The hardest part of leaving is letting go

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Outside the Box, a weekly column by Cheryl Hatch, copyright 2015

Long before 9/11 and the TSA, I would stand at the departure gate at the airport.

I’d watch my friend, family member or beloved, walk down the gangplank to the plane. I’d wave until he disappeared from sight. I’d shift to the giant windows and press my face against the glass, trying to find his face among the oval windows on the plane. I’d stand and wait until the plane backed out. I’d watch until it took off and disappeared from sight.

I didn’t want to leave.

As an Army BRAT, I moved with my family more than 20 times before I graduated from high school. It’s a pattern I continued as an adult in my work as a foreign correspondent. While I have a lot of experience with leaving, it’s never been easy for me.

In truth, we are all leaving from the moment we draw our first breath.

In The Campus newsroom a couple weeks ago, Amanda Spadaro said she had a moment. A graduating senior and co-editor-in-chief, she looked around the newsroom where she’d spent countless hours of her four years at Allegheny. She remembered the late nights, the laughter, the good times and the tough times. She looked at the students she’d shared so much with and those who would carry on in her absence next year. She realized she was leaving.

Spadaro left her hometown in Washington, Pennsylvania four years ago. On Saturday, she’ll graduate with a major in biology and a minor in English. She has no immediate plans after graduation, though she’s in the running for an internship at The Meadville Tribune.

Her career plans: “Pipe dream is to be the next Ida Tarbell, so. We’ll see how that goes. “

Elliott Bartels, The Campus Web manager, left his hometown in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania, four years ago. Bartels will graduate with an ecology major and a graphic design minor. Immediately after graduation, Bartels will work in Charlotte, North Carolina for Wildlands Engineering, a bio/environmental engineering firm that specializes in water remediation and mitigation.

His career plans: “Working for a while as an environmental engineer/scientist to pay off loans and to afford a new project Jaguar, then maybe back to grad school to increase $$$ and get a degree in upper management/business.”

The Campus features editor Claire Teague left her hometown in Chatham, N.J. for Allegheny. Saturday she’ll graduate with an English major and economics minor. This summer she’ll be working for the Presbyterian Church of New Providence where she’ll be the assistant director to the youth program, working with hundreds of high school and middle school students.

Sam Stephenson, The Campus co-editor-in-chief, left his hometown in Portland, Oregon, four years ago. He’ll graduate with an English major with a focus in journalism and an economics minor. He’ll head home and teach summer tennis camps, work out and get ready for the Marine Corps Officer Candidate School.

His career plans: “Join the Marine Corps as an officer and stay in as long as my heart is content. Eventually though, I’d like to have a career in journalism or communications, but that might not start for a while!”

At Allegheny’s bicentennial commencement today, parents will watch their children cross the stage and collect a diploma. They’ll shout and wave and snap photos. They’ll also wonder where the time went. They can remember when their children left home for college. Now they’ll watch as they leave their college home for new adventures.

When my folks take me to the airport now, I linger by the curb. I hug my mom. I hug my dad. I don’t want to leave. My father insists on taking my luggage to the check-in counter. Usually, I’ll leave the cart and run back outside and stop my parents before they leave. One more hug. One more “I love you.”

The hardest thing about leaving is letting go.

http://www.meadvilletribune.com/opinion/columns/outside-the-box-the-hardest-thing-about-leaving-is-letting/article_86b87cd4-f511-11e4-adf0-270d6b767289.html

Cheryl Hatch is a writer, photojournalist and visiting assistant professor of journalism in the public interest at Allegheny College.

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Two men answer: ‘What does a person do when you come back from war?’

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Outside the Box/a weekly column by Cheryl Hatch Copyright 2014

Nathan Lewis grew up in the village of Barker, New York, about three hours from Meadville. He joined the U.S. Army straight out of high school. He was 19.

Roman Baca was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and grew up in Spanaway, Washington, just south of Tacoma. After high school, he studied classical ballet at a conservatory in Connecticut. At 24, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps.

