Archive for the ‘Fort Benning’ Category

Behind the Scenes at IMAX at Patriot Park, Home of the New National Infantry Museum

March 16, 2009

Before last Thursday the only thing I knew about IMAX theaters is that the screens dwarf all other movie screens,  and the viewing experience is exhilarating,  and the IMAX 3D film experience is astounding.   I learned those things at IMAX theaters in Chattanooga, Atlanta,  Pensacola,  and at one other place that I can’t remember.  When I went to the sneak preview given for Columbus area media at the IMAX at Patriot Park in the Soldier Center section of the National Infantry Museum Thursday,  I learned how it works.

IMAX at Patriot Park, National Infantry Museum,  Columbus, GA

IMAX at Patriot Park, National Infantry Museum, Columbus, GA

My former WRBL-TV co-worker and present friend Chris Joiner,  projection and audio visual manager of IMAX at Patriot Park,   which is part of the new National Infantry Museum on Fort Benning Boulevard in Columbus, Georgia,  invited me to join him in the projection booth.   There I got to see the two IMAX projectors that throw the incredibly huge and clear picture on the five story high and 70 foot wide screen. 

Chris Joiner, IMAX Projection and Audio Visual Manager, IMAX at Patriot Park, National Infantry Museum

Chris Joiner, IMAX Projection and Audio Visual Manager, IMAX at Patriot Park, National Infantry Museum

Each of these projectors costs  $600,000.   Only one of them is used for non-3D films.  It takes both of them for 3D.   These projectors and the 15/70 film, which is ten times larger than 35mm film used in ordinary movie theaters, produce a picture 9 times clearer than any other movie theater in the region.  It is so huge that you become immersed in it.

Becky Donovan, assistant projectionist, loads 15/70 IMAX film into $600,000 projector,  IMAX at Patriot Park, National Infantry Museum,  Columbus, Georgia

Becky Donovan, assistant projectionist, loads 15/70 IMAX film into $600,000 projector, IMAX at Patriot Park, National Infantry Museum, Columbus, Georgia

Many regular movie theaters use digital projection now instead of film,  and when IMAX at Patriot Park shows movies made in the conventional format,  it will use the theater’s $90, 000 digital projector.  Those conventional movies in the letterbox format will not fill the entire IMAX screen,  but will still be larger than in any other regional theater.  Many of the military oriented Hollywood films shown on Military Monday will be shown in the conventional format,  but the rest of the week only IMAX movies will be shown.

You’ll be able to particpate in the IMAX experience starting next Thursday, Marh 19th, when the Soldier Center, or first half of the National Infantry Museum, will open.   And,  if  you like,  you can eat in the museum’s full service restaurant.  Also,  on that day,  the first basic training class graduation ceremony will be held on the parade grounds in back of he musem.  That part of the musem complex is actually on the Fort Benning reservation, but the museum building is located in Columbus.  The grand opening of the entire musesum will be on June 19th.  Former Secretary of State and General Colin Powell will be one of the notables attending that event.

On Thursday the IMAX theater will show two documentaries,  Mysteries of Egypt starts at 5:30,  Everest starts at 6:30,  and the Hollywood hit The Dark Night, a Batman movie,  at 7:30.   Prices for films 70 minutes and under are $8 for general admission, $7 for seniors, active and retired military, and high school and college students,  $6 for children in non-school groups of 20 or more, and $5 for school groups of 20 or more.  (For double features add $4 for second film.)  Prices for films over 70 minutes long are $10 for general admission,  $9 for seniors, active/retired military and dependents, and high school and college students, $8 for children. 

Is it worth it?  Based on my experiences in IMAX theaters, including the sneak preview at this one,  I would definately say yes.


“Follow Me” Arrives at Its New Home

February 10, 2009

   Media types flocked to the new National Infantry Museum to get a picture of the famous Follow Me statue that stood decades in front of Infantry Hall at Fort Benning.  Here are a few that I took of the 49 -year-old statue of Gene Wyles,  an OCS student, that was sculpted by two privates.  I know the name of the person who posed for the statue because Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry White, who heads up the museum project,  told me.  He said he personally knew Wyles, that he is still alive and is a farmer in South Carolina. 

