Thursday, November 12, 2009

Eight American Soldiers and Two Journalists Killed in Iraq

The Hudson River on the West Point campus.
Photo by: Brooke Niemeyer

Our Reporting class went out to West Point in Highland Falls, New York to work with their students on a computer simulation of what happens during combat missions. This is the story I wrote about the experience. It is written as though the events in the simulation were real and we were actually in Iraq.


AL MANSOUR, BAGHDAD Eight United States soldiers were killed on Tuesday when they were patrolling Al Mansour, an administrative district in Baghdad.

Military officials said the soldiers were searching for a maroon pickup truck with a white top when Iraqis shot them. Two Pavement Pieces journalists, Brooke Niemeyer and Zanub Saeed, who were accompanying the soldiers on the mission, were also killed. 

The only surviving journalist from a convoy truck was Pavement Pieces reporter Liz Wagner. Wagner used the radio to attempt communication with the headquarters to report what happened and establish her location. The soldiers at headquarters were able to help guide her to a US helicopter, which took her to a safe location.

Convoy Commander Mike Fanelli was one of the soldiers on call to survey the Al Mansour district for the maroon pickup truck that was hijacked by insurgents. The truck had been declared a high value target ten minutes before the mission began. 

Fanelli was in command of three patrol trucks, including the one he was driving. Because of a breakdown in communication, he entered unsafe territories and was killed by Iraquis. 

Earlier in the day, he talked about the importance of communication between the soldiers. 

"If communication between us breaks down, so does our strength," Fanelli said. 

Failed radio batteries made it difficult for the soldiers to communicate with one another on the mission. Minutes after the first casualties were reported, military officials tried to get better radios out to the soldiers, but were unsuccessful in reaching all of them. 

Even with faulty communication equipment, the soldiers were able to locate and detain the maroon pickup truck. Despite this, Lieutenant Colonel Garret Guidry said that the mission didn't operate effectively because of the poor communication between the soldiers and with the headquarters. 

"There was too much cross talk happening," Guidry said. "We didn't get a good picture of what was going on."

Military officials said that the soldiers should have been able to focus on their mission instead of dealing with communication problems.

"The information coming into headquarters was too few and far between," Guidry said. 

"We couldn't pass along proper information to protect the soldiers and it cost us."

Friday, November 6, 2009

The 2009 Halloween Day Parade in Greenwich Village

I went to the Halloween Day Parade in the village and made this slideshow from the photos I took and audio I got while I was there.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Traveling Miles to Cheer on People Running Miles in the New York City Marathon

Doreen Phillips came to cheer on her friend running in the New York City Marathon.
Photo by: Brooke Niemeyer
Doreen Phillips came all the way from Atlanta, Ga. for the New York City Marathon and she's not even running in it.

This isn’t the first time that Phillips has traveled over 800 miles to come to the marathon. She has done this for several years. Her travels to the marathon originally started as a way for her to reconnect with her hometown of Brooklyn, but the past two years she has come to support a particular marathon runner: her best friend in Atlanta.

Phillips, 44, came to cheer on Christopher Reeves, named after the actor he shares a name with and who suffered from a spinal cord injury. He was running on behalf of the Christopher and Dana Reeves Spinal Cord Research Foundation.

Phillips wore a shirt with the words “Team Reeve” and held a sign with the same phrase. Running in the marathon is one of the ways Reeves is working towards bringing awareness to spinal cord research and to help people with these injuries to get the help they need to get better.

Reeves’ involvement was inspired by his brother, who is serving in Iraq and has seen many people suffering with spinal cord injuries as a result of being in combat.

As Phillips stood on the sidelines, checking her phone for word from Reeves, she cheered on the other runners, especially anyone with their names on their shirts.

“People are running by, and I don't know who they are, but I still cheer,” Phillips said. “I just want them all to do really well.”

When the text came that he was close to where she stood, she hoisted her sign into the air. As he came into view, her screams and shouts got louder than they'd been all morning.

“Woo hoo!” Phillips yelled. “Yay Chris!”

When he found her in the midst of the large crowd, he leaned over the barricade for a quick hug. There was just enough time for her to tell him she was proud of him and she'd see him at the finish line before he was off running again.

“You can do it! Keep going!” she shouted.

She cheered and clapped for him until he was long past her standing point in the crowd.

“That's my best friend and I am proud of him.”