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frequently asked questions
What about the film's strong language? What was Dog Company's primary job? Why was their mission so dangerous? Were there any restrictions on what could be filmed?

On patrol in Baghdad.

» Read FRONTLINE's position on strong language.

What are Dog Company's main duties?

Dog's Company's primary job is very high risk: protecting senior officers from attack as they move about dangerous areas of Baghdad. Among their other duties are helping to complete tasks such as rebuilding a power station, keeping the city's only oil refinery functioning and keeping Iraq's main north/south highway open. In short, they help ensure the senior officers can go about their work and implement their goals of securing and rebuilding the area.

Dog Company's approximately 100 men and women form the headquarters support unit for the 1-8 Cavalry at Ft. Hood, Texas. Back in the U.S., they normally would staff the offices and man the telephones. Most of Dog Company has been stationed in south Baghdad since March 2004, when the 1-8 Cavalry assumed responsibility for Baghdad.

» View the chain of command.

Who are the "Misfits" and how did they get their name?

The Misfits, the small group of soldiers followed by FRONTLINE's producers, are a nine-member combat group from Dog Company, the 1st Battalion of the Army's 8th Cavalry regiment. They gave themselves the nickname "Misfits," because they were thrown together from many different parts of Dog Company.

» Read extended interviews with some of the Misfits.

When are they coming home?

The Misfits' tour of duty in Iraq is expected to end in March 2005.

How can I contact the Misfits?

You can send letters to the Misfits c/o the following address:

Name of soldier
1st Cavalry Division
c/o PAO Maj. Phil Smith
Building 28000
761 Tank Battalion Blvd.
Ft. Hood, TX 76544

When was "A Company of Soldiers" filmed?

FRONTLINE's producers were embedded with Dog Company for the full month of November 2004. During those 30 days, Dog Company was sent out on 26 missions.

Were there restrictions on what could be filmed?

According to producer/director Tom Roberts, "The access we had on the ground was pretty extraordinary: We had no minder. … We had the complete run of the base." Roberts said there was only one situation which producers were asked not to film: When intelligence came in saying specific officers had been targeted by insurgents, the colonel called a meeting of the soldiers to ask if anyone wanted to withdraw from the patrols that night. "To protect his soldiers and to allow them to make a decision that was unencumbered by public exposure, he didn't let us in to film that meeting, which I can fully accept and fully understand," Roberts said.

» Read a producer's notebook from co-producer Edward Jarvis about the making of the film.

Who were the soldiers who died during filming?

Spc. Travis Babbitt died when the Misfits were ambushed and hit by a rocket-propelled grenade and small-arms fire while out on patrol on Nov. 9.

Spc. Raymond White was killed when his patrol was attacked by an improvised explosive device (IED), rocket propelled grenades, small-arms fire and mortars from insurgents on Nov. 12.

What happened in the raid on the mosque?

Seized rocket-propelled grenade launchers

On Nov. 27, 2004, acting on a tip, members of the Iraqi National Guard, assisted by the Misfits, uncovered a large cache of weapons hidden in the parking lot of a local mosque in southern Baghdad. The mosque had been suspected of harboring insurgents and numerous ambushes had been carried out in its vicinity, including the attack that killed Spc. Travis Babbitt.

Fifteen suspected insurgents were arrested and the raid uncovered:

  • A car wired to be used as a car bomb, which was neutralized by a U.S. bomb disposal unit
  • 3,000 machine gun rounds
  • 30 mortar rounds
  • Two mortar tubes
  • 23 rocket-propelled grenades
  • 11 rocket-propelled grenade launchers
  • Two high-explosive rockets
  • 18 AK-47s
  • 100 IED timers
  • Two 9 mm. pistols with silencers

What about the indoor market that Dog Company was building? Did it open?

One project of civil affairs officer Capt. John Morris documented in "A Company of Soldiers" was the construction of a new indoor market in one of south Baghdad's slums. Construction is finished, but as of Feb. 22, the market still has not opened. The Army hopes to move the vendors from the outdoor stalls into the new indoor market by the time Dog Company comes home in March.

