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

Judges' Award

Research/Situation Analysis: 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 senior leaders.
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 coverage.
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 coverage.
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.
This 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.