When alum Breanne Humphreys goes to work at U.S. Army Garrison, 1st Infantry Division in Fort Riley, Kansas, it’s rare that she encounters a fellow Bronco, but that’s just what happened last month when she saw this story come across her desk.
Lt. Col. Michael Katona, commander of 4th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team (WMU ’94) and fellow organizational communication major, was interviewed via video teleconference from Afghanistan reporting on Taliban forces in Afghanistan. Humphries made the connection and contacted WMU with the story.
That’s her job. To find the news and share it.
Humphreys moved to Fort Riley in hopes of getting a government job in media relations or public affairs. But government jobs are hard to come by, and with no practical experience in military public affairs, she eventually got a job as a reporter for a local radio station.
As a reporter, she primarily covered military events and news. “Working as a reporter,” she says, “gave me a great tutorial of army operations and protocol. I also volunteered as a host for a local television show operated through Fort Riley Public Affairs.” Through her volunteer work and reporting job she met a number of influential leaders who eventually referred her for her current position.
Humphreys began working as a contracted public affairs specialist in 2011. Her primary responsibilities include media relations, social media, and community relations, and she works directly for the division’s chief of public affairs. The public affairs staff’s main responsibility is to advise and provide support for the Commanding General in all public affairs-related issues.
The Public Affairs office acts much as a civilian office would, with one important difference: much of Humphreys’ time is spent writing obituaries and obtaining photographs from the families of fallen soldiers. “It’s one of the hardest things anyone ever has to do,” she says. “We treat the families with great respect and honor while still doing our job of getting the news out.
The thing that makes her job so unique is that she currently is the division’s only civilian public affairs specialist. So how does that work out?
“You have to take a stand early,” she says, “to avoid being seen as ‘that girl who gets the coffee.’ Right away I made it known I could do my job and handle the personalities of higher-level Army personnel. Since then, I have been respected for what I do and can do for the soldiers, in terms of getting their news out.”
Humphreys paid a visit to Kalamazoo and WMU’s campus in early November to speak to two communication classes about her career path. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” she said. “It’s hard work, but really, really rewarding.”
Fort Riley, Kansas Community Relations and Public Affairs