I’ve witnessed the U.S. military’s interaction with Iraqis and Afghans during several embeds with different units both in Iraq and Afghanistan, my latest embed with the U.S. Marines’ 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion in Helmand province was quite an experience.
from Russell Boyce:
As the anniversary of the 9/11 attack coincided with Eid celebrations, Florida based Pastor Terry Jones announced that he would burn the Koran as a protest to plans to site a Muslim cultural centre near Ground Zero , stoking tensions in Asia. Add into the mix millions in Pakistan suffering from lack of water, food and shelter after floods, a parliament election in Afghanistan and a U. S. -led military campaign against the Taliban around Kandahar - photographers in the region had lots of raw material to work with.
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 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).
A historic market town with a distinctive 17th century town hall, Wootton Bassett is worth a visit – but the crowds that gather here with grim regularity are rarely interested in the tourist sites. Instead, as British troops face a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, Wootton Bassett, west of London, has become synonymous with the repatriation of soldiers killed in action.
One of the most challenging and exciting parts of my job is working with some of the toughest and best-trained men in the most dangerous and challenging spot in the world. Last January, Reuters photographers received a group email asking for volunteers for an embed in Afghanistan “during the two most dangerous months of the year, May and June”. I did not think much before responding. I was on my way back to my home base in Greece after a two-year assignment in Israel.
It’s 1:00am, I’m sitting in a small dirt hole. Not sure exactly where but somewhere in western Kandahar‘s Maiwand district. How did I get here? On a journey that has involved too much time spent waiting. Waiting at Forward Operating Bases, waiting for planes, waiting for people, waiting for helicopters, waiting for convoys, waiting for patrols.
It all started out with a phone call from Reuters News Pictures Washington Editor In Charge Jim Bourg on Thursday night informing me there was a secret Presidential trip leaving on Saturday to an undisclosed destination which Reuters would like me to travel with the president on. I was told that this was very secretive and that I was not to mention it to anyone and that no details were available yet. I had been with President Obama on his secret trip to Baghdad last year, so it was pretty easy to figure out that the destination this time might be Afghanistan, a trip which had been highly anticipated since Obama became president 15 months ago. I was to expect to be contacted directly by the White House for a meeting to discuss the details. But I was to “open” the White House as the first Reuters photographer arriving there on Friday morning at 7am, my scheduled shift, and to go about my day as planned acting as if everything was normal. Nothing could be further from the truth.