LVN Editor Steve Ranson has recently won a national award for his overseas military reporting when he traveled to Afghanistan in November 2012.
The Military Reporters and Editors Association based in Washington, D.C., awarded Ranson first place for his blogging. His blogs originated from two sites in northeastern Afghanistan — Forward Operating Base Shank southwest of the capital Kabul, and Camp Phoenix, which is on the outskirts of Kabul near the international airport.
Ranson also received notification of another honor bestowed on him by The Inland Press Association, a national organization that helps its member newspapers thrive in their business performance and journalism quality. Ranson earned first place for Explanatory Reporting by compiling information on the operations of two Nevada Army National Guard units. He wrote an eight-part series (24 stories total) explaining the missions of each company and the fears and concerns the soldiers faced on deployment.
Ranson’s series was judged in the category of 10,000 circulation or less. The award from the Military Reporters and Editors Association is the second accolade Ranson has received in as many years. In 2011, Ranson’s first series from Afghanistan that told of Nevada soldiers and their missions with a signal battalion and military police company garnered an honorable mention in Overseas Reporting. Two awards — first place and honorable mention — were given in each category.
The Military Reporters and Editors Association is a professional organization for journalists who cover the military, national security, veterans’ affairs and homeland security. Its professional members include newspapers, television, radio and online journalists, photographers and videographers. The organization includes a membership from the national, regional and local media both in the United States and overseas.
Ranson’s entry was judged in the 100,000 circulation or less Small Market category. which is significant because the LVN’s print circulation is under 4,000. His stories and blogs also appeared in the Nevada Appeal, and his stories were published by other Nevada newspapers and The Associated Press,
The judges wrote, “His prolific coverage of Nevada Guardsmen and women serving in Afghanistan succeeded in what he said was his goal: To ‘put a face to the name’ while embedding with the units, even paying his own way to the war zone.”
While overseas, Ranson filed more than a dozen blogs and dispatches on a trip that took him from Reno to Dubai and then to Bagram Air Field near Kabul. His topics revealed the anxiety, fears and jubilation the Nevada troops experienced on a daily basis. Ranson’s own background in the military helped him delve deeper into the complexities of individuals in a war zone.
He retired in 2009 as a lieutenant colonel after serving 28 years in the National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve and had also taken short tours to the Republic of Korea, Panama and Fort Jackson, S.C.
The following examples give an insight into Ranson’s blogging from his trip:
Nov. 11, 2012, Dubai International Airport: Those who have deployed know the routine. Eventually, the pieces of the puzzle fall in order; it’s a matter of when, not if. Emotions among family are similar, whether the individual leaves for a three-week trip or a nine-month stay. Household affairs must be put in order, a will updated and provisions made for the unforeseen. As my daughter said, she feels sad that I decided to go to Afghanistan again, but she knows how much it means for me to tell the Army story from the soldiers actually performing their duties there. Something becomes lost in translation when soldiers return home. Their thoughts are on reuniting with family, not discussing their experiences.
Nov. 11, 2012, Bagram Air Field: Furthermore, it doesn’t make a difference if our veterans have been in a war zone on multiple tours or one because dangers face them every day, and the enemy doesn’t take a day off.
Veterans Day has passed in Afghanistan but is being honored today at home, I challenge residents in any community to know a veteran better by hearing his or her story of duty and sacrifice.
Nov. 14, 2012, FOB Shank: What’s life like for soldiers living at a FOB Accommodations are not exactly the Peppermill, but they are quaint. Large tents are divided into rooms, which contain, a bunk bed, a small light for reading and closet. Showers and the latrine aren’t too far away — some within 50 feet, others good 300-400-feet away.
Gotta love combat showers. To save water, certain limitations have been placed on the water soldiers use for showers. Once water flows over the soldier’s skin before lathering, the soldier must turn off the water, soap, and then turn the water on to rinse. The entire process takes about 3 minutes. The combat showers at Bagram Air Field seem luxurious compared to this. The solider has been allowed 3-5 minutes for a shower.
Nov. 15, 2012, FOB Shank: During my journey to the war zone last year to embed with a Nevada signal battalion and to visit the MPs, one cannot help develop a bond to the unit and its members. Such has been the case this year with the 189th.
The guardsmen have welcomed me warmly and included me in their day-to-day activities here. That’s when it becomes hard to leave and head elsewhere, knowing that faces now associated with names will be in my thoughts and prayers until they return home safely next year.
Nov. 19, 2012, Camp Phoenix: For the past few days at Camp Phoenix, I have noticed many Canadian soldiers as well as soldiers from Romania and Bulgaria. The Nevada Army National Guard’s 593rd Transportation Company, which has been at Camp Phoenix since summer, has forged a friendship with the Bulgarian army. The company’s commander and first sergeant, Capt. Curt Kolvet and 1SG Harry Schroeder, were invited to a party hosted by the Bulgarians.
We were greeted by Capt. Kahtapeb Kantarev and introduced to other soldiers including a man who had one of the bushiest fu manchu mustaches I have ever seen. During the time spent with the Bulgarians, upward to six soldiers danced to Bulgarian folk music. Capt. Atamecoba Atanasova explained folk dancing is one way for them to keep Bulgarian tradition alive. In addition to conversation, music and dance, the Bulgarians also had enough food to literally feed an army!
Nov. 20, 2012, Camp Phoenix: The wide ranges of Nevada are where David “Chase” Iveson calls home. Living the life is a young man who currently lives in Starr Valley, a beautiful area of Northern Nevada that hugs the Ruby Mountain foothills between Wells and Elko.
Barely in his 20s, Iveson works on a ranch, but here he serves as gunner on convoys. We have been able to share some stories of people we both know in Wells and Starr Valley since I lived in the region during the late 1970s, early 1980s.
Thanksgiving, Camp Phoenix: This is also my first Thanksgiving thousands of miles away from home, but I will spend part of the day with Capt. Curt Kolvet and 1st Sgt. Harry Schroeder for an early afternoon Thanksgiving meal. With me being thousands of miles from home, I asked my daughter — my youngest child — about Thanksgiving, the first time we have not spent it together. My children were lucky because the military did not beckon my service on Thanksgiving before I retired. It did this year, though, because it was important for me to be with the troops on this special, very American holiday.
“It will be difficult knowing that you’re in a war zone instead of being here for the holidays, but I am thankful for having a great support system for helping me through these tough times of you being away to ease away the stress,” said Stephanie, my 21-year-old. “Thanksgiving isn’t the same without you, and that’s what makes it so hard for me, even though I’ll be surrounded by a bunch of family. I’d rather have you here in the states than a war zone thousands of miles away celebrating this joyous holiday with us.”
Nov. 26, 2012, Bagram AF: My first and final stop in Afghanistan this year brought me to the Bagram Media Center’s Hotel California. Because of gifts sent from people in the United States, the 115th MPAD from Oregon fixed up the rooms, added a small refrigerator and brought in used televisions. Maj. James Miller’s staff has provided a comfortable slice of home here at BAF.
The paint scheme in my room is wild with two walls painted fire engine red and the other two walls sky blue. At the end of the hall are a coffee pot, snacks and extra toiletries. If I become cold during a November night in Bagram, I can find additional blankets stacked in a closet near the entrance and adjacent to my room or plug in a space heater.
I slept like a baby during my final night at the Hotel California … “You can check out any time you like … but you can never leave.” Farewell, Afghanistan. May our soldiers remain safe until they return home.