Friday, September 14, 2012

Citizen Journalism and Traditional Media Collide

By:  Jeremy M. Vought
Courtesy:  Wikipedia

Johannes Gutenberg developed the printing press in the 1400’s.  For hundreds of years, communicators have relied on the press to pass information.  It revolutionized written communication and communication across the masses.  Throughout generations, only a select number of elite people had access to such technology:  Book publishers, newspaper outlets, and governments.  These ‘gatekeepers’ controlled how and what information was published.  The digital revolution has shattered all that.  Today, with the help of inexpensive handheld technology and social media platforms across the Internet, regular citizens are taking the keys from the gatekeepers of information and are becoming citizen journalists.
Technology has driven the vehicle of societal change into this new era of journalism.  Three innovations particularly fueled this growing movement:  Web 2.0 and social media websites, cell phones and smartphones, and high-quality-low-cost camera gear.  These three things combined laid a functional foundation that is allowing citizens to ‘make the news.'
Courtesy:  The Cole Papers
The digital revolution in photojournalism took hold in the early to mid 1990’s.  One of the first digital cameras primarily built and marketed for journalists was made through a partnership between Kodak, Nikon, and the Associated Press.  The NC2000 (NC for news camera) cost more than $17,000 and was only a 1.3-megapixal sensor (Dunleavy).  Today, anybody can run down to his or her local electronics story and purchase a 12-megapixal camera for under $200 that also records video.  High-quality cameras once only reserved for photojournalists with the backing of deep-pocketed news corporations are now available to everyday citizens.   
Courtesy:  Apple
      The rise of the cellular phone, and more recently smartphones, has greatly contributed to this new media landscape.  According to the Mobile Factbook 2012, at the end of 2011 there were roughly six billion mobile subscribers worldwide (Portio Research).  Today’s cell phone is an incredibly powerful tool for citizen journalism that can empower the beholder.  Nearly every phone has a camera, which means nearly everyone with a cell phone in his or her pocket or purse has the ability to document something of interest.  For example, the newest Apple iPhone 5 has a built-in 8-megapixel camera – 8 times the quality of the NC2000.  In addition, today’s cell phones also have the ability to access the Internet.  This is allowing citizens around the world to literally document news and break it as it is happening.  Information in today’s technology landscape is instant.  No longer does the world need to wait for the traditional photojournalist to photograph a news event, travel back to his or her editor, vet it through the newsroom, and release an image on the Internet.  For a majority of many developing nations, the cell phone is their citizens’ only portal to access the Internet, which will be an important note when we look at the how important the cell phone and mobile Internet made and is making a difference in the Arab Spring.  In Egypt alone, roughly 70% of the people’s only access to the Internet is via mobile technology (MobiThinking).
      While this new technology allowed everyday people to document the world around them, they still lacked the distribution method and ‘soap-box’ to share this with the world and their local communities.  This need brings us to the third innovation that helped spawn the citizen journalist revolution.  Web 2.0 and various social media websites have transformed and increased the voice of the individual.  Web 2.0 is the term that describes any collaboration type involvement on the Internet.  Instead of just viewing content on a regular website, Web 2.0 sites are designed around user generated content, sharing, commenting, and the ease of publishing content.  Some Web 2.0 sites are blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, and YouTube. Most of these were all launched and became popular between 2000 and 2005. This new web infrastructure provides the platform for individuals to have a voice like no other time in history.
Courtesy:  Website Boston
These three innovations helped raise the blogger to the public sphere.  According to Nielsen data, there were some 35 million blogs worldwide in 2006.  Five years later, in 2011, the number sky rocketed to more than 181 million blogs (Nielsen Wire).  While traditional media were having a one-way conversation with the public, bloggers and citizen journalists could create and foster two-way and multi-way communications with audiences to create collaborative news and opinions.  Throughout this rise, traditional journalists have been critical over the objectivity and authority of bloggers, though time and certain events are helping to shatter that mentality.
Courtesy:  Top Rank Blog

