United States Marine Corps veteran’s calls of duty

by Beacon Staff • November 3, 2011

strongJennifer Ortakales, Beacon Correspondent/strong

Emari Traffie has some advice for aspiring broadcast journalists. “Always pretend you’re live. Never ever assume that you’re off air,” she said. While reporting for a Marines news station, Traffie had just finished a segment as anchor, and the director called for the screen to switch to the sportscaster. Unbeknown to Traffie, she was still on air as she flashed a huge grin and gave two thumbs up.

Traffie, 22, is a Marine Corps veteran from New Ipswich, NH. After traveling to Japan, Australia, and California, she is now in Boston to hone her journalism skills at Emerson College.

In 2007, a month after she graduated high school, Traffie joined the Marines and went off to boot camp for training.

“It’s about not being an individual — in order to communicate you’re not even allowed to say ‘I.’ Individuality was definitely not something that you wanted to maintain because you needed to function as a group, as a team,” she said.

However, Traffie quickly learned to maintain her sense of self by holding herself to even higher standards than her comrades.

“If people were complaining or getting tired it was my goal to make sure I was not doing any of that,” she said. “I guess by conforming I wasn’t conforming, like by giving them what they wanted it was sort of my way of proving that I was better than what they wanted.”

Traffie spent seven months at the Defense Information School in Fort Meade, MD studying journalism before heading to Iwakuni, Japan where she attended University of Maryland University College: Asia in 2008 which was available for face-to-face class on-base during lunch and for evening classes. She reported in the line of action as a combat correspondent, writing and broadcasting reports of the Marine’s procedures and activities.

She was placed in the midst of the action — clad in a firefighter suit and proceeding to walk through a fire for her first story.

“It definitely taught me to roll with the punches,” she said. She took over for the lance corporal and became the news director.

Not only did she leave Japan with journalistic experience, she also gained a better knowledge of the Japanese language and made friends, many of whom she still keeps in touch with. “It’s really cool to have people that you’re really close to that are from another culture,” she said.

In July 2009, she went to Australia for two months and worked with the Australian and Singaporean militaries, and participated in training exercises in case there were ever attacks from North Korea.

Traffie reported stories that were largely focused on pushing propaganda and “making the military look good,” she said, with reports on how the Marines’ work was progressing, and assuring they weren’t leaving any environmental footprints. She was the broadcast chief in Twentynine Palms, Calif., where most of the Marine Corps must be stationed before going to Afghanistan.

Traffie learned that the best way for her to get a story was by getting as involved as much as she could.

“I carry a camera. I don’t go out there and shoot guns on the front lines. So you need to prove yourself in order for them to take you seriously at all,” she said.

[caption id=attachment_3813928 align=aligncenter width=224 caption=Emari Traffie poses with her grandfather, a proud U.S. Navy veteran. Photo courtesy of Emari Traffie]a href=http://berkeleybeacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/IMG_0408.jpgimg class=size-medium wp-image-3813928 title=IMG_0408 src=http://berkeleybeacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/IMG_0408-224x300.jpg alt= width=224 height=300 //a[/caption]

In one instance, she had to talk to Explosive Ordinance Disposal Marines (EODs), soldiers who work with explosives, and had to do so while they practiced detonating them. She had a hard time with their egos and resistance to be on camera, she said.

“If you interview them, and all their friends see them on TV, they have to buy the whole [unit] a pizza — or usually it’s like beer or something. They don’t like being interviewed because then they’ll have to do that,” she said.

Instead of allowing them to be standoffish to her, Traffie asked if she could set off one of the explosives. Afterward, the EODs were impressed with her audacity and were more open to talking to her.

“In order to do the story, you need to get down and dirty with the people you’re reporting on,” she said.

Traffie left the Marines in May 2011, through the Early Out Program with the leave days she hadn’t used. She knew her next step was to apply to colleges and earn a degree.

“I have this opportunity to use this money that the military is giving me,” she said. So she didn’t hesitate and applied to Arizona State University and Syracuse University, but had her sights set on Emerson.

At one point she wasn’t sure if she should even go to college.

“I knew what I was doing, but I didn’t really know what other people were doing,” she said. Once she was accepted to Emerson, she was happy to be attending.

