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Mar 13, 2013
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Inside Guantanamo Bay

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Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

By Bob Strong

My visit to the U.S. naval station in Guantanamo Bay Cuba began much like any other military embed. I sent an application to the Press Affairs Office (PAO) explaining who I worked for and the reason for my visit, and a couple of weeks later the trip was approved. The base is divided into two sections, the naval station which has been in existence since 1903, and the Joint Task Force (JTF GTMO) which is where the detainees are held. A special ID is needed to access the JTF section of the base and most residents of the naval station never go there. My visit request was directed at the JTF side, but I was able to work on the naval section as well.

GALLERY: INSIDE GUANTANAMO

I was met at the airport by two Sergeants, who would be my escorts for the entire trip. Although technically I could walk around the naval base unescorted, taking pictures on any military installation often attracts attention, and I ended up doing all of my work while accompanied by PAO personnel. After I arrived I was briefed on what could and could not be photographed, and reminded that all photographs and videos had to be reviewed and approved by military censors. This generally took place at the end of the day and was referred to as the OPSEC (operational security) review.

Aug 23, 2011
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The rebel march to Tripoli

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By Bob Strong

The Libyan rebel march to Tripoli – from the mountains to the coast

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In late July we pulled up to a Libyan rebel checkpoint outside the mountain town of Nalut and I got my first look at the fighting force. One rebel had his helmet on backwards, a few of them were armed with only knives, and random gunfire filled the air as men test fired their new weapons. It felt like the rebels couldn’t defeat a boy scout troop, much less Gaddafi’s well equipped army. As usual, I was dead wrong.

The rebels advance from the west began in the small towns at the base of the Nafusa Mountains in late July. The day we arrived, July 28, rebels had pushed Gaddafi forces out of a series of villages and set their sights on Tiji, a strategic garrison town on a main road leading to Tripoli.

Apr 21, 2011
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Poppy politics

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It’s not hard to find a field of poppies in the village of Jelawar, north of Kandahar. Some are hidden discreetly behind mud walls but others have been brazenly planted within sight of the main road. During a recent patrol, I accompanied Afghan National Army Captain Imran (he uses one name) and a group of U.S. civil affairs soldiers on a tour of Jelawar’s back roads as they tried to assess the extent of this year’s opium production.

The first field we came to was a couple of hundred meters across, filled with pink poppy flowers in full bloom. There were several men working the field and Imran asked them what they were doing. A farmer looked up from pulling weeds and said they were working on their onions. Indeed, in a poppy field the size of a football stadium there were a handful of green onion shoots pushing out of the soil. Not exactly the perfect cover, especially after the farmer admitted to planting the poppies in the first place.

Apr 13, 2011
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Fighting Season 2011. The wait for opening day

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It’s springtime in the Arghandab Valley, north of Kandahar. Birds are chirping, the grape vines are covered with fresh green leaves and the fields are filled with farmers tending to their new crops. There is an air of calm but everyone is quietly waiting for the real season to arrive. The fighting season.

Last summer this fertile valley was scene to some of the fiercest fighting of the war. During a two week embed at Combat Outpost Nolen, a three-man Reuters team of Rob Taylor, Christophe Vanderperre, and myself, witnessed a daily barrage of small arms fire, rocket propelled grenades and watched as soldiers injured by
improvised mines were flown away in medevac helicopters.

Apr 12, 2011

U.S. troops await Taliban in south Afghan valley

ARGHANDAB VALLEY, Afghanistan (Reuters) – Last July, venturing outside Combat Outpost Nolen in the lush Arghandab Valley was a risky proposition for U.S. troops.

Insurgents had ringed the small military base, deep in a traditional Taliban stronghold north of Kandahar city, with pressure-plate and remote-controlled explosive devices, creating a homemade minefield.

Sep 25, 2010

Man held in Sweden after Pakistan plane threat

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – A Pakistan International Airlines Boeing 777 with around 250 passengers flying from Canada to Pakistan was diverted to Sweden on Saturday due to a bomb threat on board and police began taking the passengers off.

Stockholm district police spokesman Janne Hedlund said a woman had called Canadian police after the plane had taken off from Canada, saying a man on board had explosives with him.

Sep 25, 2010

Pakistani plane diverted to Sweden after bomb threat

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – A Pakistan International Airlines Boeing 777 with around 250 passengers flying from Canada to Pakistan was diverted to Sweden on Saturday due to a bomb threat on board and police began taking the passengers off.

Stockholm district police spokesman Janne Hedlund said a woman had called Canadian police after the plane had taken off from Canada, saying a man on board had explosives with him.

Aug 30, 2010
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Life and death on a medevac helicopter

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Taking pictures of people who are suffering and in pain is never an easy experience. From the jump seat in the back of a Blackhawk medevac helicopter, a constant stream of injured, dead and dying men and women passed in front of me during a recent week-long embed. The wounds were as varied as the patients; an Afghan soldier with kidney stones to a Marine whose legs had been nearly severed by an IED blast.

The medevac helicopter crews were part of the 101st Airborne Division based at Camp Dwyer, a dusty Marine base in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province.  During my one week embed with Charlie Company, I would generally work from 6am until it got dark around 7:30pm. The busiest times of day seemed to be in the morning and then again in the afternoon, but calls were received 24 hours a day. About 50% of our patients were Afghan nationals, both military and civilians; with injuries ranging from amputated limbs blown off by IED’s to stab wounds from domestic disputes. The military medical facilities offer the same level of care to locals and soldiers alike, in no small part to gain a bit of good will in this hostile and volatile province.

Jul 30, 2010
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Life in a minefield

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The last day of our Reuters multimedia embed at COP Nolen.

0600 July 30th, 2010.

I woke up and watched as two squads of U.S. Army soldiers exited Combat Outpost Nolen, a small base in the heart of the volatile Arghandab Valley. One squad would try to demolish a wall that insurgents used as cover to fire AK-47’s and RPG’s at the base almost daily. The other squad carried concertina wire to surround a couple of nearby abandoned houses in an attempt to deny insurgents locations to plant Improvised Explosive Devices (IED’s).

Moments later, the base was rocked by a huge explosion. A column of smoke and dust rose just 20 meters outside the walls and we heard the cries of a soldier in agony. Troops rushed into the base and called for a Medivac helicopter. I threw on my flak jacket and helmet and ran outside the gates to the scene of the blast.

    • About Bob

      "I am an Editor-in-Charge on the Reuters North America Picture Desk in Toronto. My job is to oversee our picture operation in the U.S., identify and assign news and feature stories, and work closely with our photographers to help produce the highest quality service for our clients."
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