Saturday, November 10, 2012


It's been a lengthy hiatus, but the blog is back! This post is actually related to my last blog entry, which was published more than a year ago.

In February 2011, I was chosen to work as an embedded journalist with the Canadian Military on an arctic training exercise. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I explored a region of  Canada not many will ever get to see and I did so with the army -- again, an opportunity very few people will ever get to experience.

 With it being Remembrance Day I wanted to share a story I wrote on my final days of the exersice. I think it's a story that'll stick with me for a long time and really exemplifies why I wanted to become a journalist.

Warrant Officer Brady MacDonald 
The wooden sign carved with Cpl. David Braun’s name faces the East, meeting the sunrise each morning. It will remain surrounded by a sea of white snow just below the 60th parallel, honouring the soldier who was killed worlds away.

For ten days the desolate tundra of Nunalla, Manitoba was taken over by hundreds of soldiers practicing Arctic survival skills as part of Exercise Northern Bison ‘11. Members of the Second Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry travelled two days by snowmobile, establishing a forward operating base (FOB) 150-kilometres north of Churchill.

The morning I arrived on FOB Nunalla as an embedded journalist, I crawled through the tent doors to come upon a soldier carving something into a large panel of wood. In an attempt to avoid the frigidly cold temperatures outside, I sat down on a cot and watched as he carved the letters “FOB BRAUN” into the board.

“We’re renaming the FOB after Cpl. David Braun,” he told me.

During my four-day stay at the FOB I would learn Cpl. Braun’s story and begin to understand why keeping his memory alive was so important to every soldier living on the makeshift camp.

Cpl. Braun, originally from Raymore, Sask., was 27 years old when he was killed by a suicide bomber near downtown Kandahar. In the early afternoon of August 22, 2006 a van loaded with explosives struck Corporal Braun’s re-supply convoy.

Based out of CFB Shiloh, Cpl. Braun had served with a number of the troops on the FOB. And despite being thousands of kilometres from the war in Afghanistan, the memory of their friend and fellow soldier remained.

“We want to keep his memory alive,” explained Warrant Officer Brady MacDonald, who, along with Sergeant Major Brandon Delyea, initiated the name-change. Everyone on the FOB quickly jumped on board.

Warrant Officer MacDonald was on tour in Afghanistan with Braun when he was killed.

“The guy was slick. He was my go-to guy. He was so vital to the platoon. It was a huge loss.”

On the final day at the FOB—as soldiers packed up their tents and began to ride away on the hundreds of snowmobiles that dotted the tundra—they securely braced the wooden sign engraved with Cpl. Braun’s name in place with large rocks.

“It will stay atop the ridge as long as the Arctic elements allow it to,” MacDonald assured me.

The significance behind the wooden board that I had once stared at blankly dawned on me the more I spoke to the guys on the camp.

Whether it’s a forward operating base, or any other type of geographical landmark, naming it after a fallen soldier will ensure that for a moment, someone—now and far into the future—will think about the name, the person, behind the location.

“It’s something that we can always remember Dave by, especially the newer soldiers that come into the battalion,” said Master Cpl. Jody Hartling, Braun’s close friend who was riding in the convoy with him when he was killed.

“When they eventually get tasked to go back North they’re going head to FOB Braun and everyone is going to know who Dave was,” said Master Cpl. Hartling.  “It’s going keep his memory alive forever, for sure.”

Monday, March 7, 2011


Here's some pictures from Exercise Northern Bison. I took about 900 pictures, so these are just a few of my favourites!

Troops arriving by snowmobile in Arviat, Nunavut

The oldest women in Arviat selling handmade dolls to the troops.

Arviat, Nunavut.

FOB Braun

At the 60th parallel

Canadian Rangers

2 PPCLI travelling from Churchill to Nunalla, Man.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Military and the Media.

When the temperatures dropped below -40 at the Forward Operating Base (basically a makeshift camp with dozens of tents and a ton of snowmobiles), soldiers were quite willing to step inside my heated tent and chat with me.

ve had some mixed reactions while travelling with the troops. Most have been willing to talk to me but many have their reservations about the media.

“I dealt with a number of journalists in Afghanistan,” one Corporal told me after I introduced myself.

“Really?” I replied.

“Yeah. I F***
ing babysat them the entire time," he said.

