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Photojournalist for Military Generals Now Teaches Writing at Saint Leo

Meet Lorie Jewell, a Saint Leo University alumna and adjunct English instructor who served in the U.S. Army for 15 years and spent time as a photojournalist for a few generals.

Lorie Jewell spent two stints in the U.S. Army. For a few years, she served as a photojournalist for two military generals. She now brings her passion for writing and reporting to the classroom at Saint Leo University as an adjunct English instructor.

Affectionately nicknamed “G.I. Jewell” by some of her comrades in the Army, the 55-year-old Michigan native has called Florida home for the past three decades. She currently resides in Land O’Lakes. She has two grown children, Anthony and Jill, along with two grandchildren.

Enlisting in the U.S. Army

After graduating from Redford Union High School in 1982, Jewell went right into the Army and served for four years until 1986. During this stint, she was a member of the 25th infantry division based in Hawaii. She worked as a public affairs specialist, writing stories and taking photos to document the events within her division. Mostly serving stateside, she was deployed to South Korea for four months in 1985. While there, she got to drive a ‘5-Ton,’ one of the largest trucks in the Army.

Upon getting married and becoming a mom, she left the Army to raise her children. But that wouldn’t be the final chapter of her military service. Sixteen years later in 2002, she decided to join the Florida National Guard.

Jumping Back into Military Service

It was a conversation at her 20th high school reunion that prompted her to return to military service.

“A friend of mine joined the Army like I did right out of high school,” she recalls. “He moved up the ranks and later went into the Michigan National Guard and suggested I join the Florida National Guard. He said that they were giving out age waivers and that I could go back in as an E4, which was the rank I had left at before. So I decided to do it.”

She assumed it would be quite flexible with some weekend work each month.

“I thought I’d just work some weekends and figured I’d never be in danger of getting called for active duty,” she says. “But a month later, I was called up.”

Initially in 2002, she joined the mobile public affairs detachment unit in St. Augustine before relocating to Washington, D.C. While working on a community relations project near the Pentagon, she volunteered to go to Iraq in January of 2005.

While there, she accompanied some of her comrades on missions around Iraq

“My main role was to tell the stories of how our soldiers were training the Iraqi security forces. I started out going on missions and talked to people in our military who were training the Iraqis.”

She wrote for an online publication called The Advisor. Many military leaders, congressmen and other high-ranking officials read her work.

She says it was certainly a learning experience being in Iraq.

“It was definitely an adventure with all of the crazy stuff I saw,” she says. “One time, I was in a convoy that came under sniper fire. We were involved in a shootout but thankfully I was not injured. I received a combat action badge for this.”

Capturing the Work of Two Generals

When Gen. David Petraeus went to head up central command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, he brought Jewell with him because of how much he liked her work.

“At the time, they were looking for a photojournalist for Gen. Petraeus,” she explains. “I traveled with him to many areas of Europe and Asia. One time, I was in a room with he and Gordon Brown, the prime minister of the UK at the time. I honestly didn’t know what many of the conversations I was present for were about since my role was to capture the moments visually.”

She also spent some time in Afghanistan and briefly worked for Gen. James Mattis. She came off active duty and continued serving in the National Guard for a short while longer until December of 2011.

Another unique aspect of her Army service was that she and her son happened to be serving simultaneously.

“We wound up serving in Iraq at the same time twice,” she recalls. “I was in the command unit and he was in the transportation unit. I would meet up with him for dinner and some of his friends would tease him that he had to have his mom be with him in the military.”

In addition to her military service, Jewell worked as a reporter for The Tampa Tribune for 17 years. She covered education, city government, police and the courts. She left her job with the paper when she went to Iraq for the second time in 2007 and later did freelance work for the Tampa Bay Times.

Pursuing Higher Education as an Adult Learner

Thanks to her military service, Jewell was able to use the G.I. Bill to help her pay for a college education. In her early 40s, she started out by getting an associate degree in liberal arts from Pasco-Hernando Community College as it was known at the time. She then transferred to Saint Leo University to earn a Bachelor of Arts in English Literary Studies, enrolling in 2013.

Several professors in this undergraduate English literature program stood out to her, including Dr. Kathryn Duncan, Dr. Patrick Crerand, Dr. Allyson Marino, Dr. Burgsbee Hobbs, Gianna Russo and the late Dr. Kurt Van Wilt.

“It was a wonderful program with so many great faculty,” she recalls. “Dr. Duncan recommended me as an instructor to Dr. Chantelle MacPhee, the chair of our department, so I will always be especially grateful to her.”

Jewell wrapped up her bachelor’s in English in 2015. She later attained a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction from the University of South Florida in 2019.

Teaching Career

While enrolled in the graduate degree program At USF, she taught composition and fiction writing. She came back to Saint Leo University – this time as an instructor – in the fall of 2019. She has mainly taught basic composition and academic writing at University Campus.

However, like so many instructors, her classroom-based spring courses were transitioned to the online format due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“It was quite an interesting spring semester. One of my students who went back home to New York forgot her laptop in her dorm room, so she was literally doing the class on her phone. Some students were in different time zones and others had Internet connectivity issues, so I ended up stopping the live Zoom class sessions and did one-on-one meetings with each student. I also recorded myself doing lectures and provided links to videos, TED Talks and articles for the students to look at.”

She describes how she approaches each course as an instructor.

“I have a laidback style and like to joke around a lot with the students. I want to make students feel comfortable. Writing can be stressful for lots of students.”

In her view, seeing students’ attitudes toward writing change for the better is the most rewarding part of teaching.

“Many students start out in a resistance mode because they assume that they don’t like writing. But by the end of the semester, they may not be a great writer, but they actually like to write and feel better about their ability as a writer. Witnessing this change in attitude gets me more excited than anything.”

Interests Outside of the Classroom

When not teaching, Jewell likes to knit and crochet.

“The thesis for my MFA program was on the adventures of combat knitting,” she says. “When I was in the Army, I’d never go anywhere without my knitting kit. I’ve made socks, scarves and other things.”

Baking cookies is another passion of hers.

“I enjoy bringing cookies to my students. In fact, I turned this into an assignment in one of my classes. I had the students research the best homemade cookies for college students. I split the class up into teams and they had to debate this.”

She also shoots pool competitively and is part of the American Poolplayers Association. Her team is called Chicks with Sticks.

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