Essay by Jordan Jennings, US Army Youth, Ft. Benning, Georgia

From October 19-25, 2012, I was one of the fortune few to attend the Abackpackjournalist – COVER THE ASSIGNMENT in Washington D.C. Through that five day time span I was able to meet amazing kids from across the country who shared the same passion I did for journalism; I was able to learn more about the wide ranging field of journalism, and spend more time working on my craft. I ascertained so much vital information and found a few things out about myself. I never would have considered journalism a  career option for myself; but I love it. I feel like Clark Kent in reverse he feels the most confidence in his superman costume where as I feel the most confident in my horn-rimmed glasses, behind a note pad with a pencil. I was able to gain a new self-respect along with find out ways to combat the pressure of perfection, while getting an experience of a life time.

The first day that we were in D.C we meet in our meeting room for breakfast and an early head start. There for the first time I saw new faces shy and timid at first I said hello, ate my breakfast and got ready for the day. We headed to the Pentagon where we were greeted by LTC Robert Ditchey. Our first stop was the Pentagon press room; there all 9 of us sat in awe at the fact that we were in an actual press room where actual journalist did their jobs day to day, LTC Ditchey explained to us his job, the role of many of journalist at the pentagon and the many career options he could have in this field. After the meeting in the conference room. Then were given an exclusive tour around the pentagon I learned that it contained 17 miles o hallway, the courtyard was the only no salute area, and major broadcasting companies had broadcasting areas throughout the pentagon. Our last stop was the amazing chocolate shop, it was filled with mouth watering delicacies the chocolate options were inevitable. We finally concluded with lunch in the pentagon Café. Our next stop was the white house when we arrived the moment was surreal we were actually in the white house about to enter the white house press room. This is where journalist at the climax their careers. I was so excited to be in the same room where so many prominent journalist worked such as Helen Thomas .

Saturday helped prepare us for the AUSA Ten-Miler. Mama Lynch greeted us at the D.C National Guard Armory where exhibitors from across the nation set up shop. Our jobs were to go out and find great stories it was like being in the field. With a pad and pencil and recorder in hand, my partner Miles we set off to find stories. Evan Clark and I were able to interview a Vietnam Veteran with the most enthralling story. This was one of the highlights of my trip. I was almost brought into tears, by the words flowing so eloquently out of his mouth the scar the war left on him and so many of the other veterans and he improper homecoming given to him and so many of the other veterans. He told Evan and I the truth and why talking about PTSD was such an important subject. Here I felt like more than a journalist but a truth seeker. Sunday was an early morning everyone was up at 5 am and ready for the race. During the race we took turns rotating at the HOOAH booth. We were able to interview Lt. General Ingram, Lt. General Talley, Maj. General Visot, Maj. General Anderson and CSM Manis from the Golden Knights. Though the day was long we were able to put in hard work get great interviews.

Our final two day consisted of attending the AUSA conference at the D.C convention center. The first day Hannah, Evan, and I were given the most amazing opportunity we attended an actual press conference for the Chief of Staff of the United States Army General Odierno; with the greatest pride we were able to represent “A backpack Journalist”. We were in a room with some of the top dogs of Journalism and sandwiched in between the “The Wall Street Journal” and “Bloomberg” it was very intimidating. The press conference began and the three of us eagerly began to raise our hand hoping to be selected but since the General himself was not calling on the journalist we had someone else mediate who was asking the questions. When it came down to the last question we didn’t get it, but General Odierno saw how persistent the three of us were throughout the entire press conference and gave the final question to Evan. Evan’s question was one of the best asked questions throughout the entire press conference General Odierno told him “That was a great question” unlike many of the journalist in the room we focused of the issues that were being covered at the event. We put in a lot of research. The press conference ended with a swarm of people but we were pulled off to the side and given the opportunity to take a picture with General Odierno and just as we finished I found a way to sneak in a few more questions.   Being there in the moment and getting actual journalism experience firsthand was exhilarating. Our last a final day was by far the best we meet in front of a large audience where we all were given a “one minute claim to fame” there were able to talk about what we experience those last few days what lay ahead of us for the future. By far the most exciting part of the day is when we were all coined receiving some of the highest honors from such respected  military leaders was the icing on the cake. We were all in a state of nostalgia, amped on what had just happened we had one more surprise and that was the opportunity to interview Mrs. Odierno with a final interview it was one last time to enjoy this experience.

Leaving D.C I wasn’t the shy timid girl on the first day who awkwardly made salutations , I was a confident young lady saying goodbye to some friends that I would never forget. The whole experience was something you couldn’t ask for or learn about in some journalism class it was hands on. I am so grateful for the wonderful mentors Ms. Dennis and Mama Lynch because they took time to give us the opportunity to find more out about this field. They pushed us and help me discover that I can have a career in journalism.