It was January 2006, a little more than a year ago. Bob Woodruff had just been named co-anchor, with Elizabeth Vargas, of ABC News' "World News Tonight." It was an exciting time for a broadcast and network that was still healing from the death of Peter Jennings.
With President Bush's State of the Union address approaching, and because the speech was expected to focus extensively on Iraq, ABC News executives wanted to use the opportunity to highlight the strength of the new two-anchor format.
It was decided that Vargas would anchor from Washington while Woodruff reported from the front lines in Iraq.
"We wanted Bob on the ground, first and foremost, because this was the biggest story in the world, frankly, not just in the United States, but in the world at the time," recalled ABC News President David Westin. "At the same time, we recognized there were risks, as there are for all of our people as they go to Iraq to cover this war."
The "A-team" was assembled to complement Bob's reporting.
Vinnie Malhotra was Bob's producer for the assignment.
"There's a sense of great responsibility that comes with being there, with covering this war, and that in and of itself is exciting," said Malhotra.
Doug Vogt, a cameraman who has covered all kinds of previous conflicts for ABC News and has spent hundreds of days working in Iraq over the past four years, was also chosen to accompany Bob, as was Magnus Macedo, Vogt's longtime friend and colleague, who went along as the sound man.
"We were very excited," said Macedo. "But we just wanted to basically do our job and get out of there, because we knew that things were really bad, and getting worse by the day there."
"I know it's going to be another day in a war zone. And I kind of like to say a little prayer to myself that it's going to be good and the day's going to end fast," said Vogt.
Bob wanted to embed during the weekend leading up to the State of the Union so he could report about the situation on the ground for U.S. troops serving there. He wanted to see up close the areas where Iraqi troops were taking a lead role in security and where U.S. troops were taking a supportive role.
"He said, 'I want to get out and see the Iraqis on the battlefield. I want to see what they're doing. I want to see how they're doing. I want to see them on patrol," said Maj. Bill Taylor, of the U.S. Army's Iraqi Assistance Group.
The crew linked with the Fourth Infantry Division at Camp Taji, located about 20 miles north of Baghdad.
Before the convoy got on the road that Sunday morning, Jan. 29, Taylor gave a briefing, as was typical before heading out on any mission. He emphasized to the men that they should be alert and keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary.
"It is very dangerous -- every time you roll out, and you can't take that for granted," said Taylor. "A lot of times people get complacent. They'll get used to it. It'll become commonplace."
The plan was for Taylor and the rest of the U.S. convoy to take Bob and the rest of the ABC crew to three sites.
After seeing the first site, the convoy was stopped at a checkpoint where Bob observed an Iraqi patrol go by. Bob asked if he could ride with the Iraqis and experience an Iraqi patrol firsthand.