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Media is the Battlefield

Newsletter 07-04
October 2006

CALL Handbook No. 06-08: Catastrophic Disaster Response Staff Officer's Handbook Cover

Task Force Iron Horse Guidelines for Working with News Media in Iraq

Appendix B

Media encounter flowchart
Figure B-1

Working With Media on the Battlefield:

  • You do not have to talk to the media. However, Soldiers who refuse to speak with the media present the impression that they are withholding information.
  • Your comments matter.
  • You’re the best spokesperson we have.
  • We need you to tell the Army story, but we also need you to do it right.

“Engage ... it’s a duty. We have to reach out in a broad spectrum and in a credible manner.”

GEN Peter J. Schoomaker, U.S. Army Chief of Staff


Only those matters over which you have direct responsibility or personal knowledge. If you do not know, say so.

Pan-Arab/Iraqi Media and Respect for Arab Culture

  • Compliment their culture, country, and traditions continuously.
  • Use as much Arabic as you can.
  • Don’t joke.
  • Don’t talk about women.
  • Don’t argue about religion.
  • Use metaphors that will work in the culture to describe enemies.
  • Mention people, places, and organizations that are helping you.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of their history and religion.

Before the Interview:

  • Who is the reporter? Agency?
  • Are they credentialed by higher headquarters?
  • What is the topic? Ensure you are the right spokesperson.
  • Know what you want to say (messages).
  • Choose the location (operations security [OPSEC], backdrop).
  • Prepare an opening statement (20 to 30 seconds).
  • Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.
  • Prepare for four easy and four difficult questions.

During the Interview:

  • Reporters are not your buddies. They will report what you say. If you don’t want to see your name by a quote, don’t say it.
  • Stay in your lane.
  • Stay on the record.
  • Discuss only firsthand knowledge.
  • Stay brief and concise. Use simple words, avoid jargon and acronyms.
  • Listen, pause, think, and then answer.
  • Answer only one question at a time.
  • Speak directly to the reporter.
  • All contact with media is “On The Record.”
  • Be honest and forthright, never lie.
  • Talk facts, don’t speculate.
  • It is okay to say “I don’t know” or “I can’t answer.”
  • Do not discuss politics, per Army Regulation 360-1.
  • Do not discuss rules of engagement.
  • Protect OPSEC.
  • If you realize you made a mistake, tell the reporter immediately.

Enduring Messages:

  • Our #1 priority in Iraq is training Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) so they can assume responsibility for their own security.
  • Much like the U.S. Army supports and defends our Constitution, the Iraqi Army will support and defend theirs too.
  • The security, stability, and future of Iraq is dependent upon a well-trained, well-led, motivated, and competent Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police Force.
  • Our exit strategy is tied to the future of the Iraqi Army and its success in becoming increasingly self-reliant in order to assume the battlespace.
  • The Anti-Iraqi Forces have nothing positive to offer the Iraqi people. They indiscriminately target innocent men, women, and children.
  • Ultimately the security of Iraq will be up to the Iraqi people.

Note: Success equals ISF gaining capability and assumption of the battlespace.

Remain positive. Talk about how the Iraqi forces get better every day or how they are increasing in capability each day. Talk about their courage in the face of direct threats against their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Talk about your mission, but do not talk negatively about the ISF.

When in doubt, contact the closest public affairs officer.


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