In 2005, bloggers gained considerable authority when a blogger was issued the first press pass from President George W. Bush’s White House (Robinson).  Today, roughly eight bloggers make up the small circle of roughly 50 journalists in the White House Press Corps.  The Department of Defense also regularly invites bloggers into a Bloggers Roundtable where military-related life and military-related family bloggers cover certain aspects of the U.S. Armed Forces.
More than 20 million people blog in America (Robinson).  According to the report State of the Blogosphere 2011, more than 40% of those bloggers in the U.S. consider themselves professionals - many of whom make some sort of money blogging (Technorati), though another subset of citizen journalism is regular individuals simply sharing news, photos and videos with their followers on social media – particularly on Twitter.
Courtesy:  Twitter Blog

Twitter is credited with ‘breaking’ news off and on since it first started in 2006.  This is exactly why the traditional media follow Twitter.  They can be alerted to news and, in turn, break their own stories via print, broadcast, or online.  Take, for example, the US Airways crash January 15, 2009 on the Hudson River in New York City.  The ‘Twitterverse’ was full of individual eyewitness accounts and photos 15 minutes before the traditional media ever reported the incident to audiences (Beaumont), though it could be rationalized that the majority of people still found out the news via the mainstream media – Twitter simply provided the first images and news tips.
In the not too distant past, the media held a certain amount of power and authority.  One of the ways they exercised and still do exercise that power is through a term known as ‘gatekeeping.’  As explained in Social News, Citizen Journalism and Democracy, the role of the information gatekeeper is a part of the traditional media’s DNA process of creating news and deciding what will be the day’s news:
The production of news routinely implies a complex and multilayered chain of communication and sense making events, issues and ideas will be subject to the influence of various ‘filters’ or ‘gatekeepers’ (sources, journalists, sub-editors) before reaching their public destination. What blogging, citizen journalism and social news sites yield are new possibilities for citizen participation at various points along those chains of sense-making that shape news – not only new possibilities for citizens to ‘break’ news. (Goode)
       In today’s information rich society, many consumers of news don’t want to be told what to think.  Instead, as one journalist interview revealed, the consumers want the information to make up their own conclusions.  This is a major shift in the authority of traditional journalism:
The new media world is a massive paradigm shift in which once the media was the center of the universe and now the user is the center of the universe, and when that happened the nature of storytelling and what we do changed. ... Most younger readers/users these days tell me they don’t want authority. They want information and they will make up their minds. They want to be the authority. (Robinson)
      Social media now allow sources – subject matter experts, celebrities, people in authority, and everyday citizens – to reach and communicate directly with an audience.  No longer must they rely on journalists to cover their story, use their quote, or broadcast their side of an issue.  They simply log in and type in a line or two to communicate (Ingram).  That’s one reason why the traditional media refer to Twitter more than any other social media platform in their reporting (Bennett).  Since anyone can essentially become ‘viral’ – Internet celebrity – there is a paradigm shift in the distribution of media, which was once only reserved for the traditional media through TV, radio, and print. This is the “democratization of distribution,” according to Om Malik:
The distribution, which had been in the hands of a few large media conglomerates, was suddenly available to everyone. Today anyone, even talentless acts such as Rebeca Black can upload their video to YouTube and become instant celebrities. Justin Bieber, too, is a product of this channel-less revolution.
       Citizen journalism and the tools to which it flourishes have taken many of the gatekeeper’s keys through this ease of distribution.  Since there are more ‘voices’ out there now, the public must learn to vet information even better as there are potential negatives of “everyone” and “talentless acts” providing news.
       So, then, how is the traditional media reacting to this new media shift, loss of certain powers, and the rise of the citizen journalists?  On the outside, it seems like the mainstream media are embracing the changes:  CNN’siReport social/citizen journalism platform puts out assignment calls and has close to a million users after six years; open commenting on stories is available on traditional news sites; more ‘amateur’ and citizen journalism products are used in traditional mediums as source material; bloggers are on salary in the mainstream media; and, official outlets have presence on social media and mobile apps.  There are, however, areas where the mainstream media have not embraced this new culture shift:  Sky News has banned its journalists from “posting anything other than work-related content on Twitter, prevents them from breaking news through the service — and even forbids them from retweeting anything that doesn’t come from a Sky News account” (Ingram).  The Associated Press and BBC also bar its reporters from breaking news via social media as well as a host of other regulations.  While CNN iReport receives roughly 500 reports a day from citizen journalists, only a fraction of them are vetted and even fewer make it to air.  Additionally, while comments are available on their stories, journalists and other producers say they seldom check and nearly never respond (Robinson).
20 year-old citizen journalist Hamza Mahmoud Othman was shot
by a sniper in the Al Joubar neighborhood, in Homs.
Courtesy of the Doha Centre for Media Freedom
       Citizen journalism is making its largest strides on the streets in the Middle East.  The Arab Spring, started in 2011, sheds new light on the enormous importance and need for citizen journalism.  As the revolution fights on in Syria, the government there has barred journalists from entering the country.  A great information vacuum is occurring - one that civilians with cell phones are bravely filing.  "Professional journalists are often suspicious of citizen journalism.  When it came to Syria, however, even the largest new networks became wholly reliant on amateur cameramen to supply them with footage," the chief editor of Barada TV wrote in his article "Candid Cameraphone" (al-Abdeh).  While Twitter and Facebook were instrumental in rallying and organizing protestors in Egypt, You Tube is playing a vital role in exposing war atrocities and Syrian propaganda to the international community.  Thousand upon thousands of videos and images are coming out of the country even though the Syrian government is doing everything in their power to shut down social media.  Seeing the power of the Apple device, the regime even went so far as to outlaw the the iPhone to control citizen reporting (BBC).
       We are less than 10 years in this new media world.  Regular citizens are now more involved in the news process and sharing of information than ever before.  Technology like Web 2.0 and the cellphone allow communications to occur instantly.  Today, someone can record a video and share it with the world.  It's a new form of journalism - people sharing their world and idea around them.  As traditional media hold onto the structured practices of gatekeeping, citizen journalist are breaking new barriers of communication.  An absolute form of journalism, one way or another, is not the answer.  In the end, the multiple 'voices' of information between traditional journalism, citizen journalism and your neighbor on social media empowers people with information.  They all have a vital role in a common goal toward a better, more informed community.


