SSB Challenge

Preparing For An Embed, Part 1

I've had several people ask me about doing embeds, and what it takes to do one.  So, I thought I would share a bit from current and past experience.  This time is very different, as I have the potential to be gone more than a year (or two even). 

First and foremost, it is very different from a traditional military deployment.  Top will not be yelling at you to do things, and there is no squad or other leader to hound you on details.  You have to handle everything, buy everything, keep on top of it all, and do all the paperwork.  Joy oh joy.  So, here's a short list of the basic areas:

•  Embed location

•  Embed paperwork

•  Medical

•  Insurance

•  Legal

•  Bills/Financial

•  Fitness

•  Gear

•  Evaluation

I'm going to start with the last first, as doing an embed is somewhat like carrying a weapon:  if you haven't thought of all the consequences and as many possibilities as possible, don't do it.  An embed is not a lark; rite of passage; mark of courage; or a chance to be a hero.  Nor is approaching it that way simply likely to get you killed, rather -- and far worse -- it can get others killed. 

Why do you want to do it?  If you are going to do one, you need to be reporting.  So, what are you going to be reporting, how are you going to do it, and why are you doing it?  For me, I found that serving as a way for the troops to tell their stories, and to put those stories into the context of the larger picture at the time, was possibly one of the most rewarding things I've ever done.  To be able to document not just news, but day-to-say life and activities was an amazing and humbling opportunity.

What do you want to do also ties in, in that one of the first questions you will get asked is who do you work for?  What organization is your outlet?  What is their readership/viewership? You also need to ask yourself what is your unique value-added to both the audience and the military?  Again, for me, I post here and I have a proven track record for letting the troops tell their own stories, while providing context on the larger picture and how those stories tie in.  The stories and videos get some good audience numbers and ratings.  My hope is to take those to even higher levels this time around. 

Can you afford to do it?  An embed is not a trivial undertaking.  I know I am counting on sponsors (and want to thank for being on board at the start) and donations to make this happen.  I have to be preapared to cover travel to-and-from the embed, armor, insurance, health insurance, gear, and more.  You can literally and easily spend tens of thousands of dollars, and I would count on roughly $10k just to go out the door.  Yes, there can be ways to cut that down a bit, but good insurance is going to be about half that for decent coverage over a realistic amount of time.  So, don't count on it going down too much.  I'll get more into financial costs later, but be thinking about the financial cost as well. 

Add to that cost the mental cost.  Doing an embed can and will strain relationships, friendships, marriages, and more.  I lost some "friends" starting with my first embed, not only because I did it but (in at least one case) I didn't approach it with a pre-conceived idea that fit a particular political ideology.  If you are married, have immediate family, or any other type of relationship, consider that what you do will affect others.  That is one mental cost, and consider that what you go through will have an impact on you.  Good or bad, it will happen.  How are you going to deal with that? 

Should you do it?  Do you have the drive and talent?  I know some might say I have neither, but...  The should needs to encompass all aspects of your life.  Are others dependent upon you?  What are your obligations to them and to larger groups? There is risk with any embed, as noted above.  Some of those are the same as with any activity:  accident, disease, etc.  But, added to the risk of being hit by a bus crossing the street, you have to consider that you could be seriously injured or killed.  How will you handle that, from considering the possibility to if it happens?  How will those close to you deal with it?  Don't gloss, think. 

I will admit that on my first embed, I didn't think about everything I should have as I should have.  On one level, I knew the danger was real, and I took precautions on several fronts as a result.  Accept at the start, however, that thinking about things isn't real, and the gut check of having to crunch, open mouth, and cover ears in preparation for a possible IED brings home the difference between knowing something academically and dealing with reality.  When you think, don't gloss over any part, but consider the full realities as best you can. 

For me, the timing is right.  I have no immediate family; my obligations to others are minimal; it is a good time on several fronts for me on several fronts; and, my obligation to two larger groups/organizations is being worked so that this can (I hope) be a benefit to both as well as to me.  I have no one dependent on me, directly and darned little indirectly, so I have flexibility in my decisions.  Do you? 

In fact, because I may be gone a while, I've made the decision to sell my house and as much of what I own (other than the minimal amount of things I truly want to keep).  That also relieves me of obligations ranging from rent and utilities to the joys of being a landlord.  Before I made this decision, I consulted a number of people, including an attorney, to look at the full range of options and get help in deciding how to order those options.  For me, sale is the best option, but it may not (and probably isn't) for others. 

So, on top of all the other work that goes into an embed, I'm cleaning, packing, and working on home and yard so I can get it on the market and hopefully sold quickly and for a good price.  Ditto for the possessions from furniture to books.  It is the cleaning and putting prices on things that is taking the most time, or is at least the most annoying time for me... Anyone who wants to help, come on over.  If you want to buy stuff, come on over!  Have I got some deals for you at Uncle Laughing Wolf's Used House Emporium! 

In summation:  Why do you want to do it; what do you want to do; how can you make it an unique and value-added operation for your readers and the military; can you afford to do it, should you do it/what are your obligations to others outside the embed; and, what will it take to put your life in order for it?  These are the fundamental questions that you must ask and answer before doing anything else. 

More to come...