More on this later.

Follow Me statue arriving on a flatbed truck at the new National Infantry Museum

Follow Me statue arriving on a flatbed truck at the new National Infantry Museum

Crane lifting Follow Me in the rotunda of the National InFantry Museum

Crane lifting Follow Me in the rotunda of the National InFantry Museum

Taking Pictures Like a Pro

September 14, 2008
  Millions of people take millions of photos all over the world every day, but very few of them make money at it, or do it as an art. Herb and Jim Cawthorne of Columbus, Georgia, are among the very few who make money at it. Both of them take pictures for Camera 1. Lee Brantley, V.P. and General Manager of WTVM-TV, makes a a little money at it, but he does it mainly as an art form.                                                 
  Herb was working as a stock broker in Columbus when one picture changed his life.  As a freelance photographer, he covered the Auburn-L.S.U. game in 1972, shooting this picture. It won the 1972 AP Best Sports Photograph award.   

 Auburn-LSU 1973, Associated Press Best Sports Photo Award Winner, Courtesy Herb Cawthorne, Camera 1

           Courtesy: Herb Cawthorne, Camera 1  

  He says he enjoyed that experience so much that he decided to become a full-time professional photographer, teamed up with Spencer Garrard and they opened Camera 1, which has been in business since then.  Eventually, Garrard, who now teaches at Columbus State University, sold his half to Herb, who recently turned over the business to his son Jim, though Herb still shoots for Camera 1 and has an office there. 

  Both of them love their work, just as the millions of amateurs love to take pictures. But, they make money for doing it. What separates them from the amateurs? Herb says,  “I’m better at it than most people.  Just as our professional designation indicates,  CPP is ‘Certified Professional Photographer.’ We put in a great deal of study and passed a professional standards examination, just like CPA’s (Certified Public Accountants), to get this designation.”

  He also does it because he like to record history, illustrated by this picture of the old Muscogee County Court House sitting in front of the new Columbus Government Center. The old courthouse was demolished and only the Government Center is left.

 Herb Cawthorne, Camera 1)

Muscogee County Courthouse (Courtesy: Herb Cawthorne, Camera 1)


Son Jim says, ” The satisfaction is the photography itself.  It is always interesting, never boring and rarely the same.  I have been photographing seriously since the age of 16 and have never tired of  the excitement or challenges.  You meet a wide variety of people and get to experience an even wider assortment of life.”

  This is one of his most satisfying shots. He took it at a training exercise at Fort Benning.  Jim said, “This soldier was the top gunner in his class and he got to shoot the real Javelin. The other students got to watch from a distance.  He hit the tank at about a mile away.  I got my photo by a combination of preparation and pure luck.”

Jim Cawthorne, Camera 1)

Javelin Missle Firing (Courtesy: Jim Cawthorne, Camera 1)

  The picture is going on permanent display at the new National Infantry Museum when it opens in March of 2009.

  Lee Brantley does a different type of photography. He does occasionally sell some of pictures at art shows, but he shoots them for the personal satisfaction. He is not just an amatuer photographer, though.  He has a degree in Commercial Art from Auburn University and started his career as a graphic designer.  

  “Over the years,” he says, “my art interest focused on photography. My graphic training and tendency can be seen in my photography as I tend to shoot details and odd perspectives, not landscapes and pretty scenery.”

  As we look at some of his work, we get the feeling that he is “painting” with a camera.

Lee Brantley)

(Courtesy: Lee Brantley)


 Lee says, “I enjoy showing at a local or regional show occasionally and I have several ‘Best of Show’ ribbons to show for it. I even sell a photo or two at most shows. I also do my own matting and framing.”

Lee Brantley)

(Courtesy: Lee Brantley)

  He reluctantly switched from film to digital photography. “I recently donated my traditional chemical darkroom to The Britt David Studios and finally made the digital transition by assembling a ‘digital darkroom.’ ”

  So that gives you an idea of what separates amateurs like us from the pros and the artists. Well, now, wait a minute. Back in my early days of TV reporting, I shot thousands of feet of 16mm movie film,  and I got paid for it so that makes me a pro too! So there!

