By Autumn Shelton, WV Press Association
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – With a $501 million direct and indirect economic impact for the state, the West Virginia National Guard is “Always Ready, Always There!” when it comes to helping out their fellow Mountaineers.
At 2:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 11, during the West Virginia Press Association’s annual convention, West Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Specialist Edwin L. “Bo” Wriston, along with representatives from the U.S. Army National Guard and Air National Guard recruiting and retention offices, will speak to members of the media about their overall structure and impacts. They will also be taking questions from the audience and working to develop long-term engagements with members of the media.
According to Wriston, “We will be highlighting aspects and programs of the Guard that folks may not be aware of, including the Mountaineer Challenge Academies, the Future Leaders Program for high schools, our roles in national-level domestic operations, our continuing counter-drug efforts and missions and more.”
In addition to the approximately 4,100 soldiers and 2,100 airmen who serve, the West Virginia National Guard also employs “just over 2,100 full-time employees, including 575 full time civilian employees of the West Virginia Military Authority,” Wriston said, adding that during the convention, recruiters will be on-hand to discuss “current manning levels” as well as available job openings and what role newspapers can have in recruitment advertising efforts.
Wriston also explained that the West Virginia National Guard offers many benefits to those who enlist.
“In addition to service to the state and nation, members of the Guard qualify for 100% tuition reimbursement for state-supported schools in West Virginia, up to $7,000 per person per fiscal year, including up to master’s degrees,” Wriston noted. “Members get the opportunity to support and protect their fellow West Virginians, deploy overseas, receive high-level military training, and to develop unique skills and knowledge. Once they have completed their enlistments, they are eligible for Veterans Administration services which can provide healthcare and other benefits for themselves and family members for the remainder of their lives.”
Wriston said that he and his co-presenters will also discuss where members of the West Virginia National Guard are serving throughout the state and nation as well as overseas, when missions arise.
“A favorite motto of the organization is, ‘Mountaineer Pride Worldwide,’ reflecting the global impact the Guard brings to bear,” Wriston stated. “We have growing relationships and direct ties with our international partners in both Peru and Qatar through the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program, and are potentially adding a third nation soon.”
As a public affairs specialist, Wriston noted that he understands the importance of working with the media.
“We provide media advisories and press releases to media partners when we are holding events or are making announcements, providing engagement opportunities and content when possible,” Wriston said. “Our goal with this meeting and presentation is to foster better relationships with newspapers and publications throughout the state, to better understand your needs, and to explore collaborative efforts.”
“West Virginians are proud of military service, and proud of our Guard,” Wriston continued. “Understanding the roles and responsibilities, capabilities and availability of the Guard, especially in times of need, is an important aspect of our public outreach that benefits individuals and communities in the Mountain State.”
“The stronger our Guard is, the stronger our state and nation are,” he concluded.
The West Virginia Press Convention takes place from August 11-12 at the Four Points by Sheraton on the banks of the Kanawha River in Charleston.
About Edwin L. “Bo” Wriston
Edwin L. “Bo” Wriston was born and raised in Wirt County, West Virginia. He graduated from Wirt County High School in 1990.
Directly after high school, he joined the U.S. Navy as a Photographer’s Mate and has been involved in photography and Public Affairs ever since.
He joined the West Virginia National Guard as a civilian in July 2018, leaving his position as the command photographer for the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, RI, to come home to West Virginia.
He can be reached via email or cell phone at [email protected] or 304-629-3735.