Colonel Myles Caggins remembers when, while serving as a spokesman for the National Security Council (NSC) in 2016, he helped President Barack Obama prepare for an interview with the Japanese public broadcaster NHK. It was the first time that the Japanese network interviewed President Obama, and Caggins, who had helped set up the interview, describes sitting in the Oval Office with President Obama as one of his “proudest professional moments.” It epitomized the cross-cultural communication Caggins believes is essential between government, military, and media.
Caggins, 47, joined the Youthcast Media Group Board in February as he prepared to retire from 20-plus years of service and public relations work with the Army. He started this month as a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the New Lines Institute for Strategy and Policy, where he is working in the Human Security Unit with a focus on public information warfare, U.S. drawdowns and post-withdrawal landscapes. Caggins said he learned from his military work that journalism is indispensable to the existence of an informed public, and said he aims to inspire the journalists of tomorrow by seeing how federal and international government systems affect their communities.
“I want to bring energy to [Youthcast Media Group], to ensure that student journalists get the reputations that they need in local communities while having a global mindset,” he said. At YMG, Caggins, who lives in New York City, hopes to help students pursue international journalism.
“I’ve had the privilege of serving with leading broadcast journalists, print journalists, graphic designers, spokespeople,” he said, recalling his travels to Europe and Asia as a public relations representative for the military. “It’s been a great joy and privilege and what led me to the board.”
During his military communications career, which includes working as a spokesman for the Pentagon, the NSC, III Corps at Fort Hood, and most recently as a Military Fellow for the Council on Foreign Relations, the influential international think tank, he often thought of his Army Officer father and paternal grandmother who was a school teacher. Both grew up in the segregated South.
“The tradition that [my grandmother] instilled in the family is commitment to education,” he said, explaining how he first got involved in the Army through a ROTC scholarship with Hampton University. At Hampton, he studied 21st Century Black history, which helped him understand the intersection of civil rights and how people access government information.
“It’s important for the military and government more broadly to have a good relationship with the media,” he said. “Because [the military] touches everywhere and we are part of $760 billion congressional appropriation, people need to know what’s going on with the military.”
His father was an Army officer, and Caggins was born in Germany while his father was stationed there. His Army-related international travels, both from his childhood and personal career, fed Caggins’ growing curiosity “to learn about different people, about different foods, history, and geography,” he said.
It’s a curiosity he aims to instill in young people whenever he gives speeches at K-12 schools, speaks to Kurdish immigrant youth, or works with other youth groups.
Every student he encounters receives the same advice: once you fulfill your goals, assist others in achieving their dreams.
One of his favorite youth events is the Honda Campus All-Star Challenge, an annual Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) academic quizbowl. It is volunteer work that is aligned with his own interests as a self-described “trivia buff.” He even participated as a contestant on “Jeopardy” hosted by Alex Trebek in 1999.
Most importantly, Caggins said, working with HBCUs is part of a larger commitment to uplift Black youth – a sentiment he said he brings with him to YMG.
“Sometimes some people don’t see [representation] so they think they can’t be it, so I want to close that gap personally,” he said.
Caggins said his goal in working with historically Black colleges is to let students know that, just like him, they too can achieve what they put their minds to.
“I have been an advocate for young people in different ways and in different spaces, [in spaces] where we don’t normally find Black and brown people and oftentimes it’s because some of our youth just don’t see it,” he said. “As a communicator, on behalf of the government and as a national security expert, I often reach out to networks and newspapers that are read and frequented by America’s Black and brown communities and also communities of color around the world.”
Caggins is part of The Rocks Incorporated, a mentorship organization founded by Black Army officers in the 1960s that awarded Caggins the Bobby Burke Award for professional excellence and mentorship in 2005. Now, he’s part of a committee that votes on who receives the annual Bobby Burke Award, and this year he voted on a recipient while he led an all-Black professional development session with about 15 junior officers. In February, he also had the opportunity to promote one of his mentees to Captain.
Caggins said he wants Black youth to see that his accomplishments – including degrees obtained after competitive Army scholarships from Hampton University, a Masters in Public Relations from Georgetown University, and a Harvard Kennedy School fellowship – are achievable.
“The history of America has been made possible by the history of Black people,” he said. “Part of making change is ascending, having a seat at the table, speaking up, and representing.”
Michelle Mairena, a former YMG high school participant, is a sophomore at Stanford University and recent YMG summer intern.