ABC News' Bob Woodruff and Doug Vogt Show Improvement

ByABC News
January 30, 2006, 5:19 AM

Jan. 30, 2006 — -- Doctors, colleagues and family members received positive news about the progress of "World News Tonight" co-anchor Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt, who are responding well to treatment.

Woodruff was brought out of sedation long enough to open his eyes briefly and respond to stimuli to his hands and feet, said ABC News correspondent Jim Sciutto, reporting from the German hospital where Woodruff and Vogt are being treated.

Vogt has been sitting up and speaking, Sciutto said. The two injured journalists may be brought to the United States for further treatment as soon as Tuesday.

Woodruff's brother, Dave, said he is optimisic about his brother's recovery. "Having seen him, we think he's going to recover eventually," said Dave Woodruff. "It's gonna be a long road, but he's a strong guy, and he's gonna make it, and he's gonna do well. And I think the care he's gotten has been just world class so far. So with that, we can feel pretty good about him."

Doctors at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in western Germany said the two had shown signs of improvement and remained in serious but stable condition following surgery at a U.S. military hospital in Iraq. They were flown to the medical facility in Germany to recover from injuries suffered when their convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device in Iraq on Sunday.

The two journalists and an Iraqi soldier were seriously injured near Taji, Iraq, about 12 miles north of Baghdad. Woodruff and Vogt suffered shrapnel wounds and underwent surgery at the U.S. military hospital in Balad.

Doctors say the immediate treatment Woodruff and Vogt received in Iraq, and the fact that both were wearing body armor, were crucial in their survival.

Dave Woodruff says he believes his brother will want to get back to journalism as soon as he can. "We want to see them recover and return to what he loves to do," he said. "Maybe not back to Iraq, but certainly I know he'll want to get back to what he's always wanted to do."

Earlier today, Col. Bryan Gamble said the men were heavily sedated to help them recover from their head injuries. The two were under the care of the hospital's trauma team, he said.

Initial reports said the Iraqi soldier was "walking wounded," according to the American military. There was no update available on his condition.

In a letter to ABC employees, ABC News' President David Westin said: "Both Bob and Doug continue to need our thoughts and prayers. We have a long way to go. But it appears that we may have also come some distance from yesterday."

In addition to head injuries, Woodruff also suffered wounds to his upper body and broken bones.

Woodruff's wife, Lee, has flown to Germany to be by her husband's side. She is accompanied by close friend Melanie Bloom, the widow of David Bloom, an NBC reporter who died from an apparent blood clot while covering the Iraq war in April 2003.

Woodruff, Vogt and their four-man team were in the lead vehicle traveling in a convoy with Iraqi security forces. They were standing up in the back hatch of their vehicle taping a video log of the patrol at the time of the attack.

"Wherever the story was he's always been the first to volunteer and go there," Westin said on "Good Morning America." "He had been to Iraq several times. He was anxious to get back because it had been a while since he had been there. He wanted to go to Iraq."

The ambush of the convoy was complex. The explosion was followed by small arms fire from three different directions. Iraqi security forces spread out looking for the triggermen while U.S. troops tended to Woodruff and Vogt. The convoy was equipped with improvised explosive device jammers, which would interfere with the signals from a remote-controlled device using wireless signals.

"He wanted to get out and report the story and not be locked in and taking information from someone else who was experiencing it," said ABC senior producer Kate Felsen, who had been working with Woodruff for the past two weeks.

"I spoke with both of them," Felsen continued. "Doug was conscious, and I was able to reassure him we were getting them care. I spoke to Bob also and walked with them to the helicopter."

Woodruff and Vogt had been embedded with the 4th Infantry Division.

"This is very common over there now," White House Correspondent Martha Raddatz said of the attack on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." "These attacks are planned, and this [the small arms fire] is a secondary attack.

"Sometimes when the medical personnel come in, they have small arms fire following up on that," said Raddatz, who also covered the Pentagon for many years and has had extensive experience reporting from Iraq.

Officials believe the improvised explosive device was detonated through a hard wire in the ground. The attack on the convoy occurred in the same area where a U.S. Apache helicopter was shot down earlier this month.

The U.S. military said it was conducting an investigation into the attack. The White House released a statement extending its condolences to Woodruff and Vogt.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Woodruff and Mr. Vogt. We are praying for their full and speedy recovery," the statement said. "Our thoughts are with their families and their loved ones. The White House is offering to help in any way as the government does when any American is injured in the line of work."

Woodruff and his crew were traveling in a U.S. armored Humvee earlier in the day, but then transferred to an Iraqi vehicle -- which was believed to be a much softer target for attacks.

"It was a mechanized vehicle," Raddatz said. "At least it wasn't one of the pickup trucks they usually drive around in. They were in the lead vehicle, and they were up in the hatch, so they were exposed."

Raddatz said both Woodruff and Vogt were protected. They were wearing body armor, helmets and ballistic glasses. Woodruff and Vogt were taken by medevac to the Green Zone in Baghdad to receive treatment within 37 minutes of the blast. They were then flown by helicopter to Balad, which is about a 20-minute ride from Baghdad, said Raddatz.

"There are very good doctors, the best medical care you can possibly get, in Balad," said Raddatz.

Training Iraq forces to deter insurgent attacks has become a central focus of U.S. strategy toward ultimate troop reduction and withdrawal. Journalists must travel with Iraqi troops to cover the conflict in Iraq, but doing so makes them more vulnerable to attack.

"If you're going to cover the Iraqi military forces, you have to be with them," Raddatz said. "You have to see how they live. I will tell you one thing, a few months ago when I was there and we wanted to get into an Iraqi pickup truck, one of the American soldiers said, 'You can't do that. It's way too dangerous.' "

Iraqi security forces, Raddatz said, are a target for insurgents.

"It's become a primary target. It's a softer target, as you know, but it is a primary target to attack these forces," Raddatz said. "There have been hundreds and hundreds -- thousands, probably -- of Iraqi security forces killed. Sometimes they're attacked by suicide bombers, but they have become a primary target. It is very dangerous business training these troops, for that reason alone."