The Witch at Work on Victory Drive

July 21, 2008

  Things are looking up for Port Columbus, the National Civil War Naval Museum. Business is better and is expected to get a lot better, maybe double attendance, which was 22,000 in 2007. And it’s all because of a witch and another museum.


  When construction of the National Civil War Naval Museum was started 8 years ago, Columbus business leader Bill Turner advised the museum’s board to put some sort of attraction in front of the museum to catch the public’s attention on Victory Drive. Otherwise, he said, “All people are going to see when they drive by is a brick building.” The advertising potential for the museum is substantial since 30,000 cars a day pass by on Victory Drive. 


  Museum Director Bruce Smith said drawings were made for a focus group to react to different attention getters. First of all, a replica of the ironclad CSS Jackson was shown, but people really didn’t know what it was. “But, when we showed them a drawing of the Water Witch, they recognized it as a boat. We knew what we were going to have to do.”


Bruce Smith, Port Columbus Director and Water Witch


  It took a while, but now it’s getting done. The U.S.S. Water Witch, which is under construction, is far enough along to catch the eye of riders in vehicles on Victory Drive now. The 50 foot smoke stack is up, as well as the masts for the sails and it’s already making a difference. Visitations are up 14 percent over last year.


  “When it’s finished and we put the sails up, and smoke starts coming out of the smokestack, and the side paddlewheels turn, they are really going to take notice, and it’s going to dramatically increase attendance. When you add to that the traffic generated by the National Infantry Museum, we believe our attendance will double.”  The Infantry Museum plans to open on March 20, 2009 



Bruce Smith and Tom Gates


  Tom Gates, who was president of the old Confederate Naval Museum for 16 years, and a big supporter of Port Columbus, pointed out that all of the big tourist attractions in this part of Georgia and Alabama are working together with the Columbus Visitors Bureau to promote tours of the area. It will be a matter of all of the attractions cross plugging each other.


  The Water Witch went into service in 1852 as a survey boat for the United States Navy. It was used to survey rivers in South America, but became a mail boat, supply ship and blockader in the Civil War. It was captured by Southern sailors, but was later burned to prevent it from falling back into Union hands. Now, you can see a full-sized replica of it under construction in front of Port Columbus on Victory Drive.  


  So far, $800,000 has been raised to build the boat, but that’s not enough. To put on finishing touches, like rigging and sails, which will make it a major attraction, another $250,000 has to be raised. Target date for finishing construction is November 11, Veterans Day.


  If you would like to see construction progress, click this link. The live video cam is featured on the Port Columbus website.

Comparing the Cost of Driving to Using Mass Transit

July 19, 2008

 Hey! The price of gasoline has dropped below $4 a gallon. Who can resist such a bargain?



But diesel is still way up there. What if you had to fill up this baby?


There is one good answer to this, public transit. Let’s take a look at the difference in cost.


Right after I took the shot of the pickup, the driver and his young son came out of the gas station’s convenience store. After mutual greetings, the conversation with the young daddy, a friendly man, went something like this.


  “Do you use this truck for work?”


  “Oh, no. It’s my play thing, but I do drive it to work.”


  “Any idea what gas mileage it gets?”


  “Not enough,” he answered with a smile.


  “How much?”


  “Oh, on the highway, about 18 miles to the gallon.”


 “That’s pretty good for a truck that size.”


  “Yeah, not bad. In town it’s about 13.”


  “What does it cost you to fill it up?”


   “About a hundred dollars.”


   “How often?”


   “Once a week.”


   “That means you are paying $400 a month for gas.”


   “Well, actually, 500.”


   “Do you plan to switch to a smaller vehicle?”


   “No. This one is paid for.”


   “What you are paying a month for gas amounts to a good car payment.”


    “That’s true, but this one is paid for, and even if I wanted to switch, I couldn’t get much of a trade-in for it now. The capital expense would mean I wouldn’t save by switching.”


