Michael's Dispatches Michael's Dispatches

Moon over Afghanistan

13 Comments

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15 October 2011
Nimroz Province, Afghanistan

This image was made several months back in Kabul, I believe.  The moon looks similar these nights out here near the Iranian border.

Each evening, I wonder if the military will take seriously the deficiencies in our medical evacuation policies in Afghanistan.  Lives of service members are being sacrificed due to poor military policymaking.

If you have not read RED AIR, please do, and forward it far and wide.

Have a great weekend.

Michael Yon
Nimroz Province, Afghanistan

Thin Air

12 Comments

2011-10-12-0413081000

14 October 2011
Nimruz Province, Afghanistan

This lucky image was captured two days ago in the Dasht-e-Margo (Desert of Death.) The Baloch tribesman is a member of the Afghan National Police and was part of an Afghan security escort to a very remote dam.  I was travelling with members of the Central Asia Development Group, along with the Governor and Police Chief of Nimroz Province.

For reference, the nearest Iran border is about 17 miles west from this image, and the Pakistan border is south about 60 miles.  The closest US military presence to the location of this photo is at Delaram, approximately 77 miles away.  They might as well have been 700 miles distant.  This country is as wild as it gets.  This is, after all, the Dasht-e-Margo.

Read more: Thin Air

Red Air: America’s Medevac Failure

133 Comments

2011-09-17-221447cc10004-4 Cav waiting to board helicopters for an air assault.

12 October 2011
Afghanistan

Most of our troops in Afghanistan never see combat.  The closest they get might be the occasional rocket attacks on bases.  A relatively small number will be in so many fights that the war becomes a jumble.  For those who see fighting daily, their mental time markers are often when they or their buddies were hurt or died, or when some other serious event occurred.

The troops in 4-4 Cav have seen a great deal of fighting.  Their courage seems bottomless and for two-and-a-half months I was an eyewitness to their professionalism and courage.

This mission would be dangerous.  The Female Engagement Team was left behind and the only female Soldier to come was a medic because, as she would tell me, “I’m the badass medic.”

Read more: Red Air: America’s Medevac Failure

Watch Your Step

196 Comments

2011-09-18-052848cc1000

10 October 2011
Afghanistan

The choice is yours.  If blood and guts are too much, the video at the end of this dispatch is not for you.  Do not click the button if your stomach is too weak for war.

Read more: Watch Your Step

Censorship Threat from US Army Public Affairs

85 Comments

28 September 2011

A US Army Captain named Carbone barged into my tent and physically assaulted me.  The interesting backstory is studded with ill-discipline inside the 443rd Civil Affairs Battalion here in Afghanistan.  The 443rd might need some intervention from general officer level.  In any case, that ill-discipline manifested when Captain Chris "AbulMajed" Carbone (his Facebook name) verbally threatened and physically assaulted me.  This happened yesterday. Today the Army threatened to end my embed.  They then ended it.  And now have restarted it again.  (All this in less than 36 hours).

Email from Army:

[To] Michael Yon
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: FOUO

Michael,

I've got to be frank with you, and let you know that your embed is tenuous as of now. This issue with CPT Carbone and SFC Coleman is bringing a lot of negative attention not only to you, but also to RC-South from ISAF Joint Command. LTC Connolly, the new RC-South PAO, has only been in office for ~10 days, and has already gotten two calls from his higher HQs about your postings. While we certainly do not condone any unprofessional conduct by TF Spartan Soldiers, we feel that this whole issue is drawing negative attention to the command.

Read more: Censorship Threat from US Army Public Affairs

The Long Walk

14 Comments

27 September 2011

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Surprises are everywhere.   Behind these doors could be a thousand pounds of explosives waiting for the patrol.  Or there might be a cow and some chickens.

Read more: The Long Walk

War Boy

9 Comments

26 September 2011
Zhari District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan
Task Force Spartan, 4-4 Cav

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The boy knew it would be loud.

