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Monday, May 17, 2010

A few notes

Last week, I wrote a story about airmen collecting books for children in Pakistan as a form of a counterinsurgency strategy.

This weekend, I crammed to write graduate papers on counterinsurgency and the media's influence on international relations.

When I was finished with all that, I thought I had earned some down time to watch mindless television, play with the new puppy or read a fluffy book.

I flipped on the television yesterday and found myself watching 'Rendition,' not exactly a light and breezy kind of movie.

Later that night, I watched the news about violence in Thailand and then parts of 'Saving Private Ryan,' and then watching 'The Hurt Locker.'

I've also started reading Greg Mortenson's new book, 'Stones into Schools," about stopping terrorism by building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. I'd read the first book, 'Three Cups of Tea,' and must say I'm a fan. If you haven't read it, I recommend it. It's a less daunting way to learn about life in Pakistan, the politics and some of the root causes of terrorism and religious extremism there.

So, my brain didn't take a break, and although it was tired, it started connecting more dots than it had while writing those papers that were required of me.

One article I used in the paper on the media's influence on international conflict said the 'CNN Effect' misses the point and the real impact of the media is that it draws attention -- and money -- away from the real processes involved in managing conflict. The cameras and most mainstream media only show up when, as the ABC anchor put it last night, "bullets are flying."

Watching one of the great war movies, 'Saving Private Ryan,' I realized a little more that battlefield tactics have changed, but the chaos of war remains the same.

In 'The Hurt Locker,' one soldier points a gun at a cabbie and after the situation is diffused, he admits that if the man wasn't a terrorist before, he probably would be now.

Something similar in the two movies though was something that I doubt has changed for soldiers.

Tom Hank's character tells his soldiers about his life, as his men are losing it and turning on each other, and tells them that he wonders how he will return to his wife, child and life at home unchanged. He wonders if those that he loves and knows will still know him, because how can he face what he's faced and remain unchanged?

A character in 'The Hurt Locker,' returns home after a tour with an explosive ordnance disposal team in Iraq, and finds he doesn't know what to do in his normal life at that he really only loves one thing. He returns for another 365 tour in the desert.

Half a century of history and conflict lies between them, and yet, it seems, the soldier is unchanged.


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I grew up in the military. Mom was an Air Force nurse for a few years, dad was a navigator on B-52s, among other things. One grandfather served in World War II, uncle is retired Navy, other grandfather and great-uncle served in Korea and a cousin is currently serving in the Marine Corps. Currently, I'm the military reporter for the Great Falls Tribune in Montana. Previously, 

As a military kids, we moved all over. As an adult, I've traveled all over and moved for work. But now, I'm putting down roots in Montana with my boyfriend. We just bought a house and are slowly but surely making it our home. We have more land that we know what to do with at the moment. Now we're getting a garden started, tearing down walls and having loads of fun at what we call the Homestead.

In a part life, I did PR for the guy who built the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall, social media for the National Museum of Health and Medicine, before that, edited two military technology magazines for a publishing group in the DC area and before that, I was the military reporter (among other things) at the Montgomery Advertiser, covering Maxwell Air Force Base, the Alabama National Guard, veterans and anything else military related in the area. And in between all of that, I leave town, preferably the country, whenever possible. It all started when I spent a semester in New Zealand.

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