Michael's Dispatches

Bullshit Bob

By Michael Yon
25 September 2009

The surprise discontinuation of my embedment from the British Army left my schedule in a train wreck.  Until that decisive moment, I am told, that my embed with the British Army had lasted longer than anyone else’s; other than Ross Kemp’s.  I’ve also been told that I’ve spent more time with the British Army in Iraq than any correspondent.  So it’s fair to say, we have good history together.

In the last 12 months, I’ve embedded with the British Army in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, then over to the jungles of Brunei to attend a man-tracking school, and again back in Afghanistan.  During that time, I’ve also been with U.S. forces in Iraq, the Philippines, and Afghanistan.  I’ve accompanied the Lithuanians in Afghanistan and also been downrange for months without any troops or official assignment.

This dispatch, and many others, should have been about soldiers at war. But it’s not.  This dispatch is being written in downtown Kandahar City and I have not seen a soldier in days.  The Taliban is slowing winning this city.  There have been many bombings and shootings since I arrived in disguise.

In 2006, Iraq was melting down and I had just written twelve dispatches that clearly stated we were losing in Afghanistan.  Those dispatches caused a public uproar and the consequences were such that U.S. military refused to let me back into Iraq.  Because of the U.S. military censorship in Iraq, I published a dispatch in the Weekly Standard titled, Censoring Iraq.  General Petraeus emailed to me immediately, and if not for his intervention, there would have been Censoring Iraq II, III, IV, V….  Ultimately, dozens of dispatches about soldiers have been forever lost.

I returned to Iraq in 2006, and in 2007, I reported that the war had turned around and progress was clear.  In 2008, I wrote that we had won the Iraq war.  And although recent bombings have grabbed headlines, overall violence continues to decrease.

This brings us to Afghanistan, 2009.

My latest embed with British 2 Rifles, which began in July, was extended on at least two occasions.  The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) had recently agreed that I would spend roughly one more month with 2 Rifles.  My scheduled embeds with the United States Air Force and Marines were specifically arranged around the British schedule, and I was enjoying reporting on the excellent British troops.

However, on August 24th, with no warning, unseen faces of MoD discontinued my embed from 2 Rifles.  The message that I was no longer embedded was emailed to me by Media Ops, just as I returned from an interesting firefight in the Green Zone.  Luckily, none of our guys got hit, but I think the British soldiers may have killed some Taliban.

I do not know the reason for the embed termination.  My best guess is that it relates to my sustained criticism that the British government is not properly resourcing its soldiers.

Before going further, it is essential to underscore the importance of the “Media Ops” in the war. When Media Ops fails to help correspondents report from the front, the public misses necessary information to make informed decisions about the war. Many soldiers in the British Media Ops are true professionals who strive constantly to improve at their tasks and work very well with correspondents.  Their professionalism and understanding of the larger mission—ultimate victory—provide an invaluable service to the war effort.

But there are a few who should not be in uniform and it takes only one roach leg to spoil a perfect soup.

For example—without giving names so as not to tar and feather someone for his entire life when he still has a chance to change his behavior—the British Major running Media Ops at Camp Bastion has been particularly problematic.  Even before my embed started with 2 Rifles, his words raised red flags among the correspondents about his priorities.

I had a specific incident with this British Media Ops Major.

The Major and I were driving in Camp Bastion around midday when it was very hot.  A British soldier ran by wearing a rucksack. He was drenched in sweat under the blazing, dusty desert.  I smiled because it’s great to see so many soldiers who work and train hard. Yet the Major cut fun at the soldier, saying he was dumb to be running in that heat.  I nearly growled at the Major, but instead asked if he ever goes into combat.  The answer was no. And, in fact, the Major does not leave the safety of Camp Bastion.

That a military officer would share a foul word about a combat soldier who was prepping for battle was offensive.  Especially an officer who lives in an air-conditioned tent with a refrigerator stocked with chilled soft drinks.  Just outside his tent are nice hot and cold showers.  Five minutes away is a little Pizza Hut trailer, a coffee shop, stores, and a cookhouse.

This very Major had earned a foul reputation among his own kind for spending too much time on his Facebook page. I personally saw him being gratuitously rude to correspondents.  Some correspondents—all were British—complained to me that when they wanted to interview senior British officers, they were told by this Major to submit written questions.  The Major said they would receive videotaped answers that they could edit as if they were talking with the interviewee.  (Presumably, senior British officers are avoiding the tough questions, such as, “So, when do you plan to send enough helicopters?”)

When I asked a different Media Ops officer about meeting with a senior British General in Afghanistan, I was told that submitting a CV (curriculum vitae) would be helpful, to which I laughed.  A CV?  How about this:

Name: Michael Yon
Profession: Writer
Experience: Years
Notes: I will be in and affecting your battle space for years to come. (By the way, you are losing the war.  Hiding from correspondents does not change that fact.)

This war is moving fast and there is no time for games.  If a general does not want to tell his story, someone will tell it for him.  He will have failed by losing another winnable media battle.

On a sidebar, before this article was published I was invited to the Netherlands by the esteemed James “Maggie” Megallas to attend an incredible Dutch remembrance for our World War II veterans.

For those who don’t know him, James Megellas is a retired U.S. Army officer who commanded Company "H" of the 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR), 82nd Airborne Division during World War II.  Maggie is the most-decorated officer in the history of the 82nd Airborne Division, having received a Distinguished Service Cross, a Silver Star, and been nominated for the Medal of Honor.  Maggie at 92 and is an extraordinary man.  He can give an eloquent speech for an hour without a single written note.

He has spent a couple months in Afghanistan—in the worst places.  He’s a true leader and a wise man, known to General McChrystal and General Petraeus. General Petraeus told me last week that CENTCOM had okayed Maggie’s trip to Afghanistan.  Maggie is an American treasure.  Last week in the Netherlands, “Maggie” was spending time General Petraeus and with European royalty, including Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.  General Petraeus and World War II veterans stayed several days at the same hotel Maggie and I were in.

In Holland, folks were lining up to honor and pay tribute to our World War II veterans and General Petraeus.  I didn’t want to distract General Petraeus with any questions while he was so busy.  But on about the third day, there was a tap on my shoulder and I was told that General Petraeus had some time if I wanted to talk.

I asked the good General some tough questions on Afghanistan—the kind that would end discussions with timid people—yet, like normal, he fielded those questions with the candor that I so respect in him and have come to expect. The same has happened to me with the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, and other top military leaders.  Gates and Petraeus will field challenging, difficult questions and will take what you throw at them.  Yet the British Media Ops in Afghanistan wants correspondents to submit written questions so they can provide tidy answers.  That’s a sad joke and there are many correspondents, including me, who are not laughing.

More on the trip to Netherlands will be forthcoming, but now back to Afghanistan:

At Camp Bastion there are two tents at Media Ops. One tent is for the Media Ops staff and the other is for the itinerant correspondents.  When ever the Internet died in the correspondents’ tent, the Major in question let the journalists use the Internet in the staff tent.  That was helpful and appreciated.  But he locked the door at night (the tent has a door) and kept it that way until the morning so that no correspondent would wake him with keyboard tapping.  Not helpful on transmitting information.

At a glance, that seems trivial stuff, really. But it’s not trivial when you know that these are the same Media Ops people—who do not leave their base or go on missions—who are spooling out “the message” to the media.  They are clueless about the state of the war in Afghanistan.  For instance, many of the Media Ops officers will insist that we have enough helicopters in Afghanistan. Those officers are either completely oblivious to the actuality of the situation or lying.

General Petraeus told me straight up that we don’t have enough and that we doubled our helicopters in the last four months and are in the process of fielding “two more fistfuls.”  (He did not give specific numbers.)  Those BS-filled officers who deny the obvious are, in fact, symptomatic to why we are losing the war.

When I deliver good news, out rolls the red carpet.  Bad news, and it’s time to fight again.  Only now it’s not Censoring Iraq, it’s Censoring Helmand.  And it’s not the U.S. doing it this time, but the British government.  The British people are demanding truth and they deserve accountability.  They aren’t getting it from Camp Bastion.

Some of the Media Ops guys in Afghanistan are good at something such as threatening future access if a correspondent shows “attitude” about being poorly treated.  My answer is go to hell. They can take their access and. . . .   I work for the soldiers, for the readers, and for the people in general.  If Media Ops chooses to be an obstacle, that is their choice.

After being summarily disembedded it took days—due to the helicopter shortage—to catch a helicopter from the Green Zone and head over to the posh Media Ops tent.  There I found the same Major still up to his old attitude with some of the correspondents.

Meanwhile, because of the abrupt embed, my scheduling problems were unfolding.  The U.S. Marines, of whom I have never seen treat anyone like the British Major treats correspondents, wanted to take me.  But the earliest I could embed with them was on 16 September.  This fell at the same time I needed to punch out and head to Eindhoven in The Netherlands for the World War II remembrance ceremonies which I had been invited to long ago.  The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNAF) had made arrangements to fly me from Afghanistan to Eindhoven.  Disembedded or not, it should have been a simple matter for me to have a few days, even out of pure courtesy, where I could settle some business with the U. S. Air Force and U.S. Marines.  But the boss of Media Ops in Afghanistan, Lt Col Nick Richardson in Lashkar Gah, through the Major at Bastion, demanded that I leave the Regional Command South (RC-South) which is under British control.

I said in essence, hold on, partner, are you saying that you are knowingly interfering with my ability to arrange an embed with the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Marines?  Especially after you abruptly released me as correspondent?  Because if that’s what Media Ops was saying, then we were going to have a Texas-sized fight.

The boss of Media Ops in Afghanistan Lt. Col. Richardson has tweaked other peoples’ BS sensors on the helicopter issue, including Daniel Bennett at the Frontline Club.  Richardson is doing more damage to the war effort than the Taliban media machine.  By perpetrating falsehoods that undermine our combat capacity, Richardson has helped the enemy.

Some of the smokescreens are less important but they are demonstrative of the pattern: On 20 August a, CH-47 helicopter was shot down by a Taliban RPG during a British Special Forces mission.  Richardson reported that the aircraft landed due to an engine fire.  Some hours later, while I was on a mission nearby, the Taliban were singing over the radios about shooting it down.  I heard the rumble when the helicopter was destroyed by airstrikes.  The Taliban knew they hit the helicopter.  So who is Richardson lying to?  Not the enemy…unless the enemy is the British public.

Stephen Grey and others have noted the censorship:

“Despite the risk of being blacklisted and refused access to report from the frontline, journalists are speaking out about what they say is the government's attempt to control the news. It is "lamentable", says one Fleet Street foreign editor; the Times correspondent Anthony Loyd describes it as "outrageous"; Christina Lamb of the Sunday Times calls it "indefensible"; it is "redolent of Comical Ali", says the Sun's defence editor, Tom Newton Dunn.

“Almost all journalists travelling with British forces are ordered to email their copy to the military's press officers in Helmand before publication. Many fear that negative coverage could mean trips back to the frontline are cancelled or delayed.”

The Media Ops boys are treating this like a game.

Eventually I had a meeting at the same table with a U.S. Air Force officer, a U.S. Marine officer, and the British Major from Media Ops in an attempt to work out a solution that would get me with the Air Force or Marines.  The Major was docile in the presence of the two other officers.  The Marine and Air Force officers said that they were willing and happy to help.  Despite their goodwill, the scheduling train wreck had other moving issues stacking up, and the British Media Ops weren’t done with playing games.

In addition to the disembed, the British Media Ops were insisting that I leave RC-South at once. Let’s be clear – this was Afghanistan, not London where I can easily hail a cab or jump on The Tube.  By their demands, the Media Ops folks were ignoring the obvious truth that it takes time, planning, and much coordination to move anyone, soldiers or correspondents, around Afghanistan.

Also, Media Ops knew that I was waiting for two important packages to arrive at Camp Bastion – packages that took a great amount of time and expense to send for.  When I brought this up, the Major said he had checked into the packages and that because there was no FedEx in Camp Bastion, my packages must be in Kabul.

