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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 April, 2003, 10:55 GMT 11:55 UK
Reporting from the front line

By Andrew North
BBC correspondent in Central Iraq

Much of the media coverage of the war on Iraq has come from so-called embedded journalists, living and travelling with US and British forces. For the past month, Andrew North has been with a 7,000-strong unit of the US Marines called Task Force Tarawa. Here he reflects on life as an embedded journalist.

"Hurry up and wait" - that's a phrase that has long been used to describe military life. Bursts of frantic activity followed by long periods of doing nothing.

But you might have thought it would be a little different with the hyper modern, hi-tech US military. Well, at least they might have cut the waiting time.

Not so, I've discovered. In the early part of the war I must have racked up days sitting in the back of a US Marines truck, either crawling along in a convoy or waiting in the desert. All the Marines with me were just as much in the dark about what was going on.

Then, there was the time when the task force was for once travelling at high speed.

US Marine passes time in the desert
Marines and journalists have spent many days waiting in the desert
They had gone so far I thought I would be in a nearby town within the hour. At last I'd have something more to report than the traffic news from southern Iraq.

And then, again without explanation, the convoy suddenly turned around and drove most of the way back again.

I later heard that some general somewhere had changed his mind at the last minute.

Things got more interesting after the marines arrived in the city of Nasiriya.

Yet, with no vehicle of my own, the problem has been getting around to report on events at the front line - so much of my time has been spent begging rides on Hum-vee's and trucks, and when I get lucky, helicopters.

The downside of course - and this is where being embedded can make reporting difficult - is that I have to fit in with their schedule. When my lift has to head back, I have to go too.

Yet again it's a case of - "Hurry up, then wait".


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