Read more: War Boy

Threat from American Soldier

92 Comments

25 September 2011
Kandahar Province, Afghanistan

Every American service member is a representative of the United States of America.  If an American Soldier were to write about President Obama, “I want to rip his head off and piss down his windpipe!” we would expect that the Secret Service would investigate further before the President visited a base where that troop is stationed.  If that same Soldier published the same words about his Commanding General, while both are in a war zone, his behavior would be grounds for reduction in rank, at a minimum.  Sane or insane, public hatred coming from an armed American Soldier in war should be taken seriously.  The trooper is paid by US citizens, and the weapon in his hands is the property and responsibility of the United States.  He is paid and armed by us to represent us.  His actions, ultimately, are his responsibility and the responsibility of his chain of command.  His every action—in word and in deed—reflects upon the United States.

Read more: Threat from American Soldier

Grapes

22 Comments

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23 September 2011
Zhari District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan
Task Force Spartan, 4-4 Cav

Many Americans have died in these vineyards.  Canadian blood has fertilized this ground, and we kill Taliban in these fields daily.  We watch them through UAVs, such as Predators, as they hide their weapons among the rows, or attack us, and often they move undetected.  When the Russians came through this area, the Afghans said they would hide under the vines until the enemy was very close, and shoot them point blank.  After all, many of the local kids grew up right here, picking grapes and playing in the vineyards.  They know every bump and divot.  The rows are not made of wire or wood as in the United States or Europe. The rows are mounds of packed mud that can stop 30mm cannon fire.  The enemy plants bombs along the rows and paths, and so our troops often cross perpendicular across the grape rows which sometimes are over chest high.  Even without the heavy gear, the obstacle course is grueling and sometimes we take fire, or someone gets blown to pieces.  The out-of-town enemies also don’t know where the bombs are hidden and so they often are killed.  Every day we hear detonations that remain unexplained.  Could have been anything.  Normally we know the causes, but many will never be known to us.  I’ve probably never written a full dispatch in this tent without hearing an explosion. Sometimes it’s a distant rumble and you only hear it.  Other times the shockwave pops the tent walls and your body feels it.  We usually hear many each day.  Fighter jets are roaring overhead as this sentence is formed.

Read more: Grapes

Afghanistan Update: Taliban Losing on Battlefield, But Making Progress in Media War

22 Comments

2011-07-30-003755-1000

22 September 2011

Description from Glenn Reynolds: Want some good news? Our troops are fighting and winning in Afghanistan. Combat journalist Michael Yon calls Glenn Reynolds from the "Birthplace of the Taliban" to report on military action in Afghanistan. Our troops are meeting tough resistance in some regions, but are succeeding notwithstanding the challenges.

Read more: Afghanistan Update: Taliban Losing on Battlefield, But Making Progress in Media War

Captain Chainsaw

61 Comments

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16 September 2011
Zhari District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan
4-4 Cav, Task Force Spartan

The enemy has figured out the strategy here in Zhari but they have been unable to stop it.  Day by day, Task Force Spartan is constricting the Taliban battlespace.  It has become clear, at least in this small area of Afghanistan, that the Taliban are being strangled.  The enemy remains strong but their legs are weakening.  Nobody can discount the enemy’s courage or willingness to fight, or that they are being defeated.  Task Force Spartan has been building combat outposts in the heart of enemy territory while conducting myriad other operations to kill the enemy, sap their willingness or desire to fight, and bring some order to this chaos.

Read more: Captain Chainsaw

Narco-Poetry

28 Comments

2011-07-30-141259-1000Opium paste

15 September 2011
FOB Pasab, Zhari District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan
4-4 Cav, Task Force Spartan

Three 82mm rockets hit base this morning, causing two wounded, but that’s about it so far today other than some potshots off base.  Well, before I could finish this short dispatch there was an IED strike with about 120 pounds of explosives.  Our people are fine.  During the earlier rocket strike, at least one captain did a combat roll from his bed to the floor.  Such combat rolls are better done from a bottom bunk than from the top.  Many of the bases are so large that your chances of getting hit are trivial, but in the tiny bases where our people are more densely packed, your chances can be much higher.  FOB Pasab, where this is written, is a medium-sized base.   Casualties occur on base, but not many considering the number of people.

Read more: Narco-Poetry

Afghan Faces

22 Comments

2011-08-20-141537-1000

13 September 2011
Zhari District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan

Today there were some attacks far away in Kabul.  The attacks meant practically nothing from a military perspective but they garnered much press.  We’ve seen this unfold many times in many places.  Another case of little bang, big media.