This was a flat out lie.  When soldiers hear something that is patently false, they call it “bullshit.” I looked at the Major and said, “Bullshit,” to which he stomped out. He later said I had cursed him, which, if by calling him on his lie he implied that I was cursing him, then so be it; he was right.  It was bullshit because there is a FedEx and a DHL in Camp Bastion.  Something you would think (and hope) a Media Ops guy would know about his own camp.

The Major said again that Lt. Col. Nick Richardson demanded that I leave RC-South, and that Media Ops would forward my satellite and night vision gear that was in transit.  Before the Major had stomped out, I said that I was not leaving Camp Bastion until those packages were in my hands.  I told him to call Lt. Col. Nick Richardson at Lashkar Gah—a nearby base—and say that if Richardson wants me gone, he’d need to call the Royal Military Police (RMP).  The satellite gear is crucial to the operation and the night vision gear is expensive.  I was not going to leave without the gear unless under arrest.  I had heard the Major arrogantly tell a correspondent how a soldier had punched another correspondent and “knocked him on his ass.”  Bullying apparently had been working for him; he was still doing it.

“Go ahead,” I said, “Call the RMPs right now.  Have them come down and flex cuff me and put me on an airplane out of here.”  I waited for the RMP’s to arrive and arrest me.  At least they would be professionals.

There is the maxim that a customer can judge the cleanliness of a restaurant’s kitchen by the restroom.  After much experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, I have discovered another: Soldiers always treat correspondents they way they treat the local people.  When soldiers treat correspondents badly, they treat local people even worse and are creating enemies.  Those troops who brag about how they mistreat or detest correspondents are abusing and resentful of the local population, and they cannot win this sort of war.  The people will kill them and the media will bash them and they will blame the people and the media.  When a soldier alienates sympathetic correspondents, he has no real chance against mortal enemies such as the Taliban and al Qaeda, and they will defeat him.  Yet there is subtlety: for “the people,” in the case of Media Ops, is you.

The Major doesn’t deal with Afghans.  Afghans are not his target and it is not correspondents who are being denied access.  YOU are being denied access. YOU are resented and deceived, and people like Minister of Defence, Bob Ainsworth, wish to separate realities from readers.

The reader is my boss, and my job is to observe, analyze where possible, and report back.  When Media Ops or others try to deceive my boss, I fight for my boss.  That’s my job and duty.

I told some U.S. Marine officers about issues with Media Ops. The Marines wanted to take me but there was a pesky twelve-day wait before I could start with them, and as mentioned I needed to get to The Netherlands.  Luckily, the Marines and Air Force helped me get the packages.

The problem with embedding with the U.S. Air Force, as with the U.S. Marines, was timing.  The U.S. Air Force rescue folks, the Pedros, were going home to America and were being replaced but there was a window of opportunity before that happened.  The bottom line: Air Force Pedros took me on three missions, but it could have been a lot more.

Meanwhile, the British Media Ops, who backed down from the arrest, made a Plan B.  The Major said I must leave the media tent because fourteen journalists were coming and needed space.  There were six bunks and two cots, meaning all fourteen spots would be filled.  I asked the Major who the journalists were and when they were coming.  The Major answered that he didn’t exactly know who was coming or when, but they were (or might be) coming, and they needed space.  The Major was easier to read than a five year-old, and too sad a specimen to be angry with.  I had been sleeping outside for weeks and would readily continue, but instead contacted the Pedro guys who let me stay with them.  Ironically, our Pedro teams happened to be staying with British 2 Rifles at Camp Bastion—and so 2 Rifles welcomed me back.

This was all bizarre.  Although the British Media Ops kicked me out, I was now staying in a tent with the U.S. Air Force who were also staying with British soldiers, so I was right back at home.

Word had somehow spread that I told Media Ops to have me arrested.  I had not mentioned the confrontation.  Word must have gotten out from Media Ops themselves and some journalists soon realized that a fight was on.  The correspondents I was talking with did not like Media Ops—not one bit—and support poured in.

An email came from a fellow correspondent with these words:

“During all of this time I was aware that your own predicament was also strained with the Pic [Media Ops]. Rumour reached me in […] that you had told the pic team in Bastion that if they wanted you out then they’d have to get the RMPs to arrest you, and that they were forced to back down!  (I don’t know if the story was true or not but it was a huge morale boost to all who heard it in [...].)”

The British soldiers from 2 Rifles were angry with Media Ops for ending the reporting and their families are forever deprived of the dispatches that would have been written.  Media Ops said they needed the space, but nobody replaced me in combat, and nobody is likely to.  Media Ops lied again.

Meanwhile, British citizens began demanding answers from their government.

A question was asked and Minister of Defence Bob Ainsworth made public his reply:

Ann Winterton (Congleton, Conservative)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defense for what reasons the journalist Michael Yon is no longer embedded with British armed forces in Afghanistan.

Hansard source (Citation: HC Deb, 14 September 2009, c2121W)

Bob Ainsworth (Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence; Coventry North East, Labour)

Opportunities to embed with Task Force Helmand are in high demand from across the media—national, regional, print, broadcast, specialist and new media. It is not possible to meet all requests and slots must be time-limited to ensure that the opportunities are shared as widely as possible. A normal embed for a national news organisation will last on average around two to three weeks, including time for travel.

Michael Yon had been embedded with British forces on a number of occasions before his recent visit—twice in Iraq in 2007, and once in Afghanistan in 2008. His latest embed had been scheduled to last for two weeks but it was extended to take account of delays to his arrival.

In all, his stay was extended twice and he was embedded for five weeks—much longer than is normally the case, and longer than had been agreed with him before he went. He was facilitated by British forces in a number of locations and given a high level of access both to the operations and to our personnel. At the end of this five-week period Task Force Helmand ended his embed as they were no longer able to support it given their other commitments, including other media visits.

That’s hogwash, Mr. Ainsworth. Pure hogwash!

The fact that the British Minister of Defence (MoD) would go on record with hogwash is again symptomatic of a much larger problem.  Mr. Ainsworth is lying to the British public about the helicopter issue in Afghanistan.  Mr. Ainsworth tells the British public that British soldiers have enough helicopters.  British troops are suffering—even dying—for those lies.  Mr. Ainsworth is, in effect, murdering British soldiers by not resourcing them.

If the British MoD is demanding that I be complicit in their lies to gain access to their soldiers, I decline.  I strongly believe that the embed was cancelled due to my criticism of the helicopter shortage.  Yet helicopters are just the most obvious issue that needs to be raised and addressed.

This story rings true:

From The Sunday Times
August 30, 2009

Bob Ainsworth in 'cover-up' over soldier's death

Bob Ainsworth, the defense secretary, has been accused of a cover-up over the death of the first British soldier to be killed in action in the Nato operation in the Helmand province of Afghanistan, by smearing his commanding officer.

The story continues:

“This will prove Bob Ainsworth was trying to cover up the real reason for James’s death. He was trying to shift blame away from the lack of equipment for which the MoD was responsible and negligent,” Philippson said.

Bob Ainsworth is covered in British blood and painfully deceptive.  Henceforth, he will always be known as “Bullshit Bob” to me.

My relationship with the British military is not diminished and I would go into combat with their soldiers anytime.  My respect for British soldiers is immense and undying.  But I’m ready to throw down with Media Ops if they even glance in my direction.  I refuse to work with the crew at Camp Bastion.

It’s hard to forget the Major’s cutting insults at the soldier who was training in the heat as a commendable young man.  Any combat troop, whether they are pilots, PJs, sailors, special operations, or my favorite—the infantry—should never be the subject of jokes or derision from any military leader of any rank.  The infantry soldiers are out there living like animals, taking bullets and getting blown up and, all while the Major sits back in his comfortable tent, playing on Facebook and watching The Simpsons. Those combat troops, British and American, are my family. That Major and his ilk should not cut fun of them.

Bottom line for the bad apples: Nobody is asking for access.  This is not a game.  Stay out of the way.

[Note: Word arrived that the Media Ops crew has been replaced during a normal rotation.]



# Stevan Josef Hoffman 2009-09-24 20:32
Thank you Michael for everything. Your reporting of the facts as you see them is raw and real. Bullshit Bob and his kind are on the way out as the internet catches up with the lies that they spew. The days of ‘blacked out media’ are over; they just haven’t realized it yet. Keep up the great work and Thank you. Both of your books were enjoyed and are on the coffee table for all to see. If you haven’t purchased them yet I strongly recommend them.

Keep your head ‘up’.
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# David 2009-09-24 20:33
So this is why we all love your reports. They are gritty and real. You put us in there. We all want to catch a plane to Camp Bastion and give that Major a little lesson. Maybe he will catch some heat from the guys in 2 Rifles. The worst of it is the guys on the ground are getting screwed by their own people who are total chickens! Maybe the good Major should be required to go on a few missions and get some respect. We need more reporting like yours Michael. Hopefully Mr. Ainsworth gets enough pressure from the right people to get this resolved. Keep up the good work. Can't wait till your next dispatch.

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# Ed 2009-09-24 20:36
Mike: This is the stuff of legend. I have no doubt that sensible commanders will one day look back on your account and say "What were those Media Ops staff THINKING?!". This is a great story of a cowardly bully, accustomed to treating others badly, who didn't count on a combat veteran calling his bluff. Bravo.
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# Noel Herbert 2009-09-24 21:46
Thanks for this Michael bullshit bob is one of the worst examples of our goverment who seam only to lie about whats going on in afganistan my boy was injured in helmand whilst with 2nd rifles thanks god not badly but with noone there doing what you were doing there is no hope of familys getting the truth from there anymore thanks again for all you done. Noel
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# Jordan 2009-09-24 21:59
In relation to a lack of equipment, this article might prove an interesting read: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8274041.stm

It saddens me that men putting their neck on the line everyday have to moonlight when they should be resting with loved ones so they have what they need to come home after their next tour.

One hopes that the ministers do something useful for once and get the MoD to change their ways before it is too late.
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# Lindsay 2009-09-24 22:10
I look forward to your reports and like the way you take no crap from the British governments puppies. The disgraceful way the liar that is the defence minister treats our soldiers is nothing short of MURDER, lack of the correct equipment proves that and your reports are bringing it to the forefront, well done and keep up the very good work.
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# Lawrence Holsworth 2009-09-24 22:18

You are an inspiration to all of us - and I'm so thankful to be able to read your reports. Keep the faith, keep up the good work, and keep on challenging the REMF B.S. peddlers. In my eyes, they're just as bad as the Taliban.

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# Tarkan Bulan 2009-09-24 23:26
Dear Michael,
This is Vietnam syndrom keep them lying around. What kind of soldiers these guys!!!!!!
I really respect on True Wariors, you are one of them.... Pedros, Marines and others Hurahhhh
If you have problem go to Turkish Troops I assure you you are going to see humanitarian site of army
keep us posted, thank you very much
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# Barry Sheridan. Hampshire England 2009-09-24 23:37
To read that a British officer thinks it is smart to abuse a soldier doing what might keep him alive is contemptuous. If it had been me with him I think I punched his lights out, well tried to anyway, the miserable swine. It is bad enough out there without being abused by unthinking individuals who never leave the safety of the main base. We know Michael that we are being lied to daily by our so called government and its lackeys in the MOD and elsewhere. There are those who try to tell it as it is but overall they are outgunned by the less scrupulous. Once again thank you for your dedication and efforts. Oh by the way, I wrote to the Defence Secretary for an explanation on your sacking, needless to say I was ignored. Clearly Mr Ainsworth is like far too many of his colleagues, devoid of any notion of his duties and obligations to the electorate and those who are doing what we ask of them. I find some of these people loathesome.
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# An English Rifleman 2009-09-24 23:54
It's about time we had a little regime change at home. These bloody traitors in Government should hang for what they done to my brothers.

