Personal note: I first met Joe Burlas when he was a teen-ager. His father invited us to the family home in Annandale for dinner on several occasions. I was assigned to the Defense Information School at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Ind., and taught in the newspaper editor’s course. Your grandfather and Sgt. Maj. Gary B linked up with the editor’s course team in very early 1970 to launch the Army newspaper modernization program. You could sum that effort up this way: put NEWS in those newspapers.
We again met when I became communications director at the Association of the United States Army in the mid-1990s.
When he was covering Gen. Eric Shinseki, Army chief of staff, we came together often and interacted both as friends and professionally. As a reporter, I found Joe Burlas to be thorough, honest, detailed, committed to accuracy and interested in following through. If he had a question about something when he was writing, he never hesitated to ask – usually by phone, sometimes by e-mail and occasionally in person.
The interest in following through on a piece distinguished Joe Burlas in my mind from the hundreds of other reporters working for departments and agencies throughout the Defense Department.
General Shinseki’s tenure as chief was fraught with tension in the highest level of the defense secretariat. Joe Burlas’ reporting was first rate throughout this time.
On the range of issues he covered, I would like to mention one other – privatized housing, because it was illustrative of his approach. We were both covering a conference in Baltimore where the Army invited developers to hear what the service planned to do to raise the standard of living for families living on post. In this case, the installation was Fort Meade, Md. Now you could cover the conference by sticking to the Army speakers’ presentations and the questions from the developers when the service presenters were through. Joe Burlas went far beyond that, even that day. He talked with the developers at great length over what was in it for them. He also had talked to residents of Fort Meade beforehand about the state of post housing. He brought both together.
That was Joe Burlas’ approach. He was putting NEWS in his newswriting.