With four first place awards, USAG Italy public affairs joined a small, but elite, group of Army communicators honored for excellence in the 2019 Army Materiel Command Public Affairs competition.
The annual competition recognizes the best of the best in public affairs across all Army installations and other AMC commands.
Three of the awards were earned by Maria D. Cavins, who started working as a Department of the Army Civilian this past August. She was recognized as the AMC Army Communicator of the Year. With this honor, she will advance and compete at the Army level Maj. Gen. Keith L. Ware Public Affairs competition, which recognizes Soldiers and DA Civilian employees for excellence in achieving the objectives of the Army Public Affairs Program.
Cavins had previously won five first place honors in the Installation Management Command communications competition. In the broadcast category, Maria won first place for three separate categories including Video Story, Non-Narrative Story, and Social Media Video. She won first place for the graphic arts category of Layout and Design. She was also recognized as one of two IMCOM Army Communicators of the Year.
She was judged on a portfolio of her work with various assignments including “USAG Italy Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers Team helps ‘Save Venice’ after floods” story and photography; “Meet the Mayors 2019” video; and the USAG Italy campaign poster for layout and design.
“I am extremely humbled to have been awarded as the AMC Army Communicator of the Year. I feel, in a small way, that I get to give back to the families whose sons and daughters are serving abroad, my fellow military families, and my country through documentary journalism.”
Her entries included two garrison BOSS organization events, playing soccer against the Vatican Swiss Guard in Rome, and volunteering to clean Venice after last November’s “acqua alta,” the historic floods.
According to Maria, storytelling has always been a part of her spirit and being as a person.
“I strive to tell the stories of our Service members and their families,” she says, “the stories of what makes America, and the stories of our world. I feel an incredible spiritual connection to Italy, the country where my active-duty Army husband and I now live. As an Italian American, the fusion of documenting the stories of our uniformed men and women while they serve in Italy is an amazing gift.”
Cavins also placed first in two other categories, the Broadcast – Non-Narrative Story and Graphic Arts – Layout and Design with the entries “Friendly Competition: BOSS vs. Vatican Swiss Guard Soccer Tournament” and “USAG Italy Campaign Poster 2020-2025,” respectively.
“Maria is a passionate story seeker, who is ready to pick up the camera at a moment’s notice to cover any event,” said James Brooks, USAG Italy Public Affairs Officer. “She is the future of Army public affairs who understands what makes a great story for our audiences.”
The garrison public affairs office was also recognized for its excellence in community relations by garnering first place honors in the Community Relations Program category. The garrison had previously won first place honors in the Installation Management Command competition as well as second place honors in the single community relations event category.
This award serves as a good indicator of the broad mix of strategies used to foster stronger bonds with the Italian communities.
“A key concept of all community relations activity is that building and growing good relations with communities at home and overseas is in the best interest of the Army,” said Anna Ciccotti, Media & Community Relations chief for the garrison.
“I am grateful that our USAG Italy team was recognized for the exceptional effort put throughout 2019 in developing a new road-map for meaningful and purposeful engagements with the host nation.”
Ciccotti explained that the main communication objectives were increasing awareness of Vicenza and Camp Darby military communities as well as increasing awareness of local events for the two military communities to participate in.
USAG Italy achieved that through a number of initiatives including Community Alliance Plan and the quarterly Mayors summits.
“Four quarterly Mayor Summits were held in 2019,” said Ciccotti. “These were organized for the first time in 2018 as a means to have strategic-level discussions on topics affecting both U.S. and Italian communities. They are now part of our battle rhythm and ensure that U. S. military and host nation civic leaders have a forum to engage and keep the dialogue open.”
Also, thanks to the CAP program, USAG Italy tenant organizations partnered with local communities to provide an assigned point of contact for supporting a wide-range of projects from community service to annual events.
With people being the Army’s number one priority, garrison programs help its people to adapt to an overseas duty location and enjoy their time here. In 2018, Military Times voted Vicenza as the Army’s #1 duty station.
“The community relations program invests a great deal of effort in building social capital that the Army will need in the future. Strong community relations programs set the theater for a supportive and welcoming environment by a host nation partner like Italy, said Ciccotti.