Celer et Audax
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# Tim Moore 2009-09-25 00:10
Mike, I hope that you respond to my comments. Alas I have had the pleasure of working with Mike in theatre as his Media Officer whilst he was on his emded with 1 Mech Bde on Op TELIC 10 and please do not take this one bad embed as a sign that UK Media Ops is not full of REMFs and Clueless Idiots. I can safely say that Mike had a productive embed with us in 2007 and hopefully recieved alot from it as well as naturally providing the public with the truth. Whilst Mike was in our company we moved heaven and earth for him to travel around theatre and get him to see and do the things that he thought necessary.

However I cannot speak on behalf of what is happening in Afghanistan, just believe me that we are not all REMFS and purveyors of smoke and mirrors.
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# DonC 2009-09-25 00:15
I see Major Gen Mackay has resigned while saying the same as you Michael. They can't keep ignoring everyone on this, surely?
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# A British Officer 2009-09-25 00:21
I sympathise with your complaints and you make very good points about lack of resources and the high calibre of our fighting soldiers on the ground. As someone who has deployed as part of 'media ops', could I just add that not ALL media ops staff stay on base - some do go out on the ground with the front line troops, and those who do not should and often do make sure they are fully aware of what is truly going on out on the ground. In the same way as any journalist has an editor at home who does not leave the newsroom/office , there have to be some officers who stay on base in the HQ in order to do their job. And there are a great number of media ops operators trying extremely hard to allow the media to gain access to the real story and the facts. This is often a thankless and very difficult job, given the Armed Forces' frequent aversion to having the press around and the pressures from higher command and political quarters on what can and cannot be released.
It is unfortunate that you should have come across one officer in particular who should have tarnished your view of all media ops operators; just as one individual journalist's behaviour can easily tarnish the reputation of many good ones in the minds of the military - something that those of us working hard in media ops try daily to counter and remedy.
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# Ash Conn 2009-09-25 00:33
Michael Im glad to read you end up getting your packages mate,sounds like that Major if given the chance would of seen to it that your goods went missing.
I love reading your reports mate,your respect for the soldiers around you shines bright in your dispatches,whic h makes it hard to read that your getting disrespected,
Anyway buddy,keep reporting and feed our hunger for the truth,

Doing a fantastic job mate.
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# John law 2009-09-25 00:54

keep it up, we (and our service men and women) need all the truth and support we can get.

As you have alredy realised the UK is governed by insects and the only important issue for them, is to save their own skins.

As you make clear, the Brits (and the Yanks) at the grass roots level, still produce great peple and heroes, like those who fought at Arnhem, unfortunately our political leaders are complete SCUM. God help us all.
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# Solo 2009-09-25 01:04
I can only figure that the Media Ops Major is driven by self interest. I tried to disagree with you on Afghanistan, but the obvious is hard to ignore. I thank you for your honesty. This is the Information Age and the public are not mushrooms to be fed manure and kept in the dark.
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# Joe Blow 2009-09-25 01:25
Mike: Pull no punches. Tell the tale about the chickenshit REMFs. It needs to be told, and fucksticks like that need to know that their lack of honor will be publicized.

God bless, and De Opresso Liber.
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# Tony Harper 2009-09-25 01:26
The British Government, are trying to cover up the real story because they don't like what you, a true hero, are trying to tell us - the truth.
Michael, I don't doubt that being called a true hero will embarrass you, but as anyone who has followed your reporting for the last few years will know, going into combat against murderous savages, armed with little more than a camera, for the sole purpose of telling the true story of OUR soldiers (the soldiers of a government elected by us) makes you a hero. Certainly as much of a hero as the soldiers. This does not belittle their status in my eyes in any way. It should be read as elevating your status to what it should be.
Further, anyone who has followed you for some time will also know the truth in what you say, ie that the media battle is a major part of the battle against the enemy. Surely the media ops team should be able to see that. Surely the government minister (comfortable at home, with his expenses claims!) should be able to see that.
As most of the earlier posters have pointed out, the truth will come out and government's lies willl be found out. Even the British tabloid media seem reluctant to only print the "Official" line.
It is a disgrace that BS Bob is able to so blatantly lie, that the Media Ops team were able to treat you so badly, and that our troops are being cast aside like this by the very prople who ordered them to go there in the first place.
To everyone reading, PLEASE support michael and encourage others to do the same. Also, please pass on the website details to all your friends and encourage them to read the truth.
Finally, as always, stay safe, Michae and may your God keep you from harm.
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# Peter in MN 2009-09-25 01:29
great way to report facts and support the troops. Officers need the accountability not only to their own commanding officers, but also to the public. Consider the Mai Lai massacre.
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# Joe 2009-09-25 01:45
Sadly this is just another case of the government (and those PC officers wishing to climb the greasy pole) ignoring a war. It seems Britain has slid back into the 1930s and is denying any possibility of a war, or in this case, ignoring we are at war. It saddens me that the Defence Secretary is third lowest in priority in the cabinet, (who's only military experience is being some militant from the trade unions) and Britain doesn't have a war cabinet assembled. Smacks of cowardice on the part of the higher echelons, and only serves to highlight the inexorable decline of Britain through governments who would rather ignore the war, and defence as a whole, and pour money on vote winning policies.

But alas, talk is of another 1,000 British troops being deployed later this year, and the possibility of expanding the British presence to 12,000 next year. There is no doubt in my mind they will be ignored by the government. The excuse will be they'll increase flying hours by overworking what few airframes are out there. Hopefully fine journalism such as yours, and a new hopefully more responsible government, will improve conditions for all troops in Afghanistan and make the war winnable.

Oh and Bullshit Bob is also known by a few other names in Britain; Bob Aintworthshit (my personal favourite), Bob Ainsworthless, Sideshow Bob... the list goes on and on really.
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# Anthony J Codispoti 2009-09-25 01:53
OOOOOORAHHHHHHH HHHH!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!
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# carol 2009-09-25 01:55
My blood boils thinking about that unnamed British Major.

The way he's acting is appalling, dangerous and very lower class.

Plus Facebook - ! How many cats does he own? My 17 year old nephew is so over Facebook.

Poor old England - letting out the Lockerbie bomber and cancelling your embed - both are clear signs of corruption.
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# Bob Sawyer 2009-09-25 02:04
Politicatican's have a duty to themselves you know ---- and that dutu or creed is to never " tell the truth or give the people who elected them what they promosed to give ever ! ---alwasy lie to the People , and come uo with a newer and better lie than before to cover tha last one you told to cover for your indedscersisons at being caught on the first one !......thing like that are not suppose to hppen .... look at kennedt and kerry and obama how many lies have they tole while in office and never been caught ???? kennedy = untold ! kerry - also untold + his military records are still a secret !!!!! obama untold ans his whole life is completely secret ------- right ??????
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# A Brit 2009-09-25 02:18
Michael - thank you for recording the details of our government’s lies. We have (almost) all realised now what filth they are. But having it documented by someone of your credibility helps. They will be gone in the next 8 months at most. It can’t happen soon enough, and we have to pray that the next lot will not descend to the same level.
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# Scott Dudley 2009-09-25 02:31
There is no greater frustration than having to deal with those who are clueless. Thanks for the backstory. Wonder if Lt. Col. Richardson is still in the saddle. He seems to be the real thorn.
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# Andy Prior 2009-09-25 02:37
Awesome Michael, simpley awesome. These "petty-Hitlers" drag the rest of the military down and this Media-Ops guy just sounds like a complete Catch U Next Tuesday.

Hope you manage to redress and get back with the US Marines soon. Infantry give the cloest insight into what's happening out there...I'd rather know we're losing this war now, in time to reverse that, than find out after we have to withdraw with out tails between our legs!
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# CJ 2009-09-25 02:38
MediaOps...or anyone else for that matter, ought not cross swords with our fierce Mr. Yon lest they be on the receiving end of his pointed observations.

Godspeed Michael.
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# John Officer, USAF 2009-09-25 02:42
Michael, I hope this British Major, the MoD, and any other overpaid pieces of trash, standing in the way of of our soldiers' ability to win this war, go straight to hell. You are one of the very, very few journalists I respect because you are not some corporate hack trying to look pretty for the camera or willing to write anything asked of you in return for a salary. Keep up the quality work and know that silent support for you goes well beyond whatever comments you might hear.
I lived in Afghanistan for several months, working directly with the men leaving the wire daily. Most officers living in those air conditioned rooms understand how well they live compared to the real fighters. Most of us also understand that our own senior leadership, military and political, are the single biggest blockade to operational success we have---not the Taliban, not Al Queda, not insurgents. Our own "leaders" are the ones standing n the way! You called it right, saying that the MoD is in essence murdering soldiers. They should not get off lightly due to their distance from the front lines. They ARE murderers! Worse, they intentionally lie and deceive the public AND lower military personnel. Why? Typically the answer boils down to selfish political ambition.
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# A British Soldier 2009-09-25 02:46
Wherever and whatever Michael Yon goes or does, he will always be respected and admired by us the British Soldier that he has so brilliantly reported on during his embeds, he has shown equal respect and admiration for the British Infantrymen he has shadowed in Iraq and Afghanistan, PONTI Officers and corrupt and incompetent politicians can and will do nothing to come in the way of the mutual respect of one Soldier or former Soldier to another.

Good Luck Michael in your future work.

Thank You

A British Squaddie
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# fitaloon 2009-09-25 02:46
Michael , I have been banging on about this for some time and written a number of articles on the Censorship that the MOD is doing here
The problem is that now it has got to the point where the truth is getting out and it is hurting the effort in Afghanistan.
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# fitaloon 2009-09-25 02:48
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# reg Whatley 2009-09-25 02:51
I saw this type of Major many times in my short service and after, they are expert at getting cushy numbers, they littered Germany filling jobs for the boys. As far as real soldiering is concerned these guys are expert tacticians (they know the right people), they go on dangerous recce's, usually to the ski slopes or the lakes to make in depth studies of recreational facilities and have time to sit in nice offices studying the papers for their promotion exams. The real NCO's Ruperts and Captains have to handle the dirty work which is below the dignity of these jobsworths. The problem is that useless drones are also adept at not being available for hot command positions having made an artform of watching and assisting the downfall of those who stick their necks out above the parapet.

Keep up the reports and stay safe.
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# Stu 2009-09-25 03:06

I'm ashamed of my government. Ainsworth & his cronies should hang their heads in shame. Unfortunately their conduct is indicative of all that is wrong in British politics at the moment, which is completely addicted to spinning the bad news to the point where it becomes laughable.

Keep up the excellent work - you obviously DO have support amongst the British political establishment - it's not often you see journalists being named in parliamentary questions....
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# Reg Whatley 2009-09-25 03:11
I have spent 20 minutes googling and facebooking and have found a TA Major who owns his own PR company back in UK. Major P Sm*** perhaps he fits the description.
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# Peggy Gautraud 2009-09-25 03:12
Where can we write? This dispatch is great, yet sad in its content. I'm so grateful you are sticking with it.
Truth has a funny way of showing up , you will be vindicated although that is not your motive.
Thanks for all you do for all our guys.

a grateful soldier mom
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# USMC HELO PILOT 2009-09-25 03:32
Great work, I know how frustrating 'chickenshit' can be. Guys like you dont have time for that. Cant wait to hear about your time with the Grunts. Some of the greatest Americans I have ever met.
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# Paul Brockman 2009-09-25 03:40
The behavior demonstrated by the un-named Major is nothing new with the British military. During the 18th and 19th centuries it was customary for officers to be appointed to their ranks based on how much they were willing or able to pay for it, not based on their ability or experience. This, combined with the stupidity of inflexible adherance to regulations was a major factor leading to the end of the British Empire's world domination. While only a movie, "Zulu Dawn" gave a good example of the latter in the final battle scene wherein the quartermaster sergeant would only allow the soldiers to have one 20 round box of ammunition at a time for their rifles. Naturally, the whole army was overrun by the Zulu warriors.
My friends who served in Viet Nam called "soldiers" like the good Major R.E.M.F.'s. It is sad to see they are still around.
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# A British Infantry Soldier 2009-09-25 03:52
This labour Government have been lying their way through since the beginning. I am constantly shocked when yet another MP stands up bold as brass and tells everyone we have the equipment we need, we don't. It is so obvious that we don't have it, so why they lie about it is something I can never hope to understand. In my opinion you arrived at a bad time where Brown is desperately trying to wriggle positive press for himself before he has an election in a year or so. He hasn't contributed anything positive to this country that I can see, so is resorting to desperate tactics to try and pull the wool. The average bloke in the UK is not a brain dead idiot and can see exactly what's going on, but he must think we're stupid as he continues on regardless.
I hope this doesn't stop you from future embeds with us. We love reporters who tell the whole truth.

