11 May 2012

A White House War Story

This weekend is the 2012 Milblogging Conference. While I wasn't able to swing the trip to Washington, D.C. this year--Household-6 jokes that I'm still paying off last year's airline ticket to Afghanistan, plus a few thousand dollars' worth of ballistic sportswear--I wish those gathered there peace, love, and understanding. And, of course, the festive adult beverage of their choice.

There are a number of potentially interesting panel mil-blogging discussions scheduled for tomorrow, Sat., May 12, which will be live-streamed by the folks at You Served. Events include:

  • "The Military and the Media"
  • "Benefits: Promises Delivered, Delay, or Dismissed?"
  • "Q&A with Scott Waugh, producer and director of 'Act of Valor.'"
  • "Panel 3: Rise of Social Media in the Service Branches"
  • "The Pen and the Sword: MilBloggers Who Had An Impact"

For times and access to the video feed, click here.

A few of the usual suspects have already arrived in the District of Columbia, and are blogging, Tweeting, and Facebooking details of their travels. More than a few have placename-dropped the White House, although it's unclear whether its for business or pleasure.

Their mention of the White House reminded me of this personal war story from the media trenches:

Back in the late 1980s, I took a leave of absence from school and the Army to participate in a semester-long internship program funded by Sears Roebuck and Co. Because the program was designed for journalism and communications majors, each of us was assigned to work in a Congressional press office. Every week, we also attended various press conferences and other events, in order to get a feel for how each organization and agencies interacted with media.

On one such morning, we were standing outside the White House at a small booth and gate, waiting as the guard checked our names off a list to attend the daily press briefing. As we waited, reporters whose names and faces we knew shuffled by. I must've mentally gone into soldierly "hurry up and wait" mode, standing straight without locking knees, eyes straight ahead but taking it all in.

That's when David Broder walked by, flashing me his press pass. Other members of the press started doing the same.

During the de-brief, I mentioned the strange incident to the program's coordinator. "It was the military haircut and the black trench coat," he laughed. "They thought you were Secret Service!"

Like any good war story, however, someone's always got a better one:

Apparently, I wasn't the first Army cadet to have been accepted into the Sears Congressional Internship Program. The year before, the story goes, the Sears fellows were loitering at the U.S. Capitol, and the vice president is about to enter the building. Secret Service comes in, asks for tourists to clear a path. It's still a little crowded in one area. The agent in charge turns to the Sears intern with the high-and-tight haircut, and assumes he's also on the security detail: "Can you get these people to move back?"

The intern doesn't miss a beat, and immediately pivots to address the civilians: "Ladies and gentlemen, can I please have you move back to this line?"

Everything else goes as planned. The vice president arrives, blows through the hallway, and the security detail starts moving to follow behind him.

That's when the agent in charge did a head-count of his team.

He had one more agent than he started with.

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