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.

Comments   

 
+3 # Michael 2011-09-27 11:26
"You mustn’t think about it, and you must never forget it."

Even after all of the reading, I can only imagine how this truly feels to those of you who have experienced such things.
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# ret7 2011-09-27 18:36
Reading a book, "Tail-End Charlies: the battles of the bomber war, 1944-45" by John Nichol & Tony Rennell - the gist of what the airmen went through back then seems very similar in a way. The mindset certainly has parallels.
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+2 # des 2011-09-27 11:27
Michael, the shots of the storage area are outstanding. You have the eye, no doubt, and the means whereby that we are fortunate to be able to see.
Thank you.
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+1 # Gloria 2011-09-27 12:19
daily prayers and gratitude to the soliders, as well as connie, for all they do to keep us safe. Home of the Free because of the BRAVE.

Thank you Mike for sharing your pictures and their stories.
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# Jerry Hoffman 2011-09-28 07:55
Michael, greetings from central FL. Is there any way to send Connie or the other war dogs a treat? Or care package?
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+2 # bonnie beekman teusch 2011-09-27 13:03
michael you are like a modern day ERNIE PYLE! You make us understand the complexity of war and the terrain over there like no other. The pictures are outstanding and I must admit thatit is a beautiful part of the world just too bad all caught up in war! BONNIE BEEKMAN TEUSCH in INDIANA
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+2 # Dave 2011-09-27 14:33
When combat conditions become normal for the soldiers, how do they ever adapt to being back in the States when their war is over? And what can we do to make it easier for them in their transition?
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# Joan 2011-09-27 15:07
Excellent question. Not sure yet what the answer is, but our family and those families of our son's Marine brothers are working toward it, little by little. It's complicated. Michael, again, thank you for your dispatches. I appreciate your candidness. ~Joan, proud mom of a former Marine
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+1 # ProudArmyPop 2011-09-27 19:47
["I]Many of these Soldiers have fought so much that it’s bizarrely normal."
May-09- May 2010: My son spoke of this very thing. It was going out finding and engaging the enemy every day, day in - day out for sometimes weeks at a time for his unit, 4th ID 3-61 Cav. They lost several several soldiers while over there.
We have to be there for our warriors and let them know that it's okay not to feel normal. While home on his R&R, all he wanted to talk about was wanting to get back because he was scared he was missing something and/or letting his buddies down. While he hasn't committed yet, I continue to encourage him to go see a Veteran couselor/therap ist and talk about things he won't talk to us about. Hopefully he will go, but meanwhile he is holding steady workwise and socially.
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+1 # Jackie 2011-09-27 22:15
The military offers many resources for dealing with PTSD. I'd presume that everyone comes home with at least a little of it, admit it or not. The bigger issue, I believe, is getting the soldiers to admit that/when they need help. I would also assume that when the soldiers are home, the only person they want to talk to about it, is those that were there with them. So keeping in touch is critical. Just a few thoughts.
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# ProudArmyPop 2011-09-28 18:05
You are spot on! That's why I said Veteran counselor. I DON"T understand because I never served (shamefully!) He does speak to my father-in-law who is a Vietnam Vet.
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+2 # norm1111 2011-09-29 14:58
The best way for them to adapt is just support and care for them and have empathy and understanding for what they had been through....by far, the top reason for Vietnam vets and their problems was the coming home experience. People walking on the proverbial egg shells around them, the apathy, the silly questions ("did you kill anyone?")....an d in many cases; far more than was reported...just downright hostility and/or even violence toward them.
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+3 # Bill Brent 2011-09-27 15:49
I'm interested to know how long it was between the time the IED diggers were spotted to the time the A-10s were cleared to attack. I ask because I suspect these guys got away while the military went through all the appropriate legal channels necessary to kill them. It's frustrating and maddening as hell to hear that these guys got away to, more than likely, maim and kill Americans some other day.

Do you think it would be possible to get embedded in a command post where such decisions are made and report on what the average time is between identifying enemy IED planters and giving the command to take them out?
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+1 # George 2011-09-27 16:01
Michael,

I am always surprised to see the firepower used to take out a few of the enemy. (rockets, 120mm, warthogs, apaches). Why not a few rounds with a garrett .50 or rem 700 ? Why must you wait for air support in order to take out a few combatants?

