Much of my beat is focused on soldiers' training and their actions on the battlefield.
But I always love the chance to write about what soldiers are like off the battlefield.
It can be a really great way to humanize them and connect soldiers to civilians.
Here's my story on Sgt. 1st Class Daryl Khan, a combat veteran who has deployed to Afghanistan four times. Khan was nominated to receive the prestigious Soldier's Medal for pulling an unconscious man from a car minutes before it was destroyed in a fire.
You can read the story online here:
One of the most emotional stories I cover for the Observer is re-deployments, or ceremonies for soldiers who have just returned from overseas.
They're simple stories, but packed with so many emotions. I've covered quite a few, and the storyline is the same, but it's the people that make each one powerful in its own way.
Here's a link to a homecoming for soldiers of the 108th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, who spent 12 months in the Middle East.
In addition to my story, I shot and edited a short video for our website.
The 21st Chemical Company is responsible for protecting the country against weapons of mass destruction, but it also responds to chemical, radiological, biological and nuclear emergencies stateside.
I went out to observe the Chemical Company's training this week.
Role players simulated contaminated patients. Chemical soldiers (the ones in the white suits and masks) scanned them for potential contamination and simulated procedures for those who tested positive for contamination.
You can read the story and view photos and a video online: http://www.fayobserver.com/local/the-st-chemical-company-training-exercises-for-hazardous-materials/collection_7798c040-bfd4-11e5-8209-ebfbe351008c.html
I shot short video clips from the training exercise on my iPhone.
I used iMovie to edit the clips together, add a title page and credits page all from my iPhone.
I have valuable video and audio editing skills from my experience in broadcast. As a college student, I spent time interning with WBNS-10TV and WCKX Radio One in Columbus.
A soldier with the 21st Chemical Company scans a role player to determine if he has been contaminated.
Soldiers with the 21st Chemical Company lift dummies (simulating non-ambulatory patients) onto litters to go through the decontamination tent. Although rarely called upon, chemical soldiers must be ready to respond to emergencies across the country.
Downtown businesses were fed up with a person who was scrawling graffiti on their buildings.
This story came into my life by way of the newsroom's rotating weekend breaking news shift. It would subsequently intertwine with my military beat.
I was working on a Friday night when I made my routine stop at the magistrate's office to flip through the night's arrest reports. I saw two young-looking men in handcuffs waiting for a magistrate. I asked, what's up with those kids?
The magistrate on-duty told me one was the graffiti bandit. I remembered reading a story by our city reporter Andrew Barksdale earlier that week about the graffiti problems and knew I had to stay for the bond hearing. The magistrate invited me to pull a chair up and observed as she set bond for the first man. After the bond hearing, she let me make a copy of his jail intake papers, on which, he wrote "A CO 122 ASB 82ND CAB" under his employment history.
As a military reporter, I recognized that as "Alpha Company, 122 Aviation Support Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division."
By this point, it was 9:30 p.m. and I was butting up against deadline.
I recognized the unit that he wrote he worked for and called that Public Affairs Officer. I wasn't able to get through, so I contacted the PAO for the unit's parent organization. Eventually, I talked to both PAOs who were able to confirm the man once belonged to the Army, but had been discharged four or five months ago.
I explained to both PAOs that the man wrote he had been a soldier in his employment history on the jail intake paper and I would have to include it in the story. Both PAOs were cordial and understood my perspective as a journalist.
Of course it's part of their jobs, but I think the fact that both PAOs were so quick (less than 30 minutes on a Friday night) to confirm the man's affiliation with the Army, is testament to the honest and open professional relationship that I've built and maintain with my sources. They knew they could trust me to fairly and accurately report the information.
Here's a link to the story for the Fayetteville Observer: http://www.fayobserver.com/news/crime_courts/fayetteville-graffiti-bandit-a-former-fort-bragg-soldier-arrested/article_9f5d8fad-ea80-5e86-a1c0-d522011c23e7.html
Behind the byline
Here's an inside look at how some of my favorite stories came together.