  Just think, if he were still making payments on it, and paying for maintenance and repairs, it would be close to a thousand dollars a month.  


    Well, what if he used public transportation? In Columbus, at $2.50 a day for round trips to work, it would run him something like $55 dollars a month. That’s $55 compared to $500. In Atlanta, it would run him about $77. In New York, $88.


  Even if he considered taking a bus, he probably couldn’t because he probably lives in a suburb which has no public transportation.  I didn’t think to ask him, but the chances are high he does live in a suburb because so many people do. And that’s another big problem. It’s called sprawl and it’s all over America.
















Metra vs. Marta – Marta’s Ridership Is Up 14%; Metra’s Up 7%

July 18, 2008

  Atlanta’s Marta transit system offers more convenience than Columbus’ Metra. But, it also costs more to use. Let’s look at the comparison.


   Columbus buses run every hour. Marta buses have varying frequencies, some as long as a 30 minutes, depending on demand.  However, Atlanta’s trains run every 5 minutes on trunk lines and 10 minutes on branch lines during the rush hours. Atlanta wins that one hands down.


  An adult one-way fare on Marta is $1.75. On Metra, it’s $1.25.  Metra does charge $1.90 to Fort Benning.


  Senior citizens and disabled in Columbus pay $0.65 one way. In Atlanta it’s $0.85.


  Marta offers K-12 students ten trips for $10.50. Columbus students can get a monthly pass for $20.00.  So, if Metra student riders who use the monthly pass get a much better deal because that comes to about $5.00 a week.  


  Marta offers university students a $40 unlimited ridership for a month. Metra doesn’t specify whether the 31 Day Trip Card is for university students as well as K-12.


  As far as ridership is concerned, Metra averages almost a million boardings a year, while Marta averages about 140 million.


  . Columbus has 40 busses covering 9 routes. Marta has 544 buses covering 120 routes and 238 rail cars. Those 238 rail cars have more boardings than Marta’s 544 busses.


Marta serves a population of almost 2 million people. Columbus serves a base of almost 300 thousand.


  Marta’s overall ridership is up 14 percent over this time last year. Metra’s is up 7 percent so far over last year.


  What good are those comparisons? I don’t know. I guess they just tell us that it’s cheaper to ride Metra, but Marta’s service is more convenient. Some will say, well, it costs more to live, but pay is higher in the Atlanta area.  It appears pay is definitely higher, and maybe the costs are higher for shelter because real estate is higher, and so are property taxes, but I doubt if there is much difference in food and clothing. One thing is for sure, though, life is a lot less hectic in Columbus than in Atlanta.














Metra Plans for The Future

July 17, 2008


  I did something I haven’t done since 1949; I rode a Columbus city bus on a regular route just to see what it is like now. (I have ridden on chartered city busses since then.)  I took the Uptown route because it is the shortest one. I was not comfortable. The wooden seats were hard, really close together, and sometimes I wondered if the bus had any shocks or springs on it, but that was because the Uptown route uses only “trolleys,” busses that look like trolleys.


Metra Trolley Bus, 2008

Metra Trolley Bus, 2008



  I think perhaps the real trolleys that Columbus had in the 1900’s rode better because they were on rails and rails don’t have bumps and potholes. The bus trolleys are quaint and perhaps add to the historic district atmosphere, but the people who ride those busses regularly would be better served with the regular, comfortable busses that travel the other eight routes in Columbus. Maybe the trolley buses could be used just for Historic District tours and special events, etc.   



 Columbus, GA Trolley on 10th Street in 1900

 Columbus, GA Trolley in 1900   Courtesy, Georgia Dept. of Archives and History


 The bus made a lot of stops, causing the short route that goes from the transfer station on Linwood Blvd on a loop through downtown Columbus and back to take almost an hour. That route did put the bus stops within two blocks of just about anywhere downtown. And it was definitely being used as people got on and off a lot. At least they didn’t suffer as much as I did on those hard seats because I rode the whole route.



