Photographs by Evan Baines
Writing by Brian Andrew, Troy Johnson, and Omojo Odihi Malu
Operation Bushmaster is a unique exercise that represents a huge portion of The Uniformed Services University’s institutional identity. USU is alone in its explicit goal of producing military medical officers, not just doctors in a uniform, and if one were to select a specific instance in which this difference is most apparent it would almost certainly be this final field training exercise undertaken by senior medical students and students from the Graduate School of Nursing. Further, the special bonds and profound experiences shared by these officers unite them as a class, and also induct them into a larger family of USU alumni. For this reason it is no surprise that when two USU alumni meet, Bushmaster stories are often the common currency.
As a graduating student with a particular interest in military medical leadership, I wanted to examine this exercise in detail. I wanted to see what makes this experience such a transformative one for so many students, and perhaps communicate those qualities to a broader audience. My prior experience as a professional photographer and photojournalist gave me an unusual platform to explore the exercise, and my position as a graduating student provided me a unique perspective and access. So as this exercise is run in two iterations, I secured permission to participate in the first session and then return as an embedded “combat photographer” with a platoon from the second group. I photographed the exercise exclusively on black & white film using vintage cameras. I have since enlisted the help of talented writers who also share vivid perspectives on the exercise to complement the images with essays and poetry. We have organized this work into an 8x12" hardcover book that will be printed in beautiful digital tritone by Puritan Capital, a company that also produces publications for such organizations as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.