Both men served in Iraq. Lewis deployed with an artillery unit in 2003. Baca deployed to Fallujah in 2005.

They came home changed by their experiences. They came home with questions.

Lewis and Baca are part of Combat Paper: Word Made Flesh, a week of events addressing issues of trauma, grief and loss through the arts and artistic expression.

The conference and art exhibit represent the collaboration between two new faculty members, who found a common interest and purpose. Alexis Hart is a Navy veteran and professor of English and director of the Writing. Steve Prince is a printmaker, sculptor and professor of art. Together they created a program that crosses disciplines and seeks to bridge the military/civilian divide by creating art and conversations around the artistic experience.

“What does a person do when you come back from war?” That was Baca’s question.

His sole role model was his grandfather. Baca tried to follow his grandfather’s example. Get a good job, a desk job. Buy a house. Settle down. For his first six months, he thought he was transitioning back well.

His wife told him wasn’t. He was angry, anxious, depressed.

She asked him a question: if you could do anything in the world, what would you do?

“Start a dance company,” Baca said. His wife is a ballerina. Let’s do it.

Together they built Exit 12 Dance Company.

His early efforts missed the mark. He got feedback.

“This is crap.” “You have to find your voice. You have to find what’s aching to come out.”

Exit 12 Dance Company performed on the opening night of the conference. On Tuesday, they lead a dance workshop with Allegheny students.

With the dances, Baca said he wants to bring the military experience to the people back home. He wants them to feel the fear, anxiety, longing that is so prevalent in day-to-day life in war.

Lewis came home and wrote in journals. He was having trouble reconciling the values he was raised with and what he did in Iraq. Lewis said his trauma was not from what he saw, not from what was done to him. His trauma was from what he did.

In 2007, he started working with The Combat Paper Project. In 2009, he published his first book, I Hacky Sacked in Iraq, which has a sewn binding and covers of handmade combat paper.

Paper-making is an ancient art and process, originating in China. Paper was made from rags, Lewis said. In The Combat Paper Project, people can bring any natural fiber cloth that has sentimental value. Veterans donate uniforms.

On Tuesday, journalism students cut up uniforms that had been donated by active-duty members of the military at Walter Reed Military Medical Center. The pieces were turned to pulp in a big tumbler/blender called a hollander beater. The students dipped a framed screen into the water and pulp mixture and “pulled” the paper onto the screen. After draining the excess water, they turned the screen over and gently lifted it to reveal a sheet of handmade combat paper.

Prince believes the paper-making process is a metaphor for transformation, creation and healing.

“The deconstruction is not destroying. Those are two different words,” Prince said.

Through the creative process of breaking down and rebuilding, people can find empathy for another human being, regardless of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, he said.

“That’s the power of this project. It calls you to use your heart,” Prince said.

Lewis has a tattoo of a paper clip on the outside of his right arm, near his elbow. His paperclip is embedded in each piece of combat paper he creates. It’s his watermark.

It’s also a historic anti-war symbol.

“I identify strongly with being an anti-war vet, which doesn’t mean I’m against the troops,” Lewis said. “My morals were off in Iraq.

“What I did, what we did collectively, is terrible,” Lewis said. “I’m not mad that I went to war. I’m mad that it’s still going on. You want closure with the conflict. World War II ended. Vietnam ended. When is this going to end?”

Baca and Lewis have broken down their war experiences and turned them into dance, poetry and paper.

“It boils down to purpose and the future,” Baca said.

He wants to expose the nation to the experiences of people living in war zones.

“Transform these horrible experiences into a glimmer of hope,” Baca said. “It’s that possibility that excites me as an artist.”

Lewis noted that in Vietnam, the people have turned old weapons into agricultural equipment, musical instruments, rolling pins. People who’ve seen a lot of war have found ways to transform weapons.

“You’re a weapon in the military,” Lewis said. He is not religious though he fond of one verse, Isaiah 2:4.

