Air Force Senior Airman Joseph Morales is a military communicator who's also studying communications in college. When he had the opportunity to join an overseas civilian seminar to learn more about how to effectively do his job, he jumped at the chance.
Morales, 27, of Fremont, California, has been a mass communications specialist in the Air Force for three years and works in public affairs at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. He's also working toward his master's degree in communications at Rutgers University, which invited him to the two-week seminar at the United Kingdom's Wroxton College, a campus of Fairleigh Dickenson University. The August course aimed to teach its attendees more about their field from an international perspective. Morales received permission to go from his unit commander through a military leave program.
"I had to jump a couple of hoops … but we found that [service] members are able to attend meetings specific to or sponsored by non-federal technical scientific societies or organizations that enhance their value to the Air Force," Morales said. "Thankfully, with my degree and the class itself, it met those requirements."
Morales joined the Air Force after getting his bachelor's degree in hopes that it would make him a better leader. He said one seminar topic — how to be a better leader within a diverse team — taught him the importance of understanding the goals of his peers.
"It gave me opportunities to better connect with my supervisors and the other airmen in my shop by understanding their goals and identifying the shared purpose," Morales said. "That was one of the points that they emphasized in the class — what is the shared purpose of the unit, and how will that help connect the employees?"
Morales said the seminar heightened his sense of critical thinking. For example, he said the messaging in a video his team is currently creating has been done several times over the years; now, they're working on how to better deliver that message.
"How do we adapt our communications? What do you think would be a digestible format for this project?" he questioned. "It just allows for more open discussions with problem solving."
Morales was the only military attendee at the seminar, which offered him a lot of new perspectives. He said he thinks all military communicators could benefit and improve from learning how other countries put out their messaging.
"I think it's important, as mass communicators — especially now, with times of contention and possible near-peer threats — to understand what context we're sending out messaging and what our rivals and allied countries are putting out. How are they communicating their message?" Morales said.
Overall, Morales said the interactions with his classmates, immersing himself in the culture and travelling to various parts of England were the best parts of his experience abroad.
"We were able to interact with a lot of locals and learn about how they see the world and how they interact with other people — what are they curious about, and what are their customs and courtesies?" Morales said. "It was fun expanding my worldview on that and learning from other people from a different country."
He said he knows there are a lot of non-military opportunities available for other service members to take advantage of — they just have to reach out and find them.
"I recommend other service members seek out those experiences. I personally believe that education is very important for one's development, especially as a leader," he said. "If an individual believes something is beneficial to them and their unit and at large, why not go for it?"