Bad Medicine

On Pharmacy Road

Captain Henry Coltart on Pharmacy Road

24 August 2009
Helmand Province, Afghanistan

The British soldiers of 2 Rifles had a mission:  clear and hold Pharmacy Road.

FOB Jackson is currently home to Battlegroup headquarters for 2 Rifles.  The area around the river is called the “Green Zone,” but just as appropriately could be called the Opium Zone.  During season, the area is covered with colorful poppies, whose 2009 products are probably showing up by now on the streets in Europe.  European money flows back here and buys fertilizer in the Sangin Market, which can be used to make bombs, produce more opium, get more money and make more bombs and grow more opium and make more money and bombs and grow more opium.  Sangin is at once an ATM and weapons bazaar for the enemy.  Nearly all fatalities in this unit have been caused by fertilizer bombs.  The decision to mostly ignore the drug dealers has been a strategic blunder.

This mission was about tactical exigencies created by the strategic realities.  Though FOB Jackson is small enough to walk from one end to another in a few minutes, it is the main base in Sangin, with smaller patrol bases spread around the Sangin area of operations.  Two of those bases are Patrol Base (PB) Tangiers and PB Wishtan.  Tangiers is an Afghan National Army (ANA) PB often used by 2 Rifles, while PB Wishtan is manned by C Coy of 2 Rifles.  (“Coy” is British for “Company.”)

From Jackson, one can often see or hear fighting related to Tangiers or Wishtan while tracers arc into the night, and illumination rounds cast long, flickering shadows as they float to Earth under parachutes.

Though PB Tangiers seems randomly named, PB Wishtan is named after the local area which the locals call Wishtan.  The main resupply route from Jackson to PB Wishtan goes through the Sangin Market, past Tangiers, and west along the approximate 1 kilometer of Pharmacy Road through Wishtan to PB Wishtan.

British soldiers from 2 Rifles said they had sustained approximately twenty fatalities and injuries in the area.  (More were killed and wounded in Sangin since this mission.)  The situation is reminiscent of so many roads in Iraq, such as Route Irish, previously dubbed the most dangerous road in the world.  The short stretch of Route Irish is situated between main bases in Baghdad.  Since we never had enough troops in Iraq, the route was difficult to secure despite that it was a short stretch with bustling military traffic nestled between huge bases.  A lot of people were killed and maimed on that short stretch—I have little idea of the numbers of casualties on Irish—but the total must have reached at least the hundreds.  Irish was eventually made far more secure by allocating substantial Iraqi and Coalition troops along with what must have been many millions of dollars’ worth of physical defenses, all augmented with frequent coverage from the air.  Despite that, car bombs, IEDs and small-arms attacks continued to occur on a less frequent basis.  I’ve probably driven Irish a hundred times with no dramas, but it was never safe.  Despite international infamy and the sharp political desire to secure at least one small stretch of road between main bases in Baghdad, Irish was never completely secured.  Pharmacy Road in Wishtan is a small-town redux of Route Irish in Baghdad.

Pharmacy Road was effectively closed by enemy harrasment, including a blockage caused by two blown-up vehicles (a “jingo truck” and a British tractor).  Resupply and troop movements were performed by helicopter, despite that a patrol could walk from Jackson to Wishtan in an hour, and straight driving would only take fifteen minutes.  A bypass route was made with similar results.  Captain Alexander Spry told me that Wishtan is like something from a Freddy Kreuger movie where bombs are planted in broad daylight and the enemy chisels small firing holes through the fifteen-foot walls and launches bullets down the tight spaces and alleyways.  The Afghan mud walls are so robust that the 30mm cannons from the air will not penetrate.  Dropping a 500lb bomb into the middle of a compound will leave the walls standing.  In Wishtan, our snipers are of little use because they can’t see or shoot through the walls, and there is no commanding terrain other than the air.  As with Route Irish and probably hundreds (thousands?) of other routes in Iraq and Afghanistan, routes cannot be secured without pinning substantial numbers of troops.  Life is far easier for the guerrilla than for the counterguerrilla, just as arson is easier for arsonists than for firefighters.

With the shortage of helicopters in mind (and the fact that an RPG was recently fired at a helicopter as it lifted out of PB Wishtan), closure of Pharmacy Road increased enemy freedom of movement while decreasing our own.  Though British forces continued to push into combat around Wishtan, battlegroup commander LtCol Rob Thomson wanted Pharmacy Road open.

Most of us tried to sleep the night before the mission, but there was much to do.  At one point, perhaps half a dozen 81mm mortar illumination rounds from another base were shot straight over FOB Jackson.  The empty casings, weighing perhaps 2lbs each, swooshed through the darkness, possibly at several hundred miles per hour, and thumped onto Jackson.  (Terminal velocity varies from object to object.)  One casing was heading toward a sergeant named Marty who runs Flight Ops.  Marty hit the dirt and the casing landed just next to him.

The mission began under cover of darkness.  Conditions were far too dark to focus and the soldiers were not using lights, so focus was done by trial and error.  A sniper team quietly sat beside a dog and its handler.  The dog seemed to take interest in the sounds of the camera.

The few who speak only whisper.  A soldier checks his night-vision monocular.

Flipping up the night-vision monocular puts it on standby.

The mission will be very dangerous and the soldiers, who mostly could not see me taking photos unless they were using night-vision gear, seemed lost in thought.

The friendly attack dog.  A dog handler recently told me he was urinating when an Afghan soldier tried to grab his willy.  The handler said the dog bit the Afghan soldier who needed a few stitches.

We set off down the market road.  Some folks believe such reports are “security violations,” as if the thousands of people living here do not know exactly where the bases are, or do not know exactly where we came from and went to.  Operations take place here every day.  Civilians are everywhere.

We made it to FOB Tangiers with no dramas.  Some Afghan soldiers were on guard while others seemed comatose.

The commander of 2 Rifles is Lieutenant Colonel Rob Thomson (right), who this morning was constantly studying maps or soaking up information by talking with soldiers whose ears were glued to radios.  Most soldiers did the smart thing and immediately began to fall asleep; experienced combat soldiers never miss a chance to fill canteens or sleep.  Meanwhile, the Commander’s work has just begun (despite my having seen him work late the night before).  LtCol Thomson has chided other officers and NCOs about sleep, saying it’s an advantage of growing older.  You just don’t need as much sleep.  Plus having children is good training for combat.

Corporal Mark “Axle” Foley (left) is the JTAC who controls air strikes.  Axle is a good-spirited soldier and funny to talk with, always cracking jokes though sometimes I have difficulty understanding his accent.  When Axle picks up that radio, a magical toggle-switch clicks in his head from “fun” mode to “all business.”  While Axle talks business with the pilots, one can only wonder how well the American pilots understand Axle.  Yet the pilots work with Axle all the time, and seem to understand him perfectly on the first go, and he understands them.  One night, I heard a Southern accent come down from an aircraft, which set the Brits to laughing and trying to immitate the accent.  Brits and Europeans often get a big kick out of thick Southern accents but all attempts to imitate the twang seem to fall flat. (Except by country bands in Germany who can perfectly imitate the patois as if they grew up next door to Willie Nelson.)

Axle, who often works with American pilots, says these A-10 and B-1B pilots are probably the best to work with because they come to Sangin so often that they know the terrain, the roads and bases, so they are easy to talk onto targets.

Sitting there in the darkness, Axle works the radio while watching the downlink screen.  As the A-10s approach at about 0314, the aircraft are still about 40 miles out, and a pilot starts listing off all the various sorts of weapons they are carrying.  They had more spells than Harry Potter.  As the A-10s close in on our postion, Axle picks up a downlink and suddenly he can see through the A-10 crosshairs.  Whatever the pilot is looking at comes on Axle’s screen.  Axle gives the pilot some reference points and each time the crosshairs instantly go to that point, and within maybe thirty seconds, the crosshairs slewed precisely to the spot where we were sitting.  Axle told him that’s us, which probably sounded to the A-10 pilot something like, “Ah roga, dat’s us,” and then Axle starts walking the pilot through to all the friendly locations so he can know where our guys are.

An A-10 was transmitting downlink but we were getting interference, maybe from the building or other radios.  Axle moved outside where Corporal Henry Sanday from Fiji came in.  Henry is a good man whom I got to know in Iraq, and sometimes we have lunch or dinner at FOB Jackson, where he constantly invites me on missions.  Henry is battle-proven and very good under fire.  When your life is at stake, Henry is a man you want to be with, as you will soon see.   This morning, his men were falling asleep, but as a section leader Henry kept working.  Major Karl Hickman (right) is the A Coy Commander, and while his men plopped down to sleep, Karl kept working.  I’ve never been in combat with Major Hickman, but his men say he’s good and steady under fire.  Axle as JTAC is a crucial link to this mission, which explains why when Henry and Major Hickman might be sleeping, they are checking in with Axle to keep their SA (Situation Awareness) updated.

