While there are a number of Keene State College students who can say they studied journalism, not many can say they studied while serving their country. KSC student Karin Leach is not only enrolled in the college and the military, but has been through a deployment overseas as well. Leach joined the army in 2008, her senior year of high school, and served in Iraq from 2009 to 2010.
When asked why Leach joined the military, she said, “Both of my parents met in the military and I was born on an army base, so I have that history behind me.”
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Leach also spoke of her own desires to serve for her country. “I wanted to see a lot of different cultures I wouldn’t see otherwise,” she said and added that college would be free of charge for her when she got back from deployment.
“I’m a print journalist and a photojournalist for the military,” Leach said when explaining her job.
She said that her reasoning in choosing this job was her interest in the photojournalism and print journalism field. According to Leach, joining the military and serving overseas was “a good opportunity to get trained in photo and print journalism, to go and be immersed in that culture.”
“The way it works is I’m in the National Guard now. I do one weekend of full-time working for the army each month,” Leach said. This requires her to go to the Concord, N.H. armory for one weekend a month and participate in training cycles as well.
Leach spoke of her travels to El Salvador, where she trained with engineers, documented orphanages and documented the clean-up of a hospital.
She made many travels in her deployment to Iraq and got a feel for the culture while being with Iraqis and seeing first-hand what the numerous jobs in the military are all about. By seeing all these different aspects, Leach said she was able to “experience different points of view.”
Throughout her missions and work with various soldiers, some of whom were engineers, Leach said she learned a lot. “It was a really great experience to see what we were doing in Iraq,” Leach said.
Leach pointed out that in doing these tasks, she had a job prior to having any training in college, making her an “older and more mature student.”
“It’s also great to see how everybody was responding to us out there, I experienced a really wide range of things out there; it was almost like I had multiple jobs out there as a journalist,” Leach said. She described her time overseas as “a different job every day.”
When talking about her employment with the National Guard, she said, “It’s just a different branch but it can still be trying at times because I have a full course load, then on top of that I have this job.”
This job consists of answering the call of duty during any state emergencies, protecting people such as the president coming near this area, and damages caused by weather. “No matter what class I’m in I have to leave during the day if I’m called in,” Leach said.
Although being active in both the guard and schooling is a lot to handle, Leach said, “Doing both is a lot better for me because the way I see it is the more I take on the more I can do, the less I take on the less I can do.”
In having both these responsibilities, Leach said she is more motivated and while there is a lot of pressure and stress involved in her career as a student and soldier, this stress makes her stronger. “I think they both feed into each other.”
“With the military there’s urgency of being on time, all the values like being honest and the requirements for being a good person for a soldier and a student kind of feed into each other and help me be better at both of them,” Leach said.
Working full-time for the New Hampshire Army National Guard is Courtney Selig, Leach’s roommate during their time together in Iraq. Selig has been in the service for three years and plans on doing 20 years. Selig spoke of how she met Leach where they became certified for the jobs they soon took on. Selig explained that she didn’t know they were in the same unit and met Leach again when they were getting ready to deploy at their mobilization site.
Selig and Leach would go out on missions together and each take on their roles as journalists. “I was a broadcast journalist so we had similar roles as far as telling the soldier’s stories,” Selig said, adding that she and Leach “would sort of tag-team, we called ourselves the PB&J team.”
“Karin was very strong-willed and she’s very outspoken, in a good way though! She’d always stand up for herself, and you can just tell she’s a very strong personality, and she’s really funny,” Selig added.
Selig said after two to three years of knowing Leach, she’s one of her closest friends. Selig mentioned the difficulties there are being overseas and how tough times caused the two to have a better friendship.
“She was always a rock for me, she helped to make it easier for me” said Selig.
According to Selig, the two have had only one argument in the time span they had been overseas which lasted no longer than three minutes. “You would think after the course of one year, people would get sick of each other,” she said.
Leach said that “being thrown into that military situation forced me [Leach] to mature faster and forced me [Leach] to really take initiative.”
Leach also added that by spending a year in a third-world country, it was “really great to build that kind of relationship to see how lucky we truly are in America and how we can make a difference in people’s lives.”
Selig said she believes that being active in the military helps one get a better understanding of “what goes on outside of the U.S. and gives you a better appreciation for what you have here.”
Selig and Leach speak every day or every other day to stay in touch. “I mean, we don’t always see each other but we talk weekly at least, and I see her every drill so we still are very good friends,” Selig said.
When asked what she thought of Leach’s decision to do both schooling and the service, Selig said she thinks it is a difficult but smart decision. Selig also made it known that Leach was taking courses online while on deployment. “She’s very good at multitasking,” Selig added.
“I think it takes someone with a disciplined mindset and I think that she has that and to find that in someone that’s only 22 is hard to find,” Selig said.
As far as her future goes, Leach said she does not currently have a plan. “I really would like to see where things are taking me,” Leach also said.
Leach would like to keep growing and adding to what she is learning. She also gave a few words of advice for students who are juggling multiple things on top of school.
“Keep persisting and keep in mind that somebody else out there definitely has it worse off,” Leach said and spoke of how those who are stressed with school work are lucky to have that kind of stress.
In regards to a high stress schedule, Leach said to “keep persevering through it.”
When concluding her friendship with Leach, Selig said “I would give her the shirt off my back, she’s become family.”
“She’s a really good friend, great soldier, and as far as a female she’s a really great role model,” Selig also said.
When asked what she believes Leach will do in the future, Selig said, “I think that she will go far in life, I don’t know necessarily what she’ll choose for career path but what she does choose she’ll excel at and blow everyone out of the water.”
Brittany Ballantyne can be contacted at email@example.com