Austin Daily Herald will have reporter in Kuwait

Published 6:42 pm Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Austin Daily Herald and Albert Lea Tribune will send a reporter to Kuwait in early November to report on local soldiers in the Middle Eastern country deployed with the Minnesota National Guard.


Kelli Lageson, an Albert Lea High School graduate, will leave Minneapolis Nov. 4 and return Nov. 13.

While there, she will report on the Austin and Albert Lea troops there as part of the U.S. military’s Operation New Dawn, the final drawdown of weapons, equipment and troops.

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“I’m excited about the opportunity to see what the soldiers are doing and be able to relay that information to everyone back home,” Lageson said.

Lageson, 23, graduated from Albert Lea High School in 2006. She graduated from the Minnesota State University, Mankato, in 2009, with a degree in mass communications and an emphasis in journalism.

She is the special projects editor for the Albert Lea Tribune. She handles many special sections, lays many pages daily, lays out the Lifestyles section and often edits the Sunday newspaper. Her beats require her to writes stories usually relating to schools, health, veterans, soldiers, social services and agriculture. She was part of a team of journalists at the Tribune who won Minnesota Newspaper Association awards for coverage of the June 17, 2010, tornado outbreak.

Lageson will arrive in Kuwait City and go to a base away from the city in the desert. The Herald and Tribune will print stories about the soldiers and their duties.

Tribune Publisher Scott Schmeltzer said very few community newspapers send reporters overseas to cover military deployments.

“This reflects our ongoing emphasis for supporting the troops and their families,” he said. “We want the public to understand the work our local soldiers are doing on behalf of their country. That’s important.”

The idea for the trip came during Lageson’s visit in June to Fort McCoy, Wis., where she covered the soldiers as they trained for their deployment to Kuwait. The soldiers asked her to go to Kuwait.

She returned and floated the idea with Schmeltzer. His main concern was that Kuwait — though largely peaceful — is considered a combat zone.

“Her safety is the No. 1 priority,” Schmeltzer said.

The military gave the green light, and plane tickets were purchased. She flies from Minneapolis to Washington to Kuwait City.