The top Pentagon spokesman says the Oscar-winning success of The Hurt Locker, which won six Academy Awards Sunday night, is a testament to the positive aspects of embedding.
Specifically, the film's award for best original screenplay, given to reporter Mark Boal -- who embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq in 2004 -- shows the embedding program helps paint a true picture.
"We feel that embedding gives an opportunity to get first-hand knowledge of the challenges our people face as they prosecute war," Bryan Whitman, deputy assistant secretary of defense for media relations, told me. "We have found that over time anyone who spends any amount of time with our folks in the field comes away with an appreciation of how well-trained they are and how well-equipped they are."
Boal's embedded adventure was first reported in a September 2005 article for Playboy, which he turned into "The Hurt Locker" script.
Prior to winning on Sunday, Boal came under fire from at least one critic, Master Sgt. Jeffrey S. Sarver. He was in the unit that Boal embedded with and sued the screenwriter claiming he was the basis for at least part of the film.
Whitman says the number of embedded journalists in Iraq, which reached more than 700 in the heat of 2003, is now down below 30. Afghanistan embeds range between 30 and 40.
Whitman contends the attention given to a former embed at the Oscars is a great sign of success for the embedded program.
"Journalists who spend any time with our troops walk away with a sense of professionalism and a sense of the challenges they face everyday," Whitman said.