Soldiers say media miss Iraq story
'So much of what happens here never makes the nightly news.'
By Anderson Cooper
Editor's note: In our Behind the Scenes series, CNN correspondents share their experiences covering news around the world. CNN's Anderson Cooper reports live from Iraq this week at 10 p.m. ET.
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BAQUBA, Iraq (CNN) -- We're in Baquba today, about 35 miles north of Baghdad. We hitched a ride this morning on a Blackhawk helicopter after finishing the show, and spent much of the day on patrol with the U.S. military.
I'm usually not all that impressed by machines, but Blackhawks are amazing. The heavy rotors slice the air. The sound is at once crushing and comforting. You take off, fly low, at times skimming treetops.
It's been a long day, and will likely be a long night.
I just finished writing an account of the patrol that will be on our show in a couple of hours. It's now nearly 10 p.m. here, and I still have a couple other pieces to write. We go live at 6 a.m. Iraq time, which is 10 p.m. on the East Coast. So I'm not sure I will be able to sleep tonight.
I can't complain, however. The soldiers I spent the day with work around the clock seven days a week. They can't keep regular shifts because they don't want insurgents to be able to track their routines. (Cooper: 'I had my first gun pointed at me today')
The unit I spent the day with is one month shy of going home. The commander, Capt. Patrick Moffett, was very optimistic about progress in Iraq, and by some accounts Baquba is a real success story. Attacks have dropped 30-40 percent since last year, and the Iraqi police in the city actually are able to conduct some operations on their own.
I'm planning on going out on patrol with Iraqi forces tomorrow, which should be interesting. They don't have armored vehicles, so it's a bit dicey. But I think it's an important story. It's worth seeing them operate for myself.
I'm always incredibly impressed by the U.S. service members I meet here. They are not all as optimistic and supportive of the mission as the captain I spent time with today, but they are all dedicated to their units, devoted to their fellow troops. I think a lot of us in the states forget how difficult it is for the families of these soldiers and marines, airmen and sailors.
They are away for so long. Multiple tours in Iraq are not uncommon.
Every soldier I talked to today said the media hasn't done a good job of telling the full story from Iraq. It's a complaint I've heard before, and certainly understand. I do think television tends to focus on the bombs and the bullets, the most dramatic headlines. So much of what happens here never makes the nightly news.
When today's patrol ended, one of the soldiers said to me, "Sorry it wasn't more exciting for you." I told him I wasn't looking for excitement, and in fact, I was glad the day unfolded as it did.
It reminded me that life in Iraq is never what you expect it to be. The situation here is far more complex and the fight far more nuanced than it is often portrayed.
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