We had the A-10s for only a few minutes when a radio call from a different net came to Axle to release the A-10s for a TIC (troops in contact) somewhere in South Helmand.  Axle radioed the pilots to switch freqs, and I recall a pilot apologizing and saying he looked forward to getting back up here.  Axle put down the radio and looked straight at me, saying, “That’s such a bummer,” as if his fishing buddy had to go home early, then Axle finished with, “However, the guys that get them will be well happy,” and started shutting down his gear as the sounds of the A-10s faded into the darkness.  While Axle worked, I asked about times when he “smashed” the Taliban.  British soldiers like to use the word “smashed” when talking about the Taliban.  When Axle would finish talking about one fight, I would ask about another.  Finally, Axle said, “You Yanks are great.  You like to hear stories about us smashin’ the Taliban but people at home want to know how much we miss our families.”  We both chuckled, and I asked, “Really?  They don’t ask you about smashing the Taliban?”  “That’s right,” then Axle said something like, “They only want to hear how sad we are.” Axle and I got along great because I didn’t care if he missed his family and he didn’t care if I missed mine.  This part is about smashing people who would help those who smashed the World Trade Centers and blew up people in London and Bali and Jakarta and Israel and Spain and the Philippines and anywhere else they can reach.  There is a crucial development and governance aspect to this war, and still a crucial smashing side.  Sometimes you’ve got to swap hats for helmets.  Mullah Omar is still alive, apparently in Pakistan, and he needs to be killed.  Just on 20 August I heard a Taliban singing over a walkie talkie that Mullah Omar “Is our leader,” and they were celebrating shooting down a British helicopter only twelve hours before just some miles from here.  There will be time to hug families later.  Now is a time for fighting.

We talked some more about smashin’ the Taliban.  When the A-10s turned toward some distant battle, nobody here complained.  Yes, we need more helicopters, but since I have been in Sangin, we never have been short on attack aircraft.   The JTACs are happy.  Air cover, since I have been in Sangin, is better than we could honestly hope for.  Axle talked about strike aircraft; “The F-15E Strike Eagles are brilliant,” he said.  The JTACs, if given a choice of the other fourteen types of piloted aircraft that come on station, seem to vote for F-15E Strike Eagles.

The F-15E package (weapons, electronics, and strike pilots) is particularly lethal for this fight.  When strike aircraft come onto station, the pilots declare their weapons load.  A typical F-15E declartion sounds like this: An American voice crackles over the radio, “Good morning.  I’ve got 4 GBU-12s, 6 GBU-38s, 2 GBU-31s, and 1,000 x 20mm cannon.”  [GBU-12: 500lb Laser Guided Bomb is the JTAC favorite here; GBU-38 is a 500lb JDAM and also very good; GBU-31 is a 2,000lb JDAM and too big for use in Sangin but there are many other fights in Afghanistan; 20mm cannon can destroy armored vehicles but bounce off the compound walls here.]

In total, the two F-15Es arrive with a dozen accurate bombs, a thousand rounds of 20mm, incredibly good optics, and a great downlink package so the JTACs can peer through F-15E crosshairs and coordinate with the pilot.  Most importantly, the Strike Eagle pilots are specifically trained for this mission.  Nobody on the ground complains about this package.

Whereas Strike Eagles are favored in Sangin, there are close runner-ups.  B-1Bs  are called “Bones” because B-One spells bone.  Bones were made for nuclear war with the Soviets and for carrying hydrogen bombs, and so they don’t carry a lot of different tricks for small battles.  B-1Bs do come with 12 GBU-38s and 8 GBU-31s, very good optics and Axle says the pilots are easy to talk onto targets.  When a B-1B runs low on gas, refuelers can fly to us.  One day, Axle could see Bones refueling directly overhead while continuing to track a target.

In all, about fourteen types of aircraft fly topcover, including American, Belgian, British, Dutch and French.  JTACs here say the least desirable aircraft of those fourteen are the French M2000D.  A package of two jets carries no cannon, no downlink and a total of only 4 GBU 12s.  The optics aboard the aircraft are not good, and the trail aircraft spots targets with binoculars like the Red Baron.  Also, the French and British have problems understanding each other’s accents.  The British who work with French forces refuse to say a bad word.  They say the French are good and ready—which can be surprising because the Brits and the French like to slag each other—but the French aircraft simply are primitive in comparison to the American jets.  An American unit in Zabul Province last year said that some French pilots probably saved them, or at least made a big difference, and so any words about primitive aircraft should be taken in light of respect for the pilots.

No mention is made of the Apache helicopters because Axle was talking about jets.  The Apaches seem to do most of the heavy lifting—for every jet strike I must have seen 5-10 Apache strikes.  Apaches are very effective.  We are too far out for coverage from Kiowa Warriors.   Predators are excellent but Reapers are especially welcome.

The A-10s were gone and so Axle headed to sleep but Corporal Henry Sanday keeps working while all his men are zonked out.

The following account does not pertain to Pharmacy Road, but pertains to Corporal Sanday, his men, Axle and others in these photos.  These photos were made on 09 August.  On 13 August, a bomb detonated at 0523, wounding Matthew Hatton and two others.  Sanday arranged to evacuate the wounded by helicopter but there were IEDs along the routes to the HLS (Helicopter Landing Site).

As Daniel Wild and Mark Hale helped the wounded Matthew Hatton, they were hit by a second bomb, killing all three men. In total there were five casualties, and call-sign “Pedro,” helicopters from the United States Air Force had come in to evacuate the killed and wounded.  Henry Sanday was acting Platoon Sergeant and wanted to land Pedro on a roof but the roof was too small.  He finally got the casualties loaded out.  After suffering three killed and two wounded, the men continued the mission though some of the men were very rattled.  Later that evening, when the mission had been completed and the soldiers were moving back to FOB Jacskon, they were hit by a third bomb leaving two casualties.  Sanday was setting up another helicopter extraction when a fourth bomb detonated and an interpreter turned into a “white mist” leaving only a leg.  The interpreter went MIA.  Sanday asked the Apaches to search for the body but they found nothing.  I’d seen this happen in Iraq and it took us a long time to find two of the bodies.  One missing body was maybe a hundred meters away.  The other body was farther.  It’s been a long time, but I think it might have taken an hour to find the last body, and we had dozens of people looking.  Sanday was down to four unwounded soldiers in his section and in Sangin the IEDs often seem to come in big clusters.  No matter which way you go, there is a high probability of more.  Two interpreters were killed in the strike and three were wounded.

Some of the men were in shock and did not react to Sanday’s commands.  They were seriously battle-affected and refusing orders, though others rose to the occasion and were the glue.  I’ve seen this breakdown happen.  Soldiers typically bounce back.  Two officers described to me their thoughts on Corporal Sanday.  “He is an absolute hero,” said one, and the other agreed.  Sanday’s name was mentioned with respect all the way back in Iraq.  Now in Afghanistan he continues to rise to the occasion, but now with more experience.  The next day, Sanday went on a combat mission in Sangin.  About 100 meters in front of him an IED detonated on another section.  Three soldiers from the Royal Regiment Fussilliers were killed.  During extraction to the HLS, a pressure-pad IED caused more casualties.  Again, I am told Sanday and others rose to the occasion.

The interpreter who disappeared was found in the Helmand River, about 20 miles south at FOB Price.

But those attacks were still a few days away.  Today, Sanday had more dangers to lead his men into, and through, and as they slept, he worked.

Body armor for a pillow.  Many soldiers buy those bracelets because they say the profits go to support wounded warriors.  Next time I’m in Camp Bastion, I’ll buy a couple.

“Axle” Foley, who was on that horrible mission with Sanday, went to sleep until more aircraft were scheduled to show up.  This photo was made at about 0517 and I put down the camera then my head down at 0521, just in time for the first explosion seven minutes later at 0528.  The explosion was close and powerful and literally raised some dust.  AFTER it exploded, someone said it was EOD for the first controlled detonation.  The Bang Boys were out there in the danger zone, cracking away.  I said a little prayer for them and put my head back down and that’s when the rooster started crowing—from inside the building!  Look at the halls in the photo.  A rooster is very loud inside here, as if he were crowing straight into our ears.  The ANA keep the rooster for fighting.  He was incredibly loud.  BOOM at 0540.  EOD was back at it, and at 0548, then 0558, then 0610 and 0612 and 0621.  The EOD soldiers were into a rhythm.  Between the rooster crowing inside the building and EOD blasting away nearby, sleep was hard to come by, so I got up and walked to one of the guard towers.  LtCol Rob Thomson seemed to be the last one working, and warned me not to get shot.  (During the bad morning on the 13th, LtCol Thomson saw some gloom on a few faces and he jerked those faces back into the fight.)


# Mary Ann 2009-08-23 20:12
I wish I was overthere to help you all, but I'm old as dirt so I'll have to help with money.......... ...Thanks so much for what your doing to keep old people like me safe, I love you all & pray every night for everyone of you solders. please keep the mail coming in.
Please keep the new's coming in zmichael,
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# Jenny, Sacramento, CA - God bless America, our troops, the Iraqis & Afghanis! 2009-08-23 20:27
Your pictures are amazing Michael, so clear and vivid. Thank you for continuing on in this endless fight. We devour your dispatches, and so appreciate your work and the soldiers commitment to fighting the good fight. God bless you all, and may we be triumphant in this fight for the good of the Afghani's, America and the world.
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# a&n 2009-08-23 20:38
Thank God for these men holding back this evil tide that would wash us all out to sea without them.
Our prayers are with you all...and our actions are influenced by your dispatches. We must all do more to fight this world war...which it surly is...wherever we are and whatever our occupation. Thank you and all the men fighting. You are an inspiration and an encouragement to do our part and not be negligent. Wonderful photos and report...
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# howarde12 2009-08-23 21:24
There are no words, or combinations of them, to express the debt we owe to men such as these and what they are trying to accomplish on behalf of people around the world. Then, how do you thank the families of those who are lost, or express proper condolences? There should be networks of students in the schools to let other students know that your pictures are available online, so that they understand what is going on thousnads of miles away to allow them to go to school peacefully, to play their sports, and to graduate.

