Michael's Dispatches

Death in the Corn: Part I of III

55 Comments

Published: 15 September 2008
Helmand Province, Afghanistan

FOB Gibraltar: made from an abandoned farmer’s compound.

The soldiers are living like animals at a little rat’s nest called FOB Gibraltar. They call it “Gib.” Named after the lynchpin of British naval dominance in the Mediterranean, this cluster of mud huts in the middle of hostile territory is more like Fort Apache, Afghanistan. The British soldiers from C-Company 2 Para live in ugly conditions, fight just about every day, and morale is the best I have seen probably anywhere.

The few outside visitors arrive in helicopters that are sometimes spaced days apart, so that if a visitor stays overnight, he could be stuck for a week or more. The closest Afghan dwellings are a few hundred meters away, and each is surrounded by a mud wall. The Brits and Americans call these dwellings “compounds,” because in fact they are little forts. Most Afghans here are a primitive lot who live far outside of cities, and even villages. The Brits say that locals live as their ancestors dwelled in the fourteenth century. Iraq is by comparison extremely advanced and familiar. Local homes are made of mud, straw, and poor-quality bricks that were dried in the sun, not fired in a kiln. Farmers in this area of Afghanistan keep their animals within the compounds, and so the families live in private zoos, and the Brits are in the middle of clusters of zoos that I call Jurassic Park. Though most compounds immediately around Gib are abandoned, crops grow nearly up to the concertina, tripwires, claymore mines and fortifications that form the perimeter of the base.

In September, the corn around Gibraltar is 10-11 feet tall.

Crops grow close to the perimeter of the FOB, giving “Terry” Taliban plenty of concealment.

Earlier this year, the farmers were growing wheat and opium poppy.  Wheat is becoming more expensive than opium, so poppy production decreased this year for the first time since the war began. The brown stack amid the corn is poppy harvested earlier this season.  The poppy provides less concealment for the Taliban, but helps pay for their operations.  Whereas our supply chains originate from places like the U.S. and U.K., with convoys at the mercy of Taliban in Pakistan, the Taliban supply chain starts right outside the bases.  In addition to terrorist and criminal interdictions of convoys, the Pakistan government can, on a whim, shut down most of our logistics convoys.  The vast majority of US and NATO/ISAF forces and contractors conduct support/logistics functions, while a relatively small number actually fight.  Meanwhile, the Taliban support/logistics functions are organic.  The corn grows 20 yards from the place they eat it.  The farmers can double as informants, hoteliers, and fighters.

When the poppy is lanced, it weeps opium, leaving tear stains on the cheeks of the bulb of death.  The tears of opium are collected, processed, refined and finally infused into the bloodstreams of millions, whose suffering and human tears finance our enemies.

Jurassic Park

Helmand Province is the largest producer of opium in the world. During the poppy season, Gib is surrounded by beautiful flowers. From the guard towers, or out on patrols, the soldiers can see the full cycle. Farmers plant the poppy; it grows and blooms producing beautiful flowers like in the Wizard of Oz; the bulbs are lanced and the opium harvested. The final part of the opium cycle lasts all year, and can be seen almost every day, when the British soldiers at Gib take small-arms fire and RPG rounds paid for by the crop they watched growing just outside the wire.

View from one of the guard towers, which the Brits call “sangers.”

The soldiers at Gib have no internet, but can call home, and they receive mail and care packages by the sackful. (Note to folks at home in the UK: Packages to British soldiers are extremely welcome and true morale boosters. The cubbards are overflowing with dry foods that require hot water, but most other items get snapped up quickly.)

The soldiers at Gib have only a handful of major activities: exercise, clean weapons, eat, sleep, and fight.  That’s about it.  Except for the regular firefights, the place is boring.


Just where this soldier is standing, sniper bullets snapped overhead for five days in a row, without causing any casualties.  The bullet holes behind this soldier are not from the sniper, and I do not know how they got there.  To the left, an RPG had ripped a hole in the wall and tore up the outhouse.

The hole from the RPG.  The outhouse that got fragged is on the other side.  The ATV in the background has a small trailer and a stretcher, and is used for medevac.  That’s right!  A British soldier jumps onto an unarmored ATV, races out the gate, sometimes under fire, and retrieves wounded one by one.