Best of luck,
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# Henrik 2009-09-25 04:05
Disembedded? Good for you! Nobody takes embedded journalists seriously, ever wondered why?
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# a father 2009-09-25 04:05
it makes me ashamed to be British until I remember it is only the politicos and the small part of the media infected by them which seems to be JHF and Media Ops who play these games. The rest of the army is fantastic and their actions and attitude are inspiring to all of us at home.
The point is we all know they censor the truth and none of us believe them so we turn to reporters like yourself to find out the truth. I am not sure the politicos in power at preent who are known as the kings of spin realise how much harm it does them in the eyes of the british public. For a number of years now , about eight, it seems that they believe they can fix an issue by sending out a positive story as opposed to really fixing the issue. We do not and will not trust them over any issue as we instantly think oh its just their spin,.That a control freak in the army should try to further his career by pandering to them and that the Lt Col should do the same is a disgrace but perhaps they are looking for friends post army career. You should name and shame.
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# Reg Whatley 2009-09-25 05:27
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# Smash 2009-09-25 05:32

Thank you for your detailed and telling accounts, which you seem to produce day after day. Your efforts are making a difference and helping in this war effort. We're behind you!
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# Spread the truth 2009-09-25 05:43
Thanks Mike for the insightful reporting. You have strong followers who are spreading the truth to others. Be safe, send our blessings to our troops, please tell them we say thank you every day. We do support theirs & your effort 100%.
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# miriam 2009-09-25 05:44
This post might interest you: http://divadaniel.blogspot.com/2009/09/hackle-for-victory.html
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# Paul Sykes 2009-09-25 05:46
Why does everyone assume those of us who serve in Afganistan or Iraq but don't have a job that involves firefights should be afforded less respect? I have spent 5 out of 12 months abroad for the last 3 years away from my wife, kids, family and friends but because I have never had a round fired directly at my head I should really just be grateful that I have a shower and a pizza hut because that makes up for everything doesn't? Maybe mr Yon just didn't get the thrust of the Majors comment, we all know how different the American and British sense of humour can be, especially regarding irony. Maybe this is just the petty rant of a self important journo who can bring himself home when ever he chooses and hasnt got his own way. 5 weeks embedded rather than the usual 2 sounds pretty good to me. So wheres the cut off, how many rounds do you have to fire/have fired at you before you can say you were 'there'? There are thousands of people away from their families you seem to be happy to calm REMFs. Come and say it to our faces if you believe it.
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# Reg Whatley 2009-09-25 06:05

Nice pair of safety glasses in every shot.
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# Deployed Marines Dad 2009-09-25 06:07
I've been waiting for over a month for the details of your disembed. Pretty much what I expected. You've once again demonstrated your writing skills and shown that the pen is indeed mighty. Hopefully the REMF major will get his just desserts down the road. Looking forward now to what you do best;
showing the faces and lives of the "Queen of Battle" and the "Grunts" we send in harm's way...
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# Capt in ANG 2009-09-25 06:31
The Taliban, Al Quieda, terrorists, and the ilk are all identifiable enemies that can be defeated. Bad leadership is a disease that strikes from behind and lingers far after the battle is over, just waiting to rear it's head again. I'm struggling with the same frustrations. I spent 8 years on active duty and had, with only two exceptions, great Senior NCOs and Leadership (O-4 and above). I went back in after 9/11 and it's been really frustrating. When I went twice without a paycheck for 6 weeks, leadership was more worried about, "making our servicing Finance office look bad," then fixing the process that allowed a service member to not get paid on multiple occasions, for long periods of time, without any recourse. I'm in the process of leaving the US ANG, but the leadership is still there. To any (Paul) who take comments out of context, Michael is just giving one example. It's just a symptom supporting the diagnosis of a disease. This Major has moved on to create unnecessary problems in other units, just as my leadership continues to have huge turnover and never once disclosing the results of the AF "Climate Survey." This is of note because in my 13+ years in the AF, I've never seen a unit fail to make the entire unit completely aware of how it did on a climate survey. Can you excuse this example? I'm sure someone can, but when you put it into the context (not always needed to write a dispatch or post in reply) it shows a pattern which educated readers can infer.

Keep doing what you do.
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# Uncle Jefe 2009-09-25 06:44
Continue to kick ass and take names, Mr. Yon.
Our Troops and our Allies deserve to have their stories told, and those who love them and support them, as well as those who are otherwise uninformed, need to hear all.
Thank you for being the Ernie Pyle of this generation.
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# Uncle Jefe 2009-09-25 06:48
Mr. Sykes, thank you for your service.
Did My. Yon hit a nerve with you?
He didn't label all those who don't face combat as folks who don't deserve respect; he has singled out and named specific individuals for their conduct.
Those that have access to hot showers and pizza, and who support the mission and those who are facing bullets should take no umbrage with Mr. Yon's words.
Sounds like you're the self-important one, and I dare say that Mr. Yon would not hesitate to tell you to your face if indeed you acted as the Major in this dispatch has acted.
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# R. James 2009-09-25 06:54
You need to learn a little more about the MAN you are talking about son.
Here: Wikipedia

and the MAN (Mr.Yon) has 3 times more time in combat than you do. You are right on one thing he can bring himself home whenever he chooses.....BUT he stays and stays much longer than you to bring your story home. That is a hero not the one who "has to" do something but the one who chooses on his own to make a difference!
Good report, please keep at it.
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# Rich 2009-09-25 07:06
We all now assume you know the dear British Major running Media Ops at Camp Bastion personally, so when you two are pillow talking tonight mention that Mike had a issue with him and a select few others and no one else. One need only read his writings to understand the respect he has for all Military personnel. But good for you for sticking up for your Dear Major for I am sure he is having some remorse for being a dousche to his fellow Soldiers and Country Men.
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# John Officer, USAF 2009-09-25 07:16
Paul Sykes, no one is trying to insult your service. That said, any support serviceman worth a lick, knows that his entire existence in the military is to help the warfighter/oper ator succeed. Sorry buddy, but you are not the warfighter. As a sign, that could once be seen at Bagram Air Base before the throngs of REMFs moved in, famously said "the mission is an 18-year old with an M-4." Bottom line: Your job is to do anything in your power to make that 18 year old (or Green Beret, or pilot, or PJ, or whomever is doing the business end of the military effort) successful. If you can't do that, you are an impediment to the effort. Many people understand their roles. Your ego is still struggling with it, and to answer your question, no you do not deserve the same level of respect as an infantryman who faces death regularly as part of his job description. Not all military personnel are warriors and heros. Be content doing your job well. Let the people getting shot at, and having friends killed, have the glory. Fair enough?
In any case, Michael Yon's dispatch said nothing of "REMFs," and only tried to illustrate how those occasional few in leadership positions cause more harm than good to the war effort. That REMF major is obviously one such case. If you read the article more carefully, you would see that the issue is not necessarily about how much time Michael at spent embedded, but, rather, that he was disembedded for reporting information that some of those "leaders" didn't like. As retribution, they disembedded him and flatly lied to him and the public about the reasons. That is the issue!
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# Nick Gurr 2009-09-25 07:21

Very concerned to read your post. I was aware that your embed had ended but was not aware of some of the issues you raise here. I will look into this and post a report next week.
I would welcome the chance to discuss your experiences when you are next in the UK.
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# A Brit 2009-09-25 07:21
Stu - sadly Ann Winterton is retiring at the next election. One of the old guard eased out by Cameron under the expenses scandal, despite not being particularly cuplable. She has been one of the sharpest MPs on defence issues .
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# Julie 2009-09-25 07:29
oh Michael I am so sorry to hear of your difficulties.
I hope you are able to soon embed with the USMC.
Keep doing what you are doing.
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# Darren Strevens 2009-09-25 07:48
Michael, As a british civvie, I would like to say thankyou for you efforts. Your support of our troops is greatly appreciated. I also feel i must apologise for your treatment by the uk government.
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# Jonathan Viehe 2009-09-25 08:14
Keep it coming, Michael. I love the brutal honesty. To play devils advocate though, where is the line between needing to report the truth and writing things which might aid the enemy propaganda wise? I know that most of what is reported the enemy already knows, but Im just curious as to what need the military has to control information in a war. Im not criticizing, just thinking.
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# AJM 2009-09-25 08:47
I'm sure I'm not the only British reader that respects your reporting, your no bull sh*t approach and your amazing pics- even if the MOD doesn't. It's sickening to hear beurocratic ego's getting in the way of much needed reporting, especially when our frontline troops come out of it so well.
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# willow 2009-09-25 09:01
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# Darren Stewart 2009-09-25 09:04
I've written to Bob Ainsworth asking him to fix this. It won't do any good, as I believe there is a political disconnect, and the Major in Camp Bastion is indicitive. Its more important to hide the fact we lack equipment, men and everything else, than to have Michael Yon teling the world how good our boys are, and how they are our finest men and women. The major serving back at Camp Bastion probably thinks he is doing the right thing. He just scored as big a hit on our men than the Talenban ever could. He is not on our side. He does not represent our brave troops. And he and anyone like him need removing from their post yesterday.

Michael, I hope the gov and MOD turn this round yesterday, I fear that the political disconnect is severe, and I am not at all positive in this, but I hope it does not happen.
However, I suspect that the truth and pen are mighty weapons, and that other stories and details can be media weapons of mass destruction. Perhaps the simple truth here is that if governments and their political officers are more interested in their angle, and not winning a war, and feel they are more important than our men, then the gloves should come off, as they have in this article.

Michael, keep fighting the good fight, and please do not give up on the British Squaddies. More than ever, they need your help, and more than ever, clearly, we need the truth.
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# brochloon 2009-09-25 09:21
Once again Michael thanks are due to you from the British public for helping us get a clearer picture of the reality of what is being done there in our name. Given the dishonest nature of the current UK government, it is perhaps no surprise that media ops have people who think and act like this Major. What is surprising (and unforgivable in my opinion) is that he could be so disparaging about a squaddie training for battle like he was. I am unable to describe the contempt in which I hold this so-called Major.
Please keep up your good work.

All the best
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# Austin 2009-09-25 09:26
At what point do we "grassroots" citizens of the Coalition wake up and pay enough attention to our Government? At what point do we become angry enough to change the system by voting them out of office and electing good honorable (preferably Combat Veteran) people to LEAD...not politic?

At what point America, Canada, Great Brittain? At what point?

