Subscribe

CAMP VIRGINIA, Kuwait — Troops in the field are about to get some new comrades. But the newbies will be toting microphones and cameras, not rifles and rocket launchers.

This week, the Pentagon is fulfilling its promise to “embed” hundreds of journalists with troops in the Persian Gulf, giving what is billed as the broadest access to U.S. combat troops in years.

Journalists are champing at the bit, but how do the troops feel?

In a word, eager.

“Our commanders have been telling us all about this for weeks, telling us how to act and what to expect,” said Spc. Shawn Timms, of the 130th Engineer Brigade, out of Hanau, Germany.

“To be honest, it will be nice to have reporters around to show everyone back home what we’re doing, but it will be more nice just to have someone different around.

“After so many weeks here, someone new coming in with news and access to the Internet and stuff, that will be great.”

Marine Lance Cpl. Richard Bennett, of the 8th Engineer Support Battalion, echoed Timms’ sentiments.

“I think it’s important that the American people see as much of what we are doing as possible,” he said. “We’re fighting for freedom, aren’t we? So we should trust the media to be fair and report what is happening.”

Having the media present ensures a two-way flow of information, the troops say. It is just as important for news to come in as it is to get news out.

Without newspapers and televisions, the troops are largely in the dark about what is happening around them.

At the same time, some soldiers say the dangers of bringing civilians onto a battlefield outweigh the potential benefits.

“That’s one more person you have to worry about when things go wrong,” said Sgt. Darrell Cobb of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines.

“What rules are they under? Who disciplines them if they give off light when they’re not supposed to or if their satellite phones get tracked?”

Last week, the main U.S. spokesman on the ground in Kuwait skipped his weekly off-the-record briefings styled after the Donald Rumsfeld School of Press Conferences and articulated the reasons for embedding reporters with troops.

“The preponderance of spokespersons for coalition land forces are going to be young soldiers and Marines,” said Army Lt. Col. Rick Thomas.

“Instead of a public affairs officer behind a podium, the spokesperson will be someone driving an M1 Abrams and who is someone’s son and neighbor.

“There will be no intent to control the message. You will report what you see, regardless of where you are on the battlefield.”

Thomas said the biggest concern in the Pentagon’s planning for reporters was over operational security and journalists inadvertently giving away battlefield positions.

“My belief is that no journalist will release information that could harm the unit they are with,” Thomas said. “Other than that, I don’t have, nor have I heard from any commanders, huge concerns. We want everything reported — good, bad or indifferent.”

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up