By Zack Shelby, Fort Eustis Wheel EditorMay 7, 2009
FORT EUSTIS, Va. (May 7, 2009) -- Noncommissioned officers get messages across to the their Soldiers in different ways. Some prefer taking action, while others favor various forms of verbal communication. Sgt. 1st Class Chartlon Jefferson, a network operations NCO with the 93rd Signal Brigade on Fort Eustis, writes fiction based on challenges real life Soldiers face while serving our country. "I did one (book) based on a young guy joining the Army," said Jefferson. Jefferson said the character gets misled by people he was associated with and starts getting into illegal activities, including dealing drugs. "The career path he chooses in the Army was a lot better in hindsight than what he thought he wanted in the illegal world," Jefferson said. "Hindsight was 20/20 for him. He thought what he saw out there (in the illegal world with nice cars and flexible hours) was better than what he was doing (in the Army)." The new Soldier thought sleeping in was better than waking up at 4 a.m. in the morning to run and do physical training. The character also considers financial concerns within the Army versus possible monetary gains by doing illegal activities. The Soldier has to decide where his loyalty lies and how or if they can handle possible consequences of their questionable decisions. The scenario is one of many Jefferson features in his 10-chapter book. Jefferson said he had conversations with a few people in the Army over time and got some of the same stories from different people. "One day I just started jotting down some ideas and thoughts and said 'you know what, let me make this into a story,'" he said. "Let me make this into something someone else might pick up one day and read and realize that if 'I'm having these kind of thoughts (illegal), let me read this first and get a better understanding of what could happen if I choose to go down that path.'" Jefferson tries to give perspective of what can happen to Soldiers who go down a dangerous path, based on what he's seen during his 15 years (13 active duty) in the Army. "In the book, the guy thinks he knows (how to operate in the illegal world) from the outside looking in," Jefferson said. "But once he actually crosses that line and actually gets into that arena, he realizes that maybe that's not where he wants to be and not what he wants to do." Jefferson was concerned about seeing Soldiers go down these paths and decided he could do something about it. "What better way to do it than through entertainment," Jefferson said. "I don't have the time or the budget to make a movie or a sitcom (situational comedy). We do have a lot of avenues for approach in the content of the book, but I wanted to do it in a more entertaining way." After shopping around with a few public agencies, Jefferson found one that he said seems promising and is hoping to have his book out and available by July or August. Jefferson said when he started writing, it was just fun for him. "I know a lot of people are into reading right now, but more than anything, they are into music," Jefferson said. Because of that, he's contemplating trying to make a sound track based on his book, hoping to either reach those who prefer music over reading or to gain interest in the book through what they hear on a sound track. "The whole thing is really just about getting the message out," he said. "I really want a lot of these young Soldiers to stop and think about things that they think are better than what they have right now. I just don't want things to go unsaid. I don't want people to wait until something happens and then say 'you know what, we should have talked about that.'" He said although he took the angle of Soldiers doing illegal activities, there's more to the book than that. The book is about making life choices in the Army. Jefferson said he felt Soldier issues is something that had to be addressed and in an entertaining and educational way. He said he calls it "edutainment." "It's about being grateful and proud of what you're doing," Jefferson said. "A lot of the underlying themes tie into the Army values." He said if a Soldier had applied some of the values, maybe things would have been better or not as bad. "When I was writing, I didn't really intend for it to come out that way," Jefferson said. "It just did." He gave Soldiers in his unit copies of his material to find out their thoughts, level of interest and to see if they could relate to it. "I had one guy when I was stationed at Fort Lewis, Wash., read the first chapter and then said 'hey, I need to read all of it,'" Jefferson said. The book includes an introduction to characters with just a small look into their background, but the book is based on their life after they have joined the Army and been assigned to their unit. "They're already living in the Army community, going off post and experiencing things," Jefferson said. He said he purposely didn't delve deeply into the pre-Army backgrounds of the characters because when Soldiers join the Army, they are pretty much an adult and that's when they're really starting their lives. For many Soldiers, especially those who join in their teens, early 20s or after college, it is their first taste of the real world. "This is their platform," he said. "I wanted the focal point to be what we (the Army) do, that way more Soldiers can relate to it." Jefferson said it's great if the civilian population can grasp the book, but that it was designed to give Soldiers something to relate to. He added that when their done with the book and put it away, he wants them to come away with lessons learned without even having to realize it. "It was written by a Soldier for Soldiers," Jefferson said.