So I practically joined the ROTC for a day…

The time: 0600 hrs.
The location: The middle of nowhere -- aka: the woods.
The slogan of the day: "Dude I play Call of Duty."

My love for shooting started with the original James Bond “Golden Eye,” eventually evolved into Call of Duty and Medal of Honor, and finally retreated to behind a camera. When I first started working for The State News I had absolutely no idea what I was doing or what I was getting myself into. After all this time, now as an editor, I’ve realized I probably would have hated me back in my first semester. I was probably the worst person ever, no secret. Somehow I got a second chance and fought to prove myself, eventually falling into an assignment that made me go “Hey, this is really freaking cool.” I trekked around in the woods with the ROTC for a few hours. I climbed a six foot fence. I tore my coat and cut my palms. I got rained on and I got covered in mud. I had to run to keep up with cadets so I didn’t get lost in the woods. I should have been miserable. But I wasn’t. So what’s wrong with me?

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I have no idea. For some reason I enjoyed getting covered in mud and roaming around in the woods. For some reason I wanted to do it again. So I kept in contact with the media relations cadets and eventually forged my way into a relationship where I could text one of them and go “So what’s going on in the cadet world?” And get a slew of answers — all answers that I was interested in. One in particular stood out: “We’re going to a military base to do spring training exercises with a bunch of other schools.”

Sign me up. I was the person that, after running around with the ROTC cadets the first time, wanted to run off to enlist as a combat photographer. Even though that involved joining the military and probably dying or getting injured. It sounded like fun. It sounded like a story I wanted to tell. It sounded amazing. To tell a story that not many other people get to experience. Isn’t that the job of a photojournalist? To show and tell what other people might not see? We woke up early. I picked up my reporter probably some time before 5. I got virtually three hours of sleep or less. But I was still pumped and ready to go. We met my contact and she droves us the hour or so out to the fort. They checked our ID’s and let us in. It was still dark. If you know me, you know that I hate using flash photography. Natural lighting is so much more interesting to me and everything just looks better.

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I’ve been really digging low-light, slower shutter photography. It’s just appealing to me for some reason, even with the grain and motion blur. I went with three cameras. One for video clips, one with a 70-200 just attached, and one where I could switch between a 50mm and a wide angle. It was cold, muddy, rainy, snowy, and I was still pretty tired. I wore hiking boots. One of the cadets, before I left, told me to bring extra pairs of socks. Like an idiot, I forgot them. My feet were soaked within the first hour or two of running around, my pants got little tears, and the three layers I had up top just made me sweat a little bit. It was double the experience of the first time I went out with the ROTC. And it was twice as fun. Apart from the car we were driving getting stuck — them using multiple military vehicles to drag us out, calling in civilian tows. We got to ride in the little (or should I say huge) military truck. It was more or less the highlight of the year for me because I enjoy that stuff. Thoroughly. We started by following one of the cadets around through his day.

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And then we took off, eventually coming to mill around with some of the younger cadets — cadets that had never gone to the camp before.

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I even got to eat an MRE. So now, when I see them mention it on NCIS:LA, I get super excited. All in all I wish I could have stayed a little longer. It was quite a bit of exercise and a very tiresome experience, but it was a one of a kind thing. Unless, of course, I somehow get to achieve my sudden goals of becoming a military combat photographer.

Even though they made fun of us all day.

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The full story (which was featured on p1 of TSN), can be found here: Put to the Test

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