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Preparing For An Embed: Getting Started

I've been both jumping around on the series, and not getting as regular on postings as I should, so am going to try to get things back on track. 

The first step in any embed is a journalistic outlet.  All embeds are journalistic embeds.  Period.  Dot.  They are not for morale, they are not for sightseeing, and they are not for cooking or other culinary endeavors.  Trust me, I spent a couple of months earlier this year trying to set something up for a chef who wanted to go cook for the troops, and despite my efforts and those of two very helpful people in DoD, no go, not even in conjunction with a real embed.  Now, that is not to say that an embed can't chose to do something once there if the unit approves, but that is not a valid reason for an embed and won't help your cause in applying.

Embeds are for journalism and journalism only.  Keep in mind that blogs (even milblogs) don't have the clout or prestige they once did and that there does still seem to be an institutional bias towards "real" media in some circles. 

So, the first thing you have to do is have an outlet.  If you can get something with "real/old" media of any type, it might not be a bad idea.  If not, I would strongly recommend working with a large or established blog.  For all the institutional bias that is out there, ratings will rule. 

Secondly, you need a track record so you need to be writing/whatever for the outlet for some time before applying for the embed.  Honestly, unless you are burning up the airwaves, so to speak, a year is good.  More is better. 

Now, for some foundation:  most blogs and media outlets are going to give you a nice polite "not at this time" if you just approach them out of the blue to do an embed for them.  Some may not even be polite about it.  It is a romance, it is a seduction, take your time.  Comment, cogently, and make a positive contribution to the site/outlet however you can.  Once known, offer to do a guest post/editorial.  Build from there.  Unless you have solid chops in the field, or a related field, it will not happen overnight.  Even with chops, it is likely not to be immediate.  Be patient, be pleasant, and most of all, be good at what you do. 

For me, I've been lucky over the years.  My internship at Playboy developed relationships that allowed me to cover a number of science events under their credentials.  If you want to be the center of attention, just ask a question at a NASA press conference as a rep for Playboy...  When I started blogging, I was very lucky with my blogfather (Hi Joe!) and first outlet, and lucky to have a small bit of knowledge on intelligence, military, and national defense.  That, and a dou-che who threatened Blackfive and his family, led eventually to my being invited to be an author here.  It is an honor and a privilege, and it has allowed me to do two previous embeds.  Thank you Matt, for the opportunity and patience. 

You can do it faster and you might get an embed on your own site if the MSM isn't clamoring for all the slots, but honestly it is better and easier to work through an established outlet.  It will also help with the paperwork. 

The amount of paperwork depends on where you are going.  The hot spots are going to be coalition activities, which can mean some interesting hoops and hurdles.  When I mentioned institutional bias earlier, keep in mind that while some in our DoD have embraced social media and understand the reach of blogs and such, not all countries do. 

Keep in mind that hot spots are also sovereign countries that may have their own paperwork.  For the upcoming embed, I had to register myself/Blackfive with the Afghan Interior Ministry, obtain a visa, and have Blackfive provide a letter saying that any lodging or travel bills that came up would be paid. 

In addition, you are going to have to provide paperwork of some sort stating that you have armor, insurance, inoculations, etc.  Personally, this ties into taking the time to get established in my mind. 

As you find an outlet, start working with your physician, a travel doc, or even the local health department to get the basics -- and more.  This does take time, and can cost a bit if you don't have insurance or have a policy that discourages preventative care.  At the least I recommend being inoculated for tetanus,  typhoid, polio, Hep A, and Hep B, but that is something to be worked with your doctor.  Personally, I have that plus mono, Japanese encephalitis, yellow fever, and rabies.  Even if you were given these as a child, check as you may need a booster.  Be sure to get these documented on a yellow card (International Certificate of Vaccination).  If you don't have the right immunizations for where you are going, the host country will not let you in even if the military were to say it is okay (though they are sticklers too).  If you don't have one, use the time to get a passport.  You really should already have one, but...

So, take the time to lay the groundwork.  Find an outlet and build.  Use the time for to get immunized.  Show them that you do qualify for an embed by work and deed.  Also, develop patience for the paperwork can and does take time, and there will be a fair bit of it. 


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