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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]

March 2, 2007

CAMP TAJI, PROMOTION, AND AWARDS

PromotionSorry it has been so long since I’ve written- I was away from my base for a whole month, and I’ve just now gotten caught up enough to catch you all up. I was sent to Camp Taji, near Baghdad to support one of our subordinate units there as they are gearing up for the “surge.” As I learned during my month there, the “surge” is really an abstract, transparent objective. Yes, there are more soldiers moving around the Baghdad area, but is it a huge, noticeable difference? No.

The whole time I was in Taji I didn’t even go into Baghdad except for my last day, and that wasn’t into the city or anything, just to another base there. On a whole, my time in Taji was relatively boring, but I covered more stories at a faster pace than I ever had before. I think in 30 days I did 18 stories - pretty crazy. Needless to say I am glad to be back at Anaconda. I never thought I’d miss this place (can you ever miss a place in Iraq?), but I truly did. It’s the little things I missed; my down pillow, good coffee, and especially my roommate.

I lived in temporary housing in Taji where I actually had a double-sized bed (which upon seeing for the first time I very nearly cried. I was so shocked to see such a large bed…it had been a long, long time). But that too lost its appeal, and I was soon ready to turn in my double bed for my twin-sized one in Anaconda.

While I was gone, some things were put into action, so February actually ended up being a very good month for me. For a while now I have been trying to get promoted to sergeant - a rank that would give me more responsibilities. Being eligible, I decided to try for it although I don’t necessarily believe that deserve it. Well, the first round I was rejected, so I tried again, and found out when I was in Taji that I had been promoted to sergeant. It’s really a great feeling. My goal when I joined the Army was to at least make it to sergeant, and I would be happy- and I’ve done that in just under three years. A promotion in the Army is like the Army saying: “Hey, you have done a good job and we trust you to be a leader, and to teach others.” Wow.

Also a few days after my return, I found out the results for the Army’s journalism competition. It is called the Keith L. Ware Journalism Awards, and everyone on my newspaper staff entered in several categories for the U.S. Army Reserve- level (it’s like the preliminary round). Our unit did incredibly well, placing in almost every single category. To my great honor and almost disbelief, I was named Journalist of the Year for the U.S. Army Reserve! I also took first place for feature stories, and second place in both photojournalism and stand-alone photo. My and my unit’s entries will now go onto to the Army-wide competition, and we should hear the results in a month or so.

Again, I am completely humbled by the recognition, and each time I think about it, I give a silent prayer of thanks. I am so thankful to have had this opportunity to start out my journalism career in a history-making setting, and to make a small impact on the way our Soldiers’ stories are told. I truly have been blessed in this job! And to think, my promotion ceremony and the day I found out about the awards was the same day….what a day!