For that is what these men are doing, and thank God for them, for those who command them, and especially to those who are maimed for us, and again, to you, Michael for this great photo story and report..
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# H 2009-08-24 00:46
Thanks for this latest report Michael. I remember that you met Macca on Telic 9 with 5 Platoon 2 Rifles, I'm hoping your next installment will pay suitable tribute to him.

Stay safe fella. Celer et Audax.
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# Terri LPN 2009-08-24 01:09
Wonderful Photos! Thanks for your dispatches, God Bless Our Soldiers! We all all Supporting the Work You do! Be Safe!
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# Future Voice 2009-08-24 01:12

A great organisation in the UK
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# Mark, UK 2009-08-24 01:30
To the soldiers of 2 Rifles:
I recently read a piece where a UK soldier thought that people at home are more interested in X-Factor or who won the cricket.

I for one know where the true heros are. They are in Helmand.

For helping to keep my family safe and for your service to your country, I thank you with all my heart.

To Michael Yon:
Thankyou for this reporting. We need to know how it is, on the ground warts and all. Only then can we begin to understand the courage and sacrifice made on our behalf.

Give these soldiers the equipment and rules of engagement they need for counter-insurge ncy operations or bring them back home. Your incompetence astounds me.
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# James 2009-08-24 01:56
You're obviously not a videogame addict then Michael?!
The Rainbow's a reference to a book and videogame series by Tom Clancy. Team Rainbow are a multi-national anti terrorist organisation.
As these guys are "multi-force" they've taken the title on, probably with their tongues firmly in cheek.
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+1 # RE: Bad MedicineKevin K 2009-08-24 02:37
Always enjoy reading about where I don't go. Keep putting up the photos as it give people back home (and me) areas outside the wire.
From a fobbit - take care.
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# David 2009-08-24 03:23
Awesome Michael. A Great short nonfiction account of those brave men keeping the barbarians a safe distance from our gates. I can't help but think your dispatches should be required reading for all politicians in Washington, London, and other allied capitals so they can draw upon a realistic inside narrative to the nature of this fight when pondering national security policy.

Also, well done with the google maps insertions. These images really helped me understand the battle space in your corner of this conflict.

I look forward to your next dispatch.
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# C.O. Jones 2009-08-24 04:43
Michael, outstanding dispatch. Thanks for painting an a clearer picture for us back home in the rear with the 'expletive deleted" gear. s/f C.O.
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# David M 2009-08-24 05:12
The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 08/24/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.
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# 6x6x4 2009-08-24 06:08
Thanks for not talking down to your readers and assuming we can absorb and understand the bare facts. And thanks for all the telling details ... the heat, the noises, the way the ANA and civilians behave.

There are so many similarities to South Vietnam ... but several important differences. In Vietnam, fixed wing fighter bombers could not deliver their ordnance with accuracy. If you were within 1,000 meters of the target you were considered ON the target. Bombs dropping miles from their intended targets were common. And all they had were unguided bombs and napalm ... useless for counterinsurgen cy ground support. Artillery was much better. We leaned heavily on the 155mm battery available to us.
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# KVO 2009-08-24 07:27
I was sorry to see that your embed with the Brits has been canceled. You were providing a service to them as well as us by reporting the reality of the place in such a vivid fashion.

It breaks my heart to hear of soldier's deaths and to have the general populace of our countries so oblivious to what's going on in Afghanistan. Yesterday NPR was reporting on the fact that Michael Jackson's death had gotten much more press than the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Irag.

I hope you can find a way to keep reporting on the work of these fine soldiers
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# CJ 2009-08-24 07:29
I suppose the Brits and you didn't see eye-to-eye on what is and is not sensitive material.

I'm sure you'll find another unit to embed with in short order.

Godspeed, Michael
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# SWH 2009-08-24 07:30
I would sure like to know why they cancelled your embed today. Did they provide a specific reason? Keep up the great work, even if the British government can't handle it!
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# Marion 2009-08-24 07:31
After such a glowing, aprreciative post of the great job the Brits are doing in AfPak did MOD pull your embed?
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# Matthew 2009-08-24 07:32
Hi Michael. Excellent dispatch. Thanks for the SA on Google Earth. It makes it easier to follow. Any chance of making .kmz files when you use Google Earth to make it MUCH easier to follow?

I appreciate all you do.

It's "Rainbow 6" by the way. One of Tom Clancy's Novels.
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# glenmore 2009-08-24 07:36
Difference of opinion on what constitutes an OpSec violation?
Political correctness issue surroundind 'smashed Taliban' or the like?
Or just a logistical thing?
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# Paul 2009-08-24 07:38
So Michael, Why did the ministry cancel your embed?
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# Harry S. 2009-08-24 07:40
What the heck? I'd just read this dispatch when you emailed that your embed had been cancelled. I should have written earlier to congratulate you on naming the helicopter rotor-glowing effect for such a fitting tribute to the heroes. I got all misty-eyed. Wherever you go, keep on keeping on. We depend on you.
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# M.E. in FL 2009-08-24 07:54
You are a fantastic reporter. I love the fact that you present things in such a balanced and down to earth way. You are able to give proper weight when due, but balance it with levity. I was cracking up reading about the ANA man-child in the sanger. I'm glad that you don't lose the ability to spot humor and beauty in the midst of war. That's a gift of perspective, and it serves your reader well.
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# Jimmy H 2009-08-24 08:00
Dude, that was riveting. EOD guys must be insane. Great job. I'm sad for the fallen. I'm sad for all of the ones they left behind. I must say that the last few dispatches had me in tears, but this one made me feel good inside. When my sons asks, "Dad, who are your heroes," I can say, "soldiers, all of them." These men are heroes, but I'd wager every one of them wouldn't claim the title. They'd say that it's their job to protect us from evil. I'm thankful for them. I was at a convention last summer and the US Army was conducting a convention of its own. I missed a lot of my software convention because I wanted to thank the soldiers and talk to them as much as possible. I wanted to tell them that we love them and we're proud of them.

Keep your head down,
Thank a soldier today.
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# Alex 2009-08-24 08:00
Just because some REMF or political weenie decides your reporting is uncomfortable? The people who are uncomfortable are those troops of 2 Rifles and the rest of the men and women who are toughing it out in the heat and the dirt and the ROE that is AfPak ... They are doing an incredible job under unimaginable circumstances and need to have their stories told. These are the best of their generation and deserve better from the people back home. I just attended services for the son of a good friend - a US Marine - lost August 6th. Tell their stories, Michael. Do them the honor.
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# matt h 2009-08-24 08:04
I have just sent your article and the news of the cancellation of your embed to the Times and Telegraph in the UK. I hope it leads to a change in the government's decision. You have done a tremendous job in reporting the facts and keep us in touch with the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan. This is a vital service. E mail me if I can help.
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# Colin Perry 2009-08-24 08:11
I can't imagine why the Brits would think canxing your embed outweighs the good your being there. If I were to guess, they probably didn't like the Google Earth images and the graphic portrayals of "Pharmacy Road". Your reporting has brought us clarity along with a huge appreciation for the Brit warriors who daily fight by our side in this long war. The MOD should be concerned with interdicting the bomb making processes and wasting energy trying to stifle a "messenger". I'm looking forward to reading your dispatches from the outposts of the United States Marines and United States Army.... Semper Fi
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# Lorene 2009-08-24 08:12
What in the world...why would they pull your embed? Please write about it if you can. Stay safe Michael, your reports are so crucial to us. Perhaps you'll be able to embed with a US unit again. Godspeed!
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# Cara Sims 2009-08-24 08:17
A few seconds ago I sent and email via the link below to the British Ministry of Defense[see my message under the link] letting them know we are not pleased with their unembedding Michael. I sugget you and everyone you know do the same. I will also be sending a copy to DOD after I post this.

This morning, as I do most mornings I read Michael Yon’s DISPATCH from Helmand Province, Afghanistan where he was, until today, embedded with 2nd Rifles.
Quite frankly up until Michael joined the 2nd Rifles in Helmand Province I didn’t think about the British soldiers and their contribution to the Afghan War. But daily through his words and pictures I grew to value and hold your troops in high warm regard.
I, and the thousands of people in the U.S. who read Michaels DISPATCHES, learned to respect and honor your troops in Afghanistan. We’ve wept over their deaths and prayed for their families, we rejoiced in their survival from horrendous wounds, and thanked God for them.
They have become our heroes along with our own troops.
Michael Yon has given a face and voice to the British soldiers and their amazing efforts.
I don’t know why you have chosen to silence that voice or remove those faces.
If you believe what he wrote today Bad Medicine[24 August 2009] diminished our regard and respect for the soldiers of the 2nd Rifles you are wrong.
And you are wrong to take this precious contact Americans have with the British Soldiers in Afghanistan away.
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# Troy Schoonover 2009-08-24 08:18
I loved this dispatch, but I am perplexed as to whether or not it was the cause of your embed being canceled. What happened? Hope you're not in any trouble! Stay safe, and I'm looking forward to hearing how the Marines are doing!
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# Scott Dudley 2009-08-24 08:19
Probably something as inane as tagging the walls where they sleep. Perhaps the low-level peon who made the decision would spend one day and one patrol with 2 rifles. Expect that would be an attitude adjustment.
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# Reg Whatley 2009-08-24 08:58
Hi Michael,
What a load of b8locks, typic MOD weenie doing a his stupid thing because the dispatches have included some Google, or some pics of shiny new kit that talks and sees through to gods eye view. You are respected by the Brits, we will miss your posts. if you get to Bastien, look the CJTH team, a good friend and neighbour from Mildenhall is a flight surgeon ask for Brad, he may help with some great copy.
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# Zeno Davatz 2009-08-24 09:24
Anyway. They will have you back. Looking forward to your reports from the US side.

