OU website 'Afghan 101' shares stories of soldiers, their families

ABC News correspondents Mike and Carlos Boettcher send content from 101st Airborne soldiers fighting in Afghanistan while OU students produce stories, photos and videos from visits to Fort Campbell, Ky.
BY JAMES S. TYREE Modified: November 14, 2010 at 7:30 am •  Published: November 14, 2010
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photo - Students talk with Mike and Carlos Boettcher via the Internet.
STAFF PHOTO BY DAVID MCDANIEL, THE OKLAHOMAN <strong>David McDaniel - The Oklahoman</strong>
Students talk with Mike and Carlos Boettcher via the Internet. STAFF PHOTO BY DAVID MCDANIEL, THE OKLAHOMAN <strong>David McDaniel - The Oklahoman</strong>

University of Oklahoma students are tying together the stories of soldiers serving in Afghanistan and their families at Fort Campbell, Ky., on a soon-to-launch website called Afghan 101.

The site, afghan101.ou.edu, is being produced by students in the OU Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication in collaboration with ABC News and its correspondents Mike and Carlos Boettcher, who are embedded with the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division.

The site is to have video, photo and written content broken down to six categories: Afghanistan, 101st Airborne, Soldiers, Families, On Duty (activities) and Off Duty. The content will be updated throughout the coming months.

“This is a living story,” said John Schmeltzer, the OU professor teaching students involved in the project. “Unlike a traditional news article, this story never stops because we'll come back with updates. It's a different way of telling their stories.”

From the students who visited Fort Campbell, to the recently widowed wife taking her first steps to a new life, to the father-and-son team who intend to tell the most in-depth stories of soldiers since the Vietnam War, the Afghan 101 project is deeply affecting its producers.

They expect it will do the same for its readers.

“When I came back two weeks ago, it was inspiring to see what the students came up with from Fort Campbell,” said Mike Boettcher, who's also an OU visiting professor. “Frankly, I was almost in tears.”

From Afghanistan

Mike Boettcher, an Emmy and Peabody award-winning news correspondent and Ponca City native, and his newsman son Carlos Boettcher are traveling with the 101st Airborne to various hot spots in Afghanistan.

They were in eastern Afghanistan Thursday when they spoke to The Oklahoman via the Internet.

The Boettchers arrived in Afghanistan about Sept. 1 and, except for brief trips home, plan to be there until Sept. 11, 2011. They are reporting for ABC News telecasts and its website, along with sending video stories to students in Schmeltzer's class for the Afghan 101 website.

Citing the imposing mountains and canyons, multiple enemies, roadside bombs and rocket attacks into bases, Mike Boettcher agreed with another's assessment of Afghanistan: “Everything in this country is designed to kill you.”

“You are always on edge here,” he said, “even more so than in Iraq.”

Mike and Carlos Boettcher reported for ABC News in 2008-09 from Iraq and Afghanistan. They also kept a written and video blog on NewsOK.com. But they wanted to return to Afghanistan to provide in-depth personal stories of the soldiers serving under difficult conditions there.

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