Thursday, July 23, 2015

Westward Ho! Part Two

With the one-week Phoenix experience behind us, Kevin Tunell and I headed to his home in Yuma, Arizona where we  ate some awesome Mexican food, did some laundry (and, did I ever have to do that!) and I even got the chance to dip my toes in the mighty Colorado River.

We will never get that smell out of the fish ...
With our batteries recharged, we headed out through the desert on our way to sunny San Diego, California, There, we were going to meet with the crew who was taking Advanced PIO all the way out to the west coast. While this wasn't the first time the class had been taught outside of Emmitsburg, Maryland or Anniston, Alabama - another great facility where public information officers can learn the craft, it was on the second time the revised class was being taught, and taking the show on the road is no easy task.

Course intensity from day one
Fortunately, the folks at CalEMA have their acts together, and the facilities we had were more than adequate for the training. It's a good thing, because the exercises at times pushed the students in the Advanced PIO class to their limits on several occasions. The course revision was certainly designed to expose the students to the stresses they would experience in as real of an environment as could be simulated.

A simulated press conference
While the students handled their simulated Joint Information Centers, but the folks who volunteered to get up for the news conference and face the simulated media (played by some eager members of the control team) were ready to slap us around by the end of their second performance.

What struck me in this new version of the class was just how diabolical the scenarios were. Even with curve ball after screw ball thrown in to the mix, the students were eager to learn, and managed to at certain points get ahead of the curve to think things through and anticipate what the media's needs were going to be.

Come on in, the water's fine!
That's why we almost balked when one of our students with the San Diego Lifeguard Corps offered to take us out one night for a ride on one of their fire boats. I was sure they would consider throwing the instructors overboard into the briny deep of the Pacific, but it turns out that they just wanted to show us a good time - something we really appreciated after busy days in the classroom.

After four days of this, the students were spent, but in a very good way. As with the class I attended back in February of 2006, the students had a bond that they will share with each other for years to come.

My bags packed, ready to travel
While most of the instruction team left for home from San Diego, Kevin and I drove through the night back to Phoenix to catch our flights out - mine home, Kevin's to join his family on an east-coast vacation. It was bittersweet, but I left confident that the new course material was going to provide outstanding training to PIOs around the country for years to come.

I can hardly wait to teach it again!

Tom Iovino, Public Relations Strategist
Hillsborough County, Florida

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