Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
When COVID-19 hit the area in early March, Fort Leavenworth leaders started taking precautions, which included the closing of several businesses and the canceling of ceremonies, but the staff of the various organizations affected still found ways to connect with the public virtually.
To keep the Fort Leavenworth community informed on closures and updates, Garrison Commander Col. Harry Hung started going live three times a week on the Fort Leavenworth Facebook page. The broadcasts eventually went down to twice a week and now once week at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays. The same team has worked behind-the-scenes to get everything ready for each update.
“We’ve done a lot more stuff like making slides and retooling script writing and preparing notes for whoever is going to speak and setting up a camera and video production,” said George Marcec, Garrison Public Affairs Office operations officer.
As far as streaming the broadcasts, Marcec said the Unified School District 207 technology staff helped with that.
“It’s amazing the stuff we can do with just a webcam and a couple Macbooks,” Marcec said. “It’s been a good learning experience.”
Liddell Hobin, USD 207 director of technology services, said she, along with USD 207’s technology staff — Brett Duvall, assistant director of technology services; Ross Viets, network administrator; Matt Dixon, communications and media relations coordinator; and Phil Barnett, technology coordinator — provided the hardware, recommended various software, provided the banner graphics to identify speakers, and provided wireless access to the Garrison staff to respond to all Facebook questions.
The process of getting ready for the broadcast would start an hour and a half before the scheduled start time, Hobin said, with Garrison staff setting up with the technology staff at 4 p.m. and more Garrison staff arriving at 5 p.m. to meet with technology staff in a separate room to set up for Facebook comment response.
“USD 207 wanted to support Garrison with our recently upgraded infrastructure,” Hobin said. “Working with the Garrison has been a positive and creative experience for the USD 207 technology staff.”
The School of Advanced Military Studies graduation, the Command and General Staff Officer Course graduation and international badge ceremony are the three of the largest ceremonies at Fort Leavenworth.
Each ceremony recognizes hundreds of students, so it took multiple teams to put together the three separate ceremony videos.
Rita Durocher, chief of the Army University Visitors and Ceremonies Office, said the early decision to cancel the in-person ceremonies helped the process.
“We started looking back to see how we could produce something that mirrored a live ceremony,” Durocher said. “We took the narrations that we’ve typically used through the years, and we broke them down into segments.”
Harry Sarles, AU Public Affairs officer, and Dan Neal, AU media support, recorded the various segments for the three ceremonies.
Recorded segments included the narrators, three separate invocations, the national anthem, and the various guest speakers via in-person and submitted videos.
“It was a very busy month from about two weeks before the SAMS graduation through the CGSOC graduation,” Sarles said.
Neal put together the SAMS graduation and badge ceremony videos while Army University Press personnel — Michael Serravo, AUP multimedia team lead, and Chago Zapata, AUP design team specialist — put together CGSOC’s graduation video.
“For us, it was a little bit of a new experience because the multimedia team has only created (small videos),” Serravo said. “That was probably the biggest challenge in putting together the video, trying to get all the images of the award winners and the class lists and the videos … that we had to put together into the final product.”
Durocher said she was pleased with all three videos.
“We learned a lot. There were challenges associated with COVID-19, but we certainly had some opportunities to learn some new skills and learn about new things,” Durocher said. “The new technology and being able to put these things together, I learned a lot because that’s not the world I live in, …and I can’t tell you how appreciative I am for those that have those skills.”
Several organizations on post have gained new leaders in the past several months, including the 15th Military Police Brigade, the 705th Military Police Battalion (Detention), Smith Dental Clinic, the Medical Department Activity and Munson Army Health Center.
Tracy McClung, MAHC Public Affairs officer, was responsible for capturing and editing the ceremonies for the SDC, MEDDAC and MAHC changes of command, and she said she learned that time management is key.
“Video programming must be short enough to keep people’s attention, but long enough to either tell the story or explain the process,” McClung said. “I have put together four virtual change of commands through Facebook Live.
“They all have been done a little differently, but since I have done Facebook Live videos in the past for our quarterly (MAHC) updates, I was not concerned,” she said. “I wanted to go a step further with the videos. Instead of just posting the raw Facebook video after the event right away, I was able to export the video and create a video with titles, music and editing, so it looked more professional.”
McClung has also created videos about the drive-through pharmacy, public service announcements and more.
When in-person services were suspended, Fort Leavenworth Chapels offered two ways for parishioners to still participate in services — virtually on Facebook Live or through an FM radio transmitter to the chapel parking lots.
Chaplain (Maj.) Joel Kelley, Religious Support Office operations and training, helped the service staffs set everything up and make sure they had what was needed to record.
“It was kind of an uphill battle because we had never really done that before, so learning how to do that consistently each week was a struggle at first, but we’re all pretty good at it now,” Kelley said.
Chaplain (Maj.) Sang Pak, Department of Command and Leadership World Religions instructor, Command and General Staff School, and pastor of the liturgical service at Memorial Chapel, said he had to find ways to be creative.
“Most of my congregants are older, and I know how hard it can be to stare at a screen or a phone when you’re watching digital service, so I wanted to adapt it instead of just plopping a camera in front of the church altar during the whole service,” Pak said. “Most liturgical services … have a lot of congregational participation. By recording the service ahead of time, I could insert those congregational prompts … at the bottom of the screen.”
