NBC News' $1 Million Sat Truck Gave News Org Leg Up in Iraq
The so-called Bloom Mobile may make the trip to Afghanistan
By Marisa Guthrie -- Broadcasting & Cable, 8/19/2010 7:33:33 PM
In fact, several news organizations including Fox News and Al Jazeera English were on the same embed with the fourth Stryker Brigade as it drove out of Iraq into Kuwait on Wednesday (Aug. 18). But NBC News was the only television news organization with satellite capability, thanks to the up-armored Bloom Mobile, affectionately named for late correspondent David Bloom who died suddenly in 2003 of a pulmonary embolism while travelling with the 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq.
When Engel, who has been in Iraq since Aug. 11, told NBC News executives that he had the opportunity to embed with what could possibly be the last combat brigade to leave Iraq, "it became very big in our minds," says David Verdi, VP of newsgathering for NBC News.
Though 50,000 U.S. service personnel will remain in Iraq largely for training purposes, the exit of combat troops is highly symbolic. And the Bloom Mobile, which allowed Bloom to broadcast live with combat troops when U.S. forces went into Iraq 7 ½ years ago, was again pressed into action in Iraq.
The truck cost $1 million to make; it has a special gyroscope mounted satellite that allows NBC News to broadcast from dicey locations like Iraq and more recently from the Gulf of Mexico for the BP oil spill there.
In fact, the truck was in the Gulf when NBC News got word of the embed opportunity. It took two weeks to ship it from the Gulf to Iraq via Dubai, according to Verdi.
"For every news organization and certainly for the military and their families, Iraq was a very emotional, life-changing event," says Verdi. Putting the Bloom Mobile back into action for the end of the war, says Verdi, provided a bittersweet bookend.
"It brought closure to the loss of David," says Verdi. "And of course, it was closure to the war that we thought would never end."
Many news organizations lost colleagues in Iraq. CBS News soundman James Brolan and camera man Paul Douglas were killed in 2006 by a bomb that severely injured correspondent Kimberly Dozier. And ABC News' Bob Woodruff suffered head trauma during an explosion also in 2006.
While technology has made it easier for news divisions to transmit video without extensive satellite equipment, places like Iraq and especially Afghanistan, where the terrain makes even broadband connections spotty, nevertheless present transmission problems. And Engel's four-plus hours of coverage from near the Iraq/Kuwait border was plagued by sound and video interruptions. But said, Verdi, audiences will excuse communication problems "if the content is compelling enough."
That said, the Bloom Mobile has yet to make the trip to Afghanistan. But Verdi said he hasn't ruled it out, though operational security remains a major obstacle.
"Afghanistan is a completely different theater than Iraq," he says. "The security there is different. The terrain has done in armies all the way back to Alexander the Great. We cannot operate there the way we do in Iraq. It's just too hostile," but he adds, "we can take the Bloom Mobile there and we may."
What is Verdi talking about "the end of the war" we still have 50,000 troops and yes despite the news these are COMBAT soldiers...plus untold 1000's of us paid for mercenaries...this war isn't over now because the administration says so anymore than when the news organizations lambasted President Bush for his ill spoken "mission accomplished" statements...sadly most of the news media are led like sheep with this drivel...
David Fisher - 8/20/2010 4:01:18 AM EDT
John Franson - 8/20/2010 3:50:37 AM EDT
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