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This blog chronicles the experiences of Elon journalism major Alexandra Hemmerly-Brown, who was deployed to the Middle East in June 2006 as a member of the U.S. Army Reserves 210th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment. Hemmerly-Brown is from Blue Hill, Maine, and is the daughter of Jane and Daniel Hemmerly-Brown. As a public affairs specialist, Hemmerly-Brown writes stories, takes photographs, produces a newspaper and works with members of the news media. She is scheduled to be stationed in Iraq for about a year, and plans to return to her studies at Elon following her tour of duty.Messages can be sent to Alexandra at: IsisIndy@hotmail.com. Her mailing address is: Spc. Alexandra Hemmerly-Brown, 210th MPAD, Camp Anaconda, Balad, APO AE 09391.

[Return to Hemmerly-Brown's blog home page]

October 13, 2006

TOWER GUARD

Well, the three-month mark has come and gone and I know everyone in the States is awaiting the onset of cooler weather, shorter days, and the appearance of ghosts and goblins at the end of the month. Here I find myself missing the fall in the States, as the temperatures still reach nearly 100 degrees each day. Fall really is my favorite time of year. When the air starts to turn, and that cold wind brings with it the hints and smells of winter…I miss it.

Well, the dynamic here at the Anaconda Times office has changed a bit in recent weeks. Our staff of five writers has suddenly dropped down to two- myself included. I never really thought I’d be working for a weekly newspaper where I am one of the only writers, but, it’s working so far. One of our writers is still in Ramadi, our copy editor is off to another base for at least a month, and my very own roommate had to go home on emergency leave.

That leaves me as the copy editor, our other writer in charge of layout and design, and our managing editor doing pretty much everything else. It’s a little rough but the paper is getting done, and that is what matters. I’m not sure if I’m going to stay in the copy editing position once our original editor returns, but it is definitely a learning experience! I think I have a little more respect for copy editors now. Wow. There is a lot of reading to do, and a lot of “unseen” work- really working with other writer’s stories to make them as good as possible, and rewriting submitted stories, press releases, etc- and your name doesn’t go on any of it.

10 mile runAll this while still writing my own stories, phew! Well, one of those stories this weekend was the Army Ten-Miler. Some of you may have heard of the 10-mile race which takes place in Washington, D.C., each year. It’s a pretty big deal within the Army community, and I got to see just how big this year, when we covered one of the 10-Miler’s “shadow runs” here in Iraq. There were several in Iraq, and one was held on my base with about 700 entrants.

I really can’t imagine myself ever wanting to run 10 miles- unless of course I was running for my life from some imminent danger. For me, two or three miles is probably as much as I’ll ever willingly run. Of course in the Army we run a lot, but honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever run more than three miles (maybe a little over that), in the Army. Anyway, I was surprised to see how many service members here (Marines, Airmen, Sailors, and civilians too) entered and finished the race. It is something to be proud of for sure.

Although quite a bit of traffic was held up, and the route taken was an elaborate criss-cross of streets (in order to get a full 10 miles), it was a success. I think it was a good thing that connected the troops here with the people back home- although our race was seven hours earlier. Maybe for those who usually participate in the D.C. race, it helped them forget they were in Iraq for a few hours.

Other than that, things are going pretty well in the Public Affairs world of the Army. I had my first tower guard shift this week, and well, it is not something to be envied. Imagine sitting in a tower for eight hours with nothing more than another Soldier for company. Actually, it is two, four-hour shifts with plenty of rest time in between, but you can’t leave a specific holding area for nearly 24 hours. The towers sit “on the wire”- or so we call it- basically guard towers sit on the edge of any military base- they are the first line of defense. The daytime shift wasn’t bad, as there were Iraqi farmers tending to their land, and we could watch them with binoculars. It is pretty fun to imagine who these people are, and what their life must be like.

The night shift on the other hand was quite a bit more boring because there wasn’t really anything to watch- the Iraqis aren’t supposed to be outside after certain times at night due to a curfew. The weather was great though, unlike the heat in the daytime, and the stars were vivid. We could also look at things if we needed to through night-vision devices, but I’m not going to go into what specific gear we use.

After being up and moving around from 3 a.m. one day till 2 a.m. the next, I was pretty tired, and I’m really not looking forward to doing anything like that again…but I'm scheduled to in two weeks. Love it.