24 July 2006

B36 News - 24 July 2006

It's Monday and B36 News is back at it. I've been thinking lately how the recent focus on Israel in the MSM is affecting their coverage of the war here in Iraq and I've come to the conclusion that not covering the immense progress that we're making here is better than inflating the setbacks.

One thing that not many people realize is that in any conflict there will be setbacks, but that doesn't mean all is lost or that the plan isn't working. Take your own life for example. I'm sure at some point that you had a plan for what you wanted to do with the rest of your days. At some point in your attempt to bring that plan to fruition, I'm sure you encountered something you didn't expect even though you should have. That's ok though, what's really important is how you respond to those setbacks. Did you abandon your goals and settle for something less? Or did you adapt your plan and continue to pursue your desired end-state?

The US military is not in the habit of abandoning its goals, its missions. We're not about to start.

And now, the good news from Iraq.

PM Maliki's Stockpile of 'Don't Quit'
PM Maliki enacted Operation Together Forward to secure Baghdad. A bit over a month later the insurgents and terrorists are fighting back, setting off car bombs and trying to fan the flame of sectarianism. Did we expect them to roll over and show us their fuzzy under-belly? How would you respond if your goals were being directly threatened? The bad guys are fighting back. PM Maliki is not throwing his hands up and saying, "There are too many bad men with guns." He's stepping up, adapting his plan, and achieving his goals. He's offering the carrot and wielding the stick. Lead on Mr. Prime Minister.
(Speaking of the reconcilliation plan) "This is an Iraqi initiative for those who are part of the political process," Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said, adding that there was much interest in the initiative from people outside the process, including disaffected [former Iraqi] army officers.

This Is A Journalist
Hang on a second, I'm not insulting him. I'm just setting the bar high for all those pansies who sit on their derrier and send out Iraqi children to feed them news stories. The troop pictured here is a member of the 304th Moblie Public Affairs Detachment. This troop rolls in convoys with other troops and gets the straight story, first-hand. It's men and women like him that bring us all the good news.
Servicemembers who’ve been asked by the 304th to talk to the press have enjoyed the opportunity to clarify misconceptions about the Global War on Terrorism. “Many of them are thankful that we give them the ability to tell their story,” said Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Coon, Non-Commisioned Officer In Charge. “They hear and see what is being said by the U.S. media, and are very grateful to have the ability to tell the American people that we are making a difference.
(full story by SGT Claude Flowers posted in comments)

Gaugamela Update
Operation Gaugamela is aimed at routing out terrorists in the vicinity of Kirkuk. You may recognize the name 'Kirkuk' as it was the site of a car bomb that killed about 20 and wounded close to 100 Iraqi civilians (I know I saw it on the news). What you won't hear (I didn't) is that this car bomb was set off as a counter measure to the effectiveness of this joint Iraqi & Coalition operation. Thus far, Operation Gaugamela has resulted in the capture of over 150 terror suspects, 350 rifles, and a lot of IED material. Attacking civilians is how terrorists respond to our success. They can't beat us, so they target civilians in the hopes that they will lose confidence in us and turn to them. This leads me to the next story.

Blame Where It's Due
I've become a reader of a blog called "Iraq the Model". It's operated by two brothers who live in Baghdad outside the IZ and is a great first-hand source for how the war is percieved from an Iraqi point of view. In the most recent post, Omar describes who he holds accountable for civilian deaths that are a result of sectarianism as well as a solution to the problem.
That's the direct way, the indirect way on the other and is that the violence they stirred left the US military with no choice but to attack at some cities and those attacks left a lot of collateral damage including the deaths of many Iraqis who were trapped in the crossfire of those battles like what happened in Fallujah or Ramadi or Mosul. Those civilians were mostly Sunni and al-Dhari is to blame for their death.

Although late, it was a bit of a relief to see Iraqi and US commanders planning to move more troops into the Baghdad area.
Read the whole thing and see if you agree with my assessment.


Blogger bandit.three.six said...

Army Journalists: Making History, Covering the War
Written by SGT Claude Flowers

History is being made by today’s military. It’s the job of the 304th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment to ensure that history is preserved. From the streets of New Orleans to the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan, from cities in Iraq and Africa to the halls of US Central Command in Tampa, Florida, the 304th is telling the stories of troops engaged in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. How the unit is performing this mission is worthy of a story unto itself.

The 304th is on a 545 day deployment, working in the CENTCOM Public Affairs Office. Whereas MPADs traditionally create field newspapers for an “internal” audience – I.E. fellow Soldiers – the 304th is reaching out to the military and civilians alike. By arranging phone interviews with servicemembers who are in theater, the 304th can “virtually embed” reporters so that the truth about CENTCOM’s accomplishments can be known.

“Right now, the 304th MPAD has the responsibility of media engagement,” said Lt. Col. Richard McNorton, commander. “The focus is to facilitate the stories that are not being told in the mainstream media. We focus on finding interview candidates in the US Central Command Area of Operation, whether it’s in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Horn of Africa, and then to facilitate that interview so that the stories get told.”

Servicemembers who’ve been asked by the 304th to talk to the press have enjoyed the opportunity to clarify misconceptions about the Global War on Terrorism. “Many of them are thankful that we give them the ability to tell their story,” said Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Coon, Non-Commisioned Officer In Charge. “They hear and see what is being said by the U.S. media, and are very grateful to have the ability to tell the American people that we are making a difference.

In addition to reaching out to traditional press outlets, the 304th makes news, photos and video available on the webpage www.centcom.mil. The online community of “webloggers” – amateur journalists – has embraced the site, calling it a refreshing alternative to the mass media’s gloomy assessments of the Global War on Terrorism.

