Michael's Dispatches

The Long Walk

27 September 2011

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

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Under every step is a surprise.  You mustn’t think about it, and you must never forget it.

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The trees are shedding as autumn approaches.  More and more, day by day.

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The coming of winter will bring a lull in the fighting.  There will be fewer places for the enemy to hide.

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Many will go to Pakistan or elsewhere.  Borders mean little here.

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Everyday there are bomb strikes.  Yesterday Soldiers were hit.  Today an armored vehicle burned after bomb strike.

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4-4 Cav is fighting hard.  On the day these images were made, they were walking in Zhari District of Kandahar Province, birthplace of Mullah Omar.  Courage among these Soldiers is as common as boots.  Personal acts that might make headlines at home are so ordinary here that you hardly notice.  Many of these Soldiers have fought so much that it’s bizarrely normal.  Sometimes during dramas, so long as it’s not too loud to hear, they are calm as if they are sweeping the driveway.  War seems different than it used to be six or seven years ago.

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The 4-4 Cav Soldiers came into the storage area of a farmhouse.

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Connie the war dog was there.  She’s well mannered.  Connie is like a normal Soldier; you’d never know her job if you met her in a city park.  In a park, she’d be just a cute dog. Here, Connie is a Soldier.

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The light was streaming through the window onto the sacks.  Someone joked that God is trying to show us something.

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There it is.  The stuff bombs are made of.  Normal fertilizer used in the fields for all occasions.  Certain fertilizers are illegal in Afghanistan but that makes no difference.  Farmers need it for crops and enemies need it for bombs.

This afternoon, 27 September, our people observed three men digging a hole and emplacing an IED.  Identification was positive.  No civilians were in the area.  Apache helicopters moved closer.  The 120mm mortar was ready.  A-10 Warthogs came on station and declared their weapons and fuel.  We watched the enemy through the optics.  The A-10s were cleared hot to shoot and were moving in to fire with their 30mm cannons.  Major Aaron Dixon calmly controlled the unfolding attack as if he’d done this a hundred times.  He probably has.  The enemy disappeared into cover just before the gun runs and they got away.

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