You're doing a great job, stay safe...

P.S. I love "Inside The Inferno".
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# MikeM 2011-09-28 07:51
It's as sure of a thing as it gets to killing them. Plus, you risk none of your men to do so. You also don't want to accidentally kill a farmer because from a football field away you think he's burying a bomb. The apache can get overhead and with optics see what he's doing with some more certainty; then kill him while he's there.
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# Skunk Boot 2011-10-14 09:15
Cause Rockets, Mortars and Jet Engines move faster than a sniper team when enemy action is spotted... usually visual confirmation is by UAV. Even in this case A-10s couldn't close in time before the enemy could withdraw.
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+1 # Dawn 2011-09-27 20:41
I read Michael's entries often, and perhaps I shouldn't. My son , THomas Is in Kandahar on his second tour for a year. I try not to worry, but I also like the glimpses I get into his life now.
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+1 # csmit 2011-09-28 08:46
I, too, read Michael's entries often to get a look into the life of my brother who is currently serving in Kandahar. The things Michael has to say and show doesn't make me worry any more. I do feel more connected to my brother. It makes the things that he is going through more realistic for me and it seems to narrow the many miles that are between him and our family.
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+1 # Patty 2011-09-28 09:43
My son is with 4-4 CAV and you're right these dispatches give the loved ones back home a glimpes of what our sons, husbands, fathers and brothers are going through....
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# Csmit 2011-09-28 16:08
Patty-my brother is with 4-4 CAV!
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+1 # Michael Eyles 2011-09-27 23:05
A copy of "Gates of Fire" arrived in time for me to give it to my son for his birthday. It sure brought back memories of his deployment with the "Deuce Four." To all his friends from the 3rd. Plt., Bravo Co.: "SEMPER PARATUS"
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-1 # Kurt Olney 2011-09-28 00:35
They heard the airplanes coming. Sound travels a long way. We learned this in Vietnam. www.yo-3a.com
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# 1506xp 2011-09-28 07:14
i'm from china.
help me.
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# Leah 2011-09-28 03:46
Such a dichotomy - when battle becomes a normal way of life and every step could mean death, how can these men ever come home to live a "normal civilian life"? I fear too much is asked and expected of these moms, dads, sons and daughters...
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# Mary 2011-09-28 13:40
They can and will like thousand others. This is one of the many reasons why they are our hero's...
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# larrys 2011-09-28 18:12
but now it's different. only 1% of the nation serves and it's become a "legacy affair" with just a relatively few families involved. most of the society has no idea what a military experience is like, especially these days with multiple deployments the norm. our society is not prepared at all for the 2million who have served in our 9/11 wars.
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# Singadick 2011-10-02 05:52
I'm sure That most return to some sort of normal life - on the outside, anyhow. But there are a lot that don't. I've been visiting a VA hospital daily this week, and see the dozens being treated just in this one hospital. Some old and grizzled, some baby-faced -- all veterans in Service to their country. Some ambulatory, many not (gotta watch out for motorized chairs in the halls). But that's what is visible - the injuries you can't see are handled by a quite large mental health section -- just from the size one gets an idea of the patient count.

What is most disturbing is the great number of apparently indigent Servicemen. After they've put their lives on the line, and suffered as a result, it doesn't look like they're being treated much like heroes in the community.

I've nothing but praise for the VA hospital, though. Pretty modern, with a lot of new construction going on. But is the cheerful, competent staff that impresses me with their care and respect. Props to them all.
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# Roger Dane 2011-09-28 07:22
Another outstanding report and the photos are (as usual) superb! Thanks for keeping the faith and the great job.
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+1 # Joe Logan 2011-09-28 08:16
But isn't that fertilizer next to a bag of wheat seed?
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+1 # Honza Prchal 2011-10-16 21:25
There's a book by the same name as this post, The Long Walk, about a Polish officer who walked out of a Siberian Gulag, across Mongolia, throught the Gobi to Tibet and into British India in time to rejoin the war.
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