Embed Returns to Iraq — for Christmas — for Indiana Paper

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By: Joe Strupp

You’d think Fred Dodd of The South Bend (Ind.) Tribune would have had enough of military life during his two previous Iraq embedding stints in 2003 and 2004, not to mention his 20 prior years as a U.S. Marine photojournalist.

But when yet another holiday season approached for the fighting men and women in that war-torn country — especially those from the Indiana-based Marine Engineer Company B — Dodd felt the need to return and give readers a glance at how their uniformed neighbors were handling the holidays away from home.

“Fred wanted to be there during the holiday season,” Managing Editor Tim Harmon said about Dodd, who is actually a Tribune assistant managing editor. “It is a time to remind people what is going on and what they are going through.”

Dodd, who is married with grown children, also left his family behind to take on the latest assignment, Harmon said. Arriving on Dec. 16, he posted his first blog item on Dec. 18. His dispatches have described not only what the engineer company is enduring during the holidays, but also their rather dangerous undertaking — disarming roadside IEDs (improvised explosive devices).

“I watched through several inches of safety glass as what had once been a fire extinguisher but was now packed with explosives was dug up by a long electronic metal arm. Once it was fully exposed I fought the urge to wince as the electronic arm continued to push it around so an explosives expert could get a better look at it,” Dodd wrote in a blog item posted Monday. “I knew the vehicle was safe, but imagined we’d still feel it if the IED were to explode. Fortunately it didn’t – until a crew followed behind our vehicle and safely detonated it.”

Dodd has also filed regular stories, video and photos to the Tribune Web site, with some items appearing in the print paper as well. The Web items are posted at http://www.southbendtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/2006
1219/REPORTS/312190001.

At least one local group of South Bend residents sought to show appreciation for the Marine unit, organizing to purchase Christmas trees for Company B, which were sent recently.

“We didn’t tell him to go, he thought it was the right time to do it,” Harmon added. Dodd has been unreachable by phone, Harmon said. He did not immediately respond to an e-mail note sent to him by E&P Thursday.

Harmon said Dodd’s first embedded assignments were among the most eventful. His initial trip took him with the same Marine unit during the 2003 invasion, while the second assignment found him with the group running the infamous Abu Ghraib prison after the torture scandal there forced the previous personnel to be removed.

“When he first heard about the embedded program, he suggested going,” said Harmon. “He knew how to take photos and cover news and knew his way around a Marine company.”

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