Accreditation in Public Relations

Reflecting on a Long Military Career and the Rewards of PRSA Accreditation

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April is Accreditation Month at PRSA. It’s a time to learn about how becoming Accredited in Public Relations can help advance your career. Look for posts on the PRsay and each month in The Pinnacle, PRSA’s monthly newsletter offering insights on Accreditation. Learn more about earning your APR by visiting

As I recently reflected on my 29-year military career, resilience emerged as one of the most important keys to my success as a U.S. Army Public Affairs Officer (PAO).

There are countless situations where it led to victory, but there are three occasions where resilience was critical to my ability to endure over the past almost three decades. These include my first experience as a student at the Defense Information School (DINFOS), commander and PAO in Afghanistan, and candidate for the Accreditation in Public Relations + Military Communication (APR+M) credential.

After completing Army basic training at Fort Sill, Okla., in the summer of 1994, I arrived at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Ind., to complete my advanced individual training as a broadcast journalist.

During this experience, I struggled academically and there were numerous times where I wanted to give up. In those days at DINFOS, broadcast students who failed to meet the standards would find themselves walking the halls with a hockey stick and everyone knew what that meant. Sometimes in life, we must push through embarrassing moments and stay the course to achieve success. In this case, it paid off and I graduated from DINFOS in February 1995.

Just over 13 years later, I was mobilized as commander of the 102d Mobile Public Affairs Detachment and unexpectantly selected as deputy director of PA for Combined Joint Task Force–101, a 32,000-strong command that was headquartered at Bagram, Air Field, Afghanistan.

This was, by far, the most difficult period of my career and, at times, I wanted to give up. But once again, I never gave up. Several leaders saw something in me; they took great interest in enhancing my public affairs and leadership skills, and helped me win big. I learned from this experience that caring teammates are critical to victory, and we must be open to their help — especially during difficult circumstances. My unit made it home safely in February 2009.

Staying the course

In early 2012, I decided to pursue the APR+M credential. After completing my panel presentation, it took more than one attempt to pass the computer-based examination. It would have been easy to walk away, but with disappointment, we must be even more relentless in pursuing our goals. I stayed on course and received my credential in October 2012.

This decision paid off and impacted my career tremendously. The APR+M program strengthened my ability to develop and execute PA communication plans. My goals, objectives, strategies and tactics are much more refined, and I possess a much more strategic mindset.

Furthermore, my professional network exploded due to making numerous connections to APRs/APR+Ms at several conferences and meetings, and via LinkedIn. Whenever I have needed assistance, they have always been there for me.

For more than a decade now, I have passionately advocated in support of the program, shared my APR+M knowledge with the next generation of PA/PR professionals, and encouraged hundreds of military and civilian practitioners to embrace the challenge and pursue the credential.

Sometimes on the pathway to growth, the road to success can be difficult, disappointing and painful. Everyone’s journey will be different, but we must all be relentless as we reach for greater for ourselves and others.

So, always remember to keep moving, never give up and be encouraged. Stay the course for yourselves and your teammates because communications success is just around the corner!

Col. Christian Patterson, APR+M, Fellow PRSA, currently serves as commander of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, headquartered in Vicksburg, Miss. During his 29-year career, the combat and peacekeeping mission veteran has deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and Afghanistan.

[Illustration credit: formatoriginal]

About the author

Col. Christian Patterson, APR+M, Fellow PRSA

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