Bad Medicine


On Pharmacy Road

Captain Henry Coltart on Pharmacy Road

24 August 2009
Helmand Province, Afghanistan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ex-Brit serviceman · 12 years ago
    Are a bunch of self-serving wankers, the political leadership in the UK are sheep led by sheep...totally clueless as to what needs to be done at best, and criminally negligent in what needs to be done at worst. It makes me long for the days of Thatcher and reagan...I know things would have been different had those two bastions of freedom had held the reins of power.
    I'm guessing that you got a bit too close to the troops and told it how it was with a bit too much clarity than those fools wiould have the people in the UK believe.
    Lions led by donkeys? That statement is as true today as it was during World War One.

    Keep up the great work, Yon. Many of us appreciate your style of reporting.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Bob T, B-22 FA Redle · 12 years ago
    Just finished reading "Danger Close". Great book. I look forward to reading "Moment of Truth in Iraq" next.
    Keep up the great work where ever you next find yourself.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    WP · 12 years ago
    As you are no doubt very aware, the British MoD is far more interested in supressing their own failings than allowing people in the UK to know the truth about the consequences that befall our troops as a result of the lack of numbers on the ground and the lack of equiptment. I do hope that the Britsih maninstream media picks up on this and adds it to the ongoing litany of damnation of the MoD's and the UK government's failings towards our armed forces.
    Keep up the good work from wherever you can mate.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Geoff · 12 years ago
    Ridiculous that they canceled your embed, sorry to hear this Michael.

    And I also wanted to say amazing night photos at the top of the dispatch. I refused