Reporters on the Job

• SUCKING DUST IN AFGHANISTAN: As the war in Afghanistan enters it's ninth month, the US top brass appears to be loosening its restrictions on allowing reporters frontline access.

"There is nothing like getting out in a Humvee with the US forces in Afghan– istan. Pure adventure and lots of dust in the mouth," says reporter Philip Smucker. "I ended up with the 913 psy-ops team, which is arguably the most enthusiastic group of guys in Afghanistan (page 1)."

But Phil says many other US soldiers he met were ready to go home. The suffocating heat, the lack of privacy, and the dust are all factors. Sgt. Mike Dickinson, a member of the 913 psy-ops team, explained: "Even if you put the US forces on a mission in the Bahamas, they would be ready to come home within six months. That is the way we are."

Even his teammate Israel Miller, a Spaniard who joined the US military for adventure, is anxious to hit the golf links when he gets home. 'I'm seeing mirages of long fairways in the desert, and I've only been here two weeks this time.' "

• PULLING SHARK WATCH: Spending the past two weeks 'embedded' with soldiers from the US Army's 10th special forces, who are in Tbilisi, Georgia, to train the Georgian military (page 7), means reporter John Diedrich was treated as one of the team, "except, of course, I don't carry a weapon," he says.

Over breakfast, John was treated to an insider's discussion over the intensity of the recoil of a 50-caliber sniper's rifle. And when the Green Berets went out on official business or just to shop at a flea market, John pulled "shark watch." "Green Berets make careful tourists. They don't go out alone. Shark watch means that half of the group is always watching for people who could spring an attack or are collecting intelligence on them."

• BIG MAC BAN: Going out for a politically correct bite to eat in Saudi Arabia these days requires patience. Many Arabs are observing an anti-American boycott (this page), says the Monitor's Scott Peterson. Scott and a Saudi source went out to dinner in Riyadh. But the young Saudi went up to each counter at a food court mall, and asked if it was American-owned.

"McDonald's was rejected, despite a sign that it was '100 percent Saudi owned.' Baskin Robbins didn't make the cut, either. We finally settled on an Italian restaurant." But Scott joked that maybe the cheese was made with American milk. "The CHEESE?" the Saudi demanded of the young servers behind the counter. "Is this cheese American?"

David Clark Scott
World editor

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