Update on Thursday: Rose Thayer reports that she’s covering the 1st Cavalry Division again. “The PAO [public affairs officer] in Afghanistan said he couldn’t get into [details of the reversal], just that everyone is back as it was and he hoped we could all move forward. I agree.”
Killeen (TX) Daily Herald military editor Rose L. Thayer told her Facebook friends last week: “Let it be known that on Sept. 15, I was officially banished from covering the 1st Cavalry Division. Not the Killeen Daily Herald, just me. I wish I could explain why exactly.”
I contacted Thayer, and she agreed to tell Romenesko readers what happened: A commander in Afghanistan didn’t like this lede:
FORT HOOD — The 1st Cavalry Division will return home from Afghanistan and uncase its colors in October, Maj. Gen. Michael Bills, division commander, announced Thursday during a town hall meeting.
Bills, who “banished” Thayer from covering the largest division at Fort Hood, was apparently upset because most of the division – not all, as the lede implied – will return to the United States – something Thayer had in the fourth paragraph of her town hall meeting story.
“My newspaper stands by the story I wrote,” says Thayer. “The editors don’t feel I did anything wrong.”
Here is what I heard Bills say at about 10:40 of this video of the Town Hall meeting:
We are seeing successes because of our Afghan partners, demonstrating the kind of independence and effectiveness that has come as the result of the many years of our military and civilian elements who have spent time working with them.
What this means is that regional command south headquarters transitions to a train, advise and assist command south on 15 October, going into resolute support. 1st Cavalry division will … uncase its colors in Fort Hood, Texas, on 17 October. A small organization and still very effective will continue the partnership with our Afghan partners and we’ve got all the confidence in the world in our Afghan partners to keep Kandahar and the outlying provinces safe.
Thayer, who is married to a soldier, says she’ll remain as military editor and “if something comes up, the 1st Cavalry won’t get covered. We don’t have the [size of] staff to go out of our way to accommodate them.” (The paper has six reporters.)
Thayer does have supporters at Fort Hood, and they’re trying to get Bills and his public affairs officer to work with her again.
“I think she’s a fantastic reporter,” says Fort Hood III Corps public affairs officer Col. Christopher Garver, who declines to comment on Bills’ action. (I couldn’t reach the commanding general in Afghanistan.)
The III Corps public affairs team, which outranks the 1 Cavalry, is trying to get a three-star general to intervene, says Thayer.
“The whole thing has just been disheartening, because I hate that one man can spoil the good work that his soldiers are doing. While we do report the good and the bad, he is blocking my ability to report on the good. When soldiers do bad things, it’s pretty easy to get the information from outside sources, like the police.”