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+1 # Rick Laube 2009-08-24 09:29
I took Cara's advice and sent the following to the British Ministry of Defense:

Why in the world would you cancel Michael Yon's embed. Do you not realize what a tremendous service he is doing for the soldiers of this war? He humanizes it. I as well as many others spend many hours thinking about his dispatches and praying for these men and women. Before I began reading Michael's dispatches the war in Iraq and Afghanistan was nothing more than a sound bite in between the Hollywood news and our countries ridiculous politics. You do Michael, his readers and especially your and our soldiers a great disservice.
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# Steve Waterman 2009-08-24 09:30
I'm betting that the liberals in Britain are worried that their troops may actually be doing some good in this way and they might possibly lose in any effort to remove them entirely from this theater of operations.

I may be wrong.

All the best,

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# Chet 2009-08-24 10:02
I'm sure I speak for many others when I say I would like to know why your embed was pulled.
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# Jack Denver 2009-08-24 10:03
Jingle Truck, not Jingo Trucks. So named for the noise that they make when the decorative chains they are festooned with rattle.
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# ashok 2009-08-24 10:10
These dispatches are wonderful; I put them on Stumbleupon and share them with my friends when I can. I think the best response to people that don't want to know what goes on is to keep publicizing the truth. Fingers are crossed that you get to keep reporting, and of course the coalition is in my prayers.
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# HOWARDE12 2009-08-24 10:13
Michael, I think you've done more to tell us, to tell the world, how great these British troops are than all other reporters put together. The British Military should give you special honors, not castigation by calcelling your Embed. We now understand what they're going through. To those soldiers reading these Comments, thanks, from a WWII Veteran.
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# Dan Daly 2009-08-24 10:39
The picture that the lads took with your camera had me rolling thinking of the things we used to do. A buddy of ours got married not long ago, and to our amazement, he let his wife to be put little disposable cameras on every single table. As the night wore on, the compositions deteriorated into shots of male genitalia and toilets and passed out jarheads.....

Stay safe bro.

Semper Fidelis.
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# KenF 2009-08-24 10:58
Here's a wee bit of speculation for ya.

Oh, common...If it was about the 5 year old Google Earth photos, it simply did not show anything new to the enemy. Most likely, they don't have a computer and don't even know who you are. Besides, they most likely know where the troops are hold up and what is being done in the fight. The one's that don't are already dead. Heck, computer? They're lucky to have a radio.

If anything, your article should give them pause as to whether or not they should continue to resist. Provided they can even read. We are not talking about a sophisticated enemy. The Viet Cong were far more sophisticated and informed than our present enemy.

Quite frankly I believe it may be political and for reasons not necessarily for the protection of the troops. More likely because if your articles are read, it just might garner popular support for the war effort. Frankly the liberals would not have that, now would they?

What they have accomplished is to extinguish or at the least, diminish the best news reporting out of the Afghanistan theater of least when it comes to what the Heroic Brits are doing for this effort.

I have followed you in your reporting for the last four years, and one thing holds true. You care about the troops on the ground and would NEVER put their lives at risk. Your training in Special Forces gave you the tools you need to make those calls and you use them well.
As far as any special equipment the troops are carrying: Popular Science has had a number or articles about special's nothing new.

I support you and devour each article the day they arrive. Without your reporting, this war would just be a 20 second blurb on the news about how many casualties we've sustained today, this month and/or this year.

It would be most suitable if the British Ministry of Defense would take a second look at this situation and realize how much of an asset you really are to all - then bring you back.

One other bit of speculation: They might have brought you out because they thought you were in danger, not bringing it upon their troops. It could be they are preparing for an even tougher conflict and didn't want anyone around who is not carrying a weapon. Just a thought. safe, keep your head down and your camera and keyboard at the ready. I'm eagerly awaiting your next dispatch.

4th Inf Div
RVN 69 - 70
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# Scott Dudley 2009-08-24 11:02
I know this sounds mundane but I am curious as to the typical British ration. I would hope they are very high in calories. How do they compare to US rations. Assume on Base that there are hot meals from foodstuff flown in. You describe them as bland.
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# Aunt of 3 ANG 2009-08-24 11:41
I don't know about all the military, but when our guys were in Iraq for their tour of almost 2 yrs, they could never say exactly where they were located or what base they were on. They gave hints but they still couldln't mention it even when the news media reported from there. It they took pictures out on patrol that showed some landmark and the higher ups felt it compromised some security issue, that pic had to be taken off the blog. We all would have loved pic's like the ones you took. A friend of mine who is a major and from a dif state, told me where he was going to be stationed in Afghanistan before he ever got there. That 2 surprised me.
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# AF 2009-08-24 11:58
Please let them know that it is simply not true that people are more interested in X Factor or what the papers say about their families. Ross Kemp in Afghanistan on SKY was a massive success and avidly picked up on YOutube to the extent that many other journos root down with our troops and report back to an avid readership far more so than is being done in America.

Thousands line the streets when they come home in coffins. We CARE that they are away from home and dying out there or getting injured. We KNOW that they are the toughest and bravest. We WANT them to succeed.

As for the cricket - Andrew Strauss the cricket captain wore his Help For Heroes bracelet throughout the series - as do many key figures to promote that fine charity - although the bracelets worn by the soldiers don't look the same??

I do wish that more was done to CONVEY this to our troops instead of continually assuming ignorance here.

Thanks to you Mr Yon for letting Americans know what our men are doing out there. The American press barely ever mention them.

Thinking of our troops and wishing them the best at smashing the Taliban always
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# Les 2009-08-24 12:31
I am at a loss to understand why the MOD has cancelled your embed with 2 Rifles, and I have sent an e mail to the"ask a Minister" address asdid another ofyour readers. I have also written to my local Member of Parliament requesting his intervention. The only thing I can think of from where I sit, is that you have on several occasions rightly mentioned the shortage of helicopter assets, and this has been a political embarrasment to the UK Government recently. If this is the reason, then it is likely that the decision to end your embed was a political one and not one taken by the military, as I am sure you will be well aware.

Keep up the good work Michael. I for one rely on your dispatches for getting the facts, something we have been unable to get in such detail, from the mediagenerally.
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# David 2009-08-24 12:34
What a great dispatch! One of the best ones. The last note said it right, we Americans have a virtual blackout from our media about the British and what they are doing there. It is so great to read your dispatches and hear about the great things the Brits are doing. What a bunch of great guys. Before you leave tell them we are all pissed off that you got ejected. We wanted to hear more. We think they are great!
I can only hope the British Ministry of Defense changes their minds. Those guys deserve to have what they are doing known and appreciated here and in England.

Thanks again as always, keep safe and may God watch out for you.

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# Maggie45 2009-08-24 13:11
When I read your dispatches, it's with the knowledge that we can trust you. Anyway, I want to let you know that I pray for your safety every day, frequently several times a day. God bless you, Michael, and thank you for what you do. I wish I were wealthy so I could send you lots of money. (smile)
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# Michael 2009-08-24 13:11
Mr. Yon,

I'm sorry to hear that you've been removed from your embed. I don't always agree with everything you have said, but I still respect you for your bravery and objectivity as a reporter. I can't imagine why the British command would choose to cancel. The British Defense might suffer in the long run for it, and that's no consolation to anyone on the ground there.

Thank you, and please keep up the good work, sir.
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# Maggie45 2009-08-24 13:12
because of your losing the imbed. I realize I didn't make that clear.
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+1 # RE: Bad MedicineDeuce Four Dad 2009-08-24 13:38
I've been with you for evey dispatch since the mess hall bombing at Mosul. My son was there. You are a national treasure. But you have got to know that you've been "over there" too long. Come home and do a speaking tour,
raise some money and write another book. PLEASE !!! Remind yourself what this is all about, ergo...picnics, barbecues, QUIET TIME and family. You have enough info and photographs to keep you busy for years! Come home for the Holidays
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# Ex-Brit serviceman 2009-08-24 14:28
Are a bunch of self-serving wankers, the political leadership in the UK are sheep led by sheep...totally clueless as to what needs to be done at best, and criminally negligent in what needs to be done at worst. It makes me long for the days of Thatcher and reagan...I know things would have been different had those two bastions of freedom had held the reins of power.
I'm guessing that you got a bit too close to the troops and told it how it was with a bit too much clarity than those fools wiould have the people in the UK believe.
Lions led by donkeys? That statement is as true today as it was during World War One.

Keep up the great work, Yon. Many of us appreciate your style of reporting.
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# Bob T, B-22 FA Redleg 2009-08-24 16:13
Just finished reading "Danger Close". Great book. I look forward to reading "Moment of Truth in Iraq" next.
Keep up the great work where ever you next find yourself.
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# WP 2009-08-24 16:55
As you are no doubt very aware, the British MoD is far more interested in supressing their own failings than allowing people in the UK to know the truth about the consequences that befall our troops as a result of the lack of numbers on the ground and the lack of equiptment. I do hope that the Britsih maninstream media picks up on this and adds it to the ongoing litany of damnation of the MoD's and the UK government's failings towards our armed forces.
Keep up the good work from wherever you can mate.
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# Geoff 2009-08-24 17:53
Ridiculous that they canceled your embed, sorry to hear this Michael.

