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by Barbara Payomo, staff writer

On Feb 2, six HPU journalism students spent a Saturday afternoon training with the Hawai‘i Army National Guard, 305th Press Camp Headquarters, in a “media operation center exercise” or MOCEX.

In December, Kalamalama Faculty Editor, Dr. Larry LeDoux, received the first public invitation outside this Army unit, from Staff Sergeant Vincent Oliver, 305th MPAD Training and Operations NCO, of the 9th Regional Readiness Command.

According to Oliver, “The purpose of the exercise is to train military public affairs personnel and civilian journalism students in the realm of military public affairs doctrine.”

The subject of the exercise was the unit’s, and the media’s response to terrorist event at a fictitious local nuclear reactor. Oliver added, “The ultimate goal was to expose both groups to the Army public affairs operations in order to familiarize both with how things typically work in a joint civilian-military working environment.”

The six HPU students were, Ku’ulei Funn, Susie Lin, Sara Mattison, Barbara Payomo, Fetia Solomon, and David Yogi. Two HPU journalism faculty, John Windrow and Mary Varsino, both of whom also work for The Honolulu Advertiser, helped evaluate the exercise.

The Army guests were inducted through a military registration line where they presented their identification card and received a badge with their real names and a fictional or real media organization which they represented.

Some media groups that were represented were Kalamalama, Fox News, CNN, The Honolulu Star Bulletin, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The Honolulu Advertiser.

Students were given a copy of the briefing beforehand to prepare themselves for the joint exercise. They had to provide their own laptops and media equipment, and they got to set-up at workstations provided by the Army unit.

The exercise scenario required the six students, representing the six different news organization, to gather breaking news information, write a story and follow-ups, turn it in to their editors (Windrow and Vorsino), and see which news organization could get the story to the public first.
“ The name of the game is who can get the late breaking news story out to the public first, and get paid the big bucks,” said Oliver.

Kalamalama photo editor Susie Lin, who represented Fox News, said, “I thought we would be covering the military doing their daily training, something outdoors. It really wasn’t until I received a copy of the briefing that I realized it was more of a press conference exercise where we would act as reporters covering breaking news.”

Students had three ways to gather their information for their story. Through a media query desk, where the students were only allowed to ask questions on paper and waited for their questions to be answered; press briefings, and press releases.

“ This exercise gave me an idea of what to expect from a press conference, and what it was like to be waiting for news to break,” said Lin. “Each reporter was waiting for new information so they could be the first to break the news for their news agency,” she added.

The students also participated in a press briefing by Master Sergeant Charles Owens, 305th MPAD, in charge of the media program, who played the role of Lt. Col. Owens, military personnel spokesperson for the scenario. The students were able to ask only five questions, and then had to return to their workstations and add the new information to their stories.

HPU journalism major, senior Barbara Payomo, said: “The press briefing session was a bit nerve wracking. You see it on television news all the time, but to participate in an actual press briefing, and be the reporter to ask the questions, was challenging and exciting!”

Junior Sara Mattison, a visual communication/journalism major, was a bit skeptical about attending the exercise. “When my teacher Mary Vorsino said ‘come, it’ll be fun,’ I didn’t believe her, and asked how much fun could it be working with the military? But when I got here and they explained everything that we were going to do, this was like, awesome, and illustrates everything that journalists are supposed to do.

“ I think [HPU] should make this a requirement because the hands-on experience is good to have besides just learning from the book,” Mattison added. “I recommend every journalism student get this experience, because you gain more experience in a live exercise than you would get in an hour of class time.”

Solomon, a communication major, also from Vorsino’s class, was reluctant to attend the exercise because she’s not journalism major. However, she represented The Honolulu Star Bulletin, and admits that “It was a great learning experience in communication. It allowed me some insight as to how journalists operate when trying to develop a story,” Solomon said. “I came away with a better appreciation for what journalists do at briefings, and how nerve wrecking it is when news breaks suddenly happen. “I’d recommend all students attend this event,” she added

Staff Sergeant Oliver said his unit is looking to make this joint training exercise more often, to better the 305th Press Camp Headquarters and give an opportunity to journalism students to train with the military.

Top: (Left to Right) SGT Porter, PFC Regina, and MSG Owens prepare the answers to questions from students in preparation for the press conference.

Top: HPU journalism instructors John Windrow and Mary Vorsino were acting editors for the exercise.

Photos by Susie Lin


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