The challenges of storytelling become wildly complex when done so in support of military operations. Hence, every U.S. military service has a cadre of public affairs officers (PAOs) charged to do just this on behalf of their commands. The PAO is the commander’s principal spokesperson and is charged with providing timely, truthful information to the public and the news media.
PAOs remain bound by laws that prevent them from misrepresenting the truth to domestic audiences. A common adage is, “Public affairs cannot lie to the American people.” PAOs who misrepresent the truth erode the American people’s trust in the U.S. military, as seen in the fallout of such misrepresentation from the cases of Private First Class Jessica Lynch and Corporal Pat Tillman.
Maj Brian Kerg, USMC, Discussions with Public Affairs and COMMSTRAT Communities of Interest, January–February 2021.