The images in this dispatch were made during recent combat operations in the Zhary District of Kandahar Province.

Read more: Afghan Faces

One Night in Zhari

17 Comments

2011-08-20-144517-10004-4 Cav Soldiers firing a 40mm mortar on the evening of 20 August 2011.

12 September 2011

Note: This rough dispatch was written over many days during slivers of time between prepping gear and going on missions. Different sentences were written at different times.  Many operations unfolded and there were more injuries and fatalities in the brigade, and more progress against the enemy in this area.  On the 10th Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, 4-4 Cav was again in combat, as they are every day.

4-4 Cav, Task Force Spartan
Zhari District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan

The sun was setting and the Soldiers were still scuffling here and there in small firefights.  Most of the surrounding skirmishes had ended but there were still a few bullets flying.  Some enemy were spotted nearby.  American Soldiers carefully aimed 40mm grenades and 60mm mortar rounds at the enemy position.  From my location, the enemy were invisible but there were Soldiers elsewhere who could see them.  It was the evening of 20 August 2011.

Read more: One Night in Zhari

New Britches

29 Comments

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07 September 2011
Kandahar Province, Afghanistan

American troops have been losing their britches in combat.  Until now, I’ve never seen so many troops exposing their hardware in battle.  Many warriors go “commando” into the fighting, meaning that in the name of hygiene, comfort, or perhaps in honor of the skirted-Hoplites and the kilted-Scots, they wear no boxers or briefs.  This creates a twist to the venerable question: Boxers, Briefs, or Commando?  The previous question is difficult to answer without controversy or even a fistfight.  However, in Afghanistan, what is known and supported by my own photographic evidence is that troopers have begun wearing knickers as backups for inconveniently breached stitches in their britches.

Read more: New Britches

The Elusive Kandahar Cougar & Murphy’s Laws of Combat

43 Comments

2011-09-01-093316-1000aSergeant TJ Vowell insists he's seen the mysterious big cats of Kandahar many times. Recently, Sergeant Vowell got shot. 

06 September 2011
Kandahar Province, Afghanistan
Task Force Spartan

4-4 Cav, Bravo Troop, 2nd Platoon 2nd Squad

There is much talk about “jaguars” or “cougars” among the troops here.  At least a dozen American Soldiers claim they have seen gigantic cats in these flatlands.  “Gigantic” being defined as roughly the size of a German Shepherd.  During a mission, I asked about these mysterious big cats.  Several US Soldiers insisted—completely insisted—they were eyewitnesses.  The Afghan soldiers chuckled, saying their American counterparts were hallucinating.  The Americans remained adamant.  The inevitable follow-up questions came.  “How do you know what a cougar even looks like?  Have you ever seen one before?”  An Afghan commander said to a particularly persistent American, “You saw a sheep.

Read more: The Elusive Kandahar Cougar & Murphy’s Laws of Combat

Censoring Afghanistan

58 Comments

Censorship

04 September 2011
Kandahar Province, Afghanistan

A message came today that a certain General has told me to unpublish "Battlefield Forensics."  “Battlefield Forensics” was first published on 18 August 2011.

This dispatch violates no policies.  It has cleared all OPSEC hurdles.  Again today an officer told me there are no OPSEC issues with any of my dispatches.  OPSEC refers to Operational Security.

Unless the General contacts me directly with justifiable cause, Battlefield Forensics will stay. It would be sad to end this way an embed that began at invitation of General Petraeus.  It would most likely be my final embed with the US Army.  The good news is that I will finish with both legs.

If the military decides to end my embed, as it did last year, the Army will not end my coverage of the war.  They will merely lose the opportunity to be seen through my lens and heard through my pen.  I will no longer have the opportunity to tell their side of the war.

There will be backlash against me.  There always is.  Typically they will wait until later to put some distance between events.

Please read Battlefield Forensics.

Mosquitoes

12 Comments

IR-Helicopter-144827cc1000Afghan Soldier caught by infrared flash with specially modified camera.

31 August 2011
Afghanistan

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A Soldier sleeps in a body bag to keep off the bugs.

Read more: Mosquitoes

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