What happened to the churches that were bombed?

(photo courtesy of the U.S. Army, 5th Brigade Combat Team)

On Nov. 8, 2004, two churches in south Baghdad were hit by car bombs within minutes of each other. According to the U.S. Army, no one was injured by the first car bomb that went off at St. George's Church. The AP reported that three people were killed and 34 wounded by the second car bomb at St. Matthew's Church. FRONTLINE's producers visited St Matthew's Church after the bombing and were informed that a doctor who lived adjacent to the church had been killed and his wife and/or daughter had been injured. Most of the injured were taken to Yarmuck Hospital, which was then hit by a suicide car bomb a few hours later.

Churches in Iraq -- which has one of the world's oldest Christian communities, some of whom still conduct their services in Aramaic -- have been hit fairly regularly by the insurgents. On Aug. 1, 2004, five churches in Baghdad and Mosul were bombed and according to media reports, up to 12 people were killed. On Oct. 16, 2004, five churches in Baghdad were bombed. The attacks occurred between 4 and 6 a.m. and although some churches sustained heavy damage, no one was injured. According to a December 2004 estimate by the Boston Globe, 20 churches were bombed in Iraq that year.

Do the soldiers know any Arabic?

Some of the soldiers in Dog Company, although none of the Misfits, did speak some Arabic. The American soldiers who speak fluent Arabic are used as translators by the senior officers.

Does an Iraqi translator endanger himself by appearing on camera?

All Iraqis working for the Americans put themselves at risk. While FRONTLINE was there, Iraqis who worked as translators, cleaners or who were employed as contractors cleaning canals and rebuilding roads were threatened, kidnapped, killed, and beheaded. The insurgents even targeted members of their families.

The translator who appears in the film is well known in his neighborhood for his work with the Americans. He has been working for the U.S. since the fall of Saddam Hussein. His life is certainly at risk just because he is doing his job. That is why after the upswing in violence he decided to cover his face for the cameras, but also wherever he went, he took a series of precautions to protect himself and his family.

» Read the transcript of a conversation between two Iraqi translators about the dangers of working for the U.S.

What is FRONTLINE's position on the strong language that is in this film?

This is a film about young men at war, often in combat, and always in danger. As one might expect, the language of these soldiers is sprinkled with expletives, especially at their moments of greatest fear and stress. As FRONTLINE edited the program, we were judicious, but came to believe that some of that language was an integral part of our journalistic mission: to give viewers a realistic portrait of our soldiers at war. We feel strongly that the language of war should not be sanitized and that there is nothing "indecent" about its use in this context.

PBS stations were given the option of airing an edited or unedited version based on their own community standards. Broadcasting the unedited version carries some risk that the FCC would entertain complaints and levy a fine. Each public television station had to decide for itself whether to take that risk.

FRONTLINE does not believe the expletives used by the soldiers violate the FCC's "indecency" rule. They are not used in a "gratuitous" manner nor are they meant to "titillate" or "pander," which are the terms the FCC uses to determine if there has been a violation. Viewers may be familiar with the recent case of ABC's broadcast of the movie "Saving Private Ryan," which contained repeated instances of strong language, used in the same context as this FRONTLINE film. It was widely reported that a majority of the FCC commissioners decided they would not support viewer complaints about the language in "Saving Private Ryan," and outgoing Chairman Michael Powell concluded that the agency should not take action against the ABC stations that aired it because the language was part of accurately portraying the story about the Allied invasion of Normandy during World War II.

FRONTLINE appreciates those stations who were willing to broadcast the unedited version of the film, but recognizes the difficulty any station would have in deciding to take a risk that might result in a penalty. However, we encouraged all stations that could to stand with FRONTLINE because we believe what is at stake here is not only the particulars of this case, but the principle of editorial independence. Overreaching by the FCC is at its heart a First Amendment issue. We think that the editorial integrity of future FRONTLINEs is at risk along with many other types of programs whether art, science, history, culture, or public affairs. Editorial decisions should be free from influence by the government and should be made in accordance with the standards, practices, and mission of public television. We hope you agree.

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posted feb. 22, 2005

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