And I also wanted to say amazing night photos at the top of the dispatch. I refused to believe they were taken at night until I noticed the stars in the sky!
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# Carl Nogueira 2009-08-24 19:56
Damn fools!!!!!! Don't they realize that by surpressing the truth rather than working overtime to improve the situation, so that the truth paints a brighter picture, is folly? Guess not. Damn it!! Guess the spin doctors are just as bad on both sides of the pond. If you can't get an imbed with the Marines Michael, just come home. You have really been in the sh*t over there and it wouldn't hurt to get some seperation and fresh perspective. Take care.
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# Ted Adams 2009-08-24 20:07
the trucks are "jingle" trucks, not "jingo". The jingle comes from all the metal chains and chimes they attach to them which makes the noise as they drive (I am at the end of 9 months in Nuristan, Kunar, and Nangahar as an ETT).
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# casstx 2009-08-24 20:11
I suspect, from reading the Brit papers, that they don't want the deaths reported, hence canceling your embed. I know you'll find another unit to go out with. Thank you for all this info and the pictures are excellent as usual. Operators always have such a good eye for photography, your stuff is really great. I hope to see more of it, whether it's the Brits, US, or some other country. Stay well.
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# Sue Smith 2009-08-24 20:28
Thank you for the fantastic article and pictures that show the world what wonderful brave heroes our troops are. My son was out in Helmand a year ago and as a mum my heart goes out to all our special men and women who work so hard to keep us safe . I am outraged the MOD have cancelled your embed, they really hate the public to know what wonderful brave and hard working soldiers we have in the British Army, Navy, Marines and RAF. Keep safe and keep reporting. Much love and respect to all who serve or have served. Sue xxx
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# Sandy 2009-08-24 20:33
I'd echo the frustration at the cancellation of your embed, Michael, but...that's not going to change the MOD. Just going to say thanks - and I'm praying for you to get a new embed where your voice may be needed even more. There's got to be a reason for this, and I'm going to count on it for GOOD.
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# Randall Hannaway 2009-08-24 20:51
Hi Michael,

Thank you for (yet again) a provocative peek inside a world most of us can barely imagine let alone know and understand. Although I don't know the reason behind the British Ministry of Defense’s decision to end your embed, it's incredibly disheartening that often times our governments actually believe that we citizens cannot handle the truth and reality of war. Any compassionate citizen dreads the news of another lost or wounded soldier but part of knowing what we are fighting for is truly understanding what we are risking. I will continue to pray for all of the brave women and men putting themselves in harm’s way for us back home in America and our allies abroad, and for you Michael for taking enormous risk to bring us such an honest and unique perspective.

Until then...

All good things,

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# Max Biaggi 2009-08-24 21:12
An excellent piece of journalism, Michael. As an ex-Royal Irish officer I detect the ring of truth in your account.

Don't worry about falling out with the MoD, you are in good company. The "head" of the MoD, Bob Ainsworth, has just tried to smear General Dannat over his £20 000 expenses over 3 years ( his own were roughly 10 times as much in the same period).

Did you know there are more civil servants in the MoD than there are soldiers in the British Army, by the way?

Keep up the good work.
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# Hooah 2009-08-24 21:17
The new kids in town need you Michael!!!
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# Barry Sheridan 2009-08-24 22:05
News of your cancelled embed is distressing, you have been the most reliable source of what is going on over there, apart that is from Ross Kemp video reports.

I have written to my MP, Mrs Sandra Gidley (on holiday) and to MOD requesting an explanation and reversal of this decision. There is of course more likelihood of world changing its orbit than that happening, but it is necessary to try. In the meantime please accept my thanks for all you have done to illuminate what our forces are trying to do and the conditions they face daily.

Regards Barry Sheridan. Hampshire England
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# James Carrier 2009-08-25 00:39
Here's mine:

Dear Mr Grogan,

As a son of what might be termed a 'forces family', it has long been a source of frustration for me that the mainstream news media show little interest in reporting on the middle eastern conflicts in any real depth.

In a world where we are lucky to receive anything more than sound bites and cod journalism from sit-at-home 'experts', the independent American photojournalist Michael Yon has done much to bring news of events in-theatre to an appreciative audience.

You may not have come across him as he reports largely via his own web site, but I urge you to read a few of his dispatches, not least this most recent one where he was embedded with our very own 2 Rifles:

The content is shocking, yet absorbing. One gets a true boots-on-the-gr ound idea of what our troops go through everyday in the name of freedom and democracy. As an American, Michael has also done much to improve anglo-US relations, flying the flag for Britain wherever possible. He deserves a much wider audience.

Today I read that the MoD has cancelled his embed with British troops, and via you I wish to register my disgust in the strongest possible manner.

I am sure the ministry will cite operational minutiae or the transgression of some unwritten rule in one of Michael's posts, but the fact is he has placed himself in the firing line on many occasions to bring us the human stories of 'our boys' on the front line in a manner that few other reporters could ever hope to achieve.

Michael deserves a medal for his efforts, not the slap in the face that the cancellation of his embed represents. I can only hope you concur.

Yours sincerely etc.
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# Jake Beale 2009-08-25 01:47
Yer Michael that was me that took that picture, u asked me to look after it hehehehe.

Gnr Beale ( 40th Regiment )
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# Mike Jenvey 2009-08-25 01:54
Just used the MOD link to send them this:


For some considerable time, I have been reading Michael Yon's reports as an embedded reporter - from Iraq & Afghanistan.

His style is rare; he brings the story to life, most vididly, regardless of the subject or content. Indeed, he brings reality & truth into a contentious topic. Unfortunately, this cannot be said about some of the MOD press releases or coverage in the UK media.

I understand that as a result of his latest story (Bad Medicine - 24 August 2009), his embedded status was removed. As an ex-RAF pilot, with a reasonable comprehension of security issues, I cannot see what would have triggered this removal. The story was honest, gutsy & does more to explain the circumstances in Afghanistan that a month's coverage in the UK papers. Did the comments about lack of helicopters touch a sore nerve?

Please reinstate his embedded status forthwith so that the public can read about the courage & dedication of the troops involved. Michael Yon is an invaluable asset to the reporting process.

Yours faithfully,
M D Jenvey
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# grichens 2009-08-25 03:11
Why the MOD cancellation? Because liberal pols in the UK are not interested in the mission; only in dragging their boys back home ASAP. Some of the frank exchanges between Michael and the servicemen are simply contrary to the interest of those in power. My bet is that the following conversation is what did it:

"Finally, Axle said, 'You Yanks are great. You like to hear stories about us smashin’ the Taliban but people at home want to know how much we miss our families.' We both chuckled, and I asked, 'Really? They don’t ask you about smashing the Taliban?' 'That’s right,' then Axle said something like, 'They only want to hear how sad we are.'"
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# Terry Windmiller 2009-08-25 04:51
To aid in the cause to convince the British Government to reconsider, I, on the recommendation of another concerned reader, sent the following note to the MOD. I urge others to do likewise.

This morning I read Michael Yon’s DISPATCH from Helmand Province, Afghanistan where he was, until today, embedded with 2nd Rifles. I must enquire, what could possibly led your Government to revoke his embed status? I must admit that up until Michael joined the 2nd Rifles in Helmand Province, even though I am a Soldier, I didn’t think about the British soldiers and their contribution to the Afghan War. But daily through his words and pictures I grew to value and hold your troops in high warm regard. I, along with many others currently deployed to Iraq, and the thousands of people in the U.S. who read Michael's DISPATCHES, learned to respect and honor your troops in Afghanistan, where previously we believed you had no part and made no real contribution. We’ve rejoiced in their survival from horrendous wounds, and marveled at their contributions to the overall war effort. They have become heroes in my eyes along with my own troops. Michael Yon has given a face and voice to the British soldiers and their amazing efforts that previously did not exist. I don’t know why you have chosen to silence that voice or remove those faces. If you believe what he wrote in the article Bad Medicine[24 August 2009] diminished my regard and respect for the soldiers of the 2nd Rifles you are very mistaken. If anything, he improved my opinion of your Country and your Soldiers. And you are wrong to take this precious contact Americans have with the British Soldiers in Afghanistan away. This decision is a detriment to your improving good image in the minds of US Soldiers who do no see or appreciate the contributions of your Soldiers, and never will unless their story is told....told the way that Michael Yon does it. I encourage you to reinstitute his embed with 2nd Rifles, or at least another British combat unit. His efforts do more than you can possibly imagine for your National Image.
Terry Windmiller (another combat Soldier)
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# Sean 2009-08-25 06:14
Team Rainbow are called Team Rainbow as an acknowledgment to the greatest kids program ever. You remember the one with Bungle, Zippy and george. Fact
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# Jerry Nobles 2009-08-25 06:32
Mr. Yon, Thank you!! Please pass along to all men in the field my undying thanks for their devotion to Duty,Honor,and Country. This former U.S.Navy Corpsman will pray for each of you daily. Semper Fi,gentlemen, Semper Fi !!!
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# RaniB 2009-08-25 07:00
Wow Michael I just came across this article by accident and WOW. Your writing and your pictures are truly amazing. I cried but I laughed also while reading your article. Wow. As David said, here in America we have little, if any, idea of what goes on over there. Your article moved me very much and I will be sharing your site with my friends and sending my email to the MOD.

