Black Hills State University student Julieanne Morse, mass communication major from Spearfish, recently returned from a nine-month deployment with the South Dakota’s National Guard 129th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment where she teamed up with a broadcast journalist and document the daily lives of the troops. In this photo, she is on foot patrol in Logar Province documenting soldiers in the 3rd Infantry Division.
| In this photo, Morse is pictured with two young Afghan farmers in the Wardak Province
Julieanne Morse finds it difficult to think of the exact words to describe her recent experience as a photojournalist in Afghanistan. She lets her photos tell the story.
The Black Hills State University photography student from Spearfish recently returned from a nine-month deployment with South Dakota’s National Guard 129th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment where she teamed up with a broadcast journalist and documented the daily lives of the troops.
“It was a once in a lifetime experience. Everything was epic and in the moment,” she said.
Morse’s deployment was unlike other National Guard units who are usually based at one location. “I got to travel a lot being a journalist embedded with a lot of different units, infantry, cavalry, some artillery, and some just administrative type units, and help to the tell the story of what they are doing. I got to see a lot of the countryside and see a lot of how the different active army works.”
Morse worked closely with the U.S. Army as well as the Afghan National Army, Afghan local police and Afghan border police.
Her photos were either sent to the public affairs officers of each of the units she was embedded with and then passed on to the soldiers who shared it with their families, or added to the Department of Army wire service.
Two of her photos from one of her foot patrols were picked up by Time.com. “That was a huge morale boost.”
Morse has many great memories of the different units, but her best experience came out of her time with the 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, also the division where she took her Time.com photos. “They took me and the other journalist in as their own,” she said noting how seamlessly they worked and communicated with each other.
“It was pretty amazing to get out there. You gain a better understanding of those soldiers who do the hard foot patrols and the convoys,” she said.
Morse’s first foot patrol was seven miles. She carried her body armor with seven magazines fully loaded, her rifle and her six-pound camera.
“I think my camera was heavier than my rifle,” she said. “I prepared by getting on the treadmill and running and walking with my body armor on. I would run as long as I could.”
While in Afghanistan, Morse was promoted to staff sergeant and spent the last part of her deployment as a team leader helping to organize different missions for the journalists. “I was kind of their liaison or task manager,” she said. “I’m so glad I got both of the experiences. It is good I have that experience as a leader in that setting for moving up in the ranks.”
Morse is going on her ninth year in the National Guard joining while still in high school. She plans on continuing with a career in the National Guard and will pursue Officer Candidate School (OCS) after her graduation from BHSU in December. She is also looking at possibilities with photojournalism and documentary photography.
She returned from her deployment a few days before Thanksgiving and spent the holidays with her family who now live in Sioux Falls. A few weeks ago she started to sift through her photos choosing some for an upcoming photo exhibit at BHSU.
“It is kind of hard. I took a long break when I returned and stayed away from anything Army. I started two to three weeks ago looking at photos. It has kind of been tough because there is stuff I forgot about and stuff that I would rather not remember.”
Morse’s photo exhibit will be a continuation of a project she started before her deployment. During her Contemporary Issues in Photography course, Steve Babbitt, BHSU professor of photography, wanted Morse to do self-portraits of her preparation for her deployment. “That exhibit was about me preparing – an introspective on what was really going on inside of me. He wanted me to continue that throughout the deployment, so at different times I would take self-portraits throughout my deployment.”
An exhibit of Morse's photos from Afghanistan is planned for later this spring on the BHSU campus.
To view more of Morse’s photos go to www.dvidshub.net/portfolio/1071084/julieanne-morse#.