- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 20, 2002

NORFOLK
Nearly five dozen journalists have begun an unprecedented "media boot camp," with tours of aircraft carriers and submarines and lessons in seasickness.
The U.S. military, eager to improve its relationship with the press during wartime, promised a hands-on training session to help the Department of Defense better learn how to accommodate journalists, and vice versa.
Aboard the USS Harry S. Truman on Monday, Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem, the ubiquitous Navy spokesman of the Afghanistan war, promised reporters, "We are going to tell you the truth. We are going to tell you what we can tell you, and we are going to tell you when we can't."
The training hosted first by the Navy, then the Marines began on Saturday with 58 journalists bouncing 40 miles across 6-foot waves to the USS Iwo Jima, the Navy's newest amphibious assault ship. The craft carries Marines and all their battle needs to overseas combat locales.
In groups of three, reporters and photographers arrived on LCACs (landing craft air cushions), propeller-driven amphibious vessels that looked like giant metal boxes. It is a mode of transportation not recommended for those prone to seasickness.
The LCACs motored up the ship's lowered aft ramp and drove into the belly of the Iwo Jima, depositing several green-tinged journalists who had filled their Navy-provided plastic sickness bags.
A brief, claustrophobic tour also was provided of the USS Hampton, one of the Navy's nuclear-powered submarines. But information about the heavily guarded, black sub peeking from the waters off Norfolk was not forthcoming.
"How deep can this go?" asked one reporter. "Deep," came the only reply.
The Navy also provided tours of two other craft: The Norfolk-docked USS Leyte Gulf, a battle cruiser capable of land surveillance and radar tracking from at least 200 miles; and the USS Arleigh Burke, a 100,000-horsepower destroyer, which Capt. Clay Harris said "we like to call the sportscar of the Navy."
Officials say the Defense Department wants to improve its image after the Persian Gulf war and the Afghanistan conflict, where journalists' access was restricted severely.
Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clarke said, "We want to raise the comfort level."
Safety, they say, is also a concern. Eight journalists were killed in the Afghanistan war, including Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was kidnapped in Karachi, Pakistan, and beheaded.
Training with the Marines began yesterday in Quantico, Va. There, journalists face the daunting task of jogging five miles with 25-pound packs.
Despite the Pentagon's efforts, all is not copacetic between journalists and the military in this first boot camp. How reporters file stories and photographers images from the front line, when they can file and what they can file has not been decided.
A minor furor erupted Monday when some press officers suggested that journalists couldn't use cell and satellite phones during wartime, and that all would file through military equipment.
Afterward, higher-ranking military press officers assured journalists that communication details had not been completed, and that news organizations should be allowed to transmit over their own equipment.


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