Works Cited
al-Abdeh, Malik. "Candid Cameraphone." New Statesman 13 Feb. 2012: 16-16. Business Source Complete. Web. 19 July 2012.
Beaumont, Claudine. "New York Plane Crash: Twitter Breaks the News, Again." The Telegraph. N.p., 16 Jan. 2009. Web. 24 July 2012.
Bennett, Shea. "Twitter Beats Facebook (And Everyone Else) as the Most Popular Social Network Of 2011 [STUDY]." All Twitter. MediaBistro, 27 Dec. 2011. Web. 3 Aug. 2012.
"Buzz in the Blogosphere: Millions More Bloggers and Blog Readers." Nielsen Wire. N.p., 8 Mar. 2012. Web. 3 Aug. 2012.
Dunleavy, Dennis. "A Bird's View of History: The Digital Camera and the Ever-Changing Landscape of Photojournalism." The Digital Journalist. Eds. Dirck Halstead and Ronald Steinman. N.p., Feb. 2006. Web. 20 July 2012.
"Global Mobile Statistics 2012 Part B: Mobile Web; Mobile Broadband Penetration; 3G/4G Subscribers and Networks." MobiThinking, June 2012. Web. 22 July 2012.
Goode, Luke. "Social News, Citizen Journalism and Democracy." New Media & Society 11.8 (2009): 1287-305. Academic Search Complete. Web. 15 July 2012.
Ingram, Mathew. "Is It Good for Journalism When Sources Go Direct?" GigaOM. N.p., 30 Jan. 2012. Web. 30 July 2012.
Ingram, Mathew. "Sky News Joins the Anti-Social Media Brigade." GigaOM. N.p., 7 Feb. 2012. Web. 26 July 2012.
Malik, Om. "The Distribution Democracy and the Future of Media." GigaOM. N.p., 10 May 2011. Web. 31 July 2012.
Robinson, Sue, and Cathy DeShano. "‘Anyone Can Know’: Citizen Journalism and the Interpretive Community of the Mainstream Press." Journalism 12.8 (2011): 3-10. EDS Foundation Index. Web. 17 Jan. 2012.
"State of the Blogosphere 2011." Technorati. N.p., 4 Nov. 2011. Web. 2 Aug. 2012.
"Syria 'Bans iPhones' over Protest Footage." BBC, 2 Dec. 2011. Web. 31 July 2012.
"Worldwide Mobile Market." Mobile Factbook 2012. N.p.: Portio Research Ltd., n.d. 7-7. Apr. 2012. Web. 22 July 2012. .

