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From the Front
Posted by: mcq on Saturday, May 05, 2007

Some of the premier milbloggers are now up on a panel. Some are vets, some are active, some are guys who have embedded with US units.

First up, and moderating the panel, is Matt Burden of Blackfive.

Sean from "Doc In The Box". Sean won a "Milbloggie" for Best Military Blogger of the Year, US Navy". Sean has had 3 tours "in the box" and is someone you should read.

Then SGT Hook, who is an active duty Command Sergeant Major with 20 years service in the Army. He's been blogging for four.

Next is an awesome citizen journalist who has been "in the box" a number of times, embedded with our troops, Bill Roggio. Roggio writes at "The Fourth Rail". He's done 4 different embeds. Probably one of the smartest and sharpest of the embeds, he's been in both Iraq and Afghanistan and his reporting is fully worth the time to read.

Last, but certainly not least, Bill Ardolino of INDC Journal. Bill's been blogging since 2004, but in December of 2006, Bill took a one-month leave of absence from his job to embed with the Marine Corps in Fallujah, writing dispatches for the Washington Examiner. He's currently looking to re-embed in Iraq.

Some excerpts from the panel:

Roggio: Talking about the "Anbar Awakening". Being driven by a Sunni sheik who is very pro-American and wants to see the movement in Anbar become a pan-Iraqi movement.

Why isn't the MSM covering this?

Ardolino: It seems like the MSM is two steps behind. The NY Times, for instance, has just begun covering the change in Anbar.

Sgt. Hook: I wonder if Ernie Pyle could ply his trade successfully today.

Ardolino: (why so few MSM journalists?) Spoke with a European freelance journalist, freelance. None of the major European papers would accredit him because they didn't want to be responsible for getting him killed.

Ardolino: (how about more blogger embeds?) Very difficult process made so by military bureaucracy, especially in the Army. Marines did a much, much better job of easing the process.

Roggio: Has put together an organization to try to ease the process. Bloggers who want to embed now have a point of contact to help them embed if they so desire.

Ardolino: (The truth about troop morale) You can go into any unit and find people who complain, and what always amazed him was how the media would find "those same three guys" and feature them. But he found the vast majority are positive, shouldered the mission well and drove on. As should be expected there are those who are cynical, but even they do what is necessary and more to support the mission.

Roggio: It is frustrating the way the MSM operates, it's a bit like what you'll see here, where a tragedy will occur and the mike is stuck in the face of a family member asking for their reaction. The same sort of thing is done with members of a unit who may have just returned from a mission where someone has been killed.

SGT Hook: Morale is a focus of his (as a CSM) and he says morale is good. And as he points out, and this is critical, the best indicator of morale organizationally is retention rate which is and remains phenomenally high.

Doc In The Box: Sign hangs in their area which says "Iraq Sucks, Deal with It". And they do.

Ardolino: Internet telephony is "huge" for morale. It allows the soldiers to keep in touch with their families. The internet has been one of the most fundamental morale boosters there is.

Roggio: (What are you constraints on blogging from the warzone?) Really only two constraints - don't talk about Special Forces, and don't take pictures of our wounded. So not huge constraints.

Questions from chatroom. For Roggio. Are you going to embed again?

Roggio: Considering it. May wait until September. Wants to do both Anbar and Baghdad. Leaning toward spending most of his time in Baghdad since he believes the war will be won in Baghdad.

Can milblogs counter the spin from the media about the war?

Ardolino: Frustrating because of the size of the MSM vs. size of milblog community. The size disparity, plus the propensity to do "if it bleeds it leads", it is a difficult to over come.

Blackfive: "I think people should know Paul Smith's name (SGT Smith was awarded the Medal of Honor in Iraq) instead of Lindy England's."

Roggio: Milbloggers need to build relationships with the media. It's important. An adversarial relationship is self-defeating. Build bridges and help the media do its job.

Blackfive: Some good guys out there and we need to build relationships with them.

Mike Fumento: Marine PAOs "rock", Army PAOs "suck".

Blackfive: Army PAOs have really started to do much better.

Don't the milblogs politicize the war (Ann Marie Cox of Time)?

Roggio: Not necessarily. Being pro-mission doesn't mean they're political, but instead proud of what they do.

Blackfive: In some sense, since the war has become politicized, some blogs reflect that politicization. But that's usually not at all the case for most active duty milblogs (but moreso on some veteran blogs).

Doc In The Box: For active duty, political sides is a "no-no".

Letter of support from Gen Petraeus read.
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