Metra Trolley Bus Interior

Metra Trolley Bus Interior


  As Metra Director Saundra Hunter and I discussed the future of mass transit, we agreed It is a far more fuel efficient way of transporting masses of people than private cars. Also, it leaves a smaller carbon footprint. But, for it to increase ridership , the system has to become more convenient. 



 Miss a bus at a stop now and you have to wait an hour before another one will come along. She says the system hopes to go to a half-hour between arrivals.  That is going to mean adding 15 new busses to the 40 the system now has, and hiring additional drivers and mechanics.  However, that cost will be offset by an increase in riders.


 With the price of gasoline expected to stay high and perhaps get higher, public transportation will, of necessity, make a big comeback. The question isn’t “if” but “how soon?” It took $4 a gallon gas to make people finally switch from their gas guzzling SUV’s and monster trucks to smaller, more fuel efficient cars. It is understandably hard to give up with convenience of cars. I can remember how liberated I felt once I got my first one and didn’t have to walk across the street – we did indeed , at one time live across the street from a bus stop a bus stop and sometimes have to wait up to 15 minutes to catch a bus.  15 whole minutes! I still prefer my car, but I’m willing to switch. It would be a lot cheaper for me to ride the bus downtown from north Columbus, but the nearest stop is two miles away. Guess I could drive to the stop, but I’d have to have a place to park. So Metra has some kinks to work out before it can handle a big switch to buses, but it knows that and already has plans to make the changes.






This is IT!

July 14, 2008


  My former WTVM newsroom co-worker and still friend Cyndy Cerbin took me on a fascinating tour of the new National Infantry Museum recently.





Cyndy Cerbin



 Cyndy is now Director of Communications for the Infantry Foundation. She said, “Dick, this is the ‘It’ they were talking about when they said Columbus needs an ‘It’ to attract lots of tourists.” Since this baby could bring in between 400,000 and 500,000 visitors a year, I think she’s right.





 National Infantry Museum Panorama

 National Infantry Museum Under Construction



   Fort Benning is already supplying 3,000 visitors a week to eat in the city’s restaurants, stay in its hotels and visit tourist attractions.  With the original National Infantry Museum still operating on post, and, in town, add the Coca-Cola Space and Science Center, the National Civil War Naval Museum, the Columbus Museum, and an attractive softball complex at South Commons, and you can see they already have a lot to do.


  Those 3,000 visitors come from all over the country to Fort Benning each week to attend a loved one’s graduation ceremony. That ceremony is going to move to the new National Infantry Museum’s “back yard.” The field is ready now, but the stands have to be added.





National Infantry Museum Graduation Field




  Either before or after the ceremony they’ll be able to stroll through the World War II barracks area, which not only boasts real WW II barracks, but General Patton’s headquarters building and the cabin near it where he slept. They’ll also see a WWII Patton tank, and a smaller tank of the type Patton used during Fort Benning exercizes.




WWII Barracks

World War II Barracks





Patton Shack and Tanks

Gen. Patton’s Sleeping Quarters and Patton Tank




   Once inside the !00 million dollar museum, they’ll walk along the Last One Hundred Yards Ramp, It’s called that because of the famous saying that, “the infantry owns the last one hundred yards of battle.”  This one hundred yards will contain exhibits that graphically depict, with virtual high-tech aids, seven major battles fought by the infantry, ranging all the way from the Revolutionary War to Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom and Afghanistan.




NIM Lst. 100 Yrds.

Last 100 Yards Ramp 


   A couple of standouts will be a real Bradley Fighting Vehicle that saw action in Iraq and Vietnam era Huey Helicopter. Both will hang over the side of the ramp where they will also be seen from the Grand Hall on the Gallery level. The Bradley is already there. Cyndy said that it’s so heavy it had to brought in during the early stages of construction, that the museum is being built around it. 




NIM Brad Ft. Vehicle

 Bradley Fighting Vehicle






Bradley Fighting Vehicle seen from Grand Hall on Gallery Level




  At the end of the ramp is the  Fort Benning area, where they will see and experience how young civilians are transformed into soldiers. There will be a jump tower. Also, a virtual firing range will allow visitors to experience the same virtual firing training that our soldiers receive. There will also be a section dedicated to the relationship with Columbus over the years.





