*Retold with permission.
I’ve never really had any good experiences with reporters. They’re usually a bunch of self-righteous fools that have no business on the battlefield. Not only do they put themselves in great peril, but they jeopardize missions because they have no idea what they’re doing. In fact, they require a PSD [personal security detachment] to keep them from screwing things up. That’s what I found myself doing last tour in Kirkuk.
Since I was one of the few privates in the platoon, I drew the short straw for this particular raid. Instead of kicking in doors and doing my job, I would be assigned to the goofy reporter embedded with us. I was basically babysitting, and I wasn’t happy about it. This was a raid. This was what we trained to do. Nope. I was required to stay glued to his side. He told me he was doing human interest pieces for the automotive industry, which made absolutely no sense.
Everybody tried to comfort me by pointing out that intel [intelligence reports] were pretty scant on this mission. In reality, we might not even take anybody in, they said. My absence, I was told, wasn’t a big deal. I would take up the very rear of the unit and the reporter would be positioned right in front of me.
Because this was a hit, not a cordon and knock, we parked the humvees some distance away to avoid being heard. We left them guarded with drivers and gunners, and took off down the alleys towards the target in a combat glide. We moved tactically, crossing danger areas quickly and keeping low. We didn’t want people to spot us from over their walls. But this tall idiot stood in back and just strolled along like this was a sidewalk. Even after I politely reminded him that we needed to move tactically and avoid detection, he largely ignored me.
The house itself was surrounded by a courtyard with a fairly high block wall. Running into up to it, we tucked low against the wall and prepared to hop it. The plan was to hop the wall, provide a secure cordon, and an entry team would move into the house itself. I would be last over the wall – right behind the reporter. He just stood there looking stupid – no situational awareness.
I again explained that we needed to be tactical on this, so he needed to duck down. And when the time came to go over the wall, be very careful. These walls frequently have loose bricks on top. Climb carefully, slide over, then start filming. This isn’t a race, I said. Your safety comes first. At this, he snapped.
“Private, this is NOT my first time in Iraq! I know what I’m doing, and you don’t need to treat me like a child.” Of course, he said this too loudly. There wentthe element of surprise.
In seconds, everybody piles over the wall and heads for their positions around the house. I tell the reporter he can climb over, but watch out for loose bricks. Muttering angrily, he shoulders his camera, climbs on top of the wall and stands there. The bricks gave out then and he went tumbling forward – into a heap of concertina wire, breaking his ankle. Then he starts yelping and complaining. Everybody that saw him started laughing.
I scrambled over quickly to provide him some security, but since he was immobilized I basically sat on him until the raid was complete. There wasn’t any good place where I could move him. The courtyard gate was locked, and it was more secure inside than out, at any rate.
When the raid was done – without my participation in the least, we all carried him whining back to the trucks, which were seemed a lot further when you’re hauling a casualty. Packing him in, we left for base and dropped him off for treatment. That, thankfully, was the last I saw of him.
I can’t say for certain, but I highly doubt this is an isolated incident. I imagine something like this has happened repeatedly. It’s bad enough we have to escort somebody without a gun, but far worse when they’re detrimental to the mission and threats to themselves and us. Whenever they talk about embedded reporters now, I pray we don’t get one. And whenever I see them, I just start laughing. All I can think about is that arrogant guy and his camera, tangled up in a heap of concertina wire and whimpering. Hopefully we’ll never get one like that again. They’re a waste of our oxygen.
Copyright © 2009, Ben Shaw, All Rights Reserved