Combat journalists have to endure a lot as part of the job description. Being embedded with troops in warzones is a dangerous and exhausting and extremely isolating endeavor. Even though they’re with the troops, they don’t technically belong. While soldiers carry weapons, combat journalists have their own weapons in the war against evil and falsehood. What’s funny to me, as an avid backpacker, is just how many items are similar — and how many starkly alien — are to what I’m used to. For example, I may bring a camera along with me for memories but a laptop and Kevlar helmet aren’t usually on my list of necessities.
At the very top of the list of necessities for the combat journalist are the combat essentials. This is to ensure that he or she will have the highest chance of survival in a blast or firefight. These include a Kevlar helmet and ballistic vest. These also come with ceramic inserts which are crucial to the effectiveness of the units. This guide here recommends a level 4 vest for any personnel in combat zones; this is the highest rating possible for body armor as it’s designed to even stop armor piercing rounds. The guide further recommends using a blunt trauma pack. A blunt trauma pack is a sort of extra layer of protection that will reduce hemorrhaging or bruising after the powerful impact of a bullet being stopped by the vest.
Another combat essential is eye protection. This is particularly true in desert regions like Iraq or Afghanistan. Sunglasses are a must for simple day-to-day living but where it becomes important in combat and for your health is regarding blasts or areas that experience helicopter landings. For anyone who is going to be around a helipad, it’s mandatory to have combat goggles to protect the eyes from every bit of particle and dust that can and will infiltrate a normal pair of glasses. Also, most combat journalists choose to get glasses with ballistic lenses so as to provide a bit of extra protection for their eyes against tiny blast fragments.
Just like everyone camping in any part of the world, these combat journalists will need several of the basic human necessities required by anyone regardless of the situation. These include things like food, in this case in the form of meals ready to eat (otherwise known as MREs), water (often supplied by the base but toted about by the journalist on patrols) shelter, sleeping bag and pad, and clothing, which can vary in shape and size dramatically depending on the weather conditions. Other basics that should be familiar to anyone who’s gone camping or backpacking include toilet paper, baby wipes for basic washing on long outings, clean underwear, clean socks, and a good paperback to pass the time when the infrequent break presents itself.
Just like every other profession, every journalist needs the tools of their trade around while he or she is doing his or her job, and combat journalists are no different. Probably the most important thing for a journalist to have is a laptop. This will allow him or her to do several different things at night or when they’re not actively in the field. First, they need the word processing capabilities afforded by a laptop to type up reports and make notes on the day’s events. Secondly, they need the ability to sort through any photographs that they’ve taken and are thinking about sending home. A laptop with a full battery and charger are crucial tools to the journalist in the field.
The next most important tool for a combat journalist is a satellite phone with satellite internet options. I would say it’s the camera that comes in second but at this point, a journalist can’t be left to the slow methods of communication that were used in the past to send stories and photographs halfway around the world. Without a satellite internet connection, like that provided by the Globalstar Sat-Fi, most of the news stories that these journalists could be pumping out would be old hat by the time they arrived. Further, by keeping in contact with their home office, combat journalists are able to keep right up to date with their deadlines, story focuses, editor expectations and any other work that may be required of them. And, in a pinch, journalists can be sure that their satellite phone will be able to keep them in contact with emergency services should the need arise.
Although combat journalism has a lot in common with the everyday explorer, naturalist or adventurers equipment set, there are several things that stand out as unique. Not everyone is cut out for work as a combat journalist, but perhaps we outdoorsmen would have it easier, already being familiar with so many of these necessary tools.
Written by Steve Manley