One of the best things about my Iraq deployment was supposed to be a punishment. Or at least that is how I interpreted it. While deployed to Iraq in 2005-2006, I was the Multinational Force Iraq Embed Coordinator. Basically, I was in charge of assisting and tracking all the civilian media who were embedded with U.S. Army troops.
It was during some of the first Iraqi elections. Therefore, it was a very hectic job. One of my upper-level bosses (who I wrote about in another post) was not fond of me, had an arrogant way about him, or maybe a had a combination of both. At one point in the tour, he told me I was going to be an escort for a radio talk show host. I can’t recall the exact words he used for her, but it was clear, he didn’t have a lot of love for her.
My job was to assist her around the battle zone and help her linkup with units, basically be her military liaison while she was in country.
My superior made it sound like it was going to be a hard, miserable trip and had this awkward little smirk when assigning me the duty. I professionally nodded and said, “Roger that sir. Will do.” Then I left to plan my trip.
Let me just tell you, if he really did think it was a miserable assignment, he was utterly wrong and did not know me in the slightest. As the embed coordinator, I had been chained to a computer and phone throughout the election season and needed a break. I was suffocating in the office and slowly losing my mind and morale. So if my punishment meant I was going off base to risk mortars, roadside bombs or snipers, it was welcome. At least then, I could see part of the country that I was trying to help. And frankly, movement and action is what most Soldiers prefer anyway.
My adventure with Laura Ingraham included everything from helping her and her team with military logistics to photographing their missions to carrying some gear. We traveled to villages to speak to leaders about how the military was helping their community. We visited Iraqi Soldiers to get their perspective on the progress in Iraq. We set up live radio shows with Soldiers to share their personal accounts of the war. It was amazing. I had the chance to meet people of courage and character, including some local Iraqis. I saw some of the country, a few different bases, and I felt like I was making a difference…and THAT is what ALL Soldiers want.
Though the differences may have been small, they counted. I was helping her tell the stories of so many people. Soldiers and locals shared stories of loss, struggle and optimism. Some had lost friends and family to war. Others had witnessed events that would remain in their minds forever, no matter how much they wanted to forget. Through all of that though came stories of triumph, hope and brotherhood. The Iraqis and Coalition Forces were standing together, fighting together in effort to build a future.
Regardless of your political stance on the war back then, it could not be denied that good was happening. I saw hope in the eyes of both the young and old. I felt the pain and pride of my fellow Soldiers. On the ground where I stood, a country was being rebuilt and I was part of it, watching it unfold. So to the leader who thought sending me out to be a reporter’s liaison was a punishment, I thank you. It was the best punishment I could have ever received.