“They shall beat their swords to plowshares,” Lewis said. “I just love that idea.”

To learn more about The Combat Paper Project: http://www.combatpaper.org

To learn more about Exit 12 Dance Company: http://www.exit12danceco.com

 http://www.meadvilletribune.com/opinion/article_f4286752-498b-11e4-8690-9f3d33d41312.html

Cheryl Hatch is a writer, photojournalist and visiting assistant professor of journalism in the public interest at Allegheny College.

 

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When it comes to U.S. war veterans, ‘nobody outranks anybody in death’

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Writer’s note: I am a journalist in academia, a woman who has traveled among many cultures. I live outside the box and I like it — and I want to share my perspective with you every Thursday.

When I was in graduate school in Ohio, I was working on a documentary project on military families and I decided to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Memorial Day.

As the daughter of a Vietnam veteran, I had visited the wall a few times since its inauguration in 1982. I loved that Maya Lin, who designed the memorial, envisioned the black granite structure as a wound in the earth.

On this visit, I carried a family photo, a classic square Kodak print with the pastel colors and white border. Sitting with our backs straight (shoulders back, my dad would say), four Hatch siblings flashed our shiny grin-grimace smiles for the camera for a photo destined for a Christmas card that would find our father in Vietnam.

As I approached the back of the wall, I broke into deep sobs. Ambushed. I dropped to my knees.

An Army officer’s kid, I was raised to shake off slights, scrapes and wounds. I didn’t shed tears. I looked at the photo, then at the wall, then at all the people making the pilgrimage to the black granite memorial etched with the names of the more than 58,000 who had served and died in the Vietnam War. I sat on the grass and sobbed.

My father came home, twice. So many men and women didn’t.

While I was a Snedden Chair at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the photojournalism students and I had embarked on a project documenting the lives of the Fort Wainwright soldiers as they trained and their families as they prepared for an upcoming deployment. Lt. Col. Brian Payne invited a student photojournalist and me to join the soldiers of the First Battalion Fifth Infantry Regiment downrange.

For Christmas 2011, JR Ancheta and I were embedded with the 1/25 Stryker Brigade Combat Team “Arctic Wolves” in southern Kandahar Province, Afghanistan.

Days after Christmas, we joined Charlie Company on an air assault mission. It was their first since their previous air assault when Pfc. Brett C. Wood, 19, was killed walking on patrol when he hit an improvised explosive device. Every soldier in third platoon wore a black metal K.I.A. bracelet in honor and memory of Wood.

Allegheny College 2005 graduate Staff Sgt. Robert Taylor was on patrol with Wood that day.

“No chance,” Taylor said. “He died instantly.

“I was the first one there. I’m not glad it was me but I’m glad it wasn’t anyone else. I take comfort maybe even. Sgt. O’Neal and I were the only ones to bear the burden.”

The soldiers followed protocol, swinging a hand-held metal detector, a Vallon, to sweep for and clear the area of other possible explosive devices.

“Sgt. O’Neal made the decision,” Taylor said, recalling his leader’s words that day. “’Taylor, you’re holding your s— together. I need you right now.’”

The two men then gathered the remains of their fallen fellow soldier.

“The memories aren’t something I enjoy, but I wouldn’t have wanted it to be anyone else,” Taylor said. “I’m happy I was able to protect those guys from that.”

On Memorial Day 2012, “Arctic Wolves” soldiers, family members, JR and I attended the service for the 21 soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

The dead: Spc. Bradley L. Melton; Pfc. Cheizray Pressley; Pfc. Lamarol J. Tucker; Sgt. Jeffrey C. S. Sherer; PV2 Ryan J. Larson; First Sgt. Kenneth B. Elwell; Pfc. Tyler M. Springmann; Pfc. Douglas L. Cordo; Pfc. Brandon S. Mullins; Spc. Douglas J. Green; Spc. Christopher J. Marquis; Pfc. Brett E. Wood; Sgt. Rodolfo Rodrigues Jr.; Sgt. Timothy D. Sayne; Spc. Ryan J. Cook; PV2 Danny Chen; Spc. Calvin M. Pereda; Spc. Johnathan “Bryant” McCain; Spc. James R. Burnett Jr.; Pfc. Matthew C. Collin; Pfc. Dustin P. Napier.

