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Building Trust and Partnerships in Horn of Africa: U.S. Navy Maritime Civil Affairs Team Uses Facebook to Build Trust Among NGOs

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Navy communications with NGOs in the Africa are a challenge—they are typically guarded when approached by the military and leery of their intentions. The Navy Maritime Civil Affairs Team 104 created a Facebook site to illustrate their mission and past accomplishments through words and images.

During initial guarded discussions with NGO’s, MCAT 104 would point them to the Facebook site to obtain more information. The level of transparency shown on Facebook directly affected the impressions NGOs had about the Navy and provided an open door to establish successful working relationships.

Due to bandwidth and security issues, Facebook Inbox messages became a primary means to keep in touch with people they meet in Rwanda and Uganda. These contacts follow MCAT 104’s travels throughout the continent and comment on their progress.

The Team also used the page to keep in touch with contacts and friends they have made throughout their travels in Africa.

Navy Maritime Civil Affairs Team 104 has nearly 400 fans in the region (spanning Uganda, Rwanda, Djibouti and other countries) and receives an average of 24 interactions on Facebook per week.

Establishing these relationships is important, but it does not end there. As MCAT 104 approaches the end of their deployment and the Sailors report to new commands, it’s unclear who should manage the Facebook page and whether the page should continue to exist. Those valuable relationships established in the region currently risk being lost.

Solutions for maintaining those relationships are currently being considered and we look forward to reporting on the status in May.


Photo of Scott McIlnay

Scott McIlnay

Department of the Navy

Commander Scott McIlnay, U.S. Navy, graduated from Boston University in 1995 with bachelor’s degrees in journalism and political science. During his initial tours of duty, he served as the communications officer and main propulsion assistant on board the destroyer USS Arthur W. Radford (DD 968) and as navigator aboard the destroyer USS Mitscher (DDG 57). He then moved to the public affairs career field in 1999. CDR McIlnay served as an action officer at Public Affairs Center Norfolk. He subsequently worked in the community relations and media relations departments at the U.S. Atlantic Fleet/Fleet Forces Command where he completed the Naval War College Fleet Seminar Program and attended Joint Forces Staff College, completing a master’s degree in security studies from the Naval War College. Next, CDR McIlnay served as the Public Affairs Officer for the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). Following the carrier tour, he attended San Diego State University, earning a master’s degree in mass communication and media studies. CDR McIlnay was next stationed at the Defense Information School (DINFOS) as an instructor and course developer where he taught public affairs in the Public Affairs Qualification Course and was the primary coordinator for the Joint Senior Public Affairs Course and also served as the Navy Element Commander. He is currently the Director of Emerging Media Integration in the Department of the Navy’s Office of Information (CHINFO) at the Pentagon.

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