Preparing for a mission. When they are not fighting, many soldiers watch war movies such as Blackhawk Down, Platoon, or Apocalypse Now.
After long missions in the heat, soldiers often come back to base, strip off the weapons and body armor, and jump into the cold river, uniforms and all.
Corporal Henry Sanday from Fiji. I first got to know Henry during the hard fighting in Basra, Iraq. Excellent soldier and well respected. On 22 July, Henry prepares to walk into the ‘Green Zone’ with other soldiers from 2 Rifles. An officer told me that the soldiers from 2 Rifles come from 32 countries. The diversity is amazing and enriches the unit, but sometimes I have difficulty tracking with accents, though Henry is very easy to understand.
The soldiers carry rockets of various sorts.
Many soldiers wear these headbands, otherwise the eyes become awash with sweat. The British helmets can be uncomfortable and give you headaches, and my American helmet used to do the same until a reader sent some ‘comfort pads,’ which make a huge difference. (Thank you for those comfort pads. They work!) The British soldiers carry tourniquets and a medical kit on the right side, so that when they get hit, it’s easy to find. Important to keep those sleeves down and to wear gloves; just recently a soldier’s rucksack caught on fire during a fight.
Metal detectors help ferret out the IEDs. 2 Rifles and attached units have taken 12 KIA and dozens of wounded in the past four months, mostly from IEDs. Despite this, morale is very high and some would like to get more fighting.
Into the Green Zone. Unfortunately, I was unable to go on this mission as I am assigned to another platoon, so this photograph was made from base. This soldier is fully into the battlefield.
Hundreds of bombs have been placed in the area. According to British officers, this area of operations, in and around Sangin, sees more IEDs than anywhere else in Afghanistan. A few days ago, soldiers from 2 Platoon, to whom I have been assigned, got flat-blasted by an IED but no soldiers took frags. One of the soldiers is tantamount deaf for the next few days, and I must yell when talking with him. That was his fourth close blast. Two in Iraq, and two here. Some men are hard to put down.
And there they go, courageous men into the Green Zone, the very beating heart of the Taliban. As I watched them disappear into the murk of trees and mud compounds, a soldier beside me in the guard tower said, ‘They’ll be in contact within twenty minutes.’ And with that I said goodbye, and headed to a briefing on the enemy situation.
Michael Yon is America's most experienced combat correspondent. He has traveled or worked in 82 countries, including various wars and conflicts.
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