Fort Wainwright recruits UAF journalists

Annie Bartholomew/Sun Star Reporter
March 5, 2013

UAF Journalism Student John Robert Ancheta helps Graduate Photograpy student Alice Bailey into body armor after an informational meeting on military reporting on Thursday, February 22, 2013. The body armor was provided by Public Affairs Officer Maj. David Mattox who led the presentation in the Bunnell Building. Annie Bartholomew/Sun Star

UAF Journalism Student John Robert Ancheta helps Graduate Photograpy student Alice Bailey into body armor after an informational meeting on military reporting on Thursday, February 22, 2013. The body armor was provided by Public Affairs Officer Maj. David Mattox who led the presentation in the Bunnell Building. Annie Bartholomew/Sun Star

Public Affairs Officer Maj. David Mattox came to UAF seeking help from UAF Journalism students. He wanted  his soldiers comfortable talking to the media  and to give UAF students the opportunity to report on the local military presence.

“We’re the facilitators. We’re the resident experts,” said Mattox during his presentation to the UAF Journalism Department on Thursday, Feb. 28. Mattox’s main focus was discussing the two types of military reporting available – engagements and embeds.

An engagement is a shorter time frame requiring less preparation and is usually coverage of a structured event. Reporters need to have an identified topic and will have a PAO escort them throughout the engagement.

An embed is a longer commitment and is suggested to last a minimum of 48 hours. During an embed journalists live within the ranks and cannot be offered the comforts of an engagement. “When you embed we just don’t have the ability to treat you any different from the soldiers,” Mattox said. To demonstrate this, Mattox brought a body armor vest and helmet for students to try on.  The vest and helmet was similar to the style they would wear during training embed or in combat areas.

Mattox went over what students could expect during an embed at Fort Wainwright or abroad. “If you bring it, you carry it,” Mattox said recalling stories of journalism students bringing duffels of camera equipment that were just not functional during training exercises.

Mattox encouraged students to follow the ground rules outlined by the military and warned of the seriousness of breaking policies, such as inadvertently leaking information to the enemy. “Sure you might get the story,” said Mattox, “But that could be the last story you do in that theater or ever again.”

The slideshow covered areas including the appropriate way to address military officials, which officials were qualified to ask policy questions, and the organizational structure of the U.S. Army.

After the slide show, graduate student Alice Bailey asked if Fort Wainwright currently had women participating in military training exercises. “We’ve always had women in those roles and we still do today,” said Mattox recalling serving as medics, cooks and mechanics before the Pentagon lifted the ban on women in combat.

Other students were concerned with the return on investment when covering the costs of embedding abroad.  “There are plenty of opportunities to get published,” said John Robert Ancheta, who spent over a month embedded in Afghanistan working with the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment.

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