A Colorado Soldier's Question.
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# A College Student Who knows he doesnt know shit 2009-09-25 09:32
I am stoked that their are still people in the media that don't give a damn what others think and will say it as it is. I'd rather fail a course than miss your insight. Thanks for keeping us informed.
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# peted 2009-09-25 10:09
Hi Michael,
Sorry to see the Brit Gov / MOD have dismissed you from embedding with a slight wave of the hand. That was like shooting themselves in the foot in my mind. Your reporting was always very positive on the performance of the British troops. I have followed your blog for many years now and enjoy your frankness, not always cormfotable with it sometimes, but I do know you tell it how you see it and that is usually 99.99% accurate. So I really "believe' in what you report and do enjoy your style of reporting when you are in the thick of it with the troops. I have alway enjoyed your photos, but recently you have excelled yourself with those nightime shots taken with your latest cameras. Lets see some more of those fantastic photo shots, they make me feel I'm right there with you and the soldiers.
I'm British by birth, but been living in FL. US for about 11 years. My son Phil is in the 173rd US Airborne, was deployed in Afghanistan in 2007 -2008 and previously did a US Army Reserve 15 month tour in Iraq 2004-2005 and will deploy again soon to Afghanistan. (He is due out of the Army in Jan 2010, but it looks like he will be stop lossed until he completes this next tour.) No complaints from Phil, though I know his fiancée is dissapointed.
My Dad was in the RAF and was in North Africa in WWII helping defeat the Desert Fox Gen. Rommel. My Grandfather was Royal Navy in WWI, veteran of the Battle of Jutland.
Recently my cousin Gary Quilliam whilst serving on Active duty in RAF was KIA in Afghanistan when his RAF Nimrod Aircraft suddenly caught fire and crashed killing all on board shortly after refuelling in flight.
So when you say the families of British Soldiers you embedded will miss you reporting on their sons I can definitely understand what they must feel. So please keep up your excellent work, I hope some good sense prevails and you are invited to embed with the Brits again soon. BTW; Yes I do agree it is pretty obvious that they do need more Helicopters.
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# Alex Chaney 2009-09-25 10:45
You have presented one side of the story. Unfortuately the Brit officer won't ge to tell his. What about the Brit major that you paste with the REMF label? What about his past? Perhaps he spent his time outside the wire many a time earlier in life. As a field grade media officer is it really his job to be going on patrols about the country? Seek first to understand.
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# Tommy 2009-09-25 10:47
I don't have the words. You are a true American. I only have a Credit Card. Shame on my MOD.
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# Jim Gonzales 2009-09-25 11:05
Thanks for writing about what is really going on over there-in the front lines and about the REMF. Keep your chin up, but your head down.

I enjoyed the "Pedros" and "The Kopp-Etchells Effect" articles very, very much.
Also, thanks for the Twitter updates during the Celebrations in Netherlands. I'm glad our troops were appreciated so much!

I'm in for $50.00
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# Colin 2009-09-25 11:41
Note that the British major remained NAMELESS, his Bastion contemporaries will put two and two together, figure out who he is and be able to judge the veracity of Michael's report from their own observations.
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# Major Paul Smyth 2009-09-25 11:46
Since May last year I have been pretty busy working within Media Ops. I have served in Kosovo with 2 RIFLES and Iraq within MND(SE) and I am now a week away from a tour in Afghanistan, somewhere I have not been since 2006.

I am currently in the UK and am not the unnamed Major Michael Yon refers to.

Kind regards
Major Paul Smyth

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# C B Kiteflyer 2009-09-25 11:54
Alex Chaney:
"You have presented one side of the story. Unfortunately the Brit officer won't get to tell his."

The irony is that Michael made this very point: "If a general does not want to tell his story, someone will tell it for him. "
The Major squandered the asset of a sympathetic correspondent, who graciously chose not to reveal his name. If he is, in fact, the person identified by a couple of the above comments, he will have no trouble getting his side of the story out, should he choose to do so.
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# Pid 2009-09-25 12:18
Let's ease back on the speculation about who the unnamed Major is shall we? I know it's tempting, but careers hang in the balance here and it would be all too easy to ruin the wrong guy.
I am a civilian - but I've followed Michael's work here for several years and I was one of the many who complained to the MoD when his embed was terminated.

We'd be better off campaigning to have him invited back (if he's willing) and explaining why we need his kind of reporting, while we have a voice and momentum - British Forces' friends and families have a powerful voice. Put simply, this would be a bigger win over the unnamed Major than any other outcome.
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# KellyC 2009-09-25 12:39
Thank you for sticking it to them and sticking to your guns!
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# KellyC 2009-09-25 12:58
The difference there though, seems to be that once the outcry over a lack of necessary equipment for the changing battlespace went up, all kinds of people from the DoD to equipment contractors to civilians were working overtime to ensure that as many vehicles as possible could be up-armored as soon as possible.

The cry for more helicopters (et. all.) seems to be falling on deaf ears this time...
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# Paul Sykes 2009-09-25 13:54
No, I am not struggling with my role, I know my role, I joined for it, I am good at it and it needs to be done. I take objection to the tossers who think that I should spend my life on my knees kissing the arses of the guys who joined as infantry and those who think I should never expect to see my wife or kids. I am not on the front line, but anyone who calls me a REMF to my face after 15 months away in 3 years should expect me not to knock their teeth out. The biggest problem is that I will leave, and I am difficult to replace. Agree with me or not, that is a fact.
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# Alex 2009-09-25 14:08
That Major and his ilk should not cut fun of them.

What an enormous overeaction Michael. About as silly as you being bizarrely miffed at Brit soldiers ripping the piss out of southern US accents the other week and suggesting they get the drawl wrong. You usually get these observations wrong. You are a journalist at the end of the day but you are starting to sound a little bit up your own backside whilst passing this off as a duty and a huge insult a massive issue to your being able to do YOUR job. We KNOW the troops are facing socialist style funding for their efforts..you seem to think the Brits are unaware of this??! it is reported in all the papers and on all the blogs (and rightfully so) day in day out - there is therefore nothing to suggest that your remark on this basis would cause them some sudden NEW issues to cancel your embed over. You thoroughly dislike the British and consistently patronise them. It always wreaks in your reports. Yes you like soldiers and respect them but that doesn't cancel out the underlying theme as far as I'm concerned. Right now you have posted a nice big fat piece of speculation which winds up in a bizarre witch hunt as you likely intended. Why not simply come out and name the witch. You may as well. It appears you are going to keep this one going for you and your journo mates for as long as possible. To hell with the war which hangs in the balance underprovided by most member nations and understrategise d in Nato. What war? There is a big old spat with MediaOps and big league egos in journalism that need stroking apparently.
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# james 2009-09-25 14:25
richardson is just a lick-spittle of the brown government; he has been bought by the unelected brown and his cronies: reminds me of wormtongue from 'the lord of the rings'
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# Cass 2009-09-25 14:56
I knew it would be something along this line, and I'm glad you're finally at liberty to make the details known. Job well done, just keep doing it. We need people like you over there.
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# TD 2009-09-25 15:14
Excellent story. Kudos to your dedication. However, I want to point out that certain phrasings and structuring in the article seems to betray a certain level of tiredness and fatigue. I hope I'm wrong, but please be careful.
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# JDB 2009-09-25 15:58
Have you tried embedding with Canadian troops? I don't know their policy, but I'd love to see some sunlight shewn on our ops over there. I've read some reports of LAV maintenance issues and helo availability, but I don't know of any journalists covering our part of the war like you do. We get 1-2 minute TV spots every week or so, and a bunch of ramp ceremonies. My dad, 2 uncles, and a cousin have/are serving in the CF, but our media coverage sucks. I get more info from Liveleak, rather than the CBC.
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# dennis 2009-09-25 17:15
Great post on your side of the story. awhile back, seen two videos from a BBC reporter. about soldiers eating rations, self picket interviews with soldiers, telling how great they had it there. a interview about helicopters. oh we have plenty
to use. we don't need anymore. a right proper story for the folks back home. ya buddy.
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# Bob Matutat 2009-09-25 17:52
My son is US Army Infantry (Airborne), but he calls himself "just a grunt." Since June his platoon has manned a COP 3 clicks from the Pak border, catching the same shit from the Taliban as the Marines and the British. It seems that the US Army doesn't like to get you embedded with its units. More's the pity. But, by reading your dispatches about the British 2 Rifles and the USAF Pedros, I know more about what my son is enduring. Carry on, and stay healthy!
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# Donna 2009-09-25 17:58

Thanks for always telling it like it is and keeping us in the loop. You do a great job, and I always tell everyone I know about your dispatches. Amazing what goes on behind the scenes! It was good to read about James “Maggie” Megallas. I met him in the Dallas-Ft Worth airport a few years ago when he was signing his book at a bookstore. I was very impressed with him and thoroughly enjoyed talking with him. He listened very intently to my idea about creating a Non-Profit Horse Therapy/Scuba Therapy Ranch Retreat for combat wounded soldiers and their familes, and he told me a little about his own combat experiences that he wrote about in his book. I was very happy to add his book to my growing collection of military autobiographies . His autographed book sits on my bookshelf right next to your autographed book. Keep up the good work!
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# F15Mech 2009-09-25 20:05

I was constantly called a REMF by my US Army friends (all in good fun), since I worked on a USAF flightline. I finally can now start calling someone else REMF.

I generally don't comment about UK politics however, I do find it odd that the "Director of Media and Communications MOD" has decided to look into it. (see comments above). After they stood by "ending his embed early".

I hope this dispatch goes viral in the UK.
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# Reg Whatley 2009-09-25 20:25
As one who posted a link to a "suspect" I would like to apologise to Major Paul Smyth for erroneously putting him into the frame, I hope the cutting from his post below will explain.

Journalist Michael Yon posted a report this morning - http://www.michaelyon-online.com/bullshit-bob.htm - it makes for interesting reading - and I seem to have been confused as the unnamed major.

Since May last year I have been pretty busy working within Media Ops. I have served in Kosovo with 2 RIFLES and Iraq within MND(SE) and I am now a week away from a tour in Afghanistan, somewhere I have not been since 2006.

I am currently in the UK and am not the unnamed major Michael Yon refers to. With any luck I will have the chance to meet and work with Michael when he returns to Helmand.

Kind regards
Major Paul Smyth
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# Reg Whatley 2009-09-25 20:57
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# Brenda Hale 2009-09-25 21:54
I was upset when your embed with 2 Rifles was cancelled. As a new widow of this war I constantly check your posts to see how it really is for the rest of our soldiers still there. This government have a lot to answer for, and they will in the upcoming election. The said Major must be given a fools pardon, I am sure he is not the first arrogant pen pusher you have met and I know he won't be the last.
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# soldierboy 2009-09-25 23:34
I have worked with the major in question here and have to say mike yon has the measureof the man. He is a self serving ass and REMF of the highest order. His un-proffesional ism is well known by his peers. His snidy comments about hard working frontline soldiers does not suprise me in the slightest. Your words sum up the measure of the man entirely. If he possessed an ounce of honour, which he does not, he would resign his commission at once. Well done for uncovering this toe-rag Michael, I salute you. As for the rest of media ops. many of them are hard working professionals and it would be an outrage to tar them all with the same brush. many work to the best of their ability, with no other choice but obey decisions made higher up the chain of command and more often that not passed down by political commisars in the MOD completely detatched from the reality of life on the ground.
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# Mari Morsell 2009-09-26 00:14
Am I shocked to learn that someone in the military lied about your reason for being unembedded? Unfortunately, Ii am not. .. angry,yes. Keep the heat onthe Major. anxiously awaiting dispatches with US Marines.
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# Mountain Fox 8 2009-09-26 02:21
Michael so much of the inertia present in Iraq and Afghanistan has been due to the jackassery you have documented.
Staff officers who have no effing idea what is going on outside the wire.
I clearly remember an occassion on the street in Iraq 12 of us dealing with a local issue in a low risk area during a calm day.
Without clearing their arrival with our LNO a contingent of 100 brigade idiots came flying into town, sweeping their .50s across the locals and intent to arrive in grand style just as the school kids were leaving school. Absolutely no sensitivity to what was going on and scaring the crap out of every good Iraqi they passed.

I looked up at one of my team members and gave him the WTF look as the field grade "leader" of the circus pulled up and asked for directions.

Hunkered down in his HMMWV all ibassed and kevlared up he was quite the contrast to our ball caps and three trucks surrounded by locals.

I looked at him as he asked for directions and I pointed out that these were friendly Indians and didn't need to bring Fort Apache. His reply was that he didn't want to take any chances. I leaned down and suggested that his lack of recon had scared the sh/t out of the locals and probably set back our efforts by several months. He drove off to his inspection. We went back to the FOB.

I will never forget driving back and passing through a cordon of crew served weapons and thinking if we win this it will be in spite of ourselves.

Michael, keep up the good fight. Far too many people live all day in the a/c and have the bronze stars to prove it.

