British Media Ops, that is.
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The Major and I were driving in Camp Bastion around midday when it was very hot. A British soldier ran by wearing a rucksack. He was drenched in sweat under the blazing, dusty desert. I smiled because it’s great to see so many soldiers who work and train hard. Yet the Major cut fun at the soldier, saying he was dumb to be running in that heat. I nearly growled at the Major, but instead asked if he ever goes into combat. The answer was no. And, in fact, the Major does not leave the safety of Camp Bastion.
That a military officer would share a foul word about a combat soldier who was prepping for battle was offensive. Especially an officer who lives in an air-conditioned tent with a refrigerator stocked with chilled soft drinks. Just outside his tent are nice hot and cold showers. Five minutes away is a little Pizza Hut trailer, a coffee shop, stores, and a cookhouse.
This very Major had earned a foul reputation among his own kind for spending too much time on his Facebook page. I personally saw him being gratuitously rude to correspondents. Some correspondents—all were British—complained to me that when they wanted to interview senior British officers, they were told by this Major to submit written questions. The Major said they would receive videotaped answers that they could edit as if they were talking with the interviewee. (Presumably, senior British officers are avoiding the tough questions, such as, “So, when do you plan to send enough helicopters?”)
When I asked a different Media Ops officer about meeting with a senior British General in Afghanistan, I was told that submitting a CV (curriculum vitae) would be helpful, to which I laughed. A CV? How about this:
Name: Michael Yon
Notes: I will be in and affecting your battle space for years to come. (By the way, you are losing the war. Hiding from correspondents does not change that fact.)
This war is moving fast and there is no time for games. If a general does not want to tell his story, someone will tell it for him. He will have failed by losing another winnable media battle.