My friend and fellow journalist Larry James is a veteran journalist and a veteran. We met in Cairo, covered conflicts in the Middle East and Africa. We once crossed paths in the middle of Liberia: I was on my way out; Larry was on his way in to cover the civil war.

James was a 22-year-old first lieutenant when he arrived in Vietnam. As an infantry platoon leader, he joined the men of Charlie Company, Fourth Battalion, Ninth Infantry Regiment (Manchu) in May 1968. The unit had suffered grievous losses in the previous five months, including an ambush on March 2, 1968, in which 49 soldiers were killed.

Decades later, James wrote a book about the soldiers, the ambush and the events surrounding it. He opens “Unfortunate Sons: A True Story of Young Men and War” with a quote by Desiderius Erasmus, a 15th century Dutch humanist: “War is delightful to those who have no experience of it.”

James wrote the book to remember the young men and to record their history and service since the story remained unknown outside of the small group of Manchu. In the acknowledgements, James wrote he intended the book as “an overdue tribute to a group of young Americans who did what was asked of them and paid with their lives.”

The dead: Jose Luis Alvarez-Tapia; Gerald Lawrence Avery; Charles Edward Bonds; Harlan Ray Brandts; Jerry Walker Byers; William Brace Cawley Jr.; Gary Virgil Frazier; Michael Dennis Frost; Raymond Leroy Gallagher; Cal Duain Johnson; Lawrence Johnson; Jack Joseph Jordan Jr.; Lee Roy Lanier; Charlie Frank Lee; James Rufus Mathis; Robert Junior McGee; Charles Edward Melott; Leonard David Moore; Thomas Lee Mork; Barry Lee Moyer; James Francis O’Laughlin; Kenneth Lindle Oldham; William Rassano; Jose Angel Reyes; Roy Donald Page; Ronald Landon Salvani; Willard Skaggs Jr.; Michael Ross Rivers; Aristides Sosa; Clifford Geoffrey Stockton; Ronald Allen Slane; Warren Lee Tall; John Michael Thompson; Danny George Swazick; Walker C. Velvet Jr.; Larry Huston Walden; Carrel Jean Titsworth; Paul Edward West; Darrell Eugene Wheeler; Gary Winston Watkins; Joseph Jerome Williams; Virgil Lawrence Williams; Larry Allen Widener; Danny Stephen Young; Willard Frank Young; Kenneth Wayne Winget.

I asked James if he intentionally listed the soldiers’ names without their ranks.

“Yes, I did,” James said. “Nobody outranks anybody in death.”

http://www.meadvilletribune.com/opinion/x1667062542/When-it-comes-to-U-S-war-veterans-nobody-outranks-anybody-in-death

Cheryl Hatch is a writer, photojournalist and visiting assistant professor of journalism in the public interest at Allegheny College.

A seat at the table

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Outside the Box

a weekly column by Cheryl Hatch

copyright 2014

http://www.meadvilletribune.com/opinion/x493485708/Getting-a-seat-at-the-table-takes-a-strong-jaw-and-spirit

When I graduated from college, I had no job. I was told to get an unpaid internship to build my portfolio.

Even then, I balked. I didn’t like the idea of working for no money; however, I relented and found a gig at the local daily newspaper.

A calendar with a bikini-clad woman straddling a motorcycle greeted me in the darkroom.

It was the worst version of a Cinderella story. The two male staff photographers envisioned my job as a step-and-fetch, answer-the-phone, do-what-we-don’t-want-to-do internship. Instead of mentorship, they offered me their disdain and the dregs of the assignments. I poured my energy and enthusiasm into each one, assuming I had to prove myself.

