Tampa Bay Times: Reporter’s commando documentary to premier in Tampa, home of special operations

By March 10, 2017Press

Reporter’s commando documentary to premier in Tampa, home of special operations

Howard Altman, Times Staff Writer

In the military, the term danger close means troops are in close range of bombs, rockets, mortars and other friendly fire.

For TV reporter Alex Quade, who has worked for Fox and CNN, Danger Close is also the title of her new documentary, highlighting her time embedded with U.S. special operations forces.

The documentary, which debuts Thursday night at the Suncoast Credit Union Gasparilla International Film Festival, tells the story of U.S. Special Operations Forces and what it is like to cover their secret and dangerous world.

“This is the closest Americans will get to go along with elite special forces troops and other amazing service members,” said Quade, 48. “This is as ‘danger close’ to war as you will possibly get and it shows the love in this brotherhood and for each other.”

Quade is headed to Tampa for the debut. She said she was inspired to make the film, and to spend so much time embedding with commandos in Afghanistan and Iraq, by a motto U.S. troops follow.

“Operators would never leave a fallen soldier behind,” she said. “And the truth shouldn’t be left behind either.”

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“I knew beforehand that families would have questions and they would want answers about what their loved one was going through,” Quade says in the documentary’s 148-second trailer. “I have this huge responsibility. I have to tell their stories.”

Danger Close features a mixture of gritty footage Quade shot on small Sony hand-held video recorders, including some night vision shots, gunship videos and re-enactments of a helicopter shoot-down central to her story.

A self-described “pain,” Quade said she spent a lot of time, energy and trust to gain entree into a world of troops wary of reporters.

But it paid off, earning her so many embeds in Afghanistan and Iraq that she lost count.

“I was perpetually on and off,” she said. “Dipping in and dipping out.”

Quade said it helped that she wasn’t turning around daily stories, which gave her increased access and trust of the teams, many of whom laud Quade for her work helping bring stories home.

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Another focal point of the story is the death of Army Staff Sgt. Robert R. Pirelli, killed in action Aug. 15, 2007, in Diyala province, Iraq.

A member of 10th Special Forces Group, Pirelli, 29, was killed by small arms fire.

“Rob’s dad made me promise that I would let him know that his son wouldn’t be forgotten over there,” Quade says in the trailer.

It’s that commitment to the troops that has earned accolades for Quade, winner of two national RTDNA Edward R. Murrow awards as well as the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s “Tex McCrary Award for Excellence in Journalism.”

“What I have come to learn about Alex is that she is not objective about our troops,” said Mike Repass, a retired Army major general and former commander of U.S. Army Special Operations Command. “She genuinely loves the men and women she reports on and has strong personal and intense relationships with the people she covers. She is a good person.”

Documentary distributors say the premier event will attract a number of people in the special operations community as well as several Medal of Honor recipients.

Aaron Brandenburg is planning to fly in from Sacramento. He was one of Pirelli’s closest friends.

“It is really heartwarming that we have someone who is an advocate out there like Alex,” he said. “It is really heartwarming to see a civilian that takes such pride in the military and special operations and the loss of one of our brothers.”

For Quade, having the premier in Tampa, home of U.S. Special Operations Command, is significant.

“It will be like walking into the lion’s den and having to prove myself all over again,” she said.

Contact Howard Altman at haltman@tampabay.com or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman.

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