June 16, 2005
By Staff Sgt. A.J. Coyne
BLACKSTONE, Va. -- In an effort to recreate the unique conditions of the modern battlefield, two Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers assumed the role of international television journalists when fellow division Soldiers underwent military operations on urban terrain (MOUT) training, June 13-16 at Fort Pickett, Va.
During the four days of training, Pfc. Marque Siegelman and Pvt. 2 Terra Gatti, both broadcast journalists with Headquarters Company, 29th Infantry Division, played the role of an embedded reporter and television photojournalist who joined Soldiers from various batteries within the Division Artillery as they entered a hostile town in the fictional country of Marcalastan.
“We tried to add realism to this training,” explained Col. Will O’Neill, commander of the division artillery. “Because it’s not just colonels and generals who interact with the media, it’s the Soldiers on the front lines.”
Gatti played the role of an embedded journalist with the unit, while Siegelman was a news service photojournalist who links up with Gatti at the town as the unit begins movement through the hostile area.
At least three batteries went through the training each day for four days, giving Gatti a chance to switch up her tactics and approach. Not only did unit officials want to see how the Soldiers treated her, they also wanted to see where they put her, what they told her and what they allowed the reporter to do.
“I wanted to make it as real as possible,” Gatti said. “I was given leeway to be obnoxious, to quiz people and test the Soldiers.”
But while she was testing the Soldiers, the Richmond resident was absorbing lessons of her own. As a broadcast journalist, the experience taught Gatti how to deal with civilian journalists during a conflict. But as a Soldier, the experience also gave her insight into the “rights and wrongs” of urban training.
“It’s really interesting to see how different units react differently to the situation,” she said. “I can’t believe I’m learning so much by running just around trying to be a pain.”