Tramping blindfolded through the woods, eating handfuls of cooked oatmeal with dirt sprinkled on top. Feeling the hot breath of German shepherds, as they walk on your bare back while they bark in your ear.
That wasn’t what Kent State Comm Studies and JMC students had in mind for their trip to Kasárna Dědice, a military university in Vyškov, four hours by bus from Prague. Although Major Karel Klinovsky apologized for not being able to give them an experience more like that for current journalists who come to this facility to learn to survive in a hostile war zone, most of the students were obviously relieved after they watched two videos of the regular 14-day course.
They had just spent a warm night in dorms without AC, bugs flying in the open, unscreened windows, and were a little concerned about the 97-degree day to come. This already felt like roughing it. But Klinovsky kicked off the morning session with a sincere, realistic, if colorful series of anecdotes.
He shared the challenges of handling peace negotiations between the Serbians and Croatians during fighting in Yugoslavia — and what happens when someone uses the word “shooting” instead of a similar-sounding one for “smoking” during a break in the talks. (Thankfully, it was as bad at all.)
But he pulled no punches when it came to his job and that of journalists in war zones. He acknowledged that it was impossible for them “to do their jobs without touching the military.” And that was all the more reason they need to follow the orders of military and learn to be able to deal with unpleasant situations. “If WE can’t carry that body, then YOU need to be willing to do so,” he said. He also warned journalists to learn as much as they can about the country — its history and culture — before going there.
Other parts of the students’ experience allowed more participation, like using a simulator to drive a Pandur armored personnel carrier, watching diver rescue equipment in action and sitting in helicopters and fighter planes. That was probably enough excitement for them right now.
To get some of the students’ take on this and other parts of the trip, check out their blog.