Thanks for your wonderful work, I can't believe I just discovered this site only to learn your embed has been cancelled. Best of luck in whatever the next step on your path is!
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# Sean 2009-08-25 07:45
What about the "Bad Medicine" dispatch offended the British so? Was it the Google Maps part? Does the MOD think that those images, which are used to illustrate the difficult situation the British are forced to deal with, are of any help to the Taliban who harass these outposts daily? Do they think the Taliban have no idea where the bases are? Come on.

Was it the frank reporting that Yon provide? Yon has been pulling no punches with the US Military, and I can't imagine he'd start going soft just because he was reporting on the British. It's Yon's honesty and informed, detailed perspective which is so valuable.

Hopefully you can get an embed with the US sometime soon. It's unfortunate that 2 Rifles won't have you as their advocate anymore. The British people should be angry that Yon's reporting is getting quashed, lest your citizenry find out what's really going on.
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# Jim Fehlberg 2009-08-25 08:19
Great photos of the lads at work. It is truly unfortunate that Americans in general never see our friends in the fight. Thanks for having our backs and may you all be safe. I'll hoist a cold one for the 2 rifles unit. Keep your heads down and sights on target. Cheers!!
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# Amanda M. 2009-08-25 08:44
Michael, I just donated my little pittance to your mission. I'm jobless right now or would be a regular subscriber. Please let me know when you get desperate again and I will send along what cash I can spare -- what you do is too important to lose. You are the single most effective spokesman for the heroism of the British soldier and it is criminal that their brass is shutting you out. It's a disgrace.
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# Doug Newton 2009-08-25 11:03
Perhaps if enough of us write to the British MOD they might reconsider, perhaps after a restful night's sleep in London, Michael's embed with 2Rifles. Thanks to Cara Sims for the website link. Here's my contribution:

As a long time reader and supporter of Michael Yon's reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan, I was disappointed to learn that his embed with 2Rifles was cancelled yesterday. His description was simply: "The British Ministry of Defence canceled my embed after today's dispatch. Please read 'Bad Medicine.'"

I just read the dispatch and am baffled. I wonder if you could share with me and Mr. Yon's readers around the world your rationale for cutting off access to your troops to one of the great combat reporters of all time. It makes no sense. Conjecture is useless, so I look forward to your distinct reply.
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# Hue 2009-08-25 12:06
I think I can speak to the sentiment of a lot of Americans regarding this. W.T.F.? Keep up the good fight 2 Rifles!
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# Robert 2009-08-25 12:59
Thanx M. Yon for all you do. I looked at the layout of thye roads, and I was wondering why line charges haven't [or have they] been used. Too much CD? There must be a reason. Houses along the route? Iam just shaking my head and damn my heart sinks when I read these guys getting blown to bits. Thers gotta be a better way. Then again, Iam NOT there. Do not know the situation as it is from being on the ground. Iam dismayed by the lack of choppers, I think it was mentioned above. You don't wanna walk, ride down the road-FLY over them. Godspeed M. Yon, and 2 Rifles, our "cousins" across the pond..
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# Lisa Darabian 2009-08-25 13:06
I Pray,everyday that it will all end in a good way and that the good lord is with "You All" and Alway's! And Here's a Big Thank-You to "You All" Because, Only YOU And CHRIST are willing to "Lay Down Your Life For Me and the rest of America" And that my Friend's Make "You All" HERO"S Yeah!!!!! May, God Bless "YOU ALL" Forever and Always!!-Lisa
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# Mark 2009-08-25 14:59
Coming from a serving British sailor, your reports do so much to galvanise people here behind our armed forces. It's something special, and something some people's money cannot buy!

If you have indeed opened a can of worms over the MoD neglecting to report British casualties, I hope you do so. Honesty in the press is something this Government doesn't stand up well to!

Your actions, with regards to British forces, are something certain British journalists could only wish to do so!

All the best
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# Sherwood 2009-08-25 18:53
watching this news reminds me what my freedoms cost. Apart from 'Thank You', words can't express my appreciation. I served in the army 6 yrs with Paras but you guys all deserve a medal.
Serving in 'The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan'... will Democracy take there?
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# Sherwood 2009-08-25 18:57
Pure truth. No spin, no b.s. no commercials. Great photos.
This type of info is exactly what I wanted.
CNN super sucks. Michael you DEFINITELY should get a medal.
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# Steve H 2009-08-25 21:10
What you have been doing with the UK contingent in Afghan will not be forgotten. I served 16 years in the UK military but was lucky not to be ever sent into real harms way.

We have a new generation serving who are very much in harms way and guys like you reporting at the sharp end, showing the personal side of what it is actually like, to both UK and especially US readers is invaluable. The populace need to know what is happening, need to know what our sons, brothers and friends are laying down their lives for and your reports provide exactly that.

I dont know who you upset to get the embed cancelled, but given the myopic leaderless paralysis that the UK MOD finds itself in these days I have to say that I am not altogether surprised. The truth as reported does not fit the political agenda.

Stay safe out there, thank you so much for your insight and may God go with you.
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# C. 2009-08-25 21:31
Thank you for your contribution. Sorry to hear about the canceled embed, its a shame really. Thanks again for reporting the truth.
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# KP 2009-08-25 22:49
"The British Military should give you special honors, "
I'll second that!

and I am unsurprised at this-
"there are more civil servants in the MoD than there are soldiers in the British Army"

I've read your work for the last couple of years Micheal, absolutely amazing! A far more accurate picture of life on the ground that I have ever seen on any TV. Obviously the MOD have not changed since WW2 when they were trying to kill my father sending him out on suicidal bomber missions then lying about it! You have done them too many favours already!

Stay safe!
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# Robert 2009-08-26 03:09
I wish the UK's MoD had half the brains, and the heart that their Soldiers, Marines have. Come on now, get them the helo's they need. WTF!!! Its like a broken record. Those guys have hearts like a Lion, and thier MoD has a backbone of jelly. Yo, ante up cuz. Get them thier choppers. Oh, by the way, M Yon, thanx for all you do, stay safe, be careful. Let the Brits know we here in the US do care, and damn we love them too. My heart breaks for the fam's who have lost thier loved ones. We DO care. Our "cousins"from across the pond. A bond that will NEVER be broken...Rhyno
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# Bill Radcliffe 2009-08-26 04:53
What unbelievable stupidity led the MOD to cancel your embed? Nothing I have read comes close to bringing the reality of what our lads are putting up with out there. I'll truly miss your reports. We'll get nothing as objective from now on. Probably nothing even slightly objective from what we know of that lot.

Come to think of it, there's no such thing as "unbelievable" stupidity where the MOD is concerned. Just look at the procurement fiasco.

Good luck with those Americans!
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# Marie 2009-08-26 08:27
OK, but they were/are mirages
now according to this site, rafales are allso operating
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# Marie 2009-08-26 08:27
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# Solomon2 2009-08-26 08:41
I wonder what his buddies think of his new nickname.
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# Marie 2009-08-26 08:50
umm sorry, wrong video
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# Eric Hyde 2009-08-26 09:41
Read about you in Thomas Rid and Marc Hecker's book called War 2.0: Irregular Warfare in the Information Age. Embed policies v. your blogging makes it it seem like the MoD cheated. Fuck it... you've already won.
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+1 # RE: Bad MedicineRussell 2009-08-26 10:37
Any chance you can embed with the Canadians? I'd love to know how my fellow countrymen are doing. Anyway, fantastic reporting. It's unfortunate that the brits cancelled your embed, I finally knew something about what the British were doing in Helmand. Keep up the good work!
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# brenda hale 2009-08-26 10:54
Michael I know you and my hubby chatted while at Fob Jackson before he was killled by an IED. Your reports were as important as my emails with him. It is with a sadness I hear of you losing youe embed, it was a difficult but refreshing truth to hear what is expected of our guys there, and how they tirelessly continue to do a difficult job in horrendous circumstances.
Brenda Hale
Swift and Bold
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# AJ 2009-08-26 14:07
Awesome read. As a Brit, please do not think that our Forces and the MOD are one in the same. The Forces are the boys out there doing the ground work. The MOD is the moronic government run body that has just pledged £2.83bn to rebuild its offices.
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# Scott Dudley 2009-08-26 14:40
Many of us here are combat veterans who understand that your husband was a true leader who cared for his men, so much that he gave his live. There is no greater love. We mourn your loss.

Cdr. Scott Dudley, USN (Ret.)
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# Bob 2009-08-26 15:50
I hope you can pick up the battle with the Stryker Brigade. The mud walls are no match for a select few of their pieces. The Brits have made some great reporting possible.
It has been said enough here....We are mostly in awe of the British tenacity,,,due to your dispatches.

I pass your dispatches to the soldiers my team has trained. It is a good dose of reality to those that might otherwise blunder into the box with mis conceptions about the situation.

Screw the political spin!

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# Brenda Adams 2009-08-27 02:59
Dear Michael,

I am was surprised and disappointed to learn of the cancellation of your embed. The British will learn of the disservice they have done to their own forces in stopping your voice.