Friday, July 6, 2012

AFN Freedom Radio 94.1--The Reality Zone w/SSgt Jeremy "The Motivator" Vought

We all live in the here and now, a reality. Hopefully your reality is positive, but if it's not, tune in to Marine Staff Sergeant Jeremy "The Motivator" Vought in The Reality Zone, every Sunday from 1230-1430. Staff Sergeant Vought, a 4341-Combat Correspondent and 4313-Broadcast Journalist, hails from Coudersport, Pennsylvania and has served his country since 2001 at Fort George Meade, MD; Camp Pendleton, California; Camp Smith, Hawaii; Syracuse University,NY; and Iraq. He is currently deployed from Washington D.C. where he serves as the Marine Corps News Broadcast Production Chief.

The Motivator brings a mix of uplifting, positive, alternative music to service members in Afghanistan. Spend two hours with The Motivator and enhance your reality.

Music includes: MercyMe, Skillet, U2, Kutless, DC Talk, Red, Newsboys, 3 Doors Down, Lifehouse, Third Day and Johnny Cash.

Video of The Motivator in action and highly caffeinated!

America’s Fourth Estate - The Press

America’s Fourth Estate 

Weapons of mass destruction, the semen stained blue dress, Watergate, Abu Ghraib, and the loss of public support for the Vietnam War – these are all situations where the Fourth Estate was an active participant. The Founding Fathers believed in the Fourth Estate. They set up protections within the Bill of Rights to shelter this estate. While they never used the term Forth Estate in the founding documents, they used another term – the Press. While it does have different meanings, the prominent definition in the United States is that the Fourth Estate is the institutionalized press or what we call today the mass media. 

In America, we have a three-branch system of government – the Executive branch (President), the Legislative branch (Congress), and the Judicial branch (Supreme Court). Each of these branches performs vital roles for our country. The term Fourth Estate, then, relates to the press being a bridge between the public and their three-branch government. While each of the three-branches is set up to act as a check and balance of power, the role of the press is to act as a fourth check on government. It is their job to be the people’s eyes and ears “over the Hill.” It often acts as the conduit between government and the public. The media encourage transparent accountability within democracy. Through their reporting of the actions of government officials, they can evoke strong public opinion, which in turn can force legal action for those who break the law or cause the officials under public pressure to change actions to better represent their constituents’ views. The Fourth Estate should not be confused with the Fourth Branch, though. While both can refer to the press, Fourth Estate means an independent estate while the Fourth Branch is known as an organization instep or even pulling strings in the background of government. Such examples of this Fourth Branch can include the public, the press, secret societies, special interest groups, lobbyists or other administrations within the government. For example, according to nonpartisan data from the Center for Responsive Politics, in 2010, organizations and industries spent more than three and a half billion dollars for lobby activities. This, in turn, certainly affected legislators to vote one way or another on particular bills. While both the Forth Estate and Forth Branch do invoke change, they go about it in different ways. 