MF8. Out.
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# Bill Cattleyh 2009-09-26 02:49
Since playing against the Canadian Military academy (Kinston) in Rugby and serving with some of their scout units on Reforger '86, I've had a love hate relationship. I love the tough, no nonsense dedication of the British/Canadia n military forces and hate the liberal government that gets to call the shots.
No government that puts it's military in harms way without fully resourcing their efforts to win deserves to hold the reigns of power. That includes the U.S. government when it shamelessly does less than it could for our hero's in uniform.

Remember this during our next elections!

Bill Cattley
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# Sean OBrian 2009-09-26 03:04
Mr. Yon,

You wrote: "I work for the soldiers, for the readers, and for the people in general."

Don't get carried away please.
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# Robert 2009-09-26 03:09
I think the Germans coined that one back in WWI..we now have a modern day version of the same thing..
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# FMG 2009-09-26 04:15
It doesn't matter whose army you are in, there are a ton of these self serving REMF staff guys in theatre. Unfortunately I had to work for one just like the guy you mention in Kandahar. Very similar to the guy that MF8 talked about. Might have been the same field grade d-bag since he had come from Iraq. I never thought I would wish something bad to happen to somebody...
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# cb 2009-09-26 05:12
The Major and other sypathetic Media op types should really not exist in the British military. Yes supply a team to help the media get to the zone etc, but then let the media report, thats what they do, and it is the basis of free speech. I know some will say "but you could reveal secrets to the enemy or create a bias", but bias can be balanced up with more reporters. As for loose tongues and lost secrets, responsible journalists should not do this, and those that arent? Well fine if thats the case, those reports should be edited/blocked to save lives, but that should be done by an intelligence team, not a bunch of spin doctors out to protect the government of the day.
In short the media should report this war truthfully and fairly to the electorate, as I believe Mr Yon has done,(and so well over the years). After all the war is being fought in our name, so why is it that we can't find out what is going on?
"They" think that we are to likely to react badly, aka Vietnam, a word that seems to strike terror into the the political "They". The UK has seen so many wars over the centuries, and without the populous crying fowl or pulling up sticks, it is strange that "They" think this one should be different from all the rest. It reveals a massive amount of insecurity on the part of the Government of the UK, and why is that? We need to know why, I demand that they give us the facts and let us make our own minds up, as for all our faults, on the whole we are a resiliant nation and will not give up the fight if it is just. "They" should think again; Truth should not be the first casualty of war.
So if Media Ops were to be disbanded, then more money could be diverted to buy helicopters for the troops, it might be naieve but its just "economics". And thats the key for the current Government and I believe its the reason for all the spin and blocking tactics, the truth is that Gordon Brown has so mismanaged the finances in the recent economic crises, he is now looking to make cuts everywhere, and cant afford to buy anymore helicopters, and he dosnt care if people die because they dont have them. But he is worried about this getting out, so he has had to silence Mr Yon through the MOD and the Major at Media Ops.
G Brown thinks the public are to stupid to realise this, but as usual the political classes are the stupid ones. ( Buy the way, offering to scrap Trident so you can look good to the disarming community, thus helping to save the world, and hoping that no one notices that you are really just saving billions to divert back into the empty chest, hasnt worked.)
The bullshit always runs up hill in politics; from the Major in Media Ops, to the MOD, ( Dont act so suprised Nick Gurr, you knew what was going on, still trying to put the lid on the boiling pot are you? Its going to be bloody difficult now its overflowing and people have noticed, isnt it, no matter what you attempt with Mr Yon.) to Bullshit Bob Ainsworth and from him to our aptly named PM, Gordon Brown(Not elected PM and will never be).
To Michael I say thanks from one UK citizen for all you have done, and are doing and can I suggest that maybe after the next general election things will be a lot different. Then Gordon-"more spin than a wurlitzer"-Brow n, Bullshit Bob and all the rest will join the dole queue which they created and also the Major will find himself promoted to chief potato peeler.
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# wws 2009-09-26 06:06
I have long thought you were this generation's Ernie Pyle.

Now, with this post, you have become our Emile Zola.

J'accuse, Bob Ainsworth!

I have long read without contributing. That was wrong, and I have rectified the error. This work is too important to be left to the mercy of others.
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# Sanmon 2009-09-26 06:38
Truth Sucks Michael. Thanks for bringing it to us, it does make a difference. To read about 2 Rifles, the Pedro's, amicus curiae brief, and Afghanistan Force Requirements just this month alone gives me greater insight to the great Men and Women whom serve in the Coalition Forces.

I have always had respect for those that serve in uniform. After reading your pieces that respect has grown much greater. I try to acknowledge our service members when I see them, I try to send them things to them. I will try much harder in the future due to your writings. That is what Major Media-ops does not understand, the support you grow in all of us that read you postings. The support that grows in us for the ones who run with rucksacks in the heat of the day. God Bless them All!
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# NewsShooter 2009-09-26 06:49

I used to live in the State of Vermont, which is inhabited by Vermonters.

Once a flashy dude in a flashy convertible from downcountry screeched to a halt next to a Vermonter mowing hay by the road.

"Can you tell me the way to Burlington!"


"Can you tell me the way to Montpelier!"


"Well, can you tell me the way to Bellows Falls!"


"WELL! You don't know MUCH, do you!"

"No, but I ain't lost."
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# kevin brain 2009-09-26 06:49
You had 5 weeks with our Infantry, 3 more than you had agreed. You say the Brits are not being told the real story at home yet are media in the UK are reporting every failing over here most every day. You condemn a Major because you can and then prattle on about not leaving Bastion until your parcels arrive, they are very valuable after all, whooppie doo. DHL have only just set up in Bastion and for some time were putting their loads anywhere they could so in some ways I can understand Media OPS not knowing where they are. However 99% of the soldiers serving here have their parcels delivered by the Royal Mail, enough said, your rather lucky to be able to afford DHL. Me thinks you and your adoring Fan Club,most of the people on this thread, are slightly strange,you condemn a man for being a REMF yet that individual is over here serving and is being vilifiled by people mostly thousands of miles away from Helmand and never likely to come here,strange.I think this article was a petulent rant not far from a ten year old schoolboy taking his ball home,muppet.
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# Paul b 2009-09-26 07:39
Since you don't like Michael's description of who he works for, please tell us the correct version. We certainly look forward to you enlightening us.
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# wws 2009-09-26 08:17
heh - MR is so obviously an REMF that hates the description. Is he the Major in question? Sure seems to know a lot about DHL service in Bastion, doesn't he? How many people in the world would happen to have that kind of specific knowledge and yet be very angry at Micheal's post? I'd say 1.
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# willow 2009-09-26 08:58
this dispatch is fabulous. liars generally make me sick. but when the lies are killing the FEW men left in britain who are actually brave enough to go to war...there just arent the words! that major needs his ass kicking. i hope HIS bosses find out who he is and send him to actually go into combat. then we will see who is dumb!
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# NewsShooter 2009-09-26 09:43
Mike clearly said he was expecting them from FedEx.
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# NewsShooter 2009-09-26 09:47
...but, yes, you are right, it probably was posted by the remf himself.
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# Michael James 2009-09-26 09:58
Thank you for exposing the truth here. As an American, I'm also embarrassed by President Obama's commitment to losing this war while he's busy selling health insurance.
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# Jeff 2009-09-26 10:06
Sadly, I reckon what Michael Yon has described is only but a small part of a bigger picture. From the luxury of England, having never been to either Iraq or Afghanistan, I am reliant on the reporting of others. It is obvious that "spin" is being applied to all the mainstream media reports, and that it is only the reports of independents that are reliable.

My conclusion from observing this bias is that the British armed forces were sent to Iraq, and are being sent to Afghanistan, deliberately to be thrashed. Michael Yon wrote: "So who is Richardson lying to? Not the enemy…unless the enemy is the British public." I fear that Michael has got it in one. It is important to the current rulers in (formerly) Great Britain that they give away our currency and our sovereignty to the EU. They do not want the British forces to be able to resist; and they might for they are fiercely loyal to our Sovereign, not to the politicians. So the politicians sent the forces round to the other side of the world with deliberately inadequate kit to be at best distracted from what is happening at home, and at worst to be rendered incapable of doing anything about it. I fervently wish to be proven wrong, but let us see what develops.
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# Jeanne Priest 2009-09-26 10:29
Your words and photos have been as treasures.

Though I am an American, our son opted for the army he considered, though so badly resourced, was better trained. My son serves with the British 2 RIFLES in Helmand and so far away here in Brazil, all you have done in both pictures and words, has brought to us the reality that have been so powerful.

We were warned NOT to believe anything that was being put out via MOD, so it is not surprising what has happened in regards a man like Bob Ainsworth, so out of his depth, he has to regurgitate lies. The Major at Bastion is apparently being replaced. May your joys be refreshed with new blood.
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# Ron 2009-09-26 10:52
"but when the lies are killing the FEW men left in britain who are actually brave enough to go to war"

Eh? Excuse me, but there are plenty of brave people in Britain (a Country that has lost good men fighting for liberty every year since WW2)
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# dennis 2009-09-26 11:41
well ,whats done is done. Michael is a great writer. and needs to move on, to other stories and groups. meanwhile the Brition military, and the folks back home. have the BBC, or whoever the Military picks.
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# Mountain Fox 8 2009-09-26 11:42

This is about Yon so I won't go on but I would just say that all war is personal and in order to win you have to either utterly break and rebuild the enemy's will (WW2 Japan) or you have to learn the culture, the locals' prioritized needs and worries and how to leverage kinetic and non-kinetic assets to win over their confidence that you will not abandon them.

We do need COB logistics folks to resource us and the do a yeoman's job God love them

But we have wayyyyy to many folks who sit around in TOCs playing solitaire and earning their bronze star and far too few rucking up and going out to drink chai and eat flat bread with the folks.

Until we change that paradigm and build more leaders like GEN Petraeus who get it we will forever be on the tail end of the enemy's decision cycle. Not unlike visiting Bostonians in Cadillacs asking directions from "bumpkins" living in Jericho.

That's all I got to say about that.

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# Q_Mech 2009-09-26 12:30
Damn, Yon. Quit holding back, man. Tell us how you really feel!
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# NewsShooter 2009-09-26 13:05
Heh heh, Precisely.

As I recall, that same fool asked another farmer up the road the same question.

The farmer replied -- (it being mud season): "Well......... if I were going to Burlington I SURE wouldn't start from HEAH!"
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# A 2009-09-26 13:29
This website suddenly turned into an irrelevant gossip column. A minor league bitchfest. Christ Almighty. No strategy in this war. No leadership anywhere in Nato and the real issues of this war making the headlines are [censored] journos embeds, MediaOps, some random ass Major who cracks a pathetic joke and Yon's parcel issues?. Just ...wow. Pathetic.
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# OldSoldier54 2009-09-26 13:31
Being a REMF drone is bad enough, but to mock a soldier trying to stay fit enough to fight in severe terrain!!!???

That guy's a political animal, through and through and should NOT be in uniform.
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# Brian 2009-09-26 17:26
Have read your posts for a while now. They tear into the soul of this simple citizen. I can pass to you only a simple phrase to describe your contribution, but perhaps one that collectively says more than anything else can for all you contribute.
Thank You!
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# Reg Whatley 2009-09-26 20:52
Well we can all now recognise the REMF because he will spend the rest of his service being called roach leg. Hopefully his embed with the Regular Army will be terminated forthwith and he will be returned to his Territorial Army Drill hall where he can take Wedding pictures again.
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# Peter Hagan 2009-09-26 23:07
I've only recently discovered your dispatches and all I can say is I have the greatest respect for your ability to tell it like it is. As you know, the vast majority of the British armed forces are fine, upstanding, heroic professionals who do a fantastic job with limited resources. Unfortunately there are always a tiny percentage of 'Toy' soldiers who seem to rise to high rank and know nothing of life on the front lines. We can't let these men stand in the way of true reporting. The great British and American public need to know the complete truth about why and how our boys are living and dying in the hellhole of Helmand and the rest of Afghanistan. My own son served for seven months in Helmand province with the British Royal Engineers and I used to fully support and believe in this mission, but now I'm not so sure. If our cowardly Government and especially our joke of a defence minister do not believe enough in our mission to fully fund and resource it then perhaps - and I am really loath to say this - we should pull out or at least find another solution to the problem.
Keep up the fine reporting Michael and stay safe out there.
ps. Thanks for having such a great respect for 'our boys'. Just imagine what they might achieve if they were properly resourced. It might, just might, turn the tide against the Taliban in Helmand province and cut down on our grievous casualty figures of recent months.
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# A LCpl 2009-09-27 02:57
It's not often you come across a journo so objectively fighting for what he feels is right.
I've been following your work since it started in Afghanistan, and I'm dissapointed I've never had the chance to shake your hand, which is funny, as I think you're only a few tents away with me in 2Rifles!