There are three FOBs around the Sangin district of Helmand Province: Inkerman, Robinson, and Gibraltar. These FOBs have two missions: Train and support Afghan soldiers and take Taliban pressure off the Sangin area, so that the soldiers and the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) can try to secure the population while improving their quality of life. Civil Affairs is for the PRT at Sangin. The troops at Gib are not there to win hearts and minds, but to kill Taliban.

T-Shirt with inspirational literature at Gib.

Gibraltar, Inkerman and Robinson form a sort of Devil’s Triangle in the area of Sangin, a region that is to opium what Florida is to citrus. The opium has already been harvested this year and should be flowing through veins in Europe by now. The other bumper crop this area produces is Taliban. The Brits call them “Terry.”

The British officers will say they are employing an “oil-spot” strategy. If they succeed in improving one area, people in surrounding areas will want the same, and be more likely to cooperate. This all sounds nice. But will the oil-spot strategy actually work, or is it just a way to buy time until a stinking bag of failure can be handed to subsequent Presidents and Prime Ministers? Some commanders in Iraq referred to the oil-spot strategy back in 2005, but that country was becoming more like a catastrophic oil spill. Yet the fact is, by 2007 and 2008, the oil-spot strategy actually created tangible results. When Anbar Province (Iraq) began to drastically improve in 2007—thanks largely to the savagery of al Qaeda, and smart US Commanders like Colonel Sean MacFarland—Iraqis in Diyala and Nineveh Provinces began clamoring for the same.

But that was Iraq. Will it work in Afghanistan? Many experienced commanders seem to think so. The troops in the three FOBs Inkerman, Robinson and Gibraltar are not there to create ink spots, but to kill enough Terry so that an ink spot can start in Sangin. C-company 2 Para doesn’t have to worry about complex counterinsurgency theories because their job is simple: “Smash” as many Taliban as possible (Brits use the word “smash” a lot), while alienating as few locals as possible. Simple. This is the sort of warfare that a lot of young soldiers signed up for.

The week before I arrived at Gib, the camp was sharply attacked three days in a row. Terry was getting as close as he could. The higher the corn grows, the closer Terry can sneak in. During poppy season, the enemy has less cover, yet the corn is great camouflage. RPGs that used to sail harmlessly over Gib are starting to find their mark.

An RPG blew out all seven tires on this ATV and trailer.

The enemy is trying hard to shoot down a helicopter; not many helicopters come to Gib. During an attack in late August, RPGs wounded five British soldiers. Another RPG attack caused a casualty when a soldier running for cover smashed his head on a pull-up bar. It knocked him out cold. Another soldier thought he was fragged and ran for a medic. When they returned, the soldier had disappeared. (One never knows what’s next on the battlefields: SGT Hodkins, the excellent media ops soldier who shuttled me around, told me on 10 September that a soldier was trying to clear a mine. The soldier was concentrating on the explosive when all of a sudden some puppies jumped on him, wanting to play.)

Tools to secure an oil spot out of Taliban.

I arrived at FOB Gibraltar via helicopter on 30 August 2008. The soldiers had been fighting for five months, and it showed. When they left the base, among the many other weapons, they carried four types of rockets, including 66mms, AT-4s, and Javelins. One soldier on Gib is trained as a sniper and Javelin shooter, and he also works supply, so the joke is that he will serve the Taliban bacon, and a Javelin in the chest. The patrols were all on foot. Terry has stitched the area with bombs, and the patrols just mark the bombs and leave them.

We left at sunset; the conditions were a little darker than depicted but the sensitive camera brightened up the image. The two soldiers on the bridge are hauling Javelin missiles.

My first mission with 2 Para was an ambush. We trudged over to a nearby ANA (Afghan National Army) compound where a small contingent of Brits from 2 Para are living and running missions with the Afghans. The journey was less than a half-mile, yet the prospect of being ambushed by direct fire or bombs was very real. Some Brits from the ANA camp, along with Afghan soldiers, helped secure our way. We walked through deserted compounds and a large cemetery, all of which have been the scenes of recent fighting. A British soldier named CPL Matt Desmond saw me, and realized there was a civilian in the bunch. He looked me in the eye and said, “If you see the grenade in the cemetery, don’t kick it!” and he chuckled, though I could see by the condition of his gear and the look in his eye that Desmond was a serious soldier.