Mass distribution of information and ideas are the bedrock to a civilized nation. The marketplace of ideas allows differing viewpoints to be heard. It allows false ideas and statements to be vetted and true ideas to be made stronger. The press is a vital tool to that marketplace of ideas. Take, for example,, the recent Trayvon Martin shooting by George Zimmerman. Because of the media reporting of this incident within the marketplace of ideas, people are talking about such things as self-defense, gun control, racial bias, gun freedom, Stand Your Ground laws, media bias, and racism in white and black communities. As we continue to discuss this incident, certain falsities and truths will be revealed through the discourse. 

While the term Fourth Estate does not have a clear origin, most history scholars note it coming from the late 1700s. Thomas Carlyle wrote of Edmund Burke using it in Great Britain in his 1841 book, On Heroes and Hero – Worship: 
Burke said that there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all. It is not a figure of speech, or witty saying; it is a literal fact, – very momentous to us in these times. (Carlyle 219) 
In one of the events leading up to the Revolutionary War, the British enacted the Stamp Act of 1765 on the Colonies. It required that all printed materials like books, newspapers, and other publications, be printed on special stamped paper bought from the British. It infuriated the colonists as it became a direct regulation on the distribution of ideas – many of which were critical of the British government. The newspapers took sides, and those loyal to the revolutionaries were crucial to mobilizing the people to rise up against the oppressive British rule. It allowed large-scale opinion to be heard by the masses. It was during this time that the American press realized and capitalized on the power that they possessed. 

Because of their great influence and assistance during the Revolutionary War, the Founding Fathers gave the press special protections within the Bill of Rights in the First Amendment. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” This especially protects the Fourth Estate from government regulation when it comes to content or opinion. 

The Fourth Estate has uncovered multitudes of government corruption, mismanagement, and crime throughout the country’s history. From the Washington Post uncovering the Watergate scandal and, in turn, forcing the resignation of President Richard Nixon to the media’s involvement during the Civil Rights Movement informing the public of the atrocities occurring to blacks in the South, the press performs a vital role to democracy and the marketplace of ideas. While not officially a part of the American government, the Fourth Estate is one of the foundations of American civilization. 

Works Cited 

Carlyle, Thomas. On Heroes and Hero - Worship. 1841. Web. 17 June 2012. <>

“Lobbying Database.” Center for Responsive Politics, 30 April 2012. Web. 23 June 2012. <>

Monday, June 11, 2012

“The Benefits of Legal Gun Ownership in America”

“The Benefits of Legal Gun Ownership in America”
By:  Jeremy Vought
     She was beaten from behind and shoved inside her vehicle. Registered sex offender and escaped criminal Joe Covington wrestled and dominantly forced himself on top her. Today, Shirley Bennett is well. “I honestly believe I would not be here today if I didn’t have a gun,” Bennett told reporters with the Akron Beacon Journal last year (Trexler). George Washington once wrote, “The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere restrains evil interference – they deserve a place of honor with all that’s good.” It was Bennett’s .38-caliber revolver that saved her last November in Ohio. The benefits of legal firearm ownership in America ensure the individual rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” from the United States Declaration of Independence are upheld and realized. 

     Personal gun ownership is key to the first inalienable right of “life.” Throughout history, humans have carried weapons for self-defense; they still do. In a U.S. Department of Justice study on guns in America, Cook and Ludwig (Pg. 8) show that in 1994 alone, over one million people used firearms to defend themselves, their families, or others from harm. Our founding fathers respected these important tools and placed a protection in the Bill of Rights, as the 2nd Amendment, so all people could protect their lives. Many who disagree with the personal carrying or ownership of firearms for self-defense often argue that it’s the police department’s job to protect citizens. Unfortunately, this line of thought is not probable. Attacks occur in seconds. In Atlanta alone, investigative news reports and standards from the Atlanta Police Department say that a 5-minute response is the standard for high priority 911 calls – a standard met only 9-percent of the time (Judd). Looking at police response times alone, any reasonable person should conclude that the police simply couldn’t be at all places preventing murder or assault on everyone. For that main reason, many people keep a firearm at home or carry a concealed weapon when away from their home in an effort to protect life. Opponents may argue against ownership saying, “What if these weapon-bearing individuals are careless with their firearms or may not be trained to use them?” First, there are laws on the books on the negligent or careless discharge of a firearm. Persons found negligent or careless should and are prosecuted. Owning a firearm comes the added responsibility to using it in accordance with the law of the land. It is much like the freedom of speech. There are still laws, which require speech to be responsible such as libel, slander, or screaming “fire” in a crowded movie theater. Secondly, nowhere in the Constitution does it say that a person must be trained to exercise a right. While most firearm owners will tell you training is imperative to the skill and safe deployment of a firearm for self-defense, very few will say that training should be a requirement. This train of thought in legalese is known as the “slippery slope.” Laws cannot prevent all unfortunate things from happening, which is why there are laws that can penalize an individual after committing a crime. 

