Sometimes I stumble upon the best stories.
That's what happened when I found the Pathfinders.
I attended a family social event for soldiers of the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade. The story for that assignment was simply the joy families felt to have their soldiers home for Thanksgiving. The previous year, most of those soldiers had been deployed to Afghanistan.
While I was mingling around the event, the Public Affairs Officer introduced me to a captain who was the commander of the unit's infantry unit - the Pathfinders. Why would an aviation unit have an infantry company? So the Public Affairs Officer helped coordinate a time for me to observe the unit training at Fort Bragg the following month.
The training itself wasn't that exciting. But, the commander shared with me how the unit's role as part of the larger Army is changing. So I worked my story as a profile on this unique unit and its changes since World War II.
And, of course, the art is breathtaking. All of the photos are by staff photographer Andrew Craft.
You can read the feature from the Fayetteville Observer here: http://www.fayobserver.com/military/pathfinders-secure-land-lead-helicopters-and-soldiers/article_964b7d53-0c91-5c6d-a311-0fcf04345140.html
I was one of about 50 media outlets that received credentials to cover the Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl arraignment at Fort Bragg on Dec. 22, 2015.
I knew a lot of eyes were going to be on this story and I wanted to give our readers as much as I could.
Obviously, I wrote a story for next day's paper.
But I also called in updates for our story online, tweeted and filmed a video clip to be posted online.
Scroll through this post to see all of the work that went into this story as it developed.
Excerpt from story:
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl stood, stared straight ahead and remained quiet as his military-appoitned lawyer spoke for him.
"The accused wishes to defer plea and motions," said Lt. Col. Frank Rosenblatt, Bergdahl's lawyer.
Bergdahl, who was held by the Taliban for five years, stood in a fort Bragg courtroom to answer allegations that he walked off his remote base in Afghanistan and misbehaved in front of the enemy.
Read the full story:
VIDEO: I used my iPhone 6 to take a video clip of Col. Daniel King, spokesman for U.S. Army Forces Command, as he brief the media following Bergdahl's arraignment.
TWEETING: Lots of tweeting.
PHOTOS: Behind-the-scenes photos, some of which I tweeted.
Public affairs officers for Fort Bragg distribute credentials to media about three hours before Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's arraignment began on Dec. 22, 2015.
Broadcast television crews set up while media waits for Col. Daniel King, spokesman for U.S. Army Forces Command, to provide a briefing following Bergdahl's arraignment.
In the media van, leaving the Fort Bragg courthouse for the day.
I pitched a story to my editor that went something like this: I want to write a story about letters.
That's it. That's all I had for her.
Yet, she gave me her blessing.
It took quite a long time to track down families of service members that had handwritten letters from their soldiers. I kept it in the back of my head every time I was at events where families were to ask them.
Finally, I found four families.
I broke the story into four vignettes. Each was about 20 inches.
Our designers laid out the stories in a package across two pages in the paper. Our online team ran it as a series. Both formats were easy for readers, especially those who might be intimidated by long stories.
I'm really proud of this series. Each family offered a different perspective.
Check out the full series at fayobserver.com:
I love you, I love you, I love you: The West Letters
Teresa west, mom of a Marine Corps recruit, shares letters her son mailed home from boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina.
Return to writer: the vrba letters
Linda Vrba shares letters her husband mailed home from Vietnam. Her husband was killed in action just two months after arriving in country.
I'll keep them forever: The Riley Letters
Michelle and Rodney Riley share letters their son Joey Riley mailed home from basic training at Fort Benning, GA. Riley was the last paratrooper of the 82nd Airborne Division killed in Afghanistan.
Keep it up, Darling: The Hamilton letters
Julie Smith, daughter of a World War II veteran, shares letters she discovered just before her mother died at 93. Her father died when she was just 3 years old. The letters - thousands of which were sent from Europe, Germany, Czech and Austria - offer Julie a glimpse into the love story of her parents.
I had been planning to work on a story about artillery jobs opening to women for a while.
However, most of Fort Bragg's artillery unit was training at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana, so the story got pushed back.
I went out to do my interviews - and the next day Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced all jobs would be open to women.
Not what I expected, but I recast my story to focus on the breaking news aspect, and included the women in artillery jobs at Fort Bragg at the end of my story.
Read my story from fayetteville Observer:
Behind the byline
Here's an inside look at how some of my favorite stories came together.