I was most interested in your google maps. Your location in Helmand has been of great interest as I know an American soldier stationed at FOB Ramrod. If you know of this FOB, I would be curious to learn where it is located in relationship to FOB Jackson. Always, in reading about these British soldiers, I have imagined that Kevin was seeing and doing similar things....perha ps it is not the same but your news was the closest information we could glean.
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# Marc Madden 2009-08-27 05:50
Michael, I very much hope your time with Brit Mil does not come to an end due the short sightedness of the UK MOD.
Your background gives you the ability to understand, empathise & see with a soldier eyes the strengths & strength of purpose of those who have to close with the enemy.
You very obviously have great empathy for the soldiers you serve with, I do not use the word serve lightly.
Your work illustrates the incredible nature of the acts performed on a daily basis & without fanfare by the troops on the ground.
You serve them & us by continuing your work.
Stag on!
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# a father 2009-08-27 08:53
Michael I for one will support you with money and will try to spread the word on how the MOD is trying to use bully boy tactics to censor you, as a Brit I am ashamed of way our MOD believes its role is to censor the news and spin the truth rather than support our troops.

thank you for your despatches on our boys and girls and the risks they take
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# KellyC 2009-08-27 09:50
Michael, thank you for continuing to be there and put a face and a human-ness on the lives that we are losing there.
Brenda Hale, my sincerest condolences. I know there's nothing that can fill the hole in your heart now but please know that Michael's readers and millions of other Americans truly feel a huge debt of gratitude to your husband Mark for his sacrifice. He was a true hero.
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# KellyC 2009-08-27 10:23
Here's some pics (I believe) from the memorial service for Daniel Wild, Mark Hale, Matthew Hatton, et. al. from the Times:
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# CEP 2009-08-27 19:09
It's been said that the first casualty of war is Truth. Thanks Michael for telling and showing us the Truth... the good, the bad, and the ugly. Your reports reflect the gritty reality of life in the field of combat and many in England and America depend on you while the major media in both our countries are caught up in the latest political scandal or shameless celebrity worship. But thank you most of all for bringing to light the brave and selfless sacrifices made by our British and American fighting forces. This is one Yank who is deeply grateful to the Brits for their willingness to stand with us in this terrible struggle. May God bless them! And may God hasten the day when wars will cease and our boys will come home. Until then Michael, may the power of God over-shadow you and keep you safe while you continue this most excellent work.
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# CEP 2009-08-28 17:45
Sorry...I should have included all the UK, not just England.
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# Truckie117 2009-08-28 18:28
I would like to tthank all the men of our Brothers of the 2 Rifles fosr SMASHING the Taliban.
If Any Ever make it to NY visit any firehouse and tell your story you'll get a gerat meal.
Thanks for sthe reports Mike any if you get to NY look me up.
911 rolling around again and there will be a great memorial at Ground Zero.
God Bless You All
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# Deane 2009-08-29 12:40
As an old Marine from Nam, I can only say i wish we had had some one there that would have told truth and not covered up what was really happening in our conflict there. As it was, we could not trust reporters, especailly Amercan newsmen to tell the story as we related to their questions. by the time it got home we were a sorry lot full of fear and had no way to win in that theatre, so we just clammed up and hoped that someone could get the story straight. My then wife was terrified by reports of bases were she knew I was operating out of being hit by horrendus firepower when all it was were a few sappers and maybe a dozen mortars and we were operational within hours. Then of cousre there was Walter Cronkite that gave the enemy the morale boost when he wrongly said we were totally defeated at Hue, when in actuality we defeated and destroyed the Vietcong, never to operate again. Only the NVA kept up the fight because of his statement and the anti-war element at home, the very same ones who now control our government. And here we are in a worldwide fight for survival with the radical islamics that have always been active since Mohammed. Politics as usual... The true nemesis of the fighting man put in harms way by the failed political whores
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# Oldpilot 2009-08-30 03:25
Axle said: “They only want to hear how sad we are.”

Well, heck, if you read the NY Times and listen to CBS, it's all about the victimized troops on this side of the water as well.

Great photos!

Blue skies! -- Dan Ford
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# Ken 2009-08-30 04:09
Michael - thanks to our heroic troops and to you. The courageousness of all who have taken this battle to our enemies humbles me. Your dispatches and amazing photos provide reality and humanity to the horrors of this war. I pray that God protect you and all of our brave soldiers.
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# Larry K 2009-08-31 05:13
As an " trooper" from the Vietnam era, I applaud your type of reporting. It gives us Americans some good perspective about what its like to combat the narco and oil funded terrorism on its home ground. It really helps me get a feeling for the dedication of not only our troops, but our allies also. I commend them and you for brave service. Larry Kramer
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# nell 2009-08-31 23:54
One lone voice telling the truth - yours. I note your comment not to trust the voices from London and Washington . We don't. It just grieves me that our fantastic troops have to rely on the sorry specimens of gordon brown and bob ainsworth. They deserve better, much better. Stay safe.
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# CDC 2009-09-01 10:58
Michael, may God bless you and all the troops; I appreciate everything that you're all doing. I pray you can continue with your work as it is invaluable. I enlighten people as often as possible. I work on an AF Base and see soldiers every day; we work with AF, Army, Guard, Marines and many others. We help prepare them for deployment and take care of them again upon their return. (I work at the base hospital here). Please keep your head down and stay safe. Again, God Bless you and all of the troops. Tell them there are many, many of us here who appreciate each and everyone of them; we do not take their fight in this war for granted; we know they put their lives on the line every day and we keep them in our thoughts and prayers all of the time. I cannot say enough about my appreciation for all the sacrifices. Does not matter if they are British, Australian, locals, we're all in this together and those of us here at home in the know realize that we wouldn't be able to continue in the fight without each other. thank goodness for those F15E Eagles and pilots and the chopper pilots and all the crews. Again, thank you all and God Bless you!
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# Pete Hartwick 2009-09-01 21:02

I echo the comments concerning the singular, outstanding work you're doing. It's above reproach.
Which is more than can be said for the people and what motivates them in the MoD and the abrupt cancellation of your embed status. Speculation about what caused it runs the gamut. It wasn't the Google Maps or the purported OpSec issues. You got too close to the root nerve: the MoD hasn't been doing its job for a long time and the situation there is beginning to show the soft spots. For instance, they MoD has not funded the necessary helicopter acquisition for the past 10 years. Now they're in a program of trying to do service extension life on the stuff that should have been replaced long ago.

I suspect many of our UK friends are coming to terms with the same kind of fundamental failure that the so-called "Health Care Crisis" has triggered here in the US. It's not a disagreement over policy, or methods, or political party platforms. It's much more basic. In fact, fundamental to our so-called "representative " democratic form of government. We simply can no longer trust the political class, or any member of it, to do anything but look out for themselves. Even the apparent Good Guys let us down every day by not telling us the truth about what's going on, about who, specifically, is responsible for the failures -- all under the cover of having to "get along" in order to be effective.

We simply can't trust them. Any of them. On any issue. For any reason. They're professional liars. We trusted them to go and represent us as best they could while the rest of us went about our lives. And while we were doing so, they hijacked "our" government and crafted every part of it to suit their own greedy purposes. Notice: the MoD decision wasn't about The Truth. But what else is there --- that's worth fighting and dying for?

And we're all still trying to figure out what we're gong to have to do to get back our own government that's been stolen from us

Our prayers are with you.

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# ali stewart 2009-09-02 06:54
the dedication, professionalism and sense of and performance of duty by our troops in Afghanistan with the utter incompetence, deceit and mendacity of their masters in their comfortable London lives. To appreciate what they do in such awful circumstances, which you vividly illustrate in your riveting reports is to realize how low, how utterly disgusting, how completely beyond contempt are the politicians who would send our young men and women into harm's way, ill equipped, undermanned, with flawed strategies and where the aggrandizement and stock of those same politicians is the only end-game.

How good must they feel to be able to release a convicted Islamic mass murderer of 270 British and American souls on compassionate grounds or condone that act by not objecting, or encourage it with 'memoranda of understanding' with pariah, terrorist States over prisoner transfer agreements. How well they must feel they have served the British people by saving us the money required to buy our troops basic body Armour, camouflage kit, properly protective vehicles, helicopters and more helicopters. How righteous must they feel when pontificating about human rights for everyone and democracy for all and ubiquitous freedom from oppression. Great aspirations crafted for public consumption in glittering pantheons, safe for the protagonists to do battle with their enemies across those debating chambers.

But there are other pantheons, burial grounds for our unsung heroes. 210 dead in Afghanistan, not one welcomed back to British soil by any politician. Marked only by a minute at PMQs, or a very brief mention on the six o'clock news these extraordinary people achieving the remarkable by the hour are our great inspiration. In their dieing and in their service they achieve everything that eludes their superiors- they live for their Country.

Your posts have been illuminating, should be required reading for every individual of reading age in the UK. You have probably been one of the great proponents of UK/US relations, particularly in the US and we are grateful. You have been a valuable conduit for our troops' loved one's at home, so I really am appalled at the MOD's decision to pull your embed status. But you know it was not their decision. To suggest that their tactics were wrong on the drug trade, or that they were helicopter-ligh t, or incredibly, to suggest that what the kids were doing was in any way exceptional just did not fit the politicians posture.

So they sleep well in their comfortable beds while our AFs bake in the sun. They elegantly sidestep difficult questions while the troops dodge bullets. They do battle with their adversaries in comfortable tv studios while our young men and women live cheek by jowl with a ruthless enemy that would blow them up, stone them, slit their throats in an instant. How brave they are to advertise for yet more spin doctors at £70K pa to explain their policies while denying our fighting forces an absolute standard of protection.

