So on Monday night, after council and typing up my story, I pulled together the last parts of my application to the international coalition that oversees reporter embeds in Iraq, and I sent it in.
I sent an application in, along with samples of my work, a copy of my passport, a head shot, and a letter from NHPR saying they were sponsoring me. Now I wait to hear back.
It’s a crazy idea, right? Going to a war zone is something of a tradition for reporters, but it doesn’t make it smart. If I go I’ve got to get body armor, so I’ve been shopping around for armor piercing plates and accessories to keep me safe. It’s a little disconcerting to see how many places you can still get shot, but some other reporters assured me things were settled in Iraq.
I’m hoping to embed with the 94th Military Police Company, a reserve unit out of Londonderry. I’m no soldier, and I have no real desire to see war, but the impact media can have on foreign policy and conflict is huge, and I think it’s important people hear what is happening.
Mostly I want to tell New Hampshire residents what their soldiers are doing in Iraq. The war has been winding down there for some time, and most media are focused on Afghanistan. But New Hampshire has a company of soldiers in Iraq, and their service shouldn’t be forgotten.
It’s a little difficult to wrap my head around, what it’ll be like, but it’ll certainly be an adventure. I spoke to a friend who spent 15 months in Iraq as an officer in the army, and he told me he could write a book about his experiences. As a New Hampshire resident and a non-military household, I don’t have frequent reminders about the conflict, or that people are still filling books with bad experiences. As members of a democratic nation, that’s a luxury I shouldn’t be allowed. Our votes affect these decisions and policies, and we shouldn’t make them uninformed.
Granted, my little excursion, should it happen, won’t likely shift voters in one direction or another. Nor should it. But it may add to their knowledge about what their fellow citizens are doing, and when joined with the rest of the reporting from the region create a little bit more complete picture. No reporter is “the media,” but hopefully collectively we can pull together enough vignettes to help people make informed decisions about governance. That’s why the press is protected by they first amendment.
And I get to do it in Berlin, on one scale. Reporting for NHPR is doing the same thing, on another scale. It gets interesting, however, when it’s national and international issues you’re talking about.
So I got an email back from the USF–I (U.S. Forces – Iraq) today, saying they received my application and will get back to me soon. I’m heading to Peru in less than a week to climb mountains, so hopefully they’ll let me know before I go. Then I’ve got to secure a flak jacket and helmet and figure out to fly to Kuwait. It’s an interesting proposition, being a reporter, but I can’t complain it ever gets boring.