As soldiers-in-training, Army ROTC cadets at The University of Southern
Mississippi learn how to march in time, fire a weapon and defend
however, the Department of Military Science is teaming up with the
School of Mass Communication and Journalism to teach skills better
suited for the briefing room than the battlefield.
As part of
a joint endeavor, senior cadets are reaching out to journalism students
in an attempt to improve their media relations skills. Both departments
are in the College of Arts and Letters.
and problem solving are but a few of the tactics up-and-coming officers
will develop during the course. Journalism students will benefit
by acting as "embedded" reporters during ROTC activities,
including a three-day field training exercise at Camp Shelby Feb.
The end result,
Lt. Col. Kevin Dougherty hopes, could help tear down the wall between
the two historically antagonistic professions.
if you get ROTC and journalism students together, you'll find they
like the same things - pizza, music, movies. The more time they
spend together, the more they see that they're alike. At this crucial
point in their careers, we want to teach them about trust and familiarity,"
Since the Vietnam
War, the media and the military have shared a strained relationship,
marked by institutional distrust and mutual suspicion. During the
peak of this contentious dynamic, the military and media came to
view each other as something just short of enemies, Dougherty said.
someone like General Westmoreland is telling soldiers they shouldn't
trust journalists, and someone like Walter Cronkite is telling journalists
they shouldn't trust the military, there's going to be a problem
with how the two perceive each other," he said.
In an attempt
to "tell their side of the story," Dougherty said, the
armed forces began to defrost that relationship by providing media
with more information and access during their tactical maneuvers.
Operation Desert Storm marked a new era in which 24- hour live press
coverage became both a reality and an expectation.
reached new heights during Operation Iraqi Freedom. For the first
time, journalists enjoyed full-access to the battlefield, reporting
from inside fighting units and even relaying broadcasts as the action
sort of gave the military a bad name," said senior cadet KaRensa
Polk. "Embedding journalists gave us an opportunity to show
the other side of what we do."
Polk said along
with improving the military's image and closing the divide with
journalists, she hopes ROTC students will learn valuable new skills
from this project.
key to being a leader is having good communication skills,"
Polk said. "People see us as just fighters, but we do so much
more. We may have a uniform on, but we're also human underneath."
The first journalist
to volunteer for the project was Chad Applebaum, photo editor for
the Student Printz. Applebaum said he was "thrilled to have
an opportunity to work with the ROTC on campus."
profession, you interact with a lot of different people, and as
students, we need to be prepared to deal with that. Plus, I think
this project will help bridge the gap between the two student organizations,"
opportunities this semester include a Black Hawk helicopter orientation
on campus, paintball exercises at Camp Shelby, an intercollegiate
field-training competition, a military ball and, finally, commissioning
a panel discussion featuring military, journalism and student representatives
is planned for later this spring.
Hargett, an assistant professor of military science at Southern
Miss, said he knew of no other program in the country where cadets
could interact with student journalists in the field.
is a chance for journalism students to come in and observe the day
in the life of a cadet. We want them to see everything, warts and
all, and report what they see. As soldiers, we feel we don't have
anything to hide," Hargett said.