One day, a presidential candidate was passing through town and everyone on staff was covering his visit and speech. I was thrilled. I had no hope of getting a plum assignment or photo position; however, I knew I’d get a shot at photographing a major news event. I’d get to go to the party. After all, I’d paid my dues.

The photo editor assigned me to the newsroom, to answer phones, file negatives and cover any other news that might come up.

What? There is no other news.

Then and there I realized the editor and his sidekick were not interested in offering me learning opportunities. I went to the managing editor. Of course you can cover it, he said.

I covered the event and left the unpaid internship.

I hopped on a plane to Cairo. I figured if I had to make no money I’d rather be where I was doing what I wanted to do.

Out of the frying pan. Into the fire.

Egypt—then and now—is not an easy place for women, especially for a single, foreign woman. Photojournalism—then and perhaps less now—is a male-dominated profession in the U.S. and Egypt.

I first landed a job at a monthly English language magazine. As an independent photojournalist, I also got regular assignments from the wire services, Reuters and the Associated Press. Later I photographed assignments in the Middle East and Africa for photo agencies in Paris and Milan.

On one occasion, I went to the presidential palace for a press conference. I arrived an hour early to get a position. There was only one other woman in the press corps that day. Just before the conference started, an Egyptian TV cameraman walked in and set up his tripod and camera directly in front of me.

Naturally, as a woman, I was invisible to him and had no place there.

I knew it was risky and ill advised to challenge him; however, I needed that camera position to do my job. There was a heated discussion among the journalists and a scene. He eventually shifted his position.

A few weeks later, I was back at the presidential palace to cover an event with a visiting delegation of United States congressmen. The press scrum had tripled and included U.S. traveling press from major TV networks and newspapers.

The same Egyptian TV cameraman set up his gear directly behind me. Each time I raised my camera to shoot, he pushed me, jarring my arm and ruining the photograph. I decided to escape his retaliation and move. As I left, I shoved him so he would give me room to shift position. He turned and punched me in the face.

I did what I learned in Egypt. I made a scene. A woman from CBS said she’d file an official complaint. A melee ensued. The congressmen looked confused as the security guards rushed them from the scene and swarmed the journalists to pull our presidential credentials.

I quickly tucked my presidential press pass inside my shirt and covered it with my hands when the guards tried to strip it from me. I pointed to the cameraman. Strip his credential. He punched me in the face. He lost his credential. I kept mine.

If I sound like I was tough, I wasn’t, truly. I took a lot of punches—literally and figuratively—in my career. I’d get the wind knocked out of me and I’d get back up.

As an Army brat, my father raised me with stern instructions not to rock the boat or talk back. And definitely not to challenge authority.

I told my father years later that it was crippling advice for a woman in a man’s world.

This semester, I’ve been mentoring a student who wants to be a sports reporter. I arrived at a basketball game one evening and discovered a row of men seated at the long bench that serves as the press table. There was no place for the young woman reporter.

I asked the men for a seat for her. Most ignored me. A few glanced in my direction. A couple shrugged and turned their backs to me. They didn’t make room for her.

I climbed up the bleachers and found the director of sports information.

At first, the men found a seat on the cement stairs next to the press table.

No. A seat at the table, I insisted.

The next game I arrived and found a large paper with the reporter’s name and publication taped to the press table. She had an official, reserved spot.

I showed her the paper and made a photograph of it. You have a seat at the table, I said. Literally and metaphorically. This is important. Remember this.

No one is going to give you anything. You have to ask for it. Then you demand it. Then you take it and own it. You have every right to have a seat at the table.

This week I am proud to announce the inaugural Allegheny College internship at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. A woman and non-traditional student will be a features reporter for 10 weeks this summer. She’ll have an accomplished staff journalist as a mentor.

And she’ll be paid for her time and talent.

Cheryl Hatch is a writer, photojournalist and visiting assistant professor of journalism in the public interest at Allegheny College.