This summer, Traffie worked at the Monadanock Ledger Transcript, a local newspaper in Peterborough, NH. She said she looked up to the newspaper editor, Jessica Aguirre.

“She was not only my journalism idol, but also my style idol,” Traffie said.

Now, Traffie works as a Final Cut Pro editor for TRF Emerson Productions between classes in the afternoon. She is an associate producer for EIV’s news at nine and will be on the WEBN political crew. She said she’s excited to gain experience from these clubs.

Traffie is considered a freshman, but is two credits away from being a sophomore, and lives by herself in an off-campus apartment.

“I have a lot of alone time, which I love,” she said. However, she sees a lot going on around Emerson and would like to be a bigger part of it, so she hopes to live on-campus next year.

“It’s really cool just to see the community that’s over here, and I realize I miss out on a lot of that,” she said. “I really thrive around people as well, in leadership sort of positions.”

After college she hopes to be a war correspondent.

“[I want] to expose whatever is going on with war. I think war is often something that is so covered and so concealed as far as what’s really going on,” she said.

She sees her experience in the military as a good way to spread information to her audience and the inside knowledge that she has on military life means she can explain situations clearer than reporters who don’t have that experience.

“I feel like [soldiers] would open up more almost, and I think that is something that a lot of military people won’t do with civilian reporters,” she said. “I definitely think that being a journalist is by far the most important way of just getting the truth out there.”

Both of her roles are things that she felt called to do.

“Doing my duty as a Marine can definitely be compared [to] doing my duty as a journalist.” she said.

Traffie’s faith has become a more prominent aspect of her life lately.

“I was born and raised in a Christian home, but it was definitely a decision that I made on my own.”

When she joined the military she let other things take priority.

“[Religion] definitely wasn’t a huge part of my life, like I relied on God when I needed to,” she said.

When she got out of the military this summer she visited her brother, and was inspired by his enthusiasm in his faith. She said she realized she wanted that for herself.

“I don’t want any of this half, ‘uh yah I’m kind of a Christian, but I don’t tell anybody,’” she said.

Now, she feels the connection she admired her brother for having.

“For me, my faith is everything,” she said. “It affects every decision I make.”

She goes to a worship service at Justice House of Prayer in Cambridge on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 6-8:30 am.

“There is no better way to start your day,” she said. She is also a part of the Emerson Christian Fellowship.

“My faith and kind of being in the military affects my political views,” she said. “I definitely value morals and feel like that should be a big reason for decisions that are made in politics, whether it’s right I think outweighs other arguments that might come up.”

She said that she can see things from the military’s point of view, but doesn’t make her decisions based on a one-sided standpoint.

“Being in the military, I’m definitely a strong supporter of the military, but I’m not naive, like I understand that the war in Afghanistan is not like this, ‘Oh we’re there for such good, perfect reasons!’”

She is comfortable with Emerson’s open environment to voice her opinions.

While Traffie is happy at Emerson, she also misses the family she became a part of in the Marines.

[caption id=attachment_3813929 align=aligncenter width=300 caption=Photo courtesy of Andrew S. Avitt]a href=http://berkeleybeacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/183881_10150136527920071_303053920070_8512460_7345751_n.jpgimg class=size-medium wp-image-3813929 title=183881_10150136527920071_303053920070_8512460_7345751_n src=http://berkeleybeacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/183881_10150136527920071_303053920070_8512460_7345751_n-300x200.jpg alt= width=300 height=200 //a[/caption]

“You go through boot camp together, and you all have that similar experience because boot camp is the same no matter where you go,” she said. “There’s always that bond of going through something that the average person hasn’t really been through. When people get together and start telling boot camp stories, it’s over — people could go on for hours and hours and hours about their boot camp stories.”

Having gone through both hardships and good times together, her military family is built up from trust.

“The Marine Corps is designed so that they put you through really tough, trying stuff so that in the end there’s nothing left to do but just rely on each other and just completely trust each other.”

She shares this bond with the veterans she meets at Emerson and hopes to form a veterans’ organization to be a support group. Most veterans blend in, so she aims to connect fellow veteran students who otherwise would never have known each other.

emOrtakales can be reached at/em

em jennifer_ortakales@emerson.edu./em

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