WASHINGTON: The Pentagon was in damage-control mode last week after a choreographed letter-writing campaign by an Army commander based in Iraq backfired.
Lt. Col. Dominic Caraccilo, head of the 2nd Battalion of the 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, asked each of his soldiers to sign and send home a letter that he had written extolling US accomplishments in rebuilding Iraq. Gannet News Service discovered the campaign, which generated more than 500 pieces of mail, when identical letters showed up in at least 12 different papers across the US.
Caraccilo's actions closely echoed the theme of the GOP's current effort to counter negative stories in the press by highlighting examples of progress across the country (PRWeek, September 15). Both the Pentagon and Caraccilo deny that there was any connection between the two.
Army public affairs was at first hesitant to condemn the commander's actions. "We do not see that anything was done wrong in this situation," said a spokesman on Tuesday morning. "Soldiers and commanders have the right to speak their minds as far as putting forth good Army stories because they are tired of the negative reports in the media."
But by Wednesday, the Pentagon told reporters that commanders had been warned not to repeat Caraccilo's actions, and the commander himself wrote an e-mail to ABC News apologizing.
"We thought it would be a good idea to encapsulate what we as a battalion have accomplished since arriving in Iraq and share that pride with people back home," he wrote.