Colonel Jenny Holbert; Camp Fallujah, Iraq

Colonel, Public Affairs Director I Marine Expeditionary Force Camp Fallujah, Iraq

Colonel, Public Affairs Director I Marine Expeditionary Force Camp Fallujah, Iraq

Q. What country/area are you stationed in? A. Camp Fallujah, Iraq Q. What is your primary duty? A. Public Affairs Director, I Marine Expeditionary Force Q. What has been the most rewarding experience from your time abroad? A. Telling the story of the marines, sailors, soldiers and airmen who have all volunteered to serve in Iraq to help make this country free. It's been the most difficult, complex, and rewarding tour of my public affairs career. I have had the fortune to lead the activities of over 40 public affairs professionals, particularly as we told the story recently of the fight in Fallujah. I believe we dominated the world's media coverage for almost a week, an event of historic proportions that we all do still not comprehend. Q. What do you miss most about the states? A. My children, my mother, and all my friends who have sustained me with their support while I'm over here. And sushi. Q. When do you expect to be home? A. Cannot say due to operational security. We cannot divulge information about troop movements. Q. Who would you like to send your holiday wishes to? A. My mother, Eloise Meyer, and my two children, Nick and Christina Holbert. They are my mentors and guiding stars, and are always so supportive of my work here in Iraq. Q. What was your last (if any) public sector job? A. Public affairs officer, Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, Quantico VA. Q. What have your learned about public affairs/public relations from your work abroad? A.We must get the "first truth" out there, to overcome the distorted, inaccurate information published by insurgents. Accuracy, speed, and saturation give you the momentum to overcome the enemy. The media reports are very sensitive to balanced reporting. If I wait too long to publish information, the enemy could carry the preponderance of the information that gets reported. If I can get the truth out there to a wide audience of media, even while the enemy is reporting their propaganda, we can expect balance, so that the people receive more than one side of a situation. Q. What is the biggest challenge you face in your job? A. Working with a different culture in a hostile environment poses quite a challenge here. Since there is no real 4th Estate in Iraq - i.e. very little free press as Americans understand it - I try to make sure that the reporting coming out from untruthful sources is balanced with legitimate reporting of information. My team has done this through press releases, an embed program for Western and Pan-Arab media, press conferences, and reports from combat correspondents. Frankly, there is little work that we [can] do with the Pan-Arab media until areas like Fallujah are more secure and safe. We have had opportunities most recently to take media into the city with military security so they can see some of the atrocities carried out by insurgents, reconstruction efforts, and the plan to bring back the citizens to their communities. Q. What is different about communicating to a US audience, and communicating where you are stationed? A. Being halfway around the world makes it difficult to meet the American media's deadlines, so we have someone available 24/7 at our Command Operations Center to answer queries as accurately and quickly as possible. We use press releases, and are extensively enabled by our civilian media embed program. A new capability, the Digital Video Information Distribution System, or DVIDS, enables us to transmit live or live-to-tape broadcasts from anywhere we can safely set up the system, to local or national TV in the US. The DVIDS has become a tremendous force multiplier in reaching the American audiences via the broadcast medium. Q. Do you enjoy what you do? Why? A. I've always enjoyed working with the media. They are generally a smart, savvy and curious group, always challenging. It is very gratifying to produce a public affairs campaign that tells the story of our marines, soldiers, sailors and airman, so Americans and the world can see and understand all that the military is doing to help create security and stability here in Iraq. Q. Is the US winning the communications battle abroad? A. I'm not in a position to answer this question with expertise. I know that the reporting is very sensitive to getting out the "first truth." If we can provide factual information quickly as the bad guys are publishing their information, the overall reporting is balanced. If we are slow or cannot confirm information, the reporting will swing to the negative, insurgent side. There was a quote in a report today by Karl Vick with the Washington Post: " 'We admit we lost the media battle,...' said Abu Assad Dulaimy, a spokesman for the insurgent-led mujaheddin shura council that controlled Fallujah for six months before the US and Iraqi offensive that began on Nov. 8." This is quite a statement to be made, verifying the effects of the I MEF's extensive public affairs campaign.

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