter most in what we do as communicators.”
The way to tell the story of the military, Rooney said, is to tell it all -- the good and bad alike. He said he’s learned “a great fact of life” through experience: “If all the truth were known about everything by everyone, it would be a better world for all of us.”
Robert M. Hastings, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs and a former DINFOS instructor, thanked Rooney for his example of excellence and for taking time to recognize “the best communicators of the next greatest generation.”
Hastings said he’s always been impressed by the talent and motivation of military communicators who tell the stories of America’s armed forces. He called their work critical to democracy.
“A democracy is sustained, it is fed, it is nurtured, and it is checked by a free press,” Hastings said. “And that free press cannot operate in a democracy without a government public affairs (operation) that is equally committed to the principles of information that we today publish and call our Department of Defense Principles of Information.”
Top individual awards in this year’s competition went to:
-- Military graphic artist of the year: Air Force Master Sgt. W. Cody Vance, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas;
-- Military photographer of the year: Air Force Staff Sgt. Stacy L. Pearsall, 1st Combat Camera Squadron, Charleston Air Force Base, S.C.;
-- Military videographer of the year: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Summer M. Anderson, Combat Camera Group Pacific, San Diego;
-- Broadcast journalist of the year: Air Force Staff Sgt. Nicholas Kurtz, Detachment 10, American Forces Network, Tokyo;
-- Print journalist of the year: Marine Sgt. Ethan E. Rocke, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, Okinawa, Japan
More details about award winners and their entries are posted on the DINFOS Web site’s Visual Information Awards program page.