A radio call came in that Gib, which we just left maybe 15 minutes prior, was about to get attacked. Good timing, I thought. If the Taliban attacked infantry style, since we were already outside the wire, they might lose track of us, and maybe the platoon I was with could maneuver on one of their flanks and kill them. But the Taliban must have seen us leave Gib, I thought. Because if they were preparing to attack, it would have been smart to watch the base for as long as possible before launching. But who knows? The enemy makes mistakes just like we do.

Some minutes later, we arrived at ANA compound, which was surrounded by Claymores. Claymores are powerful defensive mines that are like super-powerful shotguns. They’ll rip bodies to shreds, and so I never like walking in front of them, but that’s what you’ve got to do to enter these bases. Some Taliban are willing to pay the reaper to “disarm” those mines with their bodies, so that their buddies can follow behind them.

CPL Matt Desmond briefing other 2 Para soldiers

Inside the compound, CPL Desmond shed his weapon and body armor gave a safety briefing, cautioning that the ANA soldiers tend to fire wildly when attacked. It was strange to leave Gib and need a safety briefing because the next place was even more dangerous. CPL Desmond told us the code word in the event that the camp was being overrun. Without going into details, we would have to initiate a violent, explosive, and risky withdrawal. This was more than “keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle” kind of briefing. It was more like, “Do ‘A’ and you might survive. Do ‘B’ and you will die.” Further, CPL Desmond said, Ramadan would start at sunset, and nobody knew what might happen then.

For the next five hours, I listened to soldier stories from the Brits and Afghans. CPL Desmond talked about a well-laid ambush the enemy had sprung on them, killing two British. During a Taliban ambush that C-co fought through, Desmond was clearing through the enemy positions they had fought through, when a Taliban commander went for a weapon. Desmond shot him in the teeth.

Recently, there had been a firefight nearby, and British soldiers fired back at Taliban. Unfortunately, far downrange a bullet struck an 8-year-old girl, killing her. The same bullet wounded her mother. The locals staged a protest, coming up to the ANA compound. There were Taliban in the crowd, who shouted to the ANA to hand over the British soldiers. Needless to say, the British put up a good fight, but the ANA refused to help. At least they did not attack the Brits from within or surely the base would have been overrun.

On Thursday nights, the ANA have what the Brits call “man-love” night, or “man-love Thursdays.” Interestingly, Iraqis would sometimes say that a man is not a homosexual unless he has sex with other men when he is over thirty. At that age, they say, a man should stop, or else he’s a homosexual, which is a perversion of faith. I recall reading Ahmed Rashid’s fantastic and prescient book Taliban, which was published before the war. Mr. Rashid described a tank battle waged between warlords over the services of a young boy. Boys are for pleasure, women are for babies, they say. Such is this land, Jurassic Park. I called Mr. Rashid at his home in Pakistan a couple years ago, and he sounded increasingly pessimistic about the region. He has written another book titled Jihad!, which I brought with me but traded with Major Adam Dawson, the British officer in charge of Gib, who had another fine book called Afghanistan: A Short History of Its People and Politics, by Martin Ewans.

Luckily, the night 31 August was not man-love Thursday, just the beginning of Ramadan. CPL Desmond took me to see the ANA lieutenant, a 28-year-old man who said he had been recruited and trained by none other than Afghan superhero, Ahmad Massoud. Massoud had been, assassinated by al Qaeda just before the 9/11 attacks. The lieutenant was gracious and hospitable, and in the beginning was mostly complimentary of NATO/ISAF, and certainly the Brits. But as the hours ticked by, he talked of discontent spreading among many Afghans, as they try to decide whether to cooperate with the foreigners in NATO/ISAF and the weak and fractious government in distant Kabul, or the Taliban who surround them. The Afghan lieutenant said that air strikes killing civilians were turning the people against the alliance, and that promises to deliver electricity—among other things—had turned into empty words. He claimed to be hopeful, though I was unsure.