     Gun ownership also plays into protecting the inalienable right of “liberty.” The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states that, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Having just fought against the forces of tyranny in the Revolutionary War, the founding fathers understood how important an armed population was to keeping their government from taking away their liberty. In a letter from Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, Jefferson wrote that, “What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance. Let them take arms” (“Quotes on the Second Amendment”). People may say that this is 2012, times have changed, and there is no longer a need for resistance. The Arab Spring in 2011 is a perfect example, though, of citizens sending very clear messages to their leaders about the direction of their country. The Civil War, in my opinion, was also resistance movement by both the Southern States and abolitionists. John Brown and his raid on Harper’s Ferry, for example, led the first armed resistance against slavery setting in motion the war to happen. Throughout history oppressive governments, as well as non-oppressive governments, have outlawed firearms for citizens. In turn, atrocities are nearly always carried out on the unarmed. After invading Russia, Hitler said, “The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to permit the conquered Eastern peoples to have arms. History teaches that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by doing so” (Browne). Liberties are nothing if they can’t be defended and fought for – arms allow that to happen. 

     Lastly, we come to the “pursuit of happiness” and how legal gun ownership can assist with this liberty. Plato once wrote, “The man who makes everything that leads to happiness depends upon himself, and not upon other men, has adopted the very best plan for living happily” (“Plato Quotes”). As Plato explains, self-reliance leads to happiness. Owning firearms can be one important aspect of self-reliance. A gun owner takes responsibility to protect himself, his family and his property. While studies like the 1993 New England Journal of Medicine “Gun Ownership as a Risk Factor for Homicide in the Home” paint a statistical picture of increased homicides by family members within a home with firearms, studies like this don’t go into the statistics of legal home-ownership of firearms. A majority of the cases in this study involve people with illicit drug use and past occurrences of physical abuse. Both of these factors would legally disqualify these felons from owning or being around firearms. Another part of the pursuit of happiness and self-reliance is that many gun owners are hunters. What then is more self-reliant than going into the forest, skillfully killing an animal to feed yourself and family? One deer can feed a small family for weeks or even a few months. Our founding fathers knew that self-reliant people who were free were a happy people, so they protected such things as speech, religion, and arms. 

     To Washington, "Firearms stand next in importance to the constitution itself. They are the American people's liberty teeth and keystone under independence … from the hour the Pilgrims landed to the present day, events, occurrences and tendencies prove that to ensure peace security and happiness, the rifle and pistol are equally indispensable.” From the founding of the United States to present, those indispensable traits of gun ownership still ring true. For Bennett, “I’m just glad I’m here today and not in the obituaries tomorrow.” 

