Breaking military stereotypes with immersive journalism

Cheyene Miller, Managing Editor

Cheyene Miller

The legendary journalist and Kentuckian Hunter S. Thompson was famous for making himself part of whatever story he was covering. This philosophy led him to spend a year of his life riding alongside the Hell’s Angels biker club while documenting their lifestyle.

Last weekend at the UK Army ROTC’s annual training at Fort Knox, a team of Kernel editors applied Thompson’s journalism philosophy, strapped on their boots, and hiked through the woods with members of America’s future military.

We began the drive to Fort Knox at 4 a.m., which might be an easy task for disciplined military enthusiasts, but was more than a tall order for four coffee-addicted journalists. Shortly after arriving to the barracks, we were debriefed on the day’s agenda, meeting several of the camp’s commanding officers along the way.

We then drove about 20 minutes into the woods and were dropped off with nothing more than our backpacks and notepads. For the rest of the day, we observed the highly regimented training of the UK cadets as they practiced all forms of survival skills, from formation and marching to responding to enemy contact.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the training was a simulation organized to teach the future officers how to negotiate and interact with local leaders in foreign territory. During the staged simulation, cadets, particularly the commanding officers, were expected to interact with locals to find a mutually desirable solution, only using force when absolutely necessary.

Their actions during the training certainly dispel many negative stereotypes of members of the Armed Forces — cadets who were acting as locals, for example, were discouraged from attempting to speak in Middle Eastern accents in order to remain culturally sensitive.

Whether it was discussing terms with a village leader or responding to enemy fire, a common theme in the exercises was competent leadership — each situation was predicated on the commanding officer’s ability to direct, and when necessary, restrain his or her troops. The skills these cadets acquire will prove beneficial for them regardless of whether or not they make careers out of the military.

Our only regret is that the experience only lasted one day. Short as it was, we feel more than fortunate to have caught a glimpse of the science and discipline that goes into today’s military training.

Cheyene Miller is the managing editor of the Kentucky Kernel.

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