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Under Cover of the Night

Night photo looks like broad daylight.

11:24 PM, or 2324L.

In the far distance, the artillery can be heard firing illumination before it floats down under parachute.
(1901Z/2331L 15mm f7.1 20s ISO 800)

The Battle for Kandahar has many faces.  Some faces are difficult to understand.  Tonight’s incarnation was simple.

Roving sentry.

Smoke trail from previous illumination.

We see illumination firing pretty much every night and I usually don’t know why they are shooting.  Could be terrain denial, or to support operations, or something else.

They stop shooting.  The night is quiet other than the robot noises from the .50 caliber machine gun scanning with thermal imager.  Several times through the night, Strykers turn on motors for ten or fifteen minutes to recharge batteries.

Sleeping in the desert, even on rocks, can be like sleeping in a cradle.  Desert slumber is better than most jungle sleep, and far better than in snow caves.  The distant boom from a cannon wakes me, then the pop of the shell before the orange illumination, and then another is fired after the first burns out.  Looking at my watch it’s 3AM and I chuckle thinking of the lyrics of a song, “It’s 3AM I must be lonely.”  This sure has been a long war.
(2233Z/0303L 15mm f10 30s ISO 640)

It keeps going. And going.

On Saturday, 10 April, a message came from military that this embed has ended.  No reason was offered.  The troops here have no idea why.  On Sunday a reason was given: overcrowding by journalists.  Haven’t seen a journalist in weeks.

I had gone to great expense to be here with 5/2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team and promised to stay with them until they leave Afghanistan.  Then suddenly a nameless feature decided to pull the plug.  The decision likely came from General officer level.  It is a bad sign indicating that they think they are losing the war and don’t want anyone there to see it.  Saw this in Iraq.

It has been said that between Iraq and Afghanistan I’ve spent more time embedded with combat units than anyone in U.S. history.  I do not know if this is true but it sounds good.  It’s been a long journey and fortune favored my every step.  Many people have been killed or maimed and I am walking out without a scratch.  I will continue to cover the war but will not give the military another chance to pull the plug.  I will cover the war from outside the wire where it’s far safer.  Many people erroneously think that embedding is the safest way to cover the wars.  This is untrue.  Journalists who are afraid or reluctant to endure long periods of stress and combat will brag that going alone somehow seizes the high ground of truth.  There is no truth in this.  In many cases the journalists are missing crucial information because they fear the combat and the difficult living.  The infantry company on this mission has lost twelve comrades KIA during this tour, with others wounded for life.

It’s just as easy to accurately sense the direction of the war winds alone as with troops.  The military media machine is playing games during a time of war.

My thoughts will always be with the combat soldiers.  My body will be elsewhere.

A new day begins at 0531L.  It’s time to check the boots for poisonous creatures, stuff the sleeping bag, and move out.


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