Military Puts Its Story Online.
Byline: Cynthia L. Webb
The Internet offers users worldwide an unprecedented amount of news and commentary about the war in Iraq. But unlike the last war in the Persian Gulf region, Web surfers can obtain a wealth of information about the military units currently fighting to topple Saddam Hussein's regime.
Today's War on the Web installment surveys the online homes of U.S. and British military units deployed to the Iraq theater. Far from a comprehensive listing, the focus is on some of the larger units that have been featured in news reports over the past weeks.
The first stopping point for anyone searching for the military's take on the Iraq conflict is the Web site of the U.S. Central Command , the headquarters for the military campaign against Iraq. Central Command's site offers links to press briefings by Gen. Tommy Franks and other news releases , deep galleries of photos from the front , video clips and even digital images of leaflets the military is dropping to encourage Iraqi forces to surrender.
Another jumping-off point for exploring the military online is DefenseLink.mil , a Pentagon public affairs site that has links to all the military branches, photos , news and a special section on the war on terrorism.
The Army has a special Web site ( www.army.mil/operations/iraq/ ) on operations in Iraq, with links to press briefings and a " frequently asked questions " section for the families of G.I.'s deployed to the Persian Gulf region. The site links to the Army's main site , which has a handy list of all Army units .
The Army's 3rd Infantry Division , based in Fort Stewart , Ga., is leading the allied charge on Baghdad, closing to within 50 miles of the Iraqi capital on Tuesday. The Fort Stewart home page links to messages from the home front to division soldiers deployed to the Iraq front. "We are standing behind you and the other soldiers there," one supporter wrote. "Being a veteran myself, I understand better than most what is going on with you. ... All of us miss you." The post home page also links to a Microsoft Word document offering instructions for how to send letters and packages to the troops. A link on the site also details the history of the 3rd Infantry Division and its component units .
The 1st Calvary Division out of Fort Hood, Tex. has a history dating back to the 19th century. The division Web site does not provide links to information about the current conflict in Iraq, but it was clearly a 1st Calvary emblem on the side of an Apache helicopter that was shot down by Iraqis on Monday and later broadcast over official Iraqi television. The Army's 4th Infantry Division , also based at Fort Hood, is currently scrapping its original plans to invade Iraq from bases in Turkey. Ships carrying the division's heavy equipment are now steaming toward Kuwait.
A Web site for the 7th Infantry Division 's home post of Fort Carson, Colo., links to deployment information , but again, few specifics are provided. "As information can be released, it will be. If you are a family member or friend of deploying soldiers, please remember that if you can read this, so can a potential enemy," the site warns.
The 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), based at Fort Campbell , Ky., arrived in Kuwait just weeks before the fighting began and is the unit that suffered the fatal grenade attack by one of its own soldiers last weekend. The division's Web site has information on the types of helicopters its troops fly. The site also links to general information and the division's history dating back to its creation in World War II and to historical photos . A message that appeared two weeks ago on the home page was no longer visible on the site as of Monday. It read: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and other units assigned to Fort Campbell -- wherever they may be deployed for contingency operations or training."
The 82nd Airborne Division , based in Fort Bragg , N.C., is active both in the Iraqi conflict and in the U.S. military deployment to Afghanistan.
The Army's V Corps , the 42,000-strong contingency force for European and Central Command missions, has links to news articles written by military journalists and public affairs officers in Kuwait. The Web site for the U.S. Army, Europe and 7th Army , features a photo and news brief on the first soldiers wounded in Iraq arriving in Germany for medical treatment.
U.S. Marine Corps
Camp Pendleton , Calif., is home to several Marine Corps units deployed to fight in Iraq. The 1st Marine Expeditionary Force was one of the first U.S. military units to lose a service member in combat in the war in Iraq. The unit, has a basic Web site that lists its leadership , affiliated squadrons and battalions and history .
Another deployed Marine unit from Camp Pendleton, the 15th Expeditionary Unit , lists deployment addresses for families and friends to send mail for units and deployed personnel. The unit's Web site also links to photographs submitted by journalists embedded with the unit.
The 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade (Task Force Tarawa) out of Camp Lejeune , N.C., deployed to the Middle East earlier this year. The unit's Web site features pictures from its arrival in the Persian Gulf and a link to a letter from the brigade's commanding general to advise loved ones that mail has arrived since the deployment. The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit Web site features photos and news items posted before the fighting began, plus links to news items filed by reporters embedded with the unit.
The United States has deployed a massive naval armada to the waters near Iraq, including five aircraft carrier battle groups. The Web site for the USS Constellation (the oldest active carrier in the fleet) says proudly, "Others have gone before us ... Now it's our turn; Let's roll." The Constellation has a storied history -- its first version namesake launched in 1797 to become the first ship commissioned in the U.S. Navy, according to the ship's official history . Lots of photos of the ship and its aircraft are available too.
The Constellation is currently conducting operations in the Persian Gulf alongside two other U.S. carriers, the USS Abraham Lincoln and the USS Kitty Hawk . The Abraham Lincoln's Web site features photos from past missions to patrol the southern no-fly zone in Iraq. The ship's Web site has a " pen pal " e-mail address for people to write to sailors. The Kitty Hawk's site features links to current news , information on which Navy ships are launching in the current conflict and a photo gallery .
In the eastern Mediterranean, the USS Theodore Roosevelt and the USS Harry Truman are launching planes to support troops in Iraq.
The U.S. Navy's overall Web presence is impressive. There's a site for general information on aircraft carriers , amphibious ships , submarines and other ships in the fleet. The Navy's main site -- www.navy.mil -- has sections dedicated to Operation Enduring Freedom , current photos from various operations in the Persian Gulf, and an A-Z guide of Navy Web sites.
U.S. Air Force
The U.S. Air Force -- www.af.mil -- is heavily engaged in the Iraq war. Many of various squadrons and units that are deployed for the conflict have their own Web sites that detail some history and general information, though most appear to avoid mentioning details of the current conflict, beyond linking to main Department of Defense Web sites. The Air Force's main site has photographs from Operation Enduring Freedom and news about the Iraq conflict from various public affairs officers. Specific air combat command news is also linked from the site, including an item about F-117 stealth fighters being used to bomb a munitions dump near Baghdad last week.
The Air Force's Operation Iraqi Freedom Web site also has various news and photos relating to the current conflict, including information on the leaflets that many Air Force aircraft have been dropping during the campaign. There are also fact sheets on various military aircraft, such as the F-15 fighter , and the B-1B , B-2 and B-52 bombers.
The Air Force site links to various units, bases and squadrons. Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, for example, is home to a B-52 squadron active in the current conflict. The site, however, does not detail information on Operation Iraqi Freedom. Holloman Air Force Base , home to one group of F-117A stealth fighters, links to general information about its squadrons , including the 8th Fighter Squadron . Langley Air Force Base , hub for the U.S. Air Force's air combat leadership, has deployed F-15C squadrons to the Iraq theater. The Langley Web site does not detail the current deployments, nor does Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, which also has a number of personnel and pilots deployed for the current conflict.