Pak said he did pre-recordings at his apartment so that he could use a green screen to display different backgrounds that corresponded to the readings for the week, such as the Nile River when preaching about the story of Moses.
“I incorporated a little bit of creativity just to keep viewers interested,” Pak said.
Pak and Kelley agreed that finding ways to offer services during the pandemic was important.
“Spiritual worship is very important for Christians, especially since the God we serve tells us that it’s important to worship him and gather together (even if it’s virtual),” Pak said.
Kelley said it’s their duty as chaplains.
“We want our folks to grow,” Kelley said. “We want them to learn in their spiritual walk and want them to grow in their spiritual health, so it’s not just an ‘if we can let’s do it.’ For us, it’s a requirement. We have to do it.”
Combined Arms Research Library
The Combined Arms Research Library has remained connected with the public through the summer reading program, the Stop the Brain Drain activity website, the StoryWalk and the Community Reads program.
“Our library’s community mission states, ‘CARL provides educational and recreational resources and offers programs that enhance the lives of the Fort Leavenworth community.’ Currently, our library is unable to be open to the public, so this mission has been harder to meet,” said Sierra Hochstatter, CARL circulation library technician. “We are lucky to live in a time when we can share and connect together online. By creating a site where our community can come and feel confident in the resources we have highlighted, enjoy them together with family and share those experiences with our community, we feel like we are fulfilling our library’s mission.”
Hochstatter has been responsible for most of the production of each of the programs, and she said some of it was fairly self-explanatory and some of it was new territory.
“Creating and maintaining the Stop the Brain Drain Library Guide with Amanda Lousley (CARL systems librarian) was not my first time creating a Library Guide, so I was somewhat familiar with the system,” Hochstatter said. “(For Community Reads), I had some video editing experience from college, but it was minor, and the videos were much shorter.
“I had to find better editing software and learn how to use it. I learned to get creative on how I present the readers and the pages they are reading,” she said. “When I was first editing, I would edit out all of the reader mess-ups if I could, but I have since learned that it is important for young readers to see that everyone makes mistakes while reading and shows that you should keep reading even after your mistake.”
It was StoryWalk that required the most research and development, Hochstatter said.
“I have never made a StoryWalk before, so I had to learn all of the ins and outs of the rules to putting one together,” she said. “Thanks to the feedback I received from the StoryWalk participants, I learned that they loved the activities, and that I needed to continue to use (the StoryWalk). … Most of these programs have allowed me to flex my creative muscles, which I have thoroughly enjoyed.”
For more information on CARL programs, visit the CARL Facebook page.
Frontier Army Museum
Like the CARL staff, Frontier Army Museum staff has remained connected with the community with various activities on the FAM website that includes frontier history flash cards, a Lewis and Clark activity book, the Oregon Trail: Pack Your Wagon activity and the Heritage Trail on-cell program.
“A lot of these virtual programs that we’re pushing out were originally going to be in-person programs, but we finally got them done because we were able to just sit down and focus on them,” said Fayelee Overman, FAM museum technician. “Some of the programs…have been on the backburner for years.
“I felt like we had a responsibility to help (kids and parents) … find these activities for kids to do that’s not going to melt their brains,” she said. “This was a way for us to try to help people maybe not go so crazy at home.”
Overman said completing the programs was a team effort of her and Museum Specialists Megan Hunter and Russ Ronspies.
Overman and Hunter have also been providing virtual tours of the museum for the Civilian Education System Basic Course, which is offered to all Department of the Army civilians.
“(The basic course) highlights mentorship and leadership, so we start off my talking about well-known military leaders and mentors,” Hunter said. “Then, we do a virtual tour of the museum, and we use a camera to show the different exhibits and artifacts that we have here.”
Overman said learning the technology was a new thing for her.
“I wouldn’t consider myself a very techie person, but now I feel like I am,” she said.
Hunter said the hardest part was figuring out how to make things virtual.
“How do you take something tangible like a 10-by-14-foot wagon and put it in the virtual world?” Hunter asked.
Solutions have been to take 360 images of various artifacts and exhibits for the FAM Facebook page.
“Even though we’re not open, people can still get a feel for what they’d see when they come in here,” Overman said. “We didn’t have a huge presence to begin with. Some people don’t even know we’re on post, so just trying to do a little bit more of that outreach virtually and what we can do in person, I think it was really important so that we didn’t just fall through a black hole and disappear.”
For more information, visit https://history.army.mil/museums/TRADOC/frontier-army-museum/index.html.
Youth Sports, Fitness
Even though organized sports were canceled, Patrick Shelton, Child and Youth Services Youth Sports and Fitness director, said he and his team have been putting together various fitness videos for the CYS Facebook page.
“It has actually expanded our different ways of how we can do our Youth Sports and Fitness program,” Shelton said. “It’s opened up more of just a different avenue of how we can get sports and health to the community.
“Right now, it’s really important for kids to stay active,” he said. “It’s important for anybody to be able to grow and stay healthy.”
Linda Fink, CYS administrative support assistant, was responsible for taping and editing the videos starring Shelton; Jason Fullen, YSF assistant director; and Mallory Barnhouse, YSF fitness specialist.
Fink’s process included using iMovie to edit the videos, add backgrounds, and add music and other sound effects.
“I did have to teach myself how to edit because I’ve never really done it before, but I was up for the challenge,” Fink said. “I’ve done so many now that’s it’s like second nature.”