It was the first Iraqi election and I was in charge of all the journalists who were embedded with the Army. It was a grueling job that involved endless coordination and big name journalists. At one point there were over 150 different journalist to track. My team of one was spread thin, but I tried to play it cool. Unfortunately though, I fell on my face…literally.
It was 2005 and I was a lieutenant. I was the media embed coordinator. Basically, that meant that if media wanted to or were embedded with any Army troops, I had to coordinate their arrival, synchronize their linkup with a unit, track their stories, and orchestrate their exit of the battle field.
It sounded simple enough at first as an eager lieutenant. However, as the first Iraqi election drew near, so did the mass of demands. Not long after arriving in country, I was swamped. Daily, I was inundated with emails and phone calls that demanded attention. Not only did I have to process media requests to be embedded (which required several layers of tasks), I had to pick them up at the airfield, take them to meals, ensure they got credentialed and release them over to their embed unit. Then, while they were embedded, I had to track what stories they were putting out and create charts and spreadsheets. This was all while new media were entering and others were leaving. It was a constant circle of media coming and going. Though I would get help from time to time from other Soldiers, I had no staff. The embed mission was mine and mine alone. So the help I did get was limited as everyone else had their own mission. I can’t lie, I was spread thin and feeling it.
On one particular day, I was just getting off overnight duty of watching the press center. (We all took turns at nights so that there was a 24-hour presence in our building.) I was dead tired, but had a high-profile journalist arriving. I was to meet them and escort them to the media center.
The journalist was Lara Logan. I had seen her pass through our center before and was in awe her. She was gorgeous for one thing, but more importantly, she was a classy, but ruthless journalist. She covered real stories, got hard facts and did it well. As a fellow woman (one with a journalism degree), I was star struck. So, admittedly, I was geek-like excited that I got to be her Army escort and officially meet her, one on one. For me, it was the same as meeting a movie star. No, it was actually better because I respected her accomplishments that I know did not come easily.
So, I’m waiting in my up-armored suburban in downtown Baghdad (inside of a gated military area called the International Zone where some media lived). I’m trying to pretend I am not tired. I am trying to represent the United States Army with pride. I’m trying to be professional. I’m trying to not look like a kid about to see their idol. However, as soon as I see Lara Logan approaching my vehicle, all of my goals fall short. When I open the heavy armored door with my exhausted arms and I take a step out, my weary legs fail me and I fall. And with absolutely no grace whatsoever, I tumble out of the suburban and onto the dusty gravel right at Lara Logan’s feet. Graciously, she kneels down and in a lovely accent, asks me if I am ok.
Utterly embarrassed for so many reasons, my weary mind can only manage to say, Oh Lara, I just thought I would throw myself at your feet like all the boys must do.
How’s that for personal and professional embarrassment?