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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]

June 14, 2006
Well, the time is finally here. On Friday morning (2 days from now), I will get on a bus for a 16-hour ride to Wisconsin, where I will catch a 25-hour flight to Kuwait. I am not really looking forward to it, as I really, really, dislike long trips, but hey, you have to get from point A to point B somehow ;)

This departure is coming on the tail end of two months' worth of training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi (a very, very, tiny Army National Guard base). Some of the training my little unit went through included weapons day qualification, night-fire (shooting at night), shooting with our gas masks on (all with an M-16A2 rifle), going through a gas chamber, convoy operations, base defense operations, more convoy training, HMMWV training, night-vision goggle driving, Combat Lifesaver (medical), and some role-playing situations. Also, all along we have been doing some job-specific training all along.

Because my unit only has 20 people in it, and because we are Public Affairs, our training was different from some larger groups that have moved through Camp Shelby. As a Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, half of us are broadcast journalists, and the other half writers for print (I am the latter). Some of the larger Companies that come through here (such as infantry) have to be here as long as six months!

Overall, I wouldn't say that the training was bad. In fact, at times I enjoyed it, but there were times when it felt irrelevant. That is ok though, because this is the Army (ha!), and well, I chose this job. I am, however, glad that it is over, and am looking forward to what is ahead of me.

I am proud to serve America and this time in my life, and I do feel that what I am doing will be a part of history. I love being a journalist in the Army, because as journalists, our main purpose is to tell the soldiers' stories. That is so important. There are so many guys (and girls), out there in the desert who have it really hard. If you just look at the news, you will see what kind of conditions some soldiers are living it. Especially the infantry- they have to live in the worst conditions for the longest period of time. I can't imagine ever wanting to do that, but feel so grateful that there are those who will stand up and sacrifice everything. Those are the gentlemen (sorry, no women in the infantry), whose stories need to be told.

Although my biggest regret being deployed is missing school, I think I am going to learn so much in this year. While I think of myself as a pretty good writer, I will have to become a professional - fast. I will be doing the job of a reporter at your local newspaper, but I've never worked at a newspaper before. At the same time, I'll be doing some public affairs work (escorting civilian media, etc.), taking pictures, and keeping my head down and rifle up. We are told that we are "soldiers first," which couldn't be more true. In other words, if bullets start flying, I won't be trying to take pictures.

Anyway, I think that is all for now. I'm just about to start my adventure, and I'm excited. I want to thank Elon for the chance to have this blog during my deployment. I think it is a really cool idea, and I hope I can provide you all with lots of stories and pictures from the desert!