Building relationships through my job
September 24, 2010
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq - As a journalist, being an outsider is something I am used to. However, I'm never one too long. As a journalist, you must be able to quickly get to know your interviewee, most often without a prior relationship. You must be able to put strangers at ease, sometimes before a single question escapes your mouth, gain the trust of your sources and leave with information you need for your story. This can be difficult, but with the right personality, the job can be done.
Before this deployment with the 3rd Infantry Division and the entities that make up Task Force Marne, I felt that I would be an outsider as the newcomer.
As an Iowa National Guardsmen deployed with a division where everyone knows each other, I thought relationships would be hard to build.
But for me, the relationships came naturally. Although I am a guardsman from a different state and not organic to the division, I felt that my time spent here attached to 3rd ID and Task Force Marne units was a learning experience for me. I learned about how the active-duty Army works, and I learned so much more about my job as a journalist. I also learned about myself as a person, and as a Soldier. Also, with every new story I wrote, I learned something different how to do my job. This deployment will yield many enjoyable memories for me, from singing the Dog Face Soldier song in front of a roaring UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, to hearing an inspiring personal experience from a UH-47 Chinook crew chief, which is still my favorite interview to this day.
Getting to know more about the people to more accurately tell the story of their accomplishments started with my love for hearing personal experiences. In this job, you sometimes find that people open up to you more than they have to others. It could be because I am an outsider looking into someone else's world.
For example, I'll never forget when I interviewed a father whose son had switched units and volunteered to deploy to Iraq with him.
During the joint father-son interview, I asked the father a question regarding his feelings about serving with his son and how he had that close-to-home support, right here in Iraq. As he began to explain his feelings, he paused, trying to fight back tears. He tried again to explain the situation, but this time, the tears fell. Later, after the interview, he explained to me that he had never opened up to a stranger before, but he felt comfortable with me to share such a personal experience.
When I look back on that interview, I feel proud because I was able to put that father at ease, allowing him to feel comfortable enough to let me into his life-to write his story. I think it was something he needed to do, and I hope for him, it made him feel better.
Once my stories are complete, they aren't just articles that get put in the TF Marne newsletter The North Star, or loaded to the Internet. They give the public at home a glimpse of the lives of our Soldiers who are serving in Iraq. It gives those at home a chance to see how Soldiers are spending their days. It allows Families to see their fathers, sons, mothers, daughters, brothers and sisters, heroes serving their country and helping others around the world.
As I reflect on the last year, I am coming to terms with the fact that I will not see a lot of the people I have served with when I redeploy home. I made great connections with the Soldiers of the 3rd ID, and am pleased that I earned the right to wear the Marne patch on my right arm. I don't feel like a newcomer to the 3rd Infantry Division, I feel like part of the team, no matter what state I am from.