One Warrant told me firmly he’d never talk to the media after the Somalia Affair. When I asked why, he jokingly said he’d tell me later in life when I become a “big time” reporter and, now that I think about it, probably means never.

I asked a Master Corporal what she thought of journalists and she told me the last time she did a lengthy interview with a reporter about being a female in the Forces, the paper only published one off-hand remark about her not having to shower with the boys.
Honestly, I didn’t know how to respond to their distrust of the media. They have valid points.

ve learnt first-hand that the Canadian military is wary of journalists. I don't know why or when the disconnect happened, but I do know that I’ve had to earn a lot of people’s trust on this trip and I think it’s been a positive experience for both the soldiers and myself.

One of the Warrant Officers I spent a lot of time with sat down with me and talked about him renaming the Forward Operating Base to "FOB
Braun" after soldier, David Braun, who was killed while on tour in Afghanistan. When the other media came out for the day and wanted to talk to him, he refused.

It’s a great story and we’re both glad it’s being told.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Aloha from the Arctic

So I was dropped off in the middle of the tundra the other day with 200 men that I didn't know. It was slightly frightening.

But since travelling up to Churchill with hundreds of troops over a week ago, I've discovered that the army has its own peculiar way of making you feel right at home.

Within an hour of being dropped off at the army's Forward Operating Base in Nunalla, Man. I found myself being thrust onto the shooting range with a heavy gun in my hand.

I didn’t ask for a chance to shoot, in fact, I told the boys I was afraid of weapons and even the sight of guns in police holsters makes me feel uneasy.

Every part of me wanted to stand back and watch, get some quotes from the troops and then head back to my tent to write a story.

I've also learned that standing behind the scenes doesn’t fly, so before I could think of an excuse a C-7 Rifle was in my skittish, civilian hands.

It was awesome. More to come!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

It's cold in Churchill.

Just a quick update from my arctic adventure!

Today I took my very first helicopter ride. It was a blast. No polar bear sightings yet, though.

We flew out to capture photos of the 2 PPCLI (that's right, I'm learning army acronyms) as they trek up to Nunalla, Manitoba. I'm going to be joining them in a few days for the final trip up to Arviat, Nunavut.

More to come!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Earl Cook Update

A few posts down you'll see a post called Earl Cook's Story. Melyssa and I created a five-minute profile on Earl, who is an amazingly determined young man fighting cancer.

Earl's story is pretty extraordinary. He was born with FASD, grew up in foster care and at the age of 19 was diagnosed with Osteogenic Sarcoma. Since his original diagnosis in 2007, he's had the cancer return seven times. But with some help from his close friends on the Detroit Red Wings, he's battling the disease with the most positive of outlooks. Watch the video and you'll see!

Anyways, it's only been about a month since we handed in the story but so much has happened with the story since we posted it online.

My instructor Steve Vogelsang sent TSN's Darren Dreger--who first introduced Earl to Red Wing's head coach Mike Babcock--the link to our video. On Thursday he tweeted the link saying "Earl's story is a good one and Jennifer and Melyssa did an excellent job telling it."

Yes, he called me Jennifer, but, really, Darren Dreger can call me whatever he wants considering the video went from 100 to nearly 800 views.

The most exciting part of this whole thing is that CBC National is now doing a documentary on Earl's story. I told a producer--who happens to be a family friend--about the project a couple of months ago. Earl and Mike Babcock did an interview for CBC's Information Radio and from there it has expanded into a TV documentary that will air across Canada. And when it does... Jennifer Cable, is taking full credit for shining a light on Earl's amazing story.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Hi! Now, tell me your secrets.

Many CreComms will remember the first-semester journalism class in which we watched a clip of Peter Mansbridge interviewing Diana Krall. We all took notes on what we thought were the strengths of the interview. Many of us noted Mansbridge's softball questions and his smooth transition between topics.

Steve assured the class that we would get there and that good interviews come with time and experience.

Anyways, I'm writing this reflective post because I've actually surprised myself with how much my interviews have improved in just a year and a half.

I walked out of an interview last week amazed at the conversation I had--a huge jump from the super awkward and rigidly rehearsed interview.

And the ultimate test of any great interviewer would be to professionally deal with this:

Jian Ghomeshi is a pro.