Division A - Public Relations Programs
Category 4 - Public Information
Iraq and Back Again
Lt. Corey Schultz, U.S. Navy; Lt. Col. Trey Cate, U.S. Army; Lt. Col. Teresa Connor, U.S. Air Force
CENTCOM Public Affairs conducted a media outreach program to broaden
coverage of the war in Iraq. It is difficult for smaller media outlets
to embed due to the expense of airfare and the time involved for a
reporter to be reassigned from other duties. The existing coverage of
operations in Iraq can become limited to large outlets (Washington
Post, CNN/FOX) that tend in some cases to rely on local stringers to
collect news rather than meeting firsthand with troops in the field and
Iraqi personnel. Positive U.S./Iraqi accomplishments were not reflected
in the majority of coverage. Also, regional media (vs.
national/international) were underrepresented.
CENTCOM planned and
executed a year-long program comprising three expeditions of radio
reporters and bloggers to Iraq, including embeds with combat units that
in two cases took enemy fire. Media were selected based on audience
size and location in the country (focus on middle-market, interior
cities). The majority of the reporters brought multimedia capabilities
enabling them to generate audio-visual and print coverage in addition
to their primary medium of radio.
Objectives: Expose radio outlets and
non-traditional media such as bloggers to U.S. operations in Iraq;
allow regional outlets that have not had the opportunity to do a
traditional embed to access and report on the stories of troops in
theater; expose audiences of millions to coverage; and provide an
opportunity for “new voices” to report on operations in Iraq.
Implementation: 1.) Selected media for each of
three 14-day trips in June and November 2006 and February 2007.
Extensive acculturization was required to prepare media for a combat
zone wherein 20-lb. body armor must be worn in temperatures exceeding
120 degrees F.
2.) Conducted intensive coordination between
Department of Defense agencies across three continents from the
Pentagon to Air Mobility Command --the Air Force command that every day
sends 900 massive transport airplanes overseas, to the Press
Information Center in Baghdad, which ensured that media were exposed to
subjects that interested them and had ample opportunities to interview
3.) Escorted media to Kuwait City, Baghdad,
Fallujah and Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) in the north and west of
Iraq. Media experienced a panoply of subjects including training of
Iraqi Army and reconstruction of Baghdad infrastructure, medical care
in the field and at Ibn Sina Hospital where “Baghdad ER” was filmed,
and direct combat with the 101st Airborne Division and the Marine
Expeditionary Force in Al Anbar Province.
Evaluation: CENTCOM measured the effectiveness of
this outreach program by quantitatively assessing the numbers of people
exposed to the coverage, by qualitatively analyzing the content of the
coverage and by collecting feedback from those who had experienced the
45 million media consumers were affected by the radio,
internet and television coverage this program generated. See following
pages for samples of coverage and detailed breakdowns of specific
The content of the coverage accurately reflected the
situation in Iraq and the day-to-day realities of a combat zone: the
reports of operations were factual, the reporters gained understanding
of a society that is often arcane to outsiders however it may be
depicted in popular entertainment media, and CENTCOM’s encouragement of
interaction between the two demimondes of the media and the military
caused understanding and respect both personally and professionally.
coverage had significant effect on the audiences affected by it.
Positive stories of U.S. accomplishments reached 45 million Americans,
many of whom did not have any other experience with operations in Iraq.
Less quantifiable was the personal impact that this experience had upon
the participating media, who became deeply impressed with the men and
women, U.S. and Iraqi, working whole-heartedly and literally under fire
to improve the future of Iraq. The reporters on these trips gained a
rich and intimate understanding of the complications, stresses, dangers
and ultimate triumphs of various operations in Iraq.
Budget: No additional funding travel/budget was
required to accomplish the three media tours. Air Mobility Command
allocated “Space Available” seats on its aircraft. Escorts traveled on
no-cost orders, and food/lodging/transportation in Iraq was covered by
the units visited. This creative use of existing funds and capabilities
enabled CENTCOM to generate enormous amounts of media coverage without
incurring additional expense.