Later, a British officer told me that the Afghan lieutenant was a puff bag of sorts. His soldiers go into combat with the Brits, while he stays on base doing admin. The British officer said that the ANA soldiers were losing respect for the lieutenant, because the Brits of higher rank would go into combat, while he stayed in the rear with the gear. I witnessed the same in Iraq during 2005, until the Iraqi soldiers began losing respect for their seniors, because ranking American officers (even full colonels and command sergeant majors) would roll into combat with Iraqi soldiers, while many Iraqi captains stayed on base. But the mentoring began to work, and Iraqi officers were often seen leading the way in combat, and taking casualties right along with their soldiers, which served to build respect for the officer corps, and today we are seeing the fruits of those efforts in Iraq. After nearly seven years at war in Afghanistan, this Afghan lieutenant made it sound like we are at square one, though the Brits said the normal ANA soldiers will fight.

In Iraq, “Green Zone” is synonymous with “safety,” despite the fact that Baghdad’s Green Zone (renamed to the International Zone) was never safe. But here in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, “Green Zone” means danger. The Green Zone is the place around the rivers and irrigated areas where crops and Taliban grow. FOB Gibraltar is surrounded by Green Zone, while the ANA compound was on the edge of a desert that swallows armies who are never seen again.

The Afghan soldiers were supposed to get up around 0400 on 1 September 2008 to prepare for morning worship and Ramadan, but in fact they were rummaging around all night, while I tried to sleep on the ground in the dust, using a rock-hard sandbag as a pillow. All night the ANA guys were coming and going, talking in Dari and Pashto and other languages. I could not tell the languages apart, and was told that many of the Afghan soldiers could not communicate with one other, but that they worked well together.

And so I lay in the dust, gazing up at thousands of stars. The Milky Way glowing so bright that it looked like a hand could reach up and scoop heavens from the sky. Occasionally there were the sounds of unseen jets and airplanes. A single aircraft with its lights flashing was likely an unmanned Predator or Reaper. The Taliban were out there, probably singing lonely songs, as they were known to do.

This war is just beginning. Great war is in the air. The feeling is as conspicuous and distinct as the smell of rain, or that morning every year when the first chill of winter tickles the senses. The corn will soon be harvested. The fields will become brown and fallow. The snows will come and blow across barren lands, and next Spring the war will be worse than ever before. It will grow higher than the corn.

Still under the Milky Way, at the tiny and remote ANA compound, some of the British soldiers seemed to be sleeping. Everyone wore boots in case of attack. Occasionally a 2 Para soldier would emerge from the darkness for a guard shift. The ambush they had prepared for the Taliban lay quiet. The dogs had stopped barking hours ago.

Slowly the stars crept through the sky. Hours melted by and constellations seemed to drift through space as the Earth turned below.

Afghanistan is a time machine. Primitive men fight with modern weapons, radios and telephones. The Taliban’s eagerness to embrace ignorance will doom them eventually, but how many of us will they kill first? They are a relic of the beasts in our nature.

Some of the stars above must already be dead, but their light has not finished arriving to this place. The stars were far and visible, while the enemy was close and hidden. Our soldiers kill them constantly, but they keep coming. The Taliban I have seen so far are stupid compared to the enemies we faced in Iraq. The Taliban in this area are easy to kill, but there are so many of them. For safety they can always cross an imaginary line into a disintegrating land called Pakistan.

Only the heavens had taken me through Iraq alive and as witness. Afghanistan likely will be far worse. It’s in the air. It’s coming. How will this war end? I kept thinking, How will this war end? Some countries such as France are clamoring to leave already. The Brits have the wherewithal. The Americans are well-fibered. But tonight these British soldiers sleep in the dirt under the stars with their boots on. When they go home, I’ll still be here as witness. And when their replacements go home, I’ll still be here. When the replacements of the replacements go home, if the heavens consent, I’ll still be here as witness. And so will the Taliban.

The path will be long, painful and lonely. There will be no signs or markers to guide the weary. There will be no villagers to ask the way, for they will not know the way. There will be no fleet messengers bearing scrolls or maps or epistles to warn of dangers ahead. This distance is uncharted and untraveled. The sails in these desert seas billow only with mystery, and the only charts derive from the senses of experienced sailors.

The coming storm will need a witness. No less than five shooting stars cut silently through the night sky. On each shooting star, I made a wish that I know would not come true.

 


To read Part II of this series click here.

 

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    AmericanJarhead · 10 years ago
    You're dong great work and I shall pray you continue to be safe and unharmed.

