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NMSU journalism students get first hand experience through military media exercise

Six New Mexico State University journalism students recently spent the day with high-ranking officers at Fort Bliss. They were part of a cooperative effort between Joint Task Force North at Fort Bliss in El Paso and the Department of Journalism and Media Studies in NMSU’s College of Arts and Sciences.


Group of people standing together
From left, NMSU journalism students Gabriel Chavez, Natalie Prieto, Angel Hernandez, College Assistant Professor Nick Miller, Brigadier General Laura Yeager, Commander Joint Task Force North, Andrea Vazquez, and students Hannah Jackosky and Fiona St. Pierre visit Biggs Field at Fort Bliss for a media training exercise. (Courtesy Photo)

Joint Task Force North, based at Biggs Army Airfield at Fort Bliss is the Department of Defense organization tasked to support our nation’s federal law enforcement agencies in the interdiction of suspected transnational threats within and along the approaches to the continental United States.

Students participated in a media training exercise on Friday, April 12 in which the officers were given different scenarios concerning accidents, shootings and other possible trouble at the U.S.– Mexico border. After learning the scenarios, they faced the student journalists for interviews. The officers learned what it’s like to be interviewed at a moment’s notice in one-on-one and news conference settings, and the students had the opportunity to hone their interviewing skills.

NMSU sophomore Gabriel Chavez of Albuquerque said, “It was a great educational experience benefitting my future goal of becoming a journalist and experience we wouldn’t get in the classroom.”

It was the first time many of the students had been on a military base, and the first time to interview lieutenant colonels, colonels, and generals. The exercise also helped the officers by simulating real-world scenarios and practicing answering reporter questions.

“Joint Task Force North is very grateful for the support of New Mexico State University’s Department of Journalism and Media Studies and its assistance in providing strategic guidance in media training and crisis communications for our senior staff,” said Sarah Lifshin Amato, Joint Task Force North’s public affairs officer. “These students represent the future of the media industry, and I am confident they have bright and successful futures ahead of them.”

Created in 1989, Joint Task Force North was initially established as Joint Task Force – Six. In response to President George H.W. Bush's renewed counterdrug efforts. It serves as the planning and coordinating operational headquarters to support local, state and federal law enforcement agencies within the southwest border region to counter the flow of illegal drugs into the United States.

The agency’s expanded area of responsibility is the entire continental United States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The command’s mission has expanded to include providing homeland security and counter transnational organized crime support to the nation’s federal law enforcement agencies.

From its inception as JTF-6 to its evolution as JTF-N, the command has supported more than 6,000 missions in direct support of the nation’s local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and counterdrug task forces.