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Go on guts

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Outside the Box

a weekly column by Cheryl Hatch

copyright 2014

Years ago, I was working in my father’s home office. I grabbed a gold Cross pen to sign a letter. Hours later, my dad wanted to know where the pen was. He was insistent. What’s the big deal, I wondered.

This is the guy who tossed his medals in the trash (mom rescued them.) He long ago jettisoned the reel-to-reel tapes he’d sent with messages from Vietnam. In the more than two dozen moves of my childhood, I’d watched my dad toss plenty of our possessions.

This pen was one of two treasured gold Cross pens. One was a gift from my mother. The other was from a solider that had served with him. The soldier had “go on guts” inscribed on the pen. The soldier admired my father and his approach to leadership.

As the daughter of a soldier, I wasn’t always fond of my dad’s leadership style. I often conjured the image of Yul Brynner in “The Ten Commandments” portraying the Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II: so let it be written, so let it be done. Once, following my father up the stairs in a building at Fort Leavenworth, we passed a soldier who was descending.

“Take off your hat, son,” my father said. The soldier didn’t break stride or say a word. He yanked off his hat and kept moving. It made an impression on me.

Grown men followed his orders. I didn’t stand a chance.

At another military base in my youth, I was home in the early afternoon when the phone rang. I thought I’d be reckless and answer it the way civilian kids do. Just for fun. Just one time.

“Hello.”

“Who’s house is this?” my father barked.

“Col. Hatch’s quarters Cheryl speaking sir.”

I couldn’t spit the words out fast enough.

My father is a man of few words and a man of his word. He raised us to be accountable for our actions, to tell the truth and to respect our elders, especially my mother. He promised if we told the truth, he’d have our backs. No matter what.

When I was 16, my dad and mom got that terrible middle-of-the-night call that parents dread.

Driving home from work, I took a tight turn on a winding country road, skidded and wrecked the family’s second car, the beater Bug my dad used to commute to work.

“You were driving too damn fast,” he said, as he drove us to the hospital. The swear word and the silence that followed made his point. He never said another word about it.

Days later, he took me to purchase my first car. I’d saved my money. I’d agreed to make the car payments and cover the cost of the insurance, gas and repairs. I assumed responsibility for the car and my actions. My dad trusted that I’d learned my lesson.

When I was a teen, I asked my dad if I could stand in line all night to buy tickets to a Led Zeppelin concert. It would mean missing school the next day, too. He said yes. And when I asked to take my younger brother, a budding drummer, to the concert, my dad said yes. He trusted me to look out for brother and myself.

In January, Dad told us the doctor had found a shadow on his pancreas. Shadow and pancreas are not two words I want to hear in the same sentence, particularly not after cancer has stalked several people I love, claiming two, in the past couple years.

I flew home when the first procedure was scheduled. I arrived and learned that it had been postponed; the doctors required additional tests.

In early March, Dad underwent the initial procedure and I wasn’t there. I was at Allegheny hosting our second annual photojournalism conference. The family waited for the results: cancer or not cancer.

Dad called one day while I was meeting with a student. I excused myself and took the call. It’s not cancer. Good news. It could become cancer. Not the best news.

I’m an optimist. My dad’s a pragmatist, a soldier, a combat engineer. He gathers information. Weighs options. Then he goes on guts.

I like the expression and its double entendre. Go on guts implies following your intuition. To me, it also means to act with resolute bravery in the face of a daunting challenge.

These past few months have been tough for my father, a family man. Though he’s a man of faith, Dad’s facing his mortality. I sense that he doesn’t want to leave my mom. I believe that alone gives him a huge tactical advantage.

Dad did his research. He discussed his options. He chose surgery.

Go on guts, Pop. Go on guts.

http://www.meadvilletribune.com/opinion/x1984807366/Outside-the-Box-Gather-information-and-weigh-your-options-but-always-go-on-your-guts

Cheryl Hatch is a writer, photojournalist and visiting assistant professor of journalism in the public interest at Allegheny College.

