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And the Emmy Goes to...

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Deane Barnhardt poses with his Emmy Award

Deane Barnhardt, a digital communications major in Albright's Accelerated Degree Programs, honed his media and video skills in a combat zone. He earned a Bronze Star and an Emmy Award for his efforts.

By Hilary Bentman

Carrying a weapon in one hand and a camera and tripod in the other, Deane Barnhardt has honed his considerable public affairs, journalism and video skills in the middle of a warzone.

The U.S. Army Reservist has served two tours of duty in Iraq, helping to deliver news and images of the battlefront to the home front.

"You just do your job. You don't think about safety until something happens," says the 34-year-old Berks County resident.

For his efforts, Barnhardt has been awarded a Bronze Star and a regional Emmy. He was part of a documentary production team that won an Emmy for its coverage of the lives of Minnesota National Guard members and their families during deployment.

But for all the accolades and more than a decade of experience under his belt, Barnhardt was missing the one thing needed to advance his career stateside – a college degree.

So in 2014, he enrolled in Albright College's Accelerated Degree Programs. He is working toward a bachelor's in digital communications and expects to graduate in 2016.

"I was talking to a guy who had heard about the course, and I thought, 'This sounds perfect.' So I applied," said Barnhardt, who currently works as a route sales supervisor for Dietz & Watson.

Barnhardt has taken a rather circuitous route to Albright, one that has wound its way through his native Reading, to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Baghdad and Basra, Iraq, and back to Reading.

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks inspired the then-22-year-old to join the Army Reserves.

His first tour, 2005-06, was spent working in public affairs at Guantanamo Bay. He did radio pieces and video editing, even shooting footage of the detention camp. Barnhardt's job was to cover what was happening on the island naval base.

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During his tours of duty in Iraq, Barnhardt filmed in various locations, "inside and outside the wire."

At that point, Barnhardt did not have much experience in video and communications. So his tour in Cuba was a real "trial by fire." By the time he was deployed to Iraq in 2009, Barnhardt was a veteran.

During his first tour in the Middle Eastern nation, Barnhardt served as a media escort, hosted American military and political dignitaries and celebrities, worked as a broadcast journalist, and created video packages, podcasts and other multimedia for news outlets.

Barnhardt filmed in various locations, on base and off, or "inside and outside the wire." He even worked on a Valentine's Day piece for Good Morning, America that featured a husband and wife who were both deployed.

"I was the guy behind the camera," he says.

It was during his first tour in Iraq that Barnhardt began working on a production that would ultimately be honored with an Emmy Award.

It was called "Iraq and Back: Minnesotans' Stories," and followed five members and their families from the Minnesota National Guard's 34th Infantry Red Bull Division, which served in Basra, its first overseas deployment since World War II. The film focused on how the troops and their families coped with the absence of loved ones.

The documentary is part of a long-standing partnership between Twin Cities Public Television, the Minnesota National Guard and the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs. The three organizations have worked on several multi-year productions chronicling the experiences of servicemen and women and their families.

In 2013, the organizations received the Board of Governors Emmy Award – the highest award bestowed by the Upper Midwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences – for their extensive body of work.

"Iraq and Back: Minnesotans' Stories" was part of the award-winning package. And since Barnhardt was a videographer on the documentary's production team, he now has the winged Emmy statuette sitting on his mantle at home.

Preview of the documentary "Iraq and Back: Minnesotans' Stories"

"We didn't set out to win an award," he says. "We were just filming it."

After his tour in Iraq, Barnhardt returned home to the States, and in 2010, served as an observer controller for the public affairs training lane at Fort Dix, N.J., training many public affairs units to deploy.

But, as he says, "I got bored and jumped in with one of the units I was training and left Fort Dix to deploy with that unit."

Barnhardt found himself back in Iraq in 2011 for another tour of service, handling print and broadcast journalists and overseeing a weekly newspaper. By then, American combat operations were ending, so Barnhardt was dealing with a flood of news organizations interested in covering the final drawdown.

"People are getting on planes. The war is over. Thanks for coming out. Near the end it started to feel creepy," he says.

Like a boomtown going bust, the water and electric was shut off, and vehicles were abandoned with their keys still inside.

"It was 'last one out, turn off the lights,'" Barnhardt recalls.

When asked what he's most proud of his service, he replies simply: "There's nothing I'm not proud of."

Following graduation from Albright, Barnhardt hopes to work in public affairs, doing broadcasting, editing and marketing, perhaps as a civilian for the U.S. Department of Defense.

Albright has a number of veterans like Barnhardt enrolled in ADP and is actively working to recruit more.

Earlier this year, ADP received funding for an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) to assist with increasing enrollment of military veterans and their families, encouraging men and women to take advantage of their post-9/11 GI benefits. The fulltime VISTA is expected to be in place for the 2015-16 academic year.



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