By Mr. Michael Maddox (ROTC)August 30, 2016
FORT KNOX, Ky. (Aug. 22, 2016) -- Thousands of Cadets come through Fort Knox for Cadet Summer Training (CST) each year -- allowing them to get hands-on, on the job training for their future roles as the leaders of tomorrow. Little do those Cadets know, they aren't the only college students on the installation gaining valuable job skills that can be applied in the future.
Each year, the Cadet Command Public Affairs Office employs a small army of interns who are majoring in various communications degree programs. This year, more than 20 college interns from across the country served as journalists, photographers, videographers and social media staff documenting the training the Cadets went through.
Rich Patterson, Cadet Command Deputy Chief of Public Affairs and CST Public Affairs Officer, said the intern program benefits everyone involved.
"Trying to cover something the size of Cadet Summer Training is a huge task. We had 17 regiments this past summer - almost 10,000 Cadets coming through Fort Knox for training over three months. So when you only have three trained Public Affairs personnel staff for all of Cadet Command, you have to try to find some innovative ways to be able to cover such a huge training exercise," he said.
The interns spent roughly three months at Fort Knox, from mid-May to mid-August, producing written articles, photographs, broadcast stories, live-streaming CST events and managing social media traffic.
Patterson said having the interns practice their trade here has far reaching effects.
"This helps us meet our mission of reaching out and informing family members and friends of the Cadets, other Cadets who didn't come to CST, the universities where we have our 275 programs, and local communities where the schools are located and the Cadets are from -- it's basically reaching the American public," he said.
During their summer here, the interns gain valuable experience in a learning atmosphere.
"I want to create an environment as close as possible to what they will be facing in the job market. At the beginning of the summer they had about two or three assignments a week, because they had to get used to the military lifestyle and how to get around to the training areas," Patterson said. "But as the summer progressed and their skills progressed, we increased it up to, in some cases, six assignments a week, to increase the pressure on them of working under deadlines. That's going to be what's expected of them when they get a job after graduating college."
Keeping in mind that the interns are in various levels of their education and learning to craft their skills, they work and learn under the supervision of seasoned military photojournalists and broadcasters. The college students were also afforded the opportunity to cross-train in various communications positions during the summer.
Patterson said the cross-training is something many communications practitioners may find helpful in an environment of shrinking budgets and staff.
"It's important because as news media these days, many times they are the only individual to come out and they are expected to do everything," he said.
Wenqing Yan, a senior in Indiana University Bloomington's journalism program, said not only did she sharpen her writing skills, but also enjoyed the exposure to photography and videography.
"I think the biggest thing I will be taking back to school is how to better organize a story and how to write about the military," said Yan. "I think I have also really learned how video and photography fit into covering something. Because of that, now when I go to an event I have a better idea of what kind of shots I need -- especially when I do both the writing and the photography for an event."
Besides being provided with free housing on the installation, paid travel to come to Fort Knox and a monthly stipend, the interns also get experience in a military environment.
"The vast majority of the interns had never set foot on a military installation, and for them to see how we train our young future leaders of the Army, and to have that experience around the military and the discipline, was a huge benefit to help the interns grow," said Patterson.
Altaf Nanavati, 20, a junior at the University of Tennessee Journalism and Electronic Media major, said that type of exposure has helped him build confidence when speaking with story sources.
"I thought this was perfect because I've had no exposure to the Army at all, so I thought it would be something new that I hadn't experienced before," said Nanawati. "I used to be really nervous about contacting story sources because I would always think they are higher up than me, even if it was just a college professor. Now I've done interviews with sergeants, and drill sergeants and officers, I've learned to not be scared to ask questions or being curious."
The interns were also invited to participate in some of the training the Cadets complete as part of CST.
"They were able to negotiate the 64-foot rappel tower, go through the leadership reaction courses where they worked together as a team to figure out how to complete a task, enter the NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) chamber to shoot photos inside and to see what it's like to be exposed to that," Patterson explained. "None of that was mandatory, but something fun to do."
The Public Affairs interns also gained exposure to high level, executive individuals who visit the training. They met, and in some cases, interviewed officials like the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of the Army, four-star general officers and senior business leaders from across the country.
Everything the interns see and do during the summer culminates into a once in a lifetime experience that can only enhance their careers as they move into the job market.
"The products that they produce here are being published. They have products that they can take back to their university and put into their portfolios as they are looking for civilian jobs," explained Patterson. "They also have opportunities, no guarantees, that the products they are putting together are not only published here, but could also be published throughout America. That's something a lot of their peers may not have."
Josh Shortt, who is majoring in Broadcast News at Western Kentucky University, said his experience as a Public Affairs intern has really encouraged him to grow as a broadcaster.
"I thought this internship would be very good for my career and I was right -- it helped me out a lot. I also thought it would be interesting to learn more about the Army," Shortt said.
"I had no broadcast experience before I got here. The most I had done was working at a local radio station where I help businesses get their commercials on the air. I had done nothing with editing, videography or working with a camera -- so that was all new to me," he said. "I learned so much thanks to help from the Cadre, they never gave up on me. They would sit there and help me for hours until I really started to get the hang of it."
Shortt said he feels ready for his next semester of broadcasting classes.
"When I go back to school, I'm probably going to take some video editing classes, and I feel like I'll be ahead of the game. I'll maybe even help some other people out and share some of the advice I got here," he said. "I would recommend people sign up for this internship because it's very beneficial and a great experience."
Nanavati echoed Shortt's sentiments.
"For the people who are thinking of taking this internship, I would recommend they do because it's not just a good opportunity to get exposure to the military, but also to learn more about how to tell a story properly," he said. "I thought I was good at video, but I learned so much here."
This fall, U.S. Army Cadet Command Public Affairs will be reaching out to universities to advertise the internship for 2017. Applications, which need to be submitted in March, must have a cover letter, resume, and samples of work products.
All of the interns' work from this summer can be found through the U.S. Army Cadet Command website at http://www.cadetcommand.army.mil/
The U.S. Army Cadet Command is the largest single source of new officers for the Army, commissioning the majority of the Army's new officers each year through the senior ROTC program.