“When people need us, when things are critical, we make sure we’re ready to step up and communicate.” - Chief Petty Officer David Schuhlein, United States Coast Guard
Whether it be supporting the public following a devastating hurricane, daring drug interdiction operations off our shores, or search and rescue efforts on the high seas, it’s important to understand that behind the scenes there are teams of professional communicators working diligently to transmit this information to the public.
We recently had the opportunity to sit down with the Assistant Public Affairs Officer for the First Coast Guard District, Chief Petty Officer David Schuhlein, to discuss his military career and gain a better understanding of how he and his team handle public affairs.
On this Veterans Day, we wish to recognize Chief Schuhlein’s service to our country and salute all those who have served and continue to do so.
My name is Chief David Schuhlein and I am the Assistant Public Affairs Officer for the First Coast Guard District.
What made me want to serve originally was my oldest brother. He served in the Marine Corps in the late 80's and early 90's. It was inspiring. I think it planted a seed about service and me.
I decided to join the Coast Guard in 2005 and I’ve been with the Coast Guard for 14 years.
Clear communication is vitally important to what we do. And I like to really coach my team and let them know that we have to practice how we play.
We have a lot of small things that happen that get a very localized or low amount of media attention. I tell them that every single one of those situations and cases, we have to practice like it’s the big one because eventually, you will get that big case and if you already have the muscle memory and the practice of working every single case like it’s the most important one, then you’re ready to go when the big ones happen.
One of the differences of mainstream public relations versus what we call in the military, public affairs, is we focus primarily on public information. The big thing is getting the W’s right- the who, what, where, when.
When people need us, when things are critical, we make sure we’re ready to step up and communicate those things to them.
As people who work for the American public, they have a right to know all the things that we’re involved in because they’re the ones who trust us to take care of those operations. You don’t want to forget that these are people’s family members and loved ones. You learn to manage the critical information needs as well as your own feelings and emotions about what you’re dealing with.
I think just being sensitive and being clear is my biggest lesson learned.
I absolutely love my job. It has given me more opportunity and space to grow and learn not just as a communicator or as someone who works in PR, but as a human being. My experiences have just enriched me in a way that I couldn’t have imagined 15 years ago.