Works Cited 

Browne, N.A. The Myth of Nazi Gun Control. Gun Cite, 21 July 2001. Web. 26 May 2012. <>

Cook, Philip, and Jens Ludwig. Guns in America: National Survey on Private Ownership and Use of Firearms. U.S. Department of Justice. National Institute of Justice, May 1997. Web. 23 May 2012. <>

Judd, Alan. “Calling 911, but where are the police?” Atlanta Journal Constitution 22 Nov 2009. Web. <>

Kellerman, Arthur, et al. “Gun Ownership as a Risk Factor for Homicide in the Home.” The New England Journal of Medicine 7 Oct 1993. Vol. 329 pg. 1804-91. Web. 30 May 2012. <>

“Plato Quotes.” Squidoo, n.d. Web. 26 May 2012. <>

“Quotes on the Second Amendment.” Cap’n Ball’s Old West, n.d. Web. 26 May 2012. <>

Trexler, Phil. “Woman fires gun to ward off man trying to steal her car, Akron police say.” Akron Beacon Journal 12 Nov 2011. Web.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Off to Pakistan to help - August 3, 2010

3 August 2010




Hello from Afghanistan. I’m a Marine Corps broadcast journalist and I have the best job in the military: I get to report on what U.S. service members are doing night and day to answer those recent headlines above.

There’s a good chance I could be classified as the walking dead right now, but it’s completely worth it! I’ve been up three days straight with very little sleep. I got the awesome opportunity to report on a group of airmen in a C-17 that delivered relief, via food and shelter, to the people of Pakistan devastated by historic flooding.

At AFN (American Forces Network) Afghanistan, we cover everything from combat operations to humanitarian missions. I’m always amazed at how fast the American military can spin up to provide help to those most affected by natural disasters. The strength, determination and resolve of individual soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines make me proud to be a part of the brotherhood.

Always being ready is key to our job – you never know when news will break. It’s up to us to be there to cover and tell the public what happened. I was notified about a mission into Pakistan to deliver thousands of pounds of food, late one afternoon. After some scrambling and coordination, I had all my gear and was on the Bagram Air Field flight line covering U.S. soldiers taking boxes and boxes full of Halal (culturally sensitive) Meals Ready to Eat (or MRE’s) and creating huge pallets to load on to Air Force cargo aircraft.

I got to interview soldiers who had been working the last three nights to support the Pakistanis. Always
looking for the next best different shot, I climbed up a metal beam structure and shot some great angles. I even shot the stand-up for ABC Nightly News reporter, Nick Schifrin, for this video story that aired on ABC later that night. When he saw me hanging up there for a shot, he had to have the same. (Marines lead the way!!)

After some 75-thousand pounds of food was loaded into the Charleston, S.C. based C-17, we taxied down the Bagram flight line and started our trek. I was surprised the ride was so short. It only took us 45-minutes to get to Peshawar International Airport in Pakistan.

Tensions and excitement were high as none of us had ever stepped foot into Pakistan – but when we did, we felt it. Immediately the sweat started pouring; not from the 60 pounds of gear on me but the incredible humidity. I’ve been to the Philippines, and all around the Pacific, yet nothing compared
to the humidity in Pakistan. We definitely didn’t expect it, since we were so close to neighboring Afghanistan. What made things worse was the transition from a nice, cold, aircraft cargo bay to a ninety percent humidity, stuffy tarmac. My video camera lens fogged up so badly I couldn’t shoot any usable footage for nearly15-minutes until both myself and the camera got acclimated!

Once I did get ‘rolling’ again, it was great to see the interactions between the Pakistani reps and the Americans. No matter what language barriers exist, the thing I’ve always learned is that a smile can break down barriers and say it all. That’s what I saw a lot of this night.

After three hours on the ground we said our goodbyes, pulled up chalks and flew away. The magnitude of the disaster was great, but "hopefully" everyone thought this flight, our efforts, would help some. It was two in the morning by the time the plane even took off and I used the 45 minutes of travel time to execute a combat nap. I didn’t wake until we hit the 9-thousand feet of concrete back on Afghanistan on Bagram Air Field.

I must say, while the trip was short, it meant a lot to me to be able to go. Not only to say I’ve been to Pakistan, but to say I was involved in a humanitarian mission from the USA. While I didn’t fly the plane, load the supplies or unload the supplies – it was my mission to document and bring the great work of our troops back home. I was honored to be a part of it.

God Bless,
SSgt Jeremy Vought