24 April 2010

Reservist, not Guardsman, Dies in Khandahar

I'm beginning to think that the Associated Press does more damage than good sometimes. Either that, or the headline-writers at the Army Times need a remedial course in basic fact-checking.

Just this afternoon, the Associated Press, via the Army Times, posted the following headline and news item. Here it is in its entirety:
Iowa guardsman dies in Afghanistan incident
The Associated Press
Posted : Saturday Apr 24, 2010 13:04:24 EDT
WATERLOO, Iowa — The Defense Department said Saturday that a soldier from Iowa has died in Afghanistan.

The department said in a news release that 53-year-old Command Sgt. Maj. John Laborde of Waterloo died Thursday. Authorities say Laborde died at Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan. Officials say he sustained injuries “from a non-combat related incident.”

Laborde was assigned to the 649th Regional Support Group in Cedar Rapids.
What's the problem? The 649th Regional Support Group is not a U.S. National Guard unit. It's a U.S. Army Reserve unit. Same Army, but completely different organizations. Confusing the two is like writing a headline about a State Trooper losing his or her life in the line of duty, when it was actually a U.S. Marshal. Or a municipal police officer. They're all law-enforcement professionals, to be sure, but they're all different.

Similarly, too many civilian reporters apparently think that all uniforms look alike.

Memo to Associated Press: A quick Internet search--even looking it up in your newsroom's dead-tree telephone directory--will help avoid such mistakes in the future.

This won't be the first time I've observed that careless headline writing and news reporting is hurtful to people like me, who go into mental overdrive every time we see or hear a reporter start off with the phrase "an Iowa National Guard soldier ..."

That said, I'm sure that others will also grieve with me the loss of any American citizen-soldier. The fact that Command Sgt. Maj. Laborde is from Iowa just brings the war closer to home, once again. The "non-combat" circumstances of his death don't make it any easier, either. In the coming dark days, please remember him, his family, and his fellow troops:

Be safe. Be vigilant. Be prayerful.


  1. That's very, very annoying. It wouldn't have taken much to fact check.

  2. What about "One Army, One Fight?"

    I was told one time by a civilain fire fighter who knew everything: "The national guard never leavse the state, they don't go to wars."

    I told him the facts and he still refused to beleive me. dumbass

  3. @ CI-Roller Dude: I think I met his cousin here in the midwest, back in the day. I pointed to the tanks parked out in the local National Guard motorpool, and asked how they were to be used in fighting floods and tornadoes.

    We've come a long way, breaking down the mental barriers within the Big Army, especially since September 11, 2001. Still, I wish that more to today's (ahem) "news professionals" would have more familiarity with military issues. They don't even have to sign up; they just have to pay more (and better) attention.

  4. In 31 years of being a civilain cop, and seeing lots of stuff I was involved in on the front page of the local paper...every time I read the story I thought: "Was this the same shooting (or whatever) that I was at? Did the reporter go somewhere else and get his stories mixed up?"

    When I came home form IZ, the local paper wanted to do a story about me. Why I couldn't figure out...I just did average stuff. The reporter said the interview should only take about 20 min.
    3 hours later, he was still asking questions. I worked with several different units, Army, Marines, even Navy!!! He was so confused that I gave up trying to explain what a Division was compared to a platoon. He knew nothing about the military---nothing at all. He was trying, but it was just too complicated for him, so I made it simple. "I went to Iraq and traveled around alot...."

  5. Callsign Sherpa -
    I just wanted to take a moment to tell you I really appreciated your post regarding our (the 103rd ESC's) deployment, as well as the post concerning one of our dear comrades, CSM LaBorde.
    I understand the frustration on the blurred lines between the Guard and the Reserve, especially when the facts are wrong when discussing Soldier losses. There is a pride connected with their choice to be a Reservist vs. a Guardsman, and you are among many that have voiced their discontent.
    Iowa Representatives have come a long way since I first arrived as the 103rd ESC's Public Affairs Officer in 2007, and I think the more we continue to include them in our lives - the better it will get.
    This is also true of the media. When we first began, many of our stories led with 'Guardsmen'. As we have strengthened those relationships, that has rarely been an issue.
    Despite the differences between State and Federal, we are both community-based organizations and have a lot of similarities. We both pull from community resources when we leave home which requires those same communities to fill the places we leave vacant: teachers, firefighters, coaches, doctors and a plethera of other resources. We all stand side by side with our Active Duty counterparts on deployments and depend on each other to make it through.
    Despite our differences, we are all volunteers to protect a way of life, our freedoms and the belief in something greater than ourselves. If we could get everyone to begin to recognize those similarities, than it is my hope that we won't have to try so hard to define our differences.

    Thank you again!
    R/ Angel Wallace


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