Good luck, god speed, and I hope we can have you back amongst us again.
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# Colin 2009-09-27 06:13
Back to the business at hand:
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# Colin 2009-09-27 06:17
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# Colin Baxter 2009-09-27 20:53
The present British Government treats the British Armed Forces as shit. (I'm afriad there is no polite way of putting it.) This, and all the other dreadful rubbish that has gone on in the UK during recent years, will ensure a change of government in the UK Election next year - you can count on it. Whether a new government will do any better remains to be seen.
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# UK supporter 2009-09-28 00:35
I hope you get back to Afghan with the British forces soon, my boyfriend is out there now and I would like to hear the truth about what is going on instead of "bullshit Bob's" version of events. Thanks for your honesty, the truth may not be easy to hear but it's certainly easier than being fed lies.
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# vimothy 2009-09-28 01:29
Just adding to the chorus of British readers saying thanks for the good work.
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# Blackwater 2009-09-28 07:43
You should start referring to Obama as Bullshit Hussein. General McChrystal revealed in an interview recently that he's only SPOKEN with Obama ONCE in over SEVENTY days. Not met personally with Obama but just SPOKEN with him. They talked to each other briefly over a satelite video link about two and a half months ago. And there's been reports that Obama put McChrystal's report/military strategy with requests for more troops and resources on the back burner while he deals with "more important issues" like health care reform. What a disgrace. Both the UK and and the US have political asshats running the war. I wouldn't be surprised if McChrystal resigned in the next few months in protest. A top British commander already has.
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# Sandman Zulu 9 2009-09-28 09:05
CO, I think you misunderstand the "REMF" moniker. NO-ONE doubts the hard work, honor and commiment of the arty crews, flightline jocks, com boyz, drivers, loaders or sappers. We know a grunts job would be impossible without you. The term REMF applies to personell in rear areas who forget why they are there. Through abuse of position or personal power, they obstruct and make things difficult for anyone over whom they have power. The are little tin gods. Usually officer grade (though some quartermasters are as bad) and they can't stand not to manipulate or control anything that comes under their purvue.
This Major sounds like a perfect example of that type of behaviour, the same behaviour led American troops to commit fratricide in other conflicts. It is probably a good thing this officer is not in combat.

and Dear Chosen Man if you don't donate kindly STFU plz. We trust Micheal with our funds. And you are obviously an anti-american shill.
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# Scott Dudley 2009-09-28 10:22
Blackwater, Obama clearly understands the Military chain of command far better than you. He speaks to Gates almost daily along with Mullen, and very frequently with Petraeus. That is as it should be.
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# Tom 2009-09-28 13:14
After President Sarkozy's most recent comments at the G20 maybe you should be embedded with French troops?
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# Blackwater 2009-09-28 13:31
Oh please. Bush talked and met with General Petraeus almost daily. That's the main reason why the surge worked so well in Iraq. For the military strategy to work on the ground you need the political support back in Washington D.C.. Something which McChrystal and coalition troops clearly don't have under the current American and British regime. But what does one really expect when you have two weak anti-military socialist governments in charge of national security who are more interested in winning votes than battles and wars.
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# saddened 2009-09-28 14:45
I admire your zeal to expose the machinations of our political 'leaders' and let us know the truth. I thank you for that.

In this case I am so very disappointed to read a personal attack on an individual member of Media Ops. The detail you have provided is indeed enough to identify that individual to anyone who knows the setup at Camp Bastion. This also reflects erroneously onto the entire Media Ops team.

I will address the points you have made specifically:

You have strongly implied that the Major in question is some sort of cowardly desk wallah, not fit to touch the boots of a 'proper' soldier. In fact he is a well respected, experienced soldier who has seen plenty of active service. I may be speaking out of turn as I do not know him personally but I would imagine that he would have liked to get out of camp once in a while rather than staying in the dustbowl ferrying recalcitrant journalists back and forth. However that was the duty to which he had been assigned.

You boast about your usage of soldiers' parlance. You should understand, therefore that the majority of seasoned soldiers (please excuse my own use of a soldiers' favourite morpheme) take the 'piss' out of each other. Sometimes it is a way of defusing a situation, bonding with each other, coping with difficult situations, etc. It can also be a way of asking another person to question their own actions without actually taking them to task formally. A sense of humour is a soldier's best defence. You may feel that you witnessed an act of bullying. In fact the only sensibilities wounded by this exchange will have been your own.

It is every soldier's duty to stay fit and healthy for duty. If a soldier was indeed running in extreme heat, it was probably appropriate for him to question whether this exercise might be excessive or unnecessary.

Many personnel at Camp Bastion, particularly the Media Ops are on duty 24hrs and they need to grab every moment of sleep or rest/relaxation they can. Anyone who is too amenable will soon find themselves ill, sleep-deprived and burnt out. It is not your place to question exactly what an individual chooses to do with their limited 'downtime'. For someone thousands of miles from their loved ones, facebook is an ideal way to keep in touch with friends and family, sharing images, thoughts and messages.

The media escort role requires regular night duties, involving getting up and going out at stupid o'clock in the morning, then returning to glean a couple more hours sleep, then getting up again with everyone else and going about your daytime duties. Is it not understandable that the person in this role would guard every moment of precious sleep? Maybe the accommodation itself was inappropriate but soldiers make the best of the resources they have.

I cannot help thinking that you were unable to get your own way, for undoubtedly valid reasons and you have taken your angst out on this particular Major.

I agree that everyone has their faults - and those who are in a position of responsibility should be held to account, should those faults impact on others. In the spirit of this, perhaps you should examine your own actions and motives before making damaging, personal, biased remarks.

I hope that this alternative perspective is of use. Thank you for reading.

Mrs A. Soldier
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# Nani Kemp 2009-09-28 15:42
Obama's too busy going on vacation, & tending to important stuff, like national health care; investigating the CIA & apologizing to dictators. Everything that Obama has done since taking office, & the people he surrounds himself with, tells me he is out to destroy America. I believe he's deliberately leaving our troops out to "whither on the vine", which is why I want them to come home. I'm tired of the Democrats & their cohorts in the media, second guessing our generals on the ground. You've got to admit, Bush did all he could to support our troops & win in Iraq.
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# Jim White 2009-09-28 16:41
BS Bob, and that Major, are the kind of guys we knew as REMFs when I served- "Rear Echelon M F-ers". That's why the SOBs are back there- because they aren't worthy to be with real warriors- and in their hearts they know the truth. Every Army has them. Thanks Michael for keeping them honest- or at least making them feel the heat for their BS.
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# Rick James 2/11th ACR back in the day! 2009-09-28 17:35
If the shoe fits the Major will wear it! The Major was not helping anyone when talking bad about a soldier training. If the soldier was doing something wrong the Major needed to correct the soldier, but to make a comment/joke about a soldier of lesser rank to anyone is a good example of how unprofessional this Major acts (leader of men).

Calling people out on their crap; if anyone is getting in the way of the truth of this war getting to the people then they do need to be called out on it. The cream will come to the top and if the Major is wrong then he will wear the shoe. Sometime people in charge want to show you who is boss and they think there is nothing you can do to them, I think the Major, Col. and Bullshit Bob got a surprise.

I have read Mr. Yon’s work for a few years now, read both of his books and looked him up on Wikipedia this guy is the best we as readers could hope for when covering this war.
On Wiki: Served in the Special Forces early 1980s, one of the youngest soldiers to pass the Green Beret selection process. From reading and looking over articles from him all the way back in late 2005, he must have more combat time than most soldiers. Here is a guy who gets face time with General Petraeus, Defense Sectary of the United States Mr. Gates plus eats, sleeps, and goes into combat with our soldiers. No one covers such a wide range of war reporting, which makes his views of both of the wars special when also taken into account his own personal military training.

From reading this article it does not look like Mr. Yon can be man handled, or his stories guided into a positive light when that is not the truth. For the Major and the rest that get in the way of the truth don’t cry when you get called out for being part of the problem!

Great photos and stories of our guys doing HERO work everyday and night. Please help Mr. Yon do the most that he can to bring us the news.

I’ll hit the tip jar on my way out, Mr. Yon keep reporting please!!
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# Light Infantry in Kunar 2009-09-29 02:43
Although I do agree that said Major is a scumbag and that Mr. Ainsworth is not in the best interest of British Troops, I have to say that our time here in Afhganistan to make a positive change is being decreased due to many media reports going back home. I will be cordial as hell to any reporter / photographer who is attached to my platoon, but I do sense that the door swings both ways.

Although I do want the story of my guys to be told in full, at the same time I realize that when these doctored / dramatic photos get published (like those in Time Magazine's article concerning Kunar province) the great majority of Americans get an extremely negative view of what's going on here. Our projects are outnumbering the firefights...th e ANA are getting stronger everyday (still long way to go)...we have more influence in the population centers than the Taliban...none of this is conveyed to the public. It isn't as sexy as the black and white photo's of a US soldier who got his leg blown off getting MEDEVAC'd. I do respect the photographers coming along with us on missions but I have always been suspect of accountability issues above their level.

That said, your work does do Soldiers good as it goes "behind the scenes". Always been a big fan.

Come to Kunar, we'd love to have you...the Marines and British aren't the only guys fighting in Afghanistan.
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# silkworm 2009-09-29 06:42
Afghanistan, where EMPIRES go to DIE!!!
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# Rick James 2/11th ACR back in the day! 2009-09-29 07:19
To Light Infantry in Kunar or the Media Ops Major (wink wink)

Your quote:
“I have to say that our time here in Afhganistan to make a positive change is being decreased due to many media reports going back home.”

Your time there to make a change is being decreased by the media…….the media is not your problem. I guess the media has been carpet bombing you since 2001. I guess the media is doing ambushes against you guys. I guess the media has got you guys off of your game. I guess the media stop the funding for military equipment. Below is a little time line of just how long WE have been at this…..and there is VERY little to show for it considering the amount of TIME (2001-present). People don’t believe what the military media or the governments are saying because they had been saying the same thing for years.

War in Afghanistan (2001–present)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The War in Afghanistan, which began on October 7, 2001 as the U.S. military's Operation Enduring Freedom and the British military's Operation Herrick were launched in response to the September 11 attacks.
The stated aim of the invasion was to find Osama bin Laden and other high-ranking Al-Qaeda members and put them on trial, to destroy the whole organization of Al-Qaeda, and to remove the Taliban regime which supported and gave safe harbor to Al-Qaeda. The United States' Bush Doctrine stated that, as policy, it would not distinguish between terrorist organisations and nations or governments that harbor them.
Two military operations in Afghanistan are fighting for control over the country. Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) is a United States combat operation involving some coalition partners and currently operating primarily in the eastern and southern parts of the country along the Pakistan border. Approximately 28,300 U.S. troops are in OEF.[4][6][7]
The second operation is the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which was established by the UN Security Council at the end of December 2001 to secure Kabul and the surrounding areas. NATO assumed control of ISAF in 2003. By July 23, 2009, ISAF had around 64,500 troops from 42 countries, with NATO members providing the core of the force. The United States has approximately 29,950 troops in ISAF.[4]
The U.S. and the UK led the aerial bombing campaign, with ground forces supplied primarily by the Afghan Northern Alliance. In 2002, American, British and Canadian infantry were committed, along with special forces from several allied nations including Australia. Later, NATO troops were added.
The initial attack removed the Taliban from power, but Taliban forces have since regained some strength.[25] The war has been less successful in achieving the goal of restricting al-Qaeda's movement than anticipated.[26 ] Since 2006, Afghanistan has seen threats to its stability from increased Taliban-led insurgent activity, record-high levels of illegal drug production,[27] [28] and a fragile government with limited control outside of Kabul.[29]

I guess you think the above is all the media's fault for reporting what they see!

