A-Hole Camera Man: Media in the War Zone by Dave Childress

                Since the creation of news media there have been “embedded” reporters present during combat operations, dedicated to gaining the first ha experience necessary to properly report the facts to the masses.  As with any other issue related to death, especially violent death, there has been, currently is and always will be controversy surrounding the issue of imbedding reporters with military units in hostile territory.  There are many logical arguments both for and against the issue, all of which can be heard in the United States today.  

                Arguments supporting imbedding reporters include the obvious arguments that the people have a right to the information these reporters are providing to them, and the only way to get that information is to place someone on the battlefield who is a nonbiased reporter who will report the factual account of the battle(s).  There are also less obvious arguments such as having someone who is connected to the world outside of the war zone who can report things to the troops that concern them, reminding them that there is a reason for their current visit to Hell and it is still waiting for them at home.  There is also the argument that the presence of a member of the press is likely to reduce the chances of a soldier(s) breaking the international laws of warfare (Geneva Convention).             

                On the other hand there are arguments opposing the issue.  The presence of non combat personnel is distracting and places them in danger they are unequipped to handle. That pushes the argument that the presence of reporters places the soldiers in even more danger because they may have to “baby sit” the reporter instead of fighting, effectively reducing the fire power of the fighting unit.  There are those who argue that imbedded reporters have led to the people suffering from “over exposure” to horrific scenes from combat and the enemy gaining intelligence on our operations that they would not have had without these reports from the front lines. 

 

                There is also the moral observation that these reporters stand by, watching with cold blood coursing through their veins as young patriots die for them.  As a former young patriot who fortunately made it back home, I remain unequipped to give a decisive answer on the subject, although I have always opposed introducing unnecessary personnel onto the battlefield, especially reporters, for this singular argument.  That is until October 2005 on the day that Lance Corporal Norman Wallace Anderson III was murdered in cold blood by a suicide bomber in a car, also known as a Vehicle Born Improvised Explosive Device, or VBIED. 

                Anderson was a member of a 15 man patrol, acting as one of the three team leaders, when the patrol was hit by the VBIED.  Although Anderson managed to kill the driver, the vehicle still traveled into the midst of the patrol before detonating, killing Anderson and wounding 6 others.  After I witnessed the event from several hundred yards away, along with the rest of my platoon, we hauled tail to the scene.  When we arrived it took me a few seconds to recognize the black heap next to me as Anderson’s corpse.  I then noticed the vaguely familiar guy in civilian clothing running from man to man providing first aid. It was not until 15 minutes or so later while we waited for Dust-off (Army medical helicopter call sign) to arrive that I noticed some a-hole with a video camera filming us.  I promptly went to the a-hole and informed him that he was about to be stomped into the ground.  The a-hole took his camera from his face and apologized.  I immediately realized why the civilian providing first aid to our men was familiar to me. He was the camera man who had been staying on our base for the past week. Although I just walked away at that moment, there was a very heartfelt apology issued later that day as I fought back tears of admiration and gratitude. 

                I still can’t give anyone the right answers, but I can tell you that a cameraman made me want to be a reporter.  I don’t know his name, but I hope he is still over there, being an a-hole behind a camera, and putting the camera down when he is needed to save lives, just like he did in October 2005.  R.I.P. Wally.

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