Friday, April 4, 2003

OTTAWA DAILY TIMES: Embed With the Media

KUWAIT – It’s a word that, by now, if you’re watching any sort of news coverage about Operation Iraqi Freedom, you’ve heard hundreds of times.


“We now go to our embedded reporter…”

“…who is embedded with…”

More than five hundred members of the media, and close to ten of our own AFN correspondents (including myself, embedded with V Corps out of Germany), are also members of this elite group of journalists that is the new catch phrase of the media.

Operation Iraq Freedom is the biggest campaign ever to involve members of the media in a war, as it happens. It’s the chance of a lifetime that one journalist for the New York Times relishes.

“Well, I just read about it and it sounded like a very interesting idea. I was quite frankly pleased to get out here, see what it was like, and do it.”

Harold Weinarub is actually an entertainment correspondent for the Times out of Los Angeles. He got the call from his editor several months ago to see if he was willing to trade in the bright lights of Hollywood for the blazing sun of the Kuwaiti desert.

“To be honest, I had no idea what to expect, what it would be like, and when you read about being embedded, it’s all very hypothetical. For me at least, it’s been a very positive experience.”

Embedding is nothing new. During World War 2, journalists like Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite were assigned as war correspondents to units making the jump into France or the Allied landing at Normandy. Vietnam even had several reporters attached to units, though at the time they weren’t known as embeds.

What is new in this war is the scale of the coverage and the technology.

Most embedded reporters have instant access to cable news channels or their newspapers by way of a videophone, or even a satellite uplink. Gone are the days when networks and papers would have to wait for a film canister or the mail to be delivered. They get the news from their embedded correspondents as it happens, right on the ground. Even we have a videophone that is used to send daily reports back to our headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany.

But the technology is only as successful as the story, or even the storyteller.

Weinraub is also embedded with V Corps. This isn’t the first time he’s seen combat.

“I spent two years in the Army and I covered Vietnam, so that’s why they asked me.”

As I glance at the chemical protection mask fastened to his side, I asked him if this war was more dangerous for him than the war in Vietnam.

“I don’t know about danger, but the different element here is a chemical attack. It’s new. My wife is, as you can imagine, really nervous, and I try to assure her that I’m not in any real danger.”

His regular entertainment beat with the New York Times usually involves interviewing famous actors and entertainers.

The only stars Weinraub sees on this assignment are the ones on a General’s uniform. He’s eager to get into Iraq.

“I just want to get up there, whether by convoy or helicopter, and I think it’s going to be in the cards. It’s where everything is going on.”

Thursday, April 3, 2003

2002 MG Keith L. Ware Journalism Awards Competition Results

USAREUR News Release

Judging for the 2002 Keith L. Ware Journalism Awards Competition was conducted March 5-6, 2003, in Alexandria, Va. A panel of 23 professionals from the commercial media, academia and Department of Defense community personnel reviewed 230 print and 80 broadcast submissions. Comments from the judges will be released to the field in the future. Examples of placing print entries will also be made available on the new KLW Web site. Top entries will be forwarded to DoD for the Thomas Jefferson Competition April 22-25. American Forces Information Service is scheduled to announce results May 5. The following is a list of Department of the Army winners in broadcast categories:

The John T. Anderson Military Broadcast Journalist is SGT Eric Shadowens, AFN South, Italy (ABS)

The Civilian Broadcast Journalist is Kane Richard Farabaugh, AFN Europe, Germany (ABS)

The second “Rising Star” for Outstanding New Broadcaster is SPC Krestin Harrington, AFN Korea (ABS)

Wednesday, April 2, 2003


KUWAIT – It’s o’ dark thirty somewhere near the airport. In our large tent, hundreds of soldiers are playing cards, talking, getting ready for a night’s rest on the plywood floor. Most are stuck here, just passing the time while they wait to move “forward.”

Many of the soldiers that we’re with are from the 300 Quartermaster Company from Peru, Illinois, deployed here to help in Operation Iraq Freedom. They’re here waiting to get to the front lines.

The steady hum of cargo and passenger aircraft traffic on the nearby tarmac has a soothing effect as this background noise drifts into the dark Kuwait night.

It’s all suddenly drowned out by the piercing scream of an air raid siren.

“Lightning…Lightning” comes the voice over the loudspeaker, and in an instant, the tent comes to life. Everyone springs for their gas mask. It’s something they’ve been training for, but here in Kuwait, it’s not a drill.

“There will be no more SCUD EXCERCISES,” reads a sign on the entrance to the chow hall. “If you hear an alarm, it’s the REAL THING.”

Real thing indeed. I’m caught up in the middle of this whirlwind of activity, when I suddenly realize, I’m not immune. When the alarm sounds, it means everyone is a target, including me.

I was trained to get my gas mask on in nine seconds. After getting over the initial shock of the alarm, and then finally finding my mask, I calculated it took me about fifteen seconds. My colleague, Army Sergeant Joe Thompson, is obviously a pro at this, and is halfway done with donning his MOPP gear by the time I’m finished fumbling with my mask.

The chemical protective jacket and trousers are called J-LIST in Army lingo, and they come sealed by convection in foil pouches. Once they’re opened, they have a shelf life of about one hundred and twenty days, and already our first day in Kuwait, we have to open them.

“Thank God we’ve got two sets of this,” I said to myself while realizing a long and dangerous road is ahead of us, provided we make it through this alarm.

The soldiers around me are gearing up for a fight, locked and loaded, full battle rattle and guns ready as I finish putting on my chemical protective gear.

It’s hot in this stuff. The JLIST was not really made for warm climates, and even in the middle of the night when the weather is cool in Kuwait, I’m working up a dreadful sweat just existing in the extra layer of protection.

Joe breaks his glasses in the process of putting on his gear, and just when I begin to ask him what we should do next, a voice can be heard above the waning of the air raid siren.

“All Clear, All Clear” comes as a welcome sigh of relief for all of us in the tent, and the first thing that comes off is my gas mask.

That’s when another voice comes over the radio, in a thick British accent.

“All Clear, All Clear… British Forces… All Clear.” I tried to figure out why the British troops needed a special message. This becomes the running joke with many of the soldiers in our tent the rest of the night.

No word filters down as to what caused the alarm, and images of Patriot missiles blasting SCUDS out of the sky start running through my head.

I packed up my JLIST, my mask, and put it all back in my duffel bags to get ready for our journey into the city of Kuwait the next morning.

Three hours later, it was clear this was an exercise in futility.

“Lightning, Lightning…..”

The tent springs to life again. A soldier across from me cracks a joke as he dons his gas mask.

“Gooooooooood Morning Kuwait!”