On October 8th, 2013 the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs Students’ Association was pleased to welcome Lt. Colonel Jay Janzen, Chief of Media Relations at the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Powers in Europe (SHAPE), as a guest speaker. Janzen gave an enlightening presentation about the role of NATO forces deploying Patriot missile defence systems along the Turkish-Syrian border and the unique challenges that this mission presents.
After his presentation, he opened the floor and allowed attendees to ask questions about any ongoing NATO mission. He addressed questions regarding a variety of NATO activities including the anti-piracy task force off the coast of Somalia and the ongoing mission in Afghanistan.
One member of the audience, challenged the Lt. Colonel to distinguish between communications and propaganda. Janzen summed up his response with one word, veritas, which is Latin for truth and the motto of the Canadian Forces Public Affairs Branch. Janzen commented that a commitment to truth is essential when seeking to maintain credibility with any audience, from the Middle East to Canada.
Following the question and answer session, I had the opportunity to sit down with the Lt. Colonel and we spoke briefly about a couple of items that I felt would be of particular interest to students at NPSIA.
One of the topics we discussed was the evolving role of NATO following the Cold War and the winding down of the Afghanistan mission. Of course, as Janzen said, NATO is committed to staying relevant. However, Janzen spoke frankly of the transformation of the military alliance to being primarily focused on crisis response, as is the case with this mission in Turkey. Janzen noted that conflict is not disappearing and highlighted some of the ways that it has evolved. He pointed to cyber warfare and terrorism as reasons for the member states of NATO to continue to pool their resources. Janzen also noted that given recent financial austerity measures put into place by national governments, NATO presents a way for member states to spend strategically on certain assets and allow allied nations to develop complementary rather than redundant capabilities.
When asked to offer sage advice for those considering or already part of the Canadian military he stressed the importance of education and the value placed upon personal development in this regard by the Canadian Forces. He also encouraged those interested to consider a place within the Public Affairs Branch. Janzen remarked that the job is never boring and always moving to from one crisis to the next. He also noted that Public Affairs Officers often enjoy greater access to key decision makers and high-ranking personnel that is unheard of in normal circumstances.
For those that were unable to attend a recording of the presentation is available via Youtube below.