By : Sgt. John D. Ortiz Public Affairs Officer 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored DivisionJune 30, 2010
BIGGS ARMY AIRFIELD, Texas - There comes a time when an opportunity arises that allows a select group of individuals a chance to experience something completely different and extraordinary. For five local media outlets, an opportunity was extended to them to become a Bulldog and embed with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division during a field training exercise and tell their select audiences what it is like to be in the military if only for a few days.
In the words of a television show on a cable network, "You think you know, but you have no idea." This statement held true for 14 local embeds from student publications of El Paso Community College and University of Texas at El Paso, KVIA, News Channel 7, KFOX, News Channel 14, and lastly to El Paso, INC., the business weekly serving the business community.
"I have never had the opportunity to embed with a military unit, and quite honestly I didn't think it would happen," said Gerado Najera, Jr., a photographer and reporter with KVIA News Channel 7. "Opportunities like this are few and far between."
For Najera, being embedded with the Bulldog Brigade was a chance to live like a Soldier and explain to the community of El Paso what it really takes to be a member of the military.
"I knew it wasn't going to be [easy], but it gave me a new found respect, realizing that it takes heart and discipline to be a Soldier," said Najera.
As a community, Fort Bliss and El Paso has co-existed for more than a century, with mothers and fathers raising their children within a military atmosphere.
"I have never had the opportunity to embed with a military unit, but I am familiar with
the Army since my dad served for 20 years," said Vanessa Juarez, the Editor-in-Chief of
The Prospector, UTEP's weekly student publication.
"I thought it was going to be some really sheltered, and really restricted. I had no idea we would be living with Soldiers or we would be given the amount of access that we received," said Juarez.
For Juarez, being around and interacting with Soldiers really stood out to her.
"The friendliness of the Soldiers was a great surprise. The way Soldiers related to each other and to their superiors was also a little bit of a culture shock," she said. "It was interesting to see grown men, who could be relatively close in age, ordering other men to do things...the chain of command was interesting to observe."
"My respect and understanding grew leaps and bounds, it was an eye-opening experience that gave me a better understanding of the Army and also, on a more personal level, of the people in my life, including my dad, who had served in the military," she said.
For El Paso, Inc., reporter Robbie Gray, being embedded opened his eyes in regards to the military.
"It was amazing and really culturally different," said Gray, a reporter with the business weekly. "On one hand, three days isn't enough time to form a strong opinion, but a lot of the clichAfAs you hear about the military, I felt were true."
"The teamwork was pronounced, I felt like each member would take a bullet for each other," said Gray.
"Being embedded opened my eyes to the military and will definitely help my reporting," he said. "I fell like I understand the Army more."
One of the biggest eye-opening experiences for Gray was sitting in the 125th Brigade Support Battalion's Tactical Operations Center.
"I just couldn't believe it, the leadership, that were sitting in tents with dust covered computers, all had multiple bachelor and master degrees," he said.
Yet for all the local media outlets that participated in the Bulldog Brawl, this opportunity was a first.
"I hope there are more opportunities for future collaboration between the military and the media like this," said Najera. "Our civilian viewers have no other way in seeing what is going on behind the gates of Fort Bliss and Biggs Army Airfield."
For Juarez, the collaboration between Fort Bliss and the media should be the tip of the iceberg.
"My hope is there are more activities and opportunities like [being able to embed during the Bulldog Brawl] that welcome the civilian public and news media into the military community, which tends to be isolated at times," she said.
For Robbie Gray, being able to actually see firsthand what the military was doing was a great opportunity.
"Fort Bliss has always been difficult as far as receiving access to be able and interview senior leaders, and for that matter being able to see Soldiers training," said Gray. "But what I just went through, embedding for three days is definitely a step in the right direction."