Welcome to my articles page.
Here I've gathered some examples of published articles from throughout my career. These are the final result of information gathering and image capturing to help in telling a story. Some pieces I've done cover news, others merely profile pieces.
Waves are gently lapping against the rocky shore. Various birds chirp and screech at each other as they fly to and from their nests. It’s another nice, quiet, peaceful weekend at the Rosario Beach Marine Laboratory in Anacortes, Washington. This restful little spot has become the latest location used for students in Everett Community College's (EvCC’s) Project Mayhem.
I know what you’re thinking, and no, it’s not some Bond villain’s plot to ruin or take over the world; nor is it a factory for Brad Pitt to make a batch of soap bombs (spoiler alert). In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Project Mayhem is a learning community here at EvCC to teach students about how the world around them works and is shaped by natural occurrences including disasters. The project is run by EvCC professors Steve Grupp and Gary Newlin.
You may recall a previous publication of The Clipper showcasing a group of students traveling to Mount St. Helens as well as Mount Rainier. This too was a Project Mayhem excursion where the students learned in depth about how plate tectonics and other volcano-related activity lent to the devastating blast that came from St. Helens and scarred this part of the world.
Although that particular class was shown how devastating a natural disaster could be, it focused around how the Earth continues to grow and shape itself even through the destructive power of volcanic eruptions. This quarter, the project incorporated a geology as well as an oceanography course.
Most of that trip was based on exploring different sites and noting geological behavior. This outing centered more on lab discussion and lecture-based lessons on how the Puget Sound is shaped by waves and the shifting of sediments.
Students were brought to various locations on and around what was considered base camp to measure salinity levels of the water, measure the frequency and intensity of the waves, and note the different land formations along the shore. Among some of the sights viewed just a stone’s throw away were large striated rock formations just inland from the facility. Students were encouraged to observe and hypothesize what could’ve caused this phenomenon. Many ideas were discussed until it was finally reviled that this was the result of shifting tectonic plates.
One of the more daunting adventures the troupe went on was following a seemingly innocent trail that brought them to a much higher vantage point than any of them anticipated. Endorika Riley, an oceanography student participating with Project Mayhem.
“I just figured we’d see mountains or hills,” said Riley, a Florida native. “After being in this class and learning things, and climbing that cliff was an experience. And I was that person who was last and kind of freaked out a bit but when I got to the top it was amazing. I had to gather my thoughts and then see where I was. I made sure to get my selfie because this is something that I’m going to be able to tell my kids. I might even bring them and my husband, and show them because it’s an amazing experience going up a cliff. I climbed a cliff!”
Although the typical Pacific Northwest weather made early parts of the journey soggier than some would’ve liked, it didn’t detour the students and staff from having a good time. The consensus from most of the attendees was aside from packing extra and warmer clothing, the only thing they wished they’d brought along would have been a good camera. Indeed, for something named after a disaster-preparedness course, there sure were plenty of exciting and beautiful sights to behold.
Although no solid plans have been set on stone just yet, ideas for another expedition in the fall quarter are being worked out.
Mayhem Thrives at Rosario Beach
Published in Everett Community College's Clipper during Spring quarter of 2015
Published in Naval Air Station Brunswick's Patroller in September of 2008
Hospital Corpsmen serve the world over, treating Sailors and Marines for just about every ailment, from a random headache to major surgery and everything in between. There are a select few, however, that have earned the Fleet Marine Force (FMF) warfare pin and the special title for people in the medical field, “Doc.”
“It’s a humbling experience when someone calls us ‘Doc,’” said Chief Hospital Corpsman (AW/FMF/NAC) Curtis Strull Jr., of San Antonio, a search and rescue corpsman assigned to the “Golden Falcons” of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 2. “When I’m with my Marines and they call me ‘Doc,’ that’s a sign of respect that they trust that I’m going to take care of them and be there for them 24/7. You know that you’re going to do everything for them, especially when they say, ‘corpsman up!’ and you’re on the go. You know that one of your Marines is down and you’re going to do everything in your power to get to him and take care of him.”
The name “Doc” is used by many when talking to or referring to someone in the medical field. Corpsmen are sometimes addressed as such, but most feel a true “Doc” is someone who has served with Marines and has earned their FMF pin.
“Many people think because you are stationed or were stationed with Marines you’re considered a ‘Doc,’” said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (FMF) Brandon Atencio, of Colorado Springs, Col., operating room technician and field medical technician, assigned to Lincoln’s Health Services Department, Medical Division. “While among corpsmen that’s almost true, without the pin you aren’t considered a true ‘Doc.’”
One of the biggest prerequisites to acquiring the FMF pin is to spend some time out in the field with Marines. For some, it can be a fun and exciting time; for others, it can be frightening.
“I’ve been stationed with Marines in Iraq before,” said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class (FMF) Michael Johnson, of Los Angeles, a central sterilization technician assigned to Lincoln’s Health Services Department, Medical Division. “It can be scary if you don’t know what’s going on. You just say to yourself, ‘I’m just trying to make it to the next day.’ I feel like I’ve accomplished something really big, like I could go up to the Marines and say, ‘I know what you know.’”
Johnson said one of his scariest experiences in the field with the Marines was when his base was attacked by Scud missiles.
“My first couple nights in Iraq, we were attacked and all you can think of in situations like that are, ‘Is this thing going to hit me? Is it coming in?’ You grab everything you have right there and run out to the hole you’ve dug, surrounded by sandbags and hope the Scud doesn’t make it. You’re just trying to survive.”
In order to go out into the field with Marines, Sailors must first go to Corps School and then Fleet Marine Force Service School, said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class (AW/SW/FMF) Jeremy Maddox, of Greenville, Miss., aviation medicine specialist assigned to Lincoln’s Health Services Department, Medical Division.