    The Brits are super and I hope they don't leave.

    Thank you.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Deb Gray · 10 years ago
    God Bless, you are always in our prayers. The soldiers, you are all in our prayers. Thank you all for the job you do day in and day out. We sleep in peace at night because of you.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Victoria Allen · 10 years ago
    Michael, thank you for being the unbiased witness of what unfolds, both in Iraq and Afghanistan. Please convey my respect and gratitude to the troops for their tireless efforts.

    God Bless and Godspeed.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Huntress · 10 years ago
    Last Nite, ( Sunday Sept 14) Mike Yon was Pat Dollard's guest for TWO hours, on The JihadiKiller Hour ( which is now two hours long) on Blog Talk Radio. JKH is one of the most popular shows on the Heading Right Channel on BTR. We attracted over 120 people in live chat and HUNDREDS more who were listening live but not participating in chat.

    For those of you who missed the LIVE event last nite, please check out the archive here.
    http://tinyurl.com/6s5d67

    Michael Yon is a longtime friend, Pat and I are Hollywood buddies, and I was THRILLED to be able to bring them together to discuss Iraq, Afghanistan, the war on terrorism, kicking jihadi butt and hot babes!!...okay hot babes never came up...but it might have :>)

    Pat Dollard embedded in Ramadi with Marines for several months while he filmed a documentary "Young Americans". For those who do not know Pat, check out his website
    at www.patdollard.com. He was twice nearly killed in IED explosions. Pat was a former Hollywood agent and manager who gave that up to serve our country in his unique way.

    This conversation between Mike and Pat was much anticipated, and people are still buzzing about it.

    Please remember to support Michael on his mission.

    God Bless.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Roamingdoc · 10 years ago
    the type of sacrifice being made on the part of "so few" for so many (once again). As Americans, Brits, Canadians, our allies battle in places that are so obscure to so many. Our prayers are with all. Thank you Michael for being present to report and I continually turn others on to your site and work. I don't know an American (those who don't are not Americans) who does not support our warriors wherever they are! "Thank you" is never enough for those who fight.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ernest Lane · 10 years ago
    I have heard that the rules of engagement for NATO forces in Afghanistan basically are self-defense only, only fire if fired upon. Can you address this?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Barry Sheridan · 10 years ago
    Michael,
    Many thanks for your reports. Without them it would be difficult to know what are guys are doing in that far off place. My thoughts are with the para's. Take care one and all. Barry, Hampshire, England.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    TSgt Allison F. Cade · 10 years ago
    Pun intended, btw. I really enjoy reading everything that you write, and I also wonder how we're going to figure out an end in this war. It's often been my frustration that our troops and our allies are forced to fight with so many ROE while our enemy can do anything and everything. Just wanted to show my support for you, Mr. Yon!
    "Some countries such as France are clamoring to leave already." Now THAT'S a big surprise! :-)
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Doug Santo · 10 years ago
    Glad to see you back in the saddle.
    Stay safe.
    Keep up the excellent reporting.

    Doug Santo
    Pasadena, CA
  • This commment is unpublished.
    SGM Chris Raines · 10 years ago
    Mike,

    As always, great job! Thanks for what you do. Good luck and Godspeed. And give my best to all the troops you meet over there.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    An eagle · 10 years ago
    Thank you Michael for your commitment to reporting the truth wherever you are, no matter whether positive or negative. Your love for our (the collective our) forces is so obvious. May God keep his angels about you. Thank you for the awesome photographs. As soon as I am able, I will send financial support.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Lorene · 10 years ago
    Be well M, it's great to read your reports again. Take good care, especially when you head off on your own. And tell the Brits we thank them.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Da Goddess · 10 years ago
    Wishing you all safe passage and successful missions. You are in my prayers.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    vincent dorsett · 10 years ago
    Thank you Michael for your service beyond the call of duty. I am new but will be sharing you to my friends. I tremble at your circumstance, but thank God for your truth and his safety for you. May God watch over you and our army of many nations.
    Vincent Dorsett, Tucson, AZ.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Brian H · 10 years ago
    The sense I get from your prose is that finally a forced march into modern times (out of Jurassic Park) is the main and only long-term prospect that will make A-stan more than a continuing firefight of varying intensity. That may be the underlying dynamic that the military is following, pushing to "break" the cycle of warlordism and pre-historic tribal zero-sum competition. Clearly the badly-made bricks that constitute much of the existing "civilization" are not up to the job, so they will need replacement, not just re-arrangement.

