Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Shameless promotion department

Our Iraq project receives cover-story treatment in the spring issue of  Aurora, UAF's alumni magazine. The package includes an overview I put together describing how we got there, what happened and lessons the students took away from the experience. It also features one of Tom's best  pieces, "Saying Goodbye," a story about the 1-5 Infantry's last training mission with an Iraqi police unit. Staff Sgt. Daniel Blalock's emotional parting with several Iraqis he's been working with says it all.
Aurora's designers gave us a beautiful spread. We owe them. Big time.
--Brian O'D

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

UAF Journalism Embeds: Free public lecture

This coming Friday, Feb. 19, Jenny, Jessica, Tom and I will discuss our experiences reporting on the brigade last summer. Pictures never seen. Stories that didn't make the printed page. Bring your questions. Nothing is off limits. That's 7 p.m. at Schaible Hall, which is located in UAF's Bunnell Building.
--Brian O'D

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Personal Delivery

Just before Christmas Capt. Chris Hassan, a platoon leader with the 3-21st Infantry, went above and beyond reasonable expectations in completing what amounts to a final Iraq mission.

Let me explain:
Jessica Hoffman and I traveled in Strykers under Hassan's command on a mission at FOB Normandy. The photo shows the captain briefing soldiers before we joined Iraqis searching a palm grove used launching rockets at Warhorse. When we shifted back to the 1-25ths headquarters we again caught a ride with Hassan's platoon in the convoy out.

Somewhere along the way, Jessica misplaced a UAF Journalism tripod.

We hadn't had much use for the thing. In general, field assignments were too hectic for tripod use. Jessica's camerawork was mostly hand-held by necessity. But she's the kind of videographer who leaves nothing to chance. She lugged that tripod across Diyala Province on the outside chance it might be needed.

It wasn't a huge loss, but it was the only piece of gear the team misplaced in our month-long rambles through airport lobbies and military camps stretching back to Fairbanks. Figuring it was at least worth a shot, I emailed Hassan.
> Hey Captain,
> Jessica tells me she thinks she left a tripod behind the driver's
> side bench seat inside the tripod. Could you guys take a peek when you get a
> chance.This would have happened in Monday's CLP run from Normandy.
> If, by chance, the tripod turns up maybe we can figuring out how to get it back
> through the PAO in Warhorse. If it's not there, don't sweat it.

The initial word from the platoon wasn't promising:
Mr. O'Donoghue,
No one has reported finding a tripod but I will look and let you know. If i find it I will get it to you if i have to bring it to you at UAF.
Take care,
Christopher B. Hassan

We both scoffed at the idea that an officer with Hassan's warzome responsibilities would make such an oath.

Jessica laughed, I e-mailed back, and says she's betting you'll hock it at the haji shop.

Hassan responded in kind:

The Haji shop would probably only give me $5. I personally would rather try it at a Pawn shop in Fairbanks. Im sorry but no one has found it and no one has reported finding it. I will still keep my eyes and ears open for it. Hope you have a safe trip back.

Take care,

Christopher B. Hassan

No sweat, I responded, I appreciate you looking for it. Jessica hasn't used it much and I don't think we'll miss it. Good luck down the stretch to you and your men.

A week later he had the last word:

We found the tripod. We are going to load it in one of our storage containers that is flown to the States. I would imagine that I will be able to bring it to you around October.

Take care,

Christopher B. Hassan

In November, the container showed up at Fort Wainwright. Soon after, the captain fulfilled his pledge, dropping by the department where I gave him a peek at our developing brigade Web package. Like many 1-25th soldiers and officers, Hassan elected to reenlist and is leaving Alaska for a new assignment. Wherever the next mission takes him, I'd bet the captain goes the distance, personally seeing the assignment through.

Take care, Chris