Fort Benning Section




Because of the Department of the Army’s sanctioning of the museum, it cannot charge admission. However, it can charge admission to the 300 seat IMAX Theater and adventure simulators. Income will also be generated by the full service restaurant and gift shop.






IMAX Theater Entrance



The galleries on the lower level will feature large exhibits of the Revolutionary War, Civil War, World Wars I and II, Korea and Vietnam together, and the desert wars.




Desert Wars Exhibit




 The Vietnam exhibit will feature another Huey that is already in place. Part of the Vietnam exhibit will recreate the jungle atmosphere of Vietnam, including the tropical weather that soldiers had to endure while fighting in that country. 




Covered Huey Helicopter in Vietnam War Exhibit



 You’ll be able to see the finished product on March 20, 2009.  That’s the target date to open the museum. As the late Arthur Godfrey used to say on CBS Radio, “If the good Lord be willing and the creek don’t rise,” I’ll see you there.  











What Got Us in This Economic Mess We Are In?

July 12, 2008

When I started this blog, I stated that it would mainly focus on local and state issues. That focus gives me a lot of leeway because so much of what happens in other places affects us here.

For instance, when I heard the national news that the mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae could fail, I didn’t call anyone in Washington; I called my local stock broker to get filled in. He did a good job of it and as a result I don’t feel any better about it.

Freddie and Fannie may have to be bailed out by the federal government. If so, I’m for it. Their going under would be an international economic disaster. They hold five trillion dollars in mortgages. That’s more than half the national debt.

All of the lousy economic things that have been happening lately naturally make us want to find someone to blame. Well, that isn’t hard to do. Somebody screwed up big time. One of the big screw ups was to privatize Freddie and Fanny. It started out in 1938 as a government agency designed to help Americans get home mortgages. It worked. But, Congress couldn’t leave well enough alone, deciding to let it be taken over by two private companies, but gave them special treatment, for one thing, implying that the loans would be backed by the government. I just read a story on that said the firms took advantage of that special treatment, deciding to use it to increase profits for its stock holders. That desire for constantly increasing profits led to risky loan practices which contributed to the situation the country is in right now.

Columbus is traditionally not like the rest of the country when recessions strike. Fort Benning is the reason for that. The money from the post keeps flowing into Columbus no matter what the state of the national economy. However, the foreclosure rate has been high in the area so it is not totally immune from national economic trends. And, if what I have been reading is true, if Fannie and Freddie collapse, the home real estate market will come to a screeching halt everywhere in the country, including Columbus.

What are my credentials for making the economic observations? Not impressive, but everything I wrote is based on something that my stock broker told me, or what some financial expert said on TV and radio and wrote online. If I am wrong about any of this, feel free to correct me. Just click the “comments” link below and write away.

If the fed does bail out Freddie and Fannie, it will cost billions in tax dollars. Since our taxes come nowhere near paying for what the government spends, it will have to borrow more from China and Japan. Just think of the tax dollars we have to spend paying the interest rates on those loans.

The federal government simply has to become more responsible with our tax dollars. The pork that Congress doles out every year to keep getting reelected has to stop. What makes us think that we can continue to be Santa Claus to the rest of the world? Why are we spending so incredibly much on maintaining troop presence is so many places in the world? Why are they still in Germany and Japan? World War Two was over in 1945 and both countries have been thriving democracies for about 60 years. They are allies now, good ones. Can we really afford to be the world’s police force? We should limit our military action to that which truly is in our national interest, such as Afghanistan, where we need to increase our presence.

What about Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare? All three are in trouble. And what do some want to do to solve the problem? Privatize. That’s just not always the solution. Think Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.


July 10, 2008

  It would nice to able to post something everyday on Dick’s World, but, alas, I don’t want to sacrifice quality for quantity. That’s why I promise a fresh post every Monday, though I will post some things on other days.  Please plan to join me on Monday, but if you miss, it’s okay to tune in later in the week. The post will still be on the site, along with possibly some new ones.  


Thanks for visiting,


Dick McMichael