    About the dead stars: some of the visible ones may have blown, but the naked eye can't actually "see" all that far back in galactic time; you are only seeing a few of the "nearby" stars, a few thousand years ago at most. A few of the fuzzy patches are more distant galaxies, but big scopes are needed to pick out individual stars there. (Try scanning the sky using your biggest camera telephoto lenses, and you'll get a bit deeper back in time, of course.) But there's plenty going on in the local stellar arena; you don't need to look deep into the past to observe wonders.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Netfotoj · 10 years ago
    You're the Ernie Pyle of this generation, but don't be too much like Ernie. Keep your head down.

    I really wish I could join you, but I'm too old, fat and slow. I'll be praying for you instead.

    Vietnam USN 1969
  • This commment is unpublished.
    scott kohler · 10 years ago
    Thank you, sir, for your service. As a father of a 19 year old who will be serving in the stan shortly, I am very interested in your unbiased reporting. You will continue to receive my financial and studious support.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Retired 82nd O-3 · 10 years ago
    May God be in overwatch and Saint Michael be on point.
    Your reports are a blessing to those of us desiring an unvarnished look at Terryland.
    There are many here in Plant City who follow your travels and trevails.
    Be safe, and thank my fellow Para's for the job they are doing. Airborne!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jewel · 10 years ago
    Once again, you enthrall and inform. Who needs the press? It's clear to me that they need you, more. Thank you for your service.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Bob Devine · 10 years ago
    I just happened on your site through a link at Small Dead Animals while going through her archives. What a fantastic job you are doing!!!! I have been reading for a couple of hrs now and plan on spending the rest of my evening here. Your site is also going to the top of my favorites list. Besides a donation when I can swing it I will offer a prayer to St. Jude the patron saint of the impossible you will need all the help you can get.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    A Father · 10 years ago
    My Son was recently deployed to Afghanistan. I think and pray for him, you Michael, and all the troops in Iraq and Aghanistan every day. I wish more could understand the great work which is being done by you all. Your dispatches should be read by as many people as possible so they understand the sacrifice some pay for others to be free. God Bless and protect you and all who serve.

    Thank you
  • This commment is unpublished.
    scottiej · 10 years ago
    Michael ,as the father of a Marine grunt who spent the summer in the Garmsir district of Helmand, I really appreciate your report. I'm only sorry that you didn't get a chance to spend time with the 24th MEU as they have now pulled out and will be coming home soon. I devoured everything I could find on their time there but nothing compares to your reporting. I purchased your book several months ago. Keep up the good work and God protect you.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Rich. UK · 10 years ago
    One of the Paras killed the othe rmonth was a friend of mine, we served in Iraq together. Another has been injured serving with the Scots. I'll be out there too next year.

    A big thank you for getting the word out about what its really like, now we just need a few more of your type. You're a brave guy, far braver than me.

    Quick note to Ernest Lane. The lads went out and set an ambush to catch the bad guys moving around, this should dispel any myths you have about to ROE.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    A proud Marine mom · 10 years ago
    Thank you again for your willingness to be there and tell us how things are going, Michael. Our 19-yo son is deploying to stan soon and we are glued to your news. We are praying for you and your safety, and that of those who serve around you. Please tell the men "thank you" for us; I can think of no other words to say, and those are entirely insufficient.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Proud American · 10 years ago
    Your work really moved me today as I sit here in my construction project manager chair in Seattle trying to find something to fill my time with as the days are slow due to a stunned economy. I enjoyed your reporting and will be back for continual updates. Youƒ??re a man deserving of honor from all Americans. As much as Iƒ??ve learned about Jesus Christ and God the Father, Iƒ??m sure your creators are in human terms extremely proud of you for functioning in the gift of bravery that you were created for. God loves you Michael and can handle hearing any of your thoughts. May he bless you and keep you. Continue strong the unprecedented work out there..
  • This commment is unpublished.
    flyonthewall · 10 years ago
    Brilliant writing. Just found your site and am truly amazed. There is nothing and no one who can match the heroism of the warriors you're with. You truly honor them with your vivid report.
    Please tell them we love them and cannot find words to describe our debt of gratitude. Is there an APO address for care packages? My son is in luxurious Mosul and is growing fat on too many care packages. He'll share, gladly.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    AMD · 10 years ago
    My husband is in Iraq. I read your site and I read your book, Moment of Truth in Iraq. Your work is invaluable to many of us and I officially want to thank you for the sacrifices you make to get the word out. The same goes for you that goes for my husband, "You give me hope that there are still good men in the world so do your best to stay in it; we need examples like you around".

