'On the Line' with the 3rd ID
It’s been repeated many times: even the best battle plans never survive the first shot fired. That maxim has never been more true than in the Iraq war. It applies to the troops fighting there, and to the journalists covering them. The art of reporting this war is always changing for NBC News as we continually adapt to new -– usually violent -- realities in Iraq. Now, as the war moves into its fifth year, we add another approach to our coverage with a series called, "On the Line."
The series began on Feb. 16, when correspondent Mike Taibbi reported from the National Training Center in Ft. Irwin, Calif., where we found the men and women of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division gearing up for a third deployment to Iraq -- a deployment pushed up three months by President Bush’s so-called "surge" plan to bring some stability to the mean streets of Baghdad. Mike introduced you to Capt. Alex "Pancho" Perez-Cruz, a tank company commander from El Paso, Texas, fiercely devoted to his men and the mission in Iraq. Alex seems to shrug off the American public’s flagging support for the war. He told us, "The way I deal with it... is we sacrifice. We're the ones doing the hard work, and from our perspective it's worth it." And he doesn’t buy the "support the troops, not the war" line. For him the two are inseparable. "The war" is what "the troops" do. It’s their job. To indict it is to give a failing grade to what Capt. Perez-Cruz does for a living; he takes it personally.
You also met Spc. Juan Delgado of Miami, who will be going back to Iraq for his second tour. At 21 years of age, slight of build, and wiry, he already talks like a hardened vet. "Americans think... the world is full of, like, pancakes and lollipops and everything's nice. Well, it's not," he told us. "It's a harsh place to be and, I mean, you've got to learn all this stuff because over there it's real, you know. It's not like you can make a mistake over there. You're probably going to end up dead." Which is what happened to two of Juan’s close friends who served with him in Ramadi, Iraq in 2005. He wears a bracelet bearing their names to honor them.
Juan will be called on to guide first-timers like 19-year-old Pvt. Josh James from San Jose, Calif. Josh was not embarrassed to admit to us what so many other young soldiers must be feeling –- that he is scared. He joined up just last year with no illusions about where the war was going and where the Army would be sending him. "At the time it seemed like, you know, 'Let's go, I'm all ready for trigger time,' and, you know, 'boots on the ground.' And now that time's coming, it's a little bit different." As Josh packs his bags, he’ll be leaving back home a young wife and their 21-month-old baby boy.
It's our hope that "On the Line" will tell the compelling stories of Alex, Juan, Josh in an unique way. Mike and I will chart their entire journey -- from training in the U.S. to running missions in Iraq. Along the way we’ll get to know them, their wives, their kids, their mothers, their fathers, their thoughts, their aspirations, their fears, their successes, their disappointments. It will all play out on the full spectrum of NBC News platforms, including: "NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams," the TODAY show, MSNBC cable, Telemundo, and what you’re reading right now, "The Daily Nightly" on MSNBC.com.
It’s here on the Web where we expect to give these soldiers' stories the depth they deserve. We'll provide video clips of our reports, photos from the field, and frequent blog posts, but it’s also the place where Mike and I will step back and let Alex, Juan and Josh tell their own stories. We're giving them the means to post their own content throughout their year-plus deployment. On top of their 50 lbs. of Army-issued gear, they’ll also hump Web cams and DV cams provided by NBC News. We hope they’ll be able to find time outside their dangerous mission to let us know how they're doing. We also hope you, the viewer, will engage them while they’re in Iraq, using comments on blog posts like these and perhaps some other technology we'll unveil along the way.
Tonight on "Nightly," Mike will introduce you to their families at Ft. Benning, Ga., where they’re preparing for the departure of their sons, fathers and husbands. We’ll then follow the brigade to Kuwait later this month, where they will stage for their deployment to Iraq. Once in Iraq, we’ll embed on their missions, and follow Capt. Alex Perez-Cruz’s troops and his hopes that when it's over people will say they "did a great job and we're proud of everything we did... and we gave it our best and we got the best result.”
Read more from John Zito, On the Line
Early Nightly is up
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