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Former Yuman keeps America in touch with war
Capt. Greg Kelly's Harrier jet may have plummeted from the skies near Yuma four years ago, but the Yuma-based Marine didn't crash and burn.
These days, the pilot-turned-television journalist is in Iraq covering the war for the Fox News Channel as an embedded reporter.
Kelly, who is traveling with the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division, spent nine years as a Marine fighter pilot and was stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in the late 1990s.
He also got his start in journalism at local channel KYMA, where he interned part-time as a cameraman, according to two former co-workers.
"He is one of several reporters over there doing a good job for us," said Fox News ChannelForeign Editor Brian Knoblock, who works with Kelly every day. "He has the military experience, which definitely helps, but he is also an aggressive reporter who understands what makes for good television and those are excellent qualities to have."
Knoblock, who is based in New York, said Kelly, like most of the other top embeds, has also been extremely lucky.
"It's been dangerous out there for him because the unit he's with has seen a lot of action." Knoblock said. "We were told by the military going into this that they couldn't guarantee which units would be involved in combat, but he's made it work, turning it into good television."
The unit Kelly is embedded with was in almost constant combat on its way to Baghdad, Iraq. On Saturday, Kelly and his cameraman, Mal James, fed a stream of video and reports from the city hours before any other U.S. television reporter arrived.
With an eight-hour time difference between Iraq and the United States, Kelly's live broadcasts are usually shown here between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. locally.
"He's normally working overnight on our time," Knoblock said. "Once it gets dark over there they have to worry about security issues and light restrictions. They can't turn on any equipment because even the small light of a cell phone can be seen and used as a target for snipers and that sort of thing, so they have to be very careful."
While several journalists have lost their lives during the war, Kelly, for the most part, has escaped serious injury.
More than a week ago, Kelly was cut by flying glass when the percussion from a mortar shell shattered the lens of a camera near his face.
"It landed about 30 feet away from them while they were doing some taping," Knoblock said. "They were both knocked to the ground."
Kelly, 34, an Atlanta-based correspondent, joined the network in November 2002.
As a V8B Harrier pilot, Kelly amassed 158 aircraft carrier landings during his military service and flew over Iraq in Operation Southern Watch, enforcing the United Nations imposed "No-Fly Zone."
Once, when flying over Yuma, he was forced to bail out near the Chocolate Mountain Gunnery Range, and was later found unconscious. His helmet turned up 2 miles away.
Kelly has served since the Spring of 2000 in the Marine Corps reserves, where he holds the rank of major.
James Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6854.