    To you and our Brit brothers on Gib

    "...May thine Angel-guards defend us,
    Slumber sweet thy mercy send us,
    Holy dreams and hopes attend us,
    This livelong night."
    Bishop Reginald Heber
  • This commment is unpublished.
    James l. Owens · 10 years ago
    Michael you are a blessing to all of us who wish to know what's happening. Would that there wre more like you.

    We could have used someone in 'Nam to tell the truth.

    Checks in the mail.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ollie Right · 10 years ago
    That T-Shirt proves who the terrorists are. Micheal "Zionist" Yon and his cohorts.

    7 Years and no progress. Another 7 years and the USKKK will be bankrupt. LMAO at the US Scum.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tony Ward · 10 years ago
    Our great fighting men of the US and Britian fight for the freedom, so that cowards like the person in Comment 29, have freedom of speech. It is a shame that they have nothing better to do than lambast great men and women while they hide in the dark, behind their freedom.
    Great work Michael, keep it up, it is a pleasure to have individuals like you providing unbiased reporting. God Bless and Thank you
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Russell28 · 10 years ago
    Hello

    My brother was with C Coy 2Para and was killed in an explosion near FOB Gib on July 29th 2008. My family is still in touch with a few of the guys out there, all close friends of my brother. Sadly we never really had the chance to talk with Pete about conditions out there, he died 10 days before he was due home for a well deserved r&r. Michael's work (which i stumbled across last night thanks to google) has really opened my eyes to what Pete and his brothers in arms went/go through on a daily basis. The reality is very different to what i imagined. Thank you for filling some of the blanks.
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    James Cheetham · 10 years ago
    Thanks, Michael. I have been away for a while. Is that twerp Alastair Leithead of the BBC still about? Never has a decent word for our boys. BBC is trying to destroy the last of the decent institutions that made Britain great. I doubt that any of the squaddies even give him the time of day...

    I am an ex-serviceman... so I am biased :o)

    Keep up the great work - telling it like it is.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Eric Shirley · 10 years ago
    Mr. Yon,
    Great reporting, Great book. Please tell the Brits that many of us here in America know of and appreciate there help. God Bless America and England and let us all hope that we are victorious.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Greg Osti · 10 years ago
    Hi Michael,

    Those guns look like versions of British Martini-Henry rifles from the empire period.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jack E. Hammond · 10 years ago
    Dear Michael,

    The old rifles are Martini-Henry. They were so accurate and powerful that individual British soldiers had them chained to them when on picket at night. The Pashtuns wanted them that bad. Please see link below for a great article on the Martini-Henry.

    Jack E. Hammond, USA

    Notes> Links are to scans in my photobucket account. They are way long so I used TinyURL.com to reduce the link characters.

    http://tinyurl.com/3laaef

    http://tinyurl.com/47st5x

    http://tinyurl.com/4map75

    .
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jack E. Hammond · 10 years ago
    Dear Michael,

    Sadly the JAVELIN is the best antitank weapon in the world. One Special Forces soldier in northern Iraq with the Kurds stopped an attack by an armored battalion using the JAVELIN. But it is way to expensive for the type of warfare in Afghanistan. A better bet would have been the Israeli GILL with the fiber-optic link back to the operator. GILL rounds are 1/3 that of the JAVELIN. Also, I can not figure out why the British did not bring out their old MILAN wire guided launchers and rounds and send them to Afghanistan. They are dirt cheap.

    And the cheapest option for a long range missile sniper would be what the Iranians trained the Lebanese Hezbollah to use: The old wire guided SAGGER. The Sagger is extremely inacccurate at ranges below 500 meters but beyond that a trained gunner can put one through a window. And the SAGGER missile is available on the world market dirt-dirt cheap. Like less than 5000 dollars a missile.

