This week marked another major milestone in my quest to return home. I completed my final off-site media event at Camp Taji today.
I flew up there yesterday morning to meet with the commander there. Normally, we don’t leave Baghdad until the evening before, but they insisted on a media prep.
We had invited Agence France Presse and Associated Press. They are two of the three largest wire services in the world, so I could understand their apprehension. AFP had printed an unfavorable article recently, and I had never worked with this particular AP reporter before.
The prep session went as expected although there was one amusing answer one of the colonels gave. In response to a prep question about the religious discussion programs offered at the detention facility at Taji, he inadvertently said there were “extremist parts of the Quran.”
I let it go for a few seconds to see what would happen, but when it went unaddressed by the end of his answer, I asked him, “exactly which parts of the Quran are extremist.” He looked puzzled at my question, and I explained to him what he had said. He smirked a little once he realized his mistake, and he crafted his answer again.
The media event itself went terrific. Both reporters seemed to get exactly what they needed, and there were no hiccups in the execution of the event at all — something entirely unusual over the course of my deployment here.
One of the bright spots in this deployment is the great team that helps me do these events.
Almost all of the media events my office puts together are executed by this team of public affairs professionals. Lt. Healy is the PA officer at Camp Cropper, and Karim is our bilingual bicultural advisor. He’s really the one that makes these things so easy.
When we go out on media events together, it doesn’t even seem like work. It seems like a few friends hanging out together all day.
Our flight back tonight was my last Blackhawk ride. It wasn’t nearly as exciting as my first one back in June, but I flew with some awesome people, which made it a great flight.