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Sailors part of DoD school’s Hall of Fame class

Mar. 27, 2013 - 03:00PM   |  
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• Joint ops: Since its founding in 1946 as an Army school (it branched out in 1951), more than 150,000 students — civilians and members of all service branches — have attended the Defense Information School.
• Mission statement: “Each of these students will become part of a larger global outreach and will be expected to enter with the skills necessary to compete in today’s global information environment,” said DINFOS Commandant Army Col. Jeremy Martin.
• Sailor setup: Mass communication specialists take a Navy-specific 117-day course after boot camp that serves as “A” school. Depending on their billet, they can return to joint “C” school for more advanced training.
• Hall of Fame: The school’s alumni association and governing board chose the first class and plan to induct a new one annually. Joining former Journalists 1st Class LouAnne Johnson and Jim Bryant are Vice President Walter Mondale and Pulitzer Prize winners Steve Doig, Clarence Page, Les Payne and John Camp Sandford.

Nine years in the Navy didn’t make LouAnne Johnson want to be a teacher. But what she learned during those years — embracing diversity and battling gender barriers — made her a better one.

A decade in the Navy didn’t make Jim Bryant want to be a photographer — he’d been snapping pictures since he was a teenager. But it instilled the work ethic he’d rely upon for a globe-spanning photojournalism career.

Both left the service in the early 1980s as journalists first class. On March 14, they represented the Navy once again — as part of the seven-person inaugural class of the Defense Information School Hall of Fame.

The non-Navy inductees include four Pulitzer Prize winners — all former soldiers — and Vice President Walter Mondale, who served in the Army in the early 1950s.

Johnson, whose New York Times best-seller “My Posse Don’t Do Homework” became the basis for the 1995 movie blockbuster “Dangerous Minds,” began her Navy career in 1971. It included the occasional feature in Navy Times: One 1979 article ran with a photo taken by Johnson of a survival expert demonstrating “the proper way to handle a live rattlesnake.”

“I met people from all over the country,” she said. “They don’t all love each other, but the mission overtakes their personal ideas.”

When it came to expanded roles for women in the Navy, many of her superiors “really resented that change and the modifications that had to be made,” she said. “Some of them were relentlessly cruel. I would go home and cry. I had to learn to act like I don’t care.”

Years later, she saw the same uncaring façade presented by some of her students. Recognizing it, she said, helped her reach them.

Johnson left the Navy for the Marines before quickly determining the Corps wasn’t for her. A new career beckoned.

“I kept reading these reports about kids graduating high school who couldn’t read,” she said. “I just thought, ‘I’ll go make these kids like books.‘“

Still a teacher and lecturer, she’s now also a children’s author. Her most recent book, “That Darn Donkey,” is based on her adoption of a wild burro.

Bryant’s post-Navy career started when it became apparent that his wife’s Navy career would keep them apart: “She was search-and-rescue, I was show-and-tell,” he said. “Our duty stations were pretty much incompatible.”

He left to begin a photography career that ranged from travel pieces in Japan and Central America to scenic views of Mount Rainier near his Seattle hometown to the occasional high school wrestling match or Mariners game.

While working at the Florida Times-Union in 1983, he captured an image he calls “The Final Homecoming” — a Marine saluting and parents reacting as the casket of a Marine killed in the Beirut barracks bombing rolled across the airport tarmac. The paper nominated the picture for a Pulitzer Prize.

“It just sparked a passion,” he said of his Navy journalism training. “It’s that dedication, desire and passion that keeps me going.”

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