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Bound for LA and Beyond

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UAF Journalism students JR Ancheta, from left, Jeric Quiliza and Matt Anderson phone home from the beach north of Santa Moncia, California. Copyright 2011 Cheryl Hatch

At 23:30 (we slip into military time for this trip) on Wednesday, Jan. 16, our adventure begins.

I pick up JR Ancheta, a still photographer and photojournalism major, at his dorm, and Jeric Quiliza, a videographer and broadcast journalism major, at his home off-campus. The third student, Matt Anderson, has his own ride to the airport. I’ve told him if he doesn’t meet us at check-in, I can’t cover the cost of his checked bag. He’s on his own.

With the help of Maj. Dave Mattox at the Public Affairs Office at Fort Wainwright, I had arranged an “embed” experience for three University of Alaska Fairbanks Journalism students to cover the 1-25th Stryker Brigade during their training at the National Training Center in the Mojave Desert near Fort Irwin, California. The department has a history of covering events connected to the soldiers. This trip allowed us to expand upon the collaboration of students and soldiers training side by side. The students learn how to work on an assignment in challenging situations with real deadlines and the soldiers learn how to work and interact with members of the media. We have separate yet equal missions. There are places where we can work together and places where our objectives may be at odds.

The Department of Journalism and the College of Liberal Arts covered the costs of the students’ airfare. I’m the Snedden Chair, therefore the Snedden endowment covered my travel expenses, including the rental car for our trip from Los Angeles to the Mojave Desert. We would get a lot of bang for our buck.

Prior to leaving Fairbanks, I created a mentor system for the students. UAF photojournalism professor Charles Mason would be JR’s mentor. Documentary filmmaker Rob Prince would be Jeric’s mentor. And veteran reporter and chair of the department Brian O’Donoghue would be Matt’s mentor.

We held a meeting to discuss our upcoming trip and walk through any potential problems we might encounter and any concerns the students had. We were presenting the students with a rare and incredible opportunity. With advance planning and discussion, I hoped we could help them prepare to make the best of our assignment. They’d return home with stories to tell–and to publish in local and, ideally, national media.

Brian warned the students that they might need to be assertive and persistent about getting access. Rob suggested Jeric keep the camera rolling if he were denied access to an event. I had them create a list of story ideas. They had a complete packing list. Check. Check. Check. Ready to roll.

JR had checked and rechecked–and checked a final time–his packing list and his gear. JR was ready to go. Jeric said he packed about an hour before departure. Matt called me at 22:00 and asked what kind of bag to pack. He played a game of broomball with his intramural squad at 22:30 then showered and made it to the airport as we began clearing security. He paid for his own baggage fee.

I’d gone to the airport at 06:00 that morning to secure window seats for our trip. Matt went online and changed his seat. OK.

We leave at 01:30 Thursday, landing at LAX at 09:30. I leave to get the rental car, pick up the students and their baggage and head for a rendez-vous with a friend from my days in Cairo, Michael Nelson, now based in LA as a staff photographer with the European Press Agency.

Michael Nelson, from left, LA-based staff photographer with the European Press Association, poses for a photo with UAF Jouranalism students JR Ancheta, Jeric Quiliza and Matt Anderson before the students depart an "embed" assignement with the 1-25th Stryker Brigade. The Fort Wainwright soldiers were training at the U.S. Army National Training Center in the Mojave Desert. Copyright 2011 Cheryl Hatch

Michael Nelson, from left, LA-based staff photographer with the European Press Association, poses for a photo with UAF Jouranalism students JR Ancheta, Jeric Quiliza and Matt Anderson before the students depart an "embed" assignement with the 1-25th Stryker Brigade. The Fort Wainwright soldiers were training at the U.S. Army National Training Center in the Mojave Desert. Copyright 2011 Cheryl Hatch

I’ve learned from my years of travel and work overseas, it’s important to take advantage of the time on the front end of a journey to get a good meal and rest a bit before plunging into an assignment. I figured it would be a great chance for the students to network and get last-minute tips/advice with a professional photojournalist.