“It’s pretty much a Marine boot camp,” Maddox said. “You have a corpsman that’s already FMF qualified and a gunnery sergeant there to teach you the Marine way of living – how to eat, sleep, shoot, all that stuff. You go out into the field and learn field navigation, how to use a compass, a radio; it was a lot of fun.”
Johnson said corpsmen learn how to read maps and plot themselves through potentially dangerous areas, programming and using their radios tactically, and shooting an azimuth. They also participated in several marches with distances ranging from two to 15 miles while keeping pace with the Marines. They even wear the same gear as their Marine counterparts with the exception of their weapon.
“The same ruck sacks the Marines carry, you carry,” Johnson said. “The only thing that’s different is instead of the M-16 they carry, you’ve got a 9mm pistol on your side. As far as being ‘Docs’ in medical, if we have to use our weapons, something’s wrong because the Marines are the front line, that’s what they do.”
During their land navigation at night, corpsmen go through Chemical, Biological, and Radioactive (CBR) training to ensure that they’re on guard while on patrol. When the instructor shouts out, “gas, gas, gas!” the students have to don their masks in the required nine seconds or they fail and have to start the exercise over, said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class (FMF/SW/AW) Edgar Saavedra, of Manila, Philippines, a biomedical repair technician assigned to Lincoln’s Health Services Department, Medical Division.
“It’s pretty intense for a corpsman who hadn’t done it in about three to four years like me,” Saavedra said. “Last time I’d done it was with a group and for this you had to do it by yourself. You have to finish the six-mile course in about half an hour. They give you the coordinates for all the check points, you just have to find them. There’s no one to stop you except near the end, someone will show up in the middle of nowhere and scare you screaming, ‘gas, gas, gas!’ You’ve got to put on your mask and try to drink water through it. A lot of people try to tip the canteen up like a cup and it just doesn’t work that way, because it works more like a straw.”
Although Atencio knew a simulated CBR attack was coming, he said it still caught him off guard.
“I was doing mine and this guy just walked out from the bushes and started counting,” Atencio said. “It took me a second to realize what he was doing and I scrambled to put my mask on.”
During the training, some have difficulties adjusting to eating in the field, because everything you eat is prepared in a Meal, Ready to Eat (MRE) packages, said Johnson.
“If you get a good MRE, it’s good food and you can make it last a while,” Johnson said. “If you get the bad ones, you just went hungry. No matter what it was, you could have the beef stew or the chicken teriyaki, you had to have the jalapeno cheese and crackers because they’re the best.”
After the field training, FMF hopefuls must go through a mock board (similar to a murder board for surface and air warfare pins) and then a final board. Atencio said depending on your command’s policy with the boards, applicants could expect to be there for some time.
“My mock board took two days; the majority of one work day, and about half-way into the next,” Atencio said. “This was typical of that command though, at Camp Kinser in Okinawa, Japan. The real board only took about an hour. Each person asked two questions and there were only three people on the board. The final board wasn’t easy either, but it wasn’t too bad.”
The FMF pin is not limited to just corpsmen. Religious program specialists, members of the Sea Bees, store keepers, and personnel specialists may apply, said Atencio. The major factor is that Sailors need to serve with Marines in the field to be eligible for the pin.
“I think it’s a big honor to wear this,” Atencio said. “When you go out and walk through the passageways, not many people can wear this, so you’ll get questions like, ‘What pin is that?’ ‘How’d you get it?’ It’s an honor for me to say, ‘This is my FMF pin, I went to war for it.’”
Old school art on modern day aircraft
Published in USS Abraham Lincoln's Penny Press in May of 2008
Dating as far back as WWI and WWII pilots and aircrew would paint the names of loved ones on their planes to remind themselves of those they left behind. Now, crew members of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 151 “Fighting Vigilantes”, currently embarked as part of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2 aboard Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), pay tribute to their loved ones by repeating this tradition.
“I’m a bit of a student of history,” said Commander Eric “Snake” Venema, Squadron commander for the Vigilantes. “It’s almost like the idea of nose art. Now, we can’t put the pin-up girls like we used to do in WWII, but I was intrigued with the thought of giving the airplanes more personality.”
Venema said the pride of having a loved one’s name painted on their planes is very similar to when a plane captain has his name painted on it. He hopes the new décor on the planes will promote more espirit de corps among the Sailors in the squadron
“The Navy recruits individuals and retains families,” said Venema. “It was something we could do for the ladies back home to show them that we’re thinking of them.”
The idea for the new look came to Venema as Lincoln sailed through the Philippine straights.
“We were up on the flight deck and were looking at the land pass us,” said LCDR Dan “Howard” Hughes, maintenance officer for the Vigilantes, “when Skipper said, ‘Hey, Howard, you know what would look really cool?’ and that’s about it.”
Along with naming their planes, the crew has also painted symbols on the other side of the cockpit to keep record of missions flown in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Maritime Security Operations (MSO).
“The OIF obviously stands for the operation we’re currently engaged in,” Venema said. “The daggers, which match the one on our squadron logo, represent combat missions that plane has flown over the beach. That’s kind of an atta boy, pat on the back, for the maintainers. Every five missions gets a dagger; we were going to do it every mission, but we were going to accumulate so many that we’d run out of black paint, so we’re going to go with every five.”
Venema said this is just another way of showing those maintaining the aircraft just how big an impact their work is having on the big picture of MSO.
“When they see those daggers accumulate down the side of the airplane the plane captains, the mechanics, everybody working on them and even the guys on the ship launching them know,” Venema said. “I think it’s a good record to the tremendous accomplishment that the ship and the air wing team are putting together.”