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Media Becomes Part of the Team in Deployments

 
Spc. Andrew Kosterman, 49th Public Affairs Detachment (Airborne)

CHAMPION MAIN, Kuwait – United States military units are constantly deployed worldwide.  When soldiers go on real-world missions, and put their boots on the ground they can expect civilian media to be waiting for them or having embedded media accompany the units.

Media is telling the story of soldiers in the 82nd Airborne Division in Camp Champion, Kuwait, said Maj. Rafael Torres, operations officer, 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment. Torres said having embedded media with the unit is fantastic. 

"It provides the Army an opportunity to show how cohesively we work,” he said, “and allows the soldiers to tell their story.”

Torres added that soldiers in his unit want the media to do reports on them so the American people can see how they are living.

“The soldiers want their story told,” said Torres. “This is the best way for their families back in their hometowns to see them and how motivated they are.”

The embedded media have also adapted to the surroundings well, said Torres. 

“This group has impressed me,” Torres said. “They take [vaccinations], and they carry their [Nuclear, Biological and Chemical protective] mask on their sides just like the soldiers.  They are part of the team.”

This team cohesion has seeded roots for bonds in the field, said Chad Flowers, camera operator, WRAL Channel 5, Raleigh, N.C.

                “I’d say that we get along better with the soldiers than each other,” Flowers said of the relationship between him and other news outlets. “The soldiers are just great.  I enjoy hanging out with [soldiers], playing cards and sharing stories.”

                Despite sharing a location with other news outlets, the reporters are without rivalry to get a good story, said Julia Lewis, reporter, WRAL Channel 5, Raleigh, N.C.

                “We went through training back at [Fort] Bragg together,” said Lewis. “We’ve gone through similar experiences.  That’s what makes this camaraderie rather than competition.”

                Camaraderie is one of the things that have made this trip easier than expected, added Lewis.  The amount of access granted to reporters has also been a highlight.

                “It’s been refreshing on how much access we get, and we don’t have to clear everything for an interview,” Lewis added.

                But not everything is easy-going for the embedded media.

                “The biggest challenge has been getting our tape to Kuwait City and then aired in Raleigh,” Lewis said.  Lewis sends her stories to Kuwait City so they can be transmitted via satellite to her home news station.

And while Lewis has been reporting for years, her ‘first deployment’ overseas with the 82nd Airborne Division brought her to new places she would have otherwise never been to.

“I don’t think I ever would have gone to these places that the military has gone,” Lewis said.  “We’ve been to a lot of places; training sites and a base camp just a few miles from the Iraqi border.”

Lewis said she and her cameraman didn’t know what to expect when their plane landed.

“We’ve never done this before,” Lewis said. “I didn’t go to Afghanistan, so I didn’t know what to expect.”

Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Musselwhite, battalion sergeant major, 2nd Bn., 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment said he wasn’t sure about media embedding with his unit.

“Initially, we weren’t really for it,” Musselwhite said.  “We haven’t ever dealt with media on a daily basis.”

Because of this limited exposure to media, Musselwhite said he had concerns about how the media would mesh with his soldiers and their daily schedules.

“I wasn’t sure how they would fit in,” Musselwhite said.  “But they’re good folks, and they respected the privacy of the soldiers.  They also have a good understanding on what we’re here to do.”

This understanding allowed the reporters and the soldiers to work as one cohesive unit, said Musselwhite.

“[The reporters] are part of the team now,” Musselwhite said.  “After several days of being together, personal relationships were built.”

Musselwhite added the longer you are working with someone, the more confident you are in his or her ability to perform a task.

Chuck Liddy, photographer, Raleigh News-Observer, displays his abilities to the soldiers with whom he stays.

“I show them the work I do,” Liddy said. “The whole point of that is for soldiers to trust the media.  If I don’t show them what I have done, they might not trust me.”

So far, Liddy says he has enjoyed the experience and would like to see more media embeds.

“It’s better than I expected it to be,” he said. “It’d be great if the military opened up for more embedded media.”

Liddy added that the media is not as bad as some servicemembers might think.

“This is the greatest,” he said. “It’s about time the military realizes that the media is not out to get them.”

One thought that was shared by Liddy and the other embedded media members is the reality that these soldiers may not come home from the fighting.

“Sometimes, I lay on my cot thinking that the guy next to me might not be here in a few months. I’m going home,” Liddy said. “Some of these guys might not.”

An 82nd Airborne Division spokesperson said the experience of having media embeds allows media to bring home to Americans around the nation a look in to the lives of the its deployed servicemembers.