This is my first blog entry so we'll see how it turns out.
The weather here at Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg, Mississippi, is quite nice at present. Sunny skies and a cool breeze blowing, keeping the air fresh and the heat down. We are getting ready for it to heat up, though.
I've been here about two weeks. The training to date has been pretty strong. Focused on orienting us on the combative environment we will soon be facing, we have a series of several score tasks that we need to be proficient in as well as collective or "group" tasks that we have to master. The training environment is such that we have "Combat Counterparts" that monitor and assist us in accomplishing our training objectives, mentoring us along the way.
I am limited in what I can accomplish right now because I am still waiting on some equipment to arrive, but soon I will have my cameras and be ready to post imagery as well as writings to this post and to those back home that want to know what we are doing.
It is interesting to be part of this Task Force. No longer a unit of the Oregon National Guard, we are a joint task force with elements from the Army, Navy and Air Force, servicemembers from 25 states and two U.S. Territories. Nightly we brief the commanding general on our work, our requirements and our plans for future operations. This is going to be a great voyage with an extraordinary team.
My team is coming together very well. Although I was not able to convince the leaders of the Air Force to bring my trusted right hand, Nick Choy, to join us (some prohibition against the Blue side of the force), he is here for a short term, an Airman learning the ways of Soldiers. He is having a great time and building solid relationships that will help us to get the story told back home in Oregon and beyond. Scott Kesterson, the embedded reporter that is travelling with us for the duration of our journey, is doing extraordinary work. Filing daily and training with a wide variety of units, he is re-learning the way of the warrior and realizing that the Guard is even stronger than when he served within our ranks over a decade ago. I will soon be joined by a real leader in the military photojournalism field, Tom Roberts. His work for the senior leadership of the National Guard is renowned across the nation. It will be great to duplicate the effort and get the benefit of his experience.
It is my intention to be the best storyteller of the men and women of this task force. Because that is my job. Above all else, it is to be a warrior first and the RANGER tab on my soldier is a daily reminder that "I accept the fact that, as a Ranger, my country expects me to move farther, faster and fight harder than any other soldier." Given that, I know that my role is to get the stories of these Soldiers, Airmen and Sailors into the front rooms, headlines, postboxes and mind's eyes of Americans and the world. Every day I meet another member of our team with another extraordinary story. I am honored to be part of the process that gets their story told.
"The journey of a thousand miles starts with one step." - Lao Tsu
This is the first step.