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New Satellite Terminals to Help Get News, Info Back to the States

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 7, 2003 -- Senior coalition leaders in Iraq are about to increase their ability to keep America informed.

Two state-of-the-art ultracompact satellite terminals - along with a two-man team to set them up and get them working - are on their way to Iraq. Starting later this month, the satellites will beam up-to-the-second news feeds and video footage back to the States.

Plans include making the feeds available to military news broadcast outlets, such as the American Forces Radio and Television News Center and American Forces Network, as well as to commercial television outlets. The Defense Media Center, located at March Air Reserve Base, Calif., is providing the equipment and manpower support.

With these terminals, senior U.S. officials will get "the word" back to the states without delay, no matter where they happen to be in Iraq, said Allison Barber, special assistant to the acting assistant secretary of defense for public affairs.

"By virtue of their portability, these terminals will offer our top people in Iraq broadcast quality video satellite connectivity in a 'go anywhere' package that breaks down into just three airline checkable cases," Barber said.

The satellites are an especially important way to get stories on what units are doing in Iraq back home to U.S.-based units and families, according to the Army Master Sgt. John Ming, part of the team bound for Iraq to set up the equipment.

The new military backhaul capability from Iraq is a natural extension of a broadcasting tradition that goes back over 60 years, said Larry Sichter, DMC's affiliate relations chief.

"American military broadcasters have been on hand at nearly every major engagement since 1943," he said. "When the Allies invaded North Africa it was an Armed Forces Radio newsman who recorded the opening salvos."

"The DMC will always be bringing the American Forces Network, with stateside news, sports and entertainment, to wherever American troops are overseas. Now besides providing that always vital 'touch of home,' we'll also be able to bring back a look at what our troops accomplish."

"I think it will really establish us as a news presence in Baghdad," added Ming. "This gives the military a real chance to show not only that somebody was injured, but there are all these other things that are going on to rebuild the country."

Ming said the satellite system takes about 15 minutes to set up, and with the satellite provider ready to establish the link, ".we can just show up, acquire the satellite link and start transmitting from that point."