According to McNorton, “Part of the engagement operations includes electronic engagement where we’re responsible for generating a weekly newsletter, maintaining the CENTCOM website with imagery and with stories that relate to current operations, and also weblogging, where we’re providing information to Internet webloggers on the positive stories that are happening in the Global War on Terrorism.”

“We’re taking on a new frontier that’s never been explored before,” said 1st Lt. Brian Anderson, who leads CENTCOM’s electronic media engagement team. “It’s a whole new type of beast. With the website, we’re able to get the facts out, unedited by the mainstream media. The stories about our humanitarian and reconstruction efforts are being disseminated across the Internet. One website will run a story about CENTCOM and others will pick up on it. The viral effect has been unprecedented.”

Part of the 304th’s hands-on approach involves meeting the public itself. By addressing key opinion leaders, command messages can reach new audiences.

“CENTCOM has been involved in the community by volunteering in the Tampa Bay area,” said 1st Lt. Jennifer Huntsman, community relations officer. “Before, a lot of our speaking engagements were requested by high schools and colleges and large clubs like Rotary Clubs and chambers of commerce. Lately, we’ve been outreaching to elementary schools and junior high schools as well as smaller organizations that had not been aware of our operations.”

Guest speakers for these events have been drawn from all corners of CENTCOM, from senior officers to junior enlisted.

“It’s important to get the voice of everyone at Central Command, not just the leadership but the worker bees as well,” Huntsman said. “We went from 75 speaking engagements in a year to 109 in four months. We’re having a positive impact. Before, nobody knew what Central Command did. They now know there is an important command here in Florida. We are the sole war command.

“It’s nice that the community knows we want to help out by volunteering and spending time with the people of Tampa. We’re also helping ourselves by putting down roots. As servicemembers, we get moved around a lot and we want to call this area home as long as we’re here.”

The 304th is doing revolutionary, unprecedented work. “In fact,” McNorton said, “there are no written tactics, techniques and procedures. We’re actually in the process of developing them. We’re really on the forefront of proactive public affairs. Instead of waiting for the media to contact us to respond to a story that they’ve come across, we’re actually finding the story and putting it out to the media. They’ve been very, very receptive to that.”

McNorton said that this focus on informing civilians is what makes the 304th unique.

“An MPAD usually focuses on internal communication: A newsletter for the command. Most of the products that an MPAD generates are used for internal media, whether it’s The Pentagon Channel or the Armed Forces Network. Very rarely are products that an MPAD produces actually shown to the American public, unlike what we’re doing, where all of our products go right out to the American public.”

Certainly, the Global War on Terrorism receives ample coverage in the press, however many news outlets dwell on casualty reports while overlooking the achievements of servicemembers. The 304th is correcting that imbalance by making it easier for journalists to get the facts directly from troops on the ground.

“We’ve been hearing from the media that it’s very difficult for them to get the positive stories out, the stories about accomplishments that units are making whether it’s in reconstruction, humanitarian assistance, providing security and stability,” McNorton said. “We’ve come up with a way in which we can virtually embed a journalist. They conduct the interview and we provide them with photos so that story actually gets out into the public. Until now, that’s never really happened unless that journalist was actually physically embedded with a unit, which can be very costly for the media outlet and also there are some security concerns with that.”

To meet these goals, Soldiers of the 304th are spread across the CENTCOM Area of Responsibility. Wherever there’s a story that deserves to be told, that’s where they’ll be.

“Currently, the way the MPAD is set up, we’ve got an operation in Qatar. Their teams have gone into the Horn of Africa, Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan,” McNorton said. “We also have a two person team that’s in Atlanta. Most recently, they were deployed to Louisiana to provide coverage of Hurricane Katrina. They were able to set up a DVIDS (Digital Video and Imagery Distribution System) so that the mainstream media was able to get its imagery up into the satellite and into the homes of the worldwide public.”

Many Soldiers in the 304th are qualified as print and/or broadcast journalists, so they create original content for the CENTCOM website and monthly Coalition Bulletin magazine, which enjoys a global readership.

In addition to covering the political transitions in Afghanistan and Iraq, the 304th has documented the reconstruction efforts undertaken in the Horn of Africa. “That’s an area of tremendous concern to the CENTCOM commander in terms of being proactive to prevent the spread of extremism,” McNorton said. “We’re there providing humanitarian assistance, education, and reconstruction, to build those countries and provide the foundation for a good economy so the extremists are prevented from targeting that area and developing future terrorists.”

This is a dynamic environment, one that has required Soldiers of the 304th to adapt to meet the ever-changing requirements of their mission. McNorton believes that they’ve excelled in part because they are Army Reservists, experienced in balancing their civilian and military careers.

“I’m very, very proud of what the MPAD has accomplished in a very short period of time,” he said. “When we were mobilized and deployed to support CENTCOM, the skill sets we brought were primarily acquired in the civilian sector. We were able to approach challenges in a much different fashion than the military. In the military, they’ve got their set tactics, techniques and procedures which, in many cases, keep their blinders on. We’re able to take more of an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to facilitating stories, looking at new mediums for getting our stories out.”

Sgt. 1st Class Coon was equally enthusiastic about the mission.

“I think our 304th Soldiers have made it possible for the American people to hear and read about some the positive and great things our servicemembers are doing.”

Anonymous lee mcdaniel said...

"I've come to the conclusion that not covering the immense progress that we're making here is better than inflating the setbacks."

B36: Thanks for the post. I am adding this statment to my list of unintended consequences. I am certain the MSM did not intend to cut the war effort any breaks during their hand wringing frenzy in Lebanon.

Anonymous dj elliott said...

After reading Omar's link, I suspect 1st IA Div (IIF) is about to redeploy from Eastern Anbar to Baghdad...


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