Here are a few reports within this month from Kunar province (I Google them), I guess you should be suspect of these media reports hurting your progress. Blame the media for this too.

Sun 27th by the AP

On Sunday, Taliban militants ambushed a truck convoy in eastern Kunar province, killing six drivers and burning their vehicles, the Interior Ministry and provincial police said. A seventh truck driver was kidnapped in the attack near the Pakistani border.
The trucks were loaded with construction materials bound for a military base, said Gen. Khaliullah Zaiyi, Kunar's police chief.

Sept 10th

Tuesday's ambush in Gangigal in Kunar that killed four U.S. Marine military advisers, eight Afghan soldiers and policemen, and an Afghan interpreter will surely raise serious question about the current rules of engagement which U.S. forces operate under in Afghanistan. Jonathan S. Landay, a reporter for McClatchy Newspapers, witnessed the ambush and said the Marines and soldiers did not receive air and artillery support to suppress the Taliban firing from the mountains.

KABUL, Sept. 26 (Xinhua) -- A rocket fired by Afghan security forces during clash with Taliban militants in the northern Baghlan province Saturday left one person dead and injured two others including a child, police said.
"Security forces came in contact with Taliban rebels in Shiringali village of Baghlan-e-Marka zi district this morning during which a rocket fired by the troops hit a house killing one woman and wounding three others including one child," a police officer Gul Aqa told Xinhua.
He also added that the fighting is continuing between the two sides.
A similar incident in the eastern Kunar province Friday also left four civilians dead and injured three others.

Who will tells us the truth the Media Ops Major? Please!
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# Sandman Zulu 9 2009-09-29 07:42
Dear Sir,
Your poor taste and lack of honor speak for themselves. I need have no further discourse with you. Mr Yon may have deleted the posts because they were rude or obnoxious. Either way, he owns the blog and is free to edit as he sees fit. If you take a moment to remove your head from your posterior and READ what I wrote you would see that I was agreeing with you and complimenting you. However in light of your rather rancid posting I recant my testimony as to your worthiness. Your attitude clearly shows you are indeed a self important REMF.
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# ASTAN Deployed Marines Dad 2009-09-29 09:36
This dead horse has been kicked enough.... Check out what this major is saying on Steven Pressfield's blog: http://blog.stevenpressfield.com/2009/09/one-tribe-at-a-time-1/
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# NewsShooter 2009-09-29 11:33
With all due respect, Ma'am, you wrote:

"You may feel that you witnessed an act of BULLYING. In fact the only sensibilities wounded by this exchange will have been your own."

Uhh, No, Ma'am. Bullying is a direct attack on a person. Mike described no such scene, or act of bullying. Here's what he did say with my emphasis added in hopes you will read it this time:

"A British soldier ran BY wearing a rucksack. He was drenched in sweat under the blazing, dusty desert. I smiled because it’s great to see so many soldiers who work and train hard. Yet the Major cut fun at the soldier, SAYING -- [not telling him] -- he was dumb to be running in that heat. I nearly growled at the Major, but instead asked if he ever goes into combat. The answer was no. And, in fact, the Major does not leave the safety of Camp Bastion.

"That a military officer would SHARE a foul word about a combat soldier who was prepping for battle was offensive. Especially an officer who lives in an air-conditioned tent...

"This very Major had earned a FOUL REPUTATION among his own kind for spending too much time on his FACEBOOK page. I PERSONALLY him being gratuitously RUDE to correspondents.

If the Maj. had spoken directly to the soldier I'm sure Mike would have said so. Instead all of his words are consistent with the Maj. having made these offensive remarks to Mike, not to the soldier.

As for your imaginings that this sterling officer would have been out on ops if only he could have, is that what he tells you?
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# Charles Glenn 2009-09-30 08:45
Sadly, none of this surprises me. This is the way US military public affairs and media relations operated through the Vietnam era and well into the 1990s. Deception, manipulation and cynicism were the norm rather than the exception. Someone somewhere decided to change that, and the US military is much better in this department than they once were, but they still have a long way to go. It's just simple common sense: in the modern era, military operations are transparent, whether the military leadership wants them to be or not. You can either get on board the train or you can be left standing in the mud and dust of guys like Michael Yon. Thanks Michael, for not sparing any of your contempt for these people, who are a disgrace to the uniform they wear and the men they supposedly lead.
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# DCharnley 2009-09-30 08:47
I compared the report from Michael and the one on the MOD web site about the action on Pharmacy Rd, which led up to this current story and the unembedding of Michael Yon. Apart from the title and a couple of common points mentioned I had a great deal of difficulty of believing it was the same incident. Where are the British press don't see many if any stories of the calibre and depth of Michael Yon keep it up.
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# chrisG 2009-10-01 07:48
I'm confused, why wouldn't they want more helicopters? I'm assuming the powers that be told someone further up that they needed some number of helicopters. When that number turned out to be short did they not want to admit their own miscalculation and ask for more? Or is it a question of keeping troop levels down? With each helicopter comes a large number of troopers...mech anics, pilots, fuelers the list goes on, would that increase in personnell look like a huge spike in combat troops? Perhaps that's what they're trying to avoid? Just some thoughts.
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# Larry M 2009-10-01 08:20
In my opinion you do a disservice to the British fighting soldier, and the Afgan war effort, by not naming the British Media Ops Major that personifies bad leadership, and bad soldiering. These people only exist and flourish when they are not held accountable out by name. They love being anonymous. Bad behavior and bad leadership must be ruthlessly called out in this War if there is to be any chance in winning it. Thanks for your reporting!!
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# Nick Gurr 2009-10-02 02:15
Last week Michael posted a highly critical piece on the ending of his embed with Task Force Helmand (TFH). This attracted a large number of posts from outraged readers supportive of Michael. I undertook to investigate what had happened. I have now done so.

I know that some readers will not be sympathetic to the MOD's position on a matter such as this. But I would be grateful if you would hear me out. It is clear that there has been a (to quote Michael) "Texas-sized" misunderstandin g here, made worse by various other factors, and I apologise for any part that MOD has played in that. But there are a few important points that I would like to make:

Michael's embed is the longest of any person this year by quite some way. Most embeds are for between one and two weeks. And demand for embeds with TFH always exceeds our capacity to supply. I wish that were not the case. But it is. Despite this, we have facilitated 136 media visits to TFH since January this year. On average there were about three people per visit, which means that some 400 media people have visited TFH over the first nine months of this year.

Michael's embed ended because the media ops team needed to assist a number of visits by other journalists, including a package from Northern Ireland regional newspapers (home ground for 19 Brigade), reporters from The Times and Independent, a BBC TV crew, a documentary team and a team from PA. Capacity is limited. I can understand that this may have looked different to Michael. But it was the reason that the embed ended when it did.

Hence the Defence Secretary's reply to Anne Winterton.

Last, and most importantly, while we take a number of factors into account in deciding who to embed and when (when an individual was last embedded, when his/her organisation was, readership), a demand for positive coverage is not among them. We believe that the efforts of our forces in theatre will speak for themselves. Of course we hope for balance - and by and large we get that. We have certainly never had an issue with Michael's reporting.

Clearly something appears to have gone seriously wrong in this case. But everyone in theatre is working under huge pressure which will sometimes generate friction and, as I said, I am sorry if Michael felt he was not being treated as he should be. I am assured that the media ops team in theatre worked hard to support him. It is a shame that the experience should have ended on a sour note.

I hope Michael will find the time to drop in for a chat about how we go forward from here when he is next in London.
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# Matt 2009-10-02 05:38
While I like Michael's writing and his perspective... it comes off as a bit of a childish rant. Also, he claims to be working for the people... did anyone here vote for him to go there?
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# Uncle Jefe 2009-10-02 06:46
We vote with our wallets, Matt, as there are no other reliable sources of information as to how this war is actually progressing, and as to how our Troops are being supported by their respective governments.
It is certainly not a childish rant...frustrat ed, angry, but righteous.
The Troops and their families certainly appreciate the work he's doing, as do the rest of us here.
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# Ojays 2009-10-03 08:19
I live in Cyprus and socialise & meet many of the lads who are regularly going and coming back from Stan. 2RRf and 2PWRR being just some of them. many I have spoken to feel let down and cheated by the Government, Micheal is providing a mouth-piece for these brave lads. They know the Government are dragging thier heals, but they just get on with their jobs, as one put it (were just doing what were paid to do) but the lack of support is demoralising.
Thank God for these lads, helping keep us safe & free enough to be able to even reply on here.
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# Faseed 2009-10-04 09:30
Any large organization has incompetent people in places they shouldn't be, whether it's a bureaucracy, military, corporation or whatever. One should do the best they can and move on past it, as Michael could have done. Michael's piece does lean towards being a rant due to its length and general tone of being PO'd; sometimes that happens. Now we have all expended so much time on this, with just an occasional regard to what truly matters---- the war itself and the cost in human suffering that it brings about as our societies strive to be civil within the ancient tribes that are bent on warfare influenced by terrorists. How goes the war, and where/when/how will it end? May the direct and great reporting continue. Thank you for that, Michael Yon.
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# Flesh 2009-10-08 06:50
Major Paul Smyth, from "UK Forces Media Ops".

Here's his blog:


I know that he's supposed to have rotated home, but maybe some pointed comments on the above blog are still warranted? ;-)
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# Onyerbike 2009-10-14 10:15

It doesn't seem right that you should have the last word, when it's the wrong one!

Maybe you haven't read all the posts in this string, but if you had you would have seen that Maj Paul Smyth is NOT the Major referred to by Michael. Paul Smyth was not in Afg when Michael was there.

If you want to know the name of the man in question, check out http://defenceoftherealm.blogs...names.html . Believe me, I know!
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# Rich45 2009-10-19 23:00
Mike, I would ask that someone gets the message out. I know i am 'preaching to the converted' on this site but here goes. We live in a democracy and each of us has the very sacred right to dissent from the views of our government. I respect that right and those of our community who dissagree with the war to do so. However, our governments, rightly or not have committed our forces to do battle in a hostile and unforgiving environment. Our forces have stepped up to the challenge and are carrying out the instructions of our legislature, it is what they do, and they do it superbly. I would ask everyone therefore to remember that disgreeing with the political choice is entirely different from giving support to our troops who are living, fighting and dying in extreme circumstances. Those safely tucked up at home should remember that whilst they relax in safety..... Rant over!!
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# max shew 2010-03-31 17:50
I just finished watching a segement on history channel about this bomb ending the war that I was involved in and I bet any money that none of those people making that film were ever, I repeat ever, were about to be sent to the japanese mainland to do an invasion to do battle with those die hard people as you must know they were. As you probably do not know those people were determined to fight to the last person and the estimated loss of Amican lives was set at one million. To thinkl that at that time there were 16 million Amaricans in unifirm don't you think that the possibility of losing one sixteenth of the military would not make those military people happy that the bomb was dropped? The best thing that happened during that war that most conscripted service ( yes people not asking to become military) peope had seen during their service was the report that the atom bomb had perhaps saved their lives. Now if you people had been in that very same position I again will bet you would have been just as happy. I had served in the Atlantic and the mediteranian from 1942 untli the end of that war with germany and had lost one ship as well as participated in three invasions of europe and was sent to the west coast to do what ever those people that had never faced an enemy gun decided I should do to satisfy their ego. I must tell you one thing, I celebrated those atom bomb dropping on japan in san francisco becaue I knew I would never again be a casulity again. Yes I spent two months in a naval hospital because of thiis damned war and man, those bombs were another life saver. Try it sometime, you may like it!!!
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