Saturday, January 07, 2006

Call for Volunteers: Frontline Forum

Retired Military Persons Needed

The difference a year can make is staggering. One year ago, the gap between the ground reports from Iraq from military friends prompted my travel to Iraq to see for myself just what was happening. The dispatches posted to these pages over the ensuing months were an attempt to bridge that gap. Now that I’m back in the United States for a time, trying wring every bit of information of the war out of the news, only to come up dry most days, it’s become clear that in just under a year, the media gap has morphed into a chasm. Before this thing becomes a black hole, it’s time for a few good men and women to put their military experience and expertise to use in an operation that can create an alternative channel that will allow frontline information to break through and be heard.

This site gets much traffic from all around the world, from people searching for news from Iraq, making it an ideal place to host stories from deployed forces in harm’s way. Not comments, not those endlessly forwarded unattributed “true” stories that always seem airbrushed, but real stories about the ground situation. In my travels I’ve met many budding writers who are now wearing boots and carrying rifles, and I found their stories so compelling that I want the world to see.

One antidote to the no news but bad news flu would be to let more of these voices be heard. A simple “call for stories,” would probably stuff the inbox with emailed submissions. Having already made my ongoing inability to read email well known on these pages, any information system predicated on my reading emails would clog before it launched. This is where the volunteers come in.

It’s important that the bar be set high when it comes to accuracy. I cannot read every story and vett for accuracy. But what I can do is provide the groundwork to assemble a group of retired military personnel who can read the stories, with their radar for embellishment and operational security set high, and select which submissions to publish. Over time, a more comprehensive and accurate picture of what is happening on the ground can emerge.

The Veteran Volunteers would need to organize themselves, as I will neither moderate nor provide any assistance other than making a forum available. A few key volunteers can assist with building the virtual organization that must be in place before we can issue that Call for Stories.

Now is the time to Call for Volunteers. There will be no reward for anyone other than to know that important information is flowing, and that our troops on the ground will finally have their own voice in a forum that is widely read. It is important that the volunteers have much military experience so that they can better judge what sounds credible and most important to publish.

Call for Volunteers: Any retired military personnel interested in the Frontline Forum, please email to, and put “Volunteer” in the subject heading. Please describe briefly your military experience and an estimate to the number of hours per week you can spend reading stories from troops. If you have skills that are in some way related to this project, please include a description of those skills in your email. Let us know what you can do and how much of it you are willing and able to do. Someone will get back to you soon. While the Volunteers organize, we’ll build the forum, network with others who are in touch with our troops, and when all is ready, we can turn on the faucets and open the flow of frontline news.