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Student combines journalism and the armed forces through the University of Calgary

THE CANADIAN FORCES is similar to a foreign country, characterized by its own laws, customs, and history.

As one of 12 journalism students from across the country to be awarded entry into the Canadian Military Journalism course offered by the University of Calgary, I became fully absorbed in one of Canada’s largest army training camps. For 10 days this summer, I called the 225-square-mile area home and I experienced the grit and the raw realities that those tasked with defending our country face on a daily basis.

Both in the classroom and out in the field, I was taught how to navigate the various channels of the military while working as an embedded military journalist. My teachers were professional journalists, military personnel, and other defence experts. Despite eagerly hitting the books to prepare for this intensive 10-day program, nothing could have prepared me for our first field outing.

The orientation played out like a scene from a movie; two soldiers handed us flak vests, grey jumpers, ballistic eye-wear, and a cardboard box filled with food that can only rival the University of Ottawa’s cafeteria offerings.

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Our days ended at 1 a.m. and we were awake and ready to start a new day at 6 a.m. There was no time to shave or brush our teeth; we went straight to work covered in the dirt and mud we encountered the day before.

The excitement of shooting automatic weaponry, driving in Leopard C2 tanks, and eating individual meal packets (I’d personally recommend the soggy seven-year-old salmon in a bag) left me eager to return to the barracks for some much needed rest.

Despite the cuts, caked on dirt, long days, and short nights, by the time my 10 days were over, I’d never felt more alive. The recoil of rocket launchers may have rocked my shoulder blades and riding in a 30-tonne tank going 80 km/h may have bruised my ribs, but these souvenirs were well worth it.