    Jack E. Hammond, USA

    .
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Kirby Ducayet V · 10 years ago
    http://www.militaryrifles.com/britain/Martini.htm

    Mr. Yon, I'm 12 years old and have studied military weapons and vehicles since I was about 5. My mother saw these rifles on your website and asked me to identify them for you. I looked them up in one my books and found out it was a Martini-Henry and probably is a MK4 because of the year but could of been modified. I found this website with more information for you.

    Keep up the good writing my mom is obsessed with you,lol.
    Kirby Smith Ducayet V
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Brian H · 10 years ago
    Russell, fly, and Bob:
    The title is what I feel for you...imagine having all of Yon to read for the first time!

    For a real treat, go back through his Dispatches series to the earliest, and read each series as a sequence before going on to the next.

    It will take you more than a few hours. Which is very good!

    Enjoy.

    P.S.
    After you've thoroughly read Yon-land, check out the other Saint Michael, MichaelTotten.com . Totten is somewhat less Iraq-centred in his coverage, but very pertinent to the entire Near and Middle East topic. Some beautiful photo-essays from the Balkans.

    You might start off with his latest, in Commentary magazine ( commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/totten/34001 ), and then start at the start on his site. Very honest, and lets his viewpoint grow and change according to what he sees.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Rob Spring Ex AAC · 10 years ago
    It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.
    It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.
    It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.
    It is the soldier, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial.
    It is the soldier, who salutes the flag, who serves under the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag....

    By Father Dennis Edward O'Brien, USMC
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Bob · 2 years ago
      So True: 1st time I saw this poem was on a wall in the 'Gas Lamp' bar in Med Hat, Alberta, Canada.(about 2000 ish) It got me then , and still all these years later , having being one of those at Gib that Summer. It bangs home even more so. Never forgotten gents, never forgotten. RIP .
  • This commment is unpublished.
    jamie · 9 years ago
    The plural of Sergeant Major is Sergeants Major, not Sergeant Majors.

    This blog, your reporting, the photos, and your writing are great. I spent a year in Ramadi, and I find so many things you write about to be so accurate. Keep up the great work.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    chaz · 9 years ago
    Michael, thank you for your honest and compelling reporting. My thanks to the brave and unselfish soldiers willing to live in those conditions to make our world a safer place from terrorism. I pray daily for them. Also, my deepest sympathies to Russell28 and his family. You will also be in my prayers.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    chaz · 9 years ago
    Also, my sympathies to Rich from the uk. I didn't see his comment until after I posted. The brotherhood of armed forces between all the allied countries is strong. God Bless you all and thanks for fighting the good fight.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Buck · 8 years ago
    If it wasn;t for the star spangled war stories - RPG's in the loo and shooting the bastiges in the teeth, what else would be interesting about holing up in a fort while trying to pacify a people who've done you no harm until you showed up to start bombing and shooting them. Oh yeah, I know it's all about a better life for the littl.e girls you didn't mention in the story - except for the dead 'un.

    Can you spell 'criminal. waste'?
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Roxyzulu8326 · 6 years ago
      You prick, have you been there? i hate to use the cliche of 'you werfent there man' but jesus, wind your neck in. I had Locals at Gib tell me that they wanted us to flatten the place so they could start over. You ignorant toilet. How dare you, how [removed by webmaster due to profanity] dare you. Get yourself to the Hammers handle and come back with your wannabe blogger hero crap then. Prick.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Roxyzulu8326 · 6 years ago
      How dare you, you toilet. I hate to use the old cliche of 'you were not there' but jesus, have some respect.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Graham Smith · 8 years ago
    Missed you.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Rob Dowdle · 7 years ago
    Hello Michael
    just a quick note to say that ssm Ste Mcmenamy is now a yeoman warder at the tower of london so if you are ever in the uk why dont you go and see him. take care Michael
    Best Wishes
    Rob Dowdle
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Darren · 6 years ago
    You're not there Michael, but the brits are still there.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Toby · 2 months ago
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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Benito · 2 months ago
    Hello there! I know this is kinda off topic but I was wondering which
    blog platform are you using for this website? I'm getting tired of Wordpress because I've hhad problems
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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Grady · 2 months ago
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    She placed tthe shell to her ear and screamed.

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