We had an early lunch at Back on the Beach Cafe north of Santa Monica with the sun shining on our faces and the surf of the Pacific Ocean a short walk from our table. After dipping our toes in the water, we said good-bye.

I had to get out of Los Angeles, heading east on the I-10 and reach Fort Irwin before 15:30. JR would be my navigator.

Jeric and Matt promptly fell asleep in the back seat. And so began our journey to “the box.”

Matt Anderson sleeps during the three-hour journey east on the I-10 from Los Angeles toward Fort Irwin, California. Copyright 2011 Cheyrl Hatch

Jeric Quiliza sleeps during the three-hour journey east on the I-10 from Los Angeles toward Fort Irwin, California. Copyright 2011 Cheryl Hatch

Fifth Squadron First Cavlary Remembers Their Fallen

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Specialist Travis Dringman, 20, from Danwood, Wash., guideon bearer for Bravo Troop, participates in a Veterans Day ceremony for the Fifth Sqaudron First Cavalry Regiment at Fort Wainwright, AK, on Wed., November 10, 2010. The troop commanders honor the tradition of the calvalry by wearing the Stetson hat and spurs. The 5/1 Cav honored their 11 soldiers killed in Iraq between 2005 and 2009.

Early last week, I had asked Maj. Dave Mattox, a public affairs officer at Fort Wainwright, if there would be any ceremonies on base for Veterans Day. On Wednesday, Nov. 10, when I returned from lunch at 13:30, I found an e-mail: “There is a memorial ceremony today for the cavalry unit at 3 p.m. I know late notice…I just found out myself 30 minutes ago. But the cavalry with their Stetsons, spurs, in the snow, holding a memorial with a wreath laying…I enjoyed it last year. If you want to come by, just call me.”

I called and said I wanted to attend. He said he’d meet me at the gate at 14:30.

I ran the calculations quickly: 20 minutes to get home and grab my gear, 30 minutes to get to the base. I had just enough time. I dashed home, grabbed my camera gear, extra batteries, extra clothes, a notebook, tossing everything in one bag. I figured I’d have time to get organized when Maj. Mattox drove me to the site of the ceremony.

I arrived on time, a minute or two ahead of Maj. Mattox.  As he drove, he briefed me on the ceremony and the protocol for me, as a member of the media.

On Veterans Day 2010, The 5/1 Cavalry honored 11 soldiers killed in Iraq between 2005 and 2009. The campaign streamers on the flag represents the squadron's long history of battles and war service.

As the daughter of a soldier, I knew the protocol: Be respectful of the soldiers and the family members in attendance.  I moved quickly. The light was gorgeous. Snow and brass sparkled. I didn’t have much time before the ceremony began.

As a photographer, I felt great to be shooting again after so much time teaching in classroom. As a military brat, I felt honored to be present. I’m including a number of photographs here because some of the soldiers and my students at University of Alaska Fairbanks have asked to see them.

Command Sgt. Major Joseph McFarlane stands facing his troops before the start of a Veterans Day ceremony for the Fifth Squadron First Cavalry Regiment at Fort Wainwright, AK, on Wed., November 10, 2010. The 5/1 Cav honored 11 soldiers killed in Iraq between 2005 and 2009. These soldiers are scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan by early spring 2011.

First Sgt. Leonard Strickland, from Bainbridge, Georgia, waits for the start of a Veterans Day ceremony for the Fifth Squadron First Cavalry Regiment at Fort Wainwright, AK.

Soldiers lay a wreath at a memorial plaque during a Veterans Day ceremony for the Fifth Squadron First Cavalry Regiment at Fort Wainwright, AK. The troop commanders honor the tradition of the calvalry by wearing the Stetson hat and spurs. Between 2005 and 2009, the 5/1 Cav had 11 soldiers killed in Iraq; their names are listed on the memorial.

Soldiers participates in a Veterans Day ceremony for the Fifth Squadron First Cavalry Regiment at Fort Wainwright, AK, on Wed., November 10, 2010.

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