It is impossible to reconcile the different positions of the British Govn't. On the one hand we are fighting fundamentalism there, because if we were not we would be fighting it here, and we are releasing fundamentalist mass murderers on compassionate grounds because not to do so would be a victory for fundamentalism? Give me strength. But all this while the men and women on the ground are being shot, exploded, maimed, killed.

I salute our troops. I laud you and your work. But at the same time I have utter revulsion for the politicians. That they can imagine that they have done a good day's work when another few coffins touch British soil, beggars belief. That they can sleep easy in their beds, knowing that with a few less diversity projects they could have saved a few lives takes me here: I hate these people with such a passion! No words can now describe my revulsion. Their talking heads are an affront to common decency; I cannot wait to be rid of them.

There is no cost too high that is not justified by the the safety of our babies. Thank heaven our troops know this and heaven help us that our politicians do not. So long as we have a voice like yours we will be reminded of that. They may silence you now, but the message you have delivered is loud and clear, unmistakable in it's simplicity. When we need someone on our side, we would all have a sapper before a politician any-day.

While the MSM continues to be so cozy with the politicians, you are a breath of fresh air. While they all but ignore the grief, suffering, sacrifice and honor of our troops and their families, loved ones, friends most of the population of this Country are beginning to understand. The people are repulsed by the politicians; they are reviled at large. Pretty soon they will have their just rewards. I hope our troops get theirs.

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# Wife of Ssgt Oz Schmid Bomb Disposal Team Rainbow high threat operator 2009-09-05 14:34
I love you honey I loved seeing you in your pics. Like a bear.

Am sure your para/commando/h igh threat/being married to me the worst nightmare has made you strong enough to remember you can do anything you put your mind to sexyass. Keep your head. Cant wait to see you in November. Proud of you as ever.

There maybe some richer bigger more decorated men in the world however I know what you do. Those men dont even almost get it - what it takes to do what and be close to who you are. Thats strength to me, real strength. Consistent loyalty and hard work is what you are. Thats rare hun unique even nowadys thats why I love you Schmid.

Your job and my job (here with L and Bo and my work in hospital) means we really do live in the moment for so much of our lives hope we can for once live in the moment with eachother for a change soon.

I am missing you it hurts and I get angry. All I can do in this passive disengaged country we call Britain is to be as English as I can be and respect you as much as I can while you are gone.

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# jayhawk 2009-09-06 20:43
just wanted to say that you have done more to keep the main stream media from "vietnaming" this war than just about any
journalist. i am a vietnam era vet and i remember how they did our vets and how we lost when we didnt before it was even over.
the brits are a darn good bunch. i remember them from reforger in germany. keep up the good work..
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# Diabulos 2009-09-08 04:19
I must say, this is what real journalism is about! well done! your photos are great and I love the colours. What camera are you using? and how do you kee the dust out of the lens!
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# ETJ 2009-09-09 00:06
Michael - as a Brit, your website is the only source that gives me an indication of what our forces are doing and experiencing in Afghanistan. I cannot thank you enough, and I too am at a loss to understand MoD’s action. If it was OpSec, then a quiet word in your ear would sorted it ?
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# Nina 2009-09-28 17:57
Hey Michael..what a great job you did!As other said that is what journalism is really about!
Dear military men and women Thank you and lots of hugs and do come home safe soon!
Dear Afegan people wish you peace and prosperity.
Michael xoxo to you.
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# chris oldfield 2009-09-29 02:53
been to pharmacy road a few times, great to see that such a good writer has worked with 2 rifles as well as 4 rifles in Iraq, my respect for you as only got bigger as i have now read 2 articles that you have written that i have taken part in.

Just for peoples imformation 'Team rainbow is a mick take of the old childrens TV show from England' i only know this becouse i know the man who made the name up for his team, Sgt shaun powell.

Once again great job and a pleasure to read

God bless
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# JohnPlambert 2009-10-02 13:00
French Mirages, and Rafale will be upgraded with standard US Rover system, tested by AdA this summer.
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# Jon Wilson 2009-10-08 02:33
My son is serving with C coy 2nd Rifles based at FOB Wishtan, without these pictures it would have been hard to imagine what his life has been like for the past 5 and a half months. As a parent/step parent you sometimes hold your breath when your kids are late home from school or lost in the shopping centre, after 5 and a half months of holding our breath our son is due home next week god willing (I don't actually believe in god, but I would try anything to get him home safe) I thank you for the despatches even though they have filled me with horror seeing how they live and work in those conditions but at least now when he tells of his experience's out there I will be able to put pictures to his stories and pretend that I understand how scared/hot/tire d/homesick/angr y/sad he was out there.

I wish you the very best of luck Michael in your work/life and cannot express how grateful I and my family are !
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# Darren Stewart 2009-11-02 15:32
It was announced today that SSgt Schmid of the Joint Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal (JFOD) (I believe) was killed in action, while on duty trying to deal with an UXB/IED.

All our men and women serving out there are Hero's. Every last one of them. However, the men who tackle IEDs every single day are very special, and the words of his comrades spell this out better than I ever could.
Christina Schmid, wife of Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid said:

"Oz was a phenomenal husband and loving father who was cruelly murdered on his last day of a relentless five month tour.

"He was my best friend and soul mate. The pain of losing him is overwhelming. I take comfort knowing he saved countless lives with his hard work. I am so proud of him."
ieutenant Col Robert Thomson, Commanding Officer 2 RIFLES Battle Group said:

"SSgt Oz Schmid was simply the bravest and most courageous man I have ever met. Under relentless IED and small arms attacks he stood taller than the tallest. He opened the Pharmacy Road and 24 hrs later, found 31 IEDs in one go on route SPARTA. Every single Company in 2 RIFLES adored working with him.

"I adored working with him. No matter how difficult or lethal the task which lay in front of us, he was the man who only saw solutions.

"He saved lives in 2 RIFLES time after time and for that he will retain a very special place in every heart of every Rifleman in our extraordinary Battle Group. Superlatives do not do the man justice. Better than the best. Better than the best of the best. Our thoughts and prayers are with his beloved family."

Today, a giant, legend and a hero of a man has fallen, may hell come to those responsible. Condolences to his family.
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# Bomb Doctor 2009-11-03 12:35
Oz's wife posted a message to him 8 posts earlier (see above)..... He was then killed on his last day in Theatre.

This is truely a sad, sad event.

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# Joe Power 2009-11-03 19:32
Oz was a superstar and a firm favourite in BG(N). A top bloke who will be sorely missed.

RIP mate.
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# Malcolm Smith 2009-11-05 06:54
RIP SSgt Schmid, and (FWIW at this time) my condolences to you Mrs Schmid.
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# Fraser Clay 2009-12-13 09:20
Mrs. Schmid,
I am sorry to hear of your loss. I cannot imagine what you must be feeling right must know better then anyone how truly great your husband is. I will be praying for you and your family. Your sacrifice can never be repaid but please know there are many who are thinking about him.
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# E. Dwyer 2010-01-01 12:34
Belated kudos but sincerely felt- awesome work. Thank you. And God Bless.

Emmett, Albuquerque NM
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# Freemon Sandlewould 2010-01-05 13:02
Legalize all dope. Profit margin goes to ZERO. Problem done.

Think not?

Think again. It helps weed the gene pool back here in the USA. No sense trying to pretect the self destructive from themselves. All the better to let them move on to wherever it is they are going in the end regardless of our clumsy efforts to the contrary.
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# Steve 2011-05-28 17:09
Having gone through the "devils playground" myself, I know how hard it can be.... this atricle pretty much sums up the feeling of isolation, frustration, feeling like you're chasing ghosts, and the sense of trepidation in working in this environment. But also the sense of relief when stuff comes off good!!! Thanks for writing this.
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# Kate.UK 2011-06-16 17:41
Your picture of the soldier sleeping on his body armour is my brother! Couldn't believe it, but there he was, broke my heart a little to see that. The work your doing is extraordinary and in my opinion isn't as well known as it deserves to be. God Bless and stay safe (If that is even possible) Kate
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# Debra. AU 2011-11-04 01:40
Kate, I just read this story, and was equally touched by the picture of your brother as well as the story. Also I wanted to send a message of gratitude to your brother and all his military buddies for their service... from a grateful Australian. I hope him he got home safely and knows that people around the world know of, and appreciate the sacrifice he, his fellow soldiers, and their families make for our safety and freedom.
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# Simon Bereit 2011-08-31 08:15
Some amazing photos which give us an insight into what life is like on the front line in Helmand. Full respect to you for being out there with true heroes. Keep up the great work.
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# Debra, AU 2011-11-04 01:48
Mrs Schmid and family... I know this is a rather belated comment, but please accent my condolences, for the tragedy your family is enduring. I cannot begin to imagine how supremely proud you must be of him, for the incredible work he did, and also, the immeasurable loss you must be feeling. If it is any small comfort, I hope you know that on behalf of all those who enjoy the life free of fear and uncertainty around the world that men like your husband, work to create for us, my family and I will always be grateful for your husband's service and sacrifice.
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# RE: Bad MedicineSamsara 2013-07-11 21:31
Thank you for the article, it's transparently refreshing to read. Love the comment about how families only sympathize without going further to understand what these men do to make the world a safer place. Their stand makes all the difference everyday even when it doesn't feel or seem so :-)
I'm in love with one & so proud of what his uniform stands for xxxxx SS
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