Stories are eternal – once written, they are etched into the archives of history to be read and referenced for future generations. The stories, as Navy Capt. Curry Graham, Defense Information School commandant, pointed out at the Department of Defense Communicators of Excellence Awards Ceremony are remembered, while often times, the writers are not.
“Traveller” staff writer Terrance Bell was one of 20 Thomas Jefferson Award recipients recognized May 11 at Fort Meade, Md., for excellence in print media.
Bell has been telling the Army story for more than 20 years, and doesn’t mind his name being unfamiliar to most people.
“Bylines are not really important to me,” said Bell.
“The work I do is miniscule compared to the work Soldiers do on a daily basis. As it should be, all the glory should go to the people who make monumental sacrifices in defense of this country.”
In 1979, Bell enlisted in the Army as an administrative specialist, but switched to public affairs in 1984.
“I always wanted to tell stories, but I was further motivated to tell stories about Soldiers,” said Bell on his transition into journalism.
His work allowed him to cover events in Somalia, the former Soviet Union and Bosnia, to name a few. While attending an advanced photojournalism course in South Carolina, a colleague who had admired his work suggested to him that he could further serve his career field by instructing Soldiers.
“I experienced a little ‘burn-out’ after so many years writing because you do become limited in the way you can tell stories,” said Bell. “I find that if I’m challenged, it keeps me motivated.”
Bell found that challenge when he became a DINFOS instructor in 1993. Teaching photojournalism to young Soldiers was refreshing, said Bell, because he found personal satisfaction in developing the skills for Soldiers to better serve the needs of fellow Soldiers through their trade. He retired as a public affairs first sergeant in 2001.
Bell returned to public affairs in 2005, as a staff writer for the Fort Lee Traveller newspaper. “Flights of Passage,” a centerspread published in the “Traveller” in September 2006, earned Bell the prestigious award. The story allowed Bell to follow an advanced individual training class of riggers through their first airborne jump – a unique story to tell, since the Soldiers jump with the very parachutes they’ve been taught to pack.
When Bell is not out in the field with Soldiers in training, he scours the post, asking questions for regular features like “Talk Back,” and his personal project, “America’s Military.”
“Terrance is not a ‘behind-the-desk’ journalist,” said Jamie Carson, command information chief.
“He’s constantly out there in the community, searching for stories. He has a knack for discovering the story in each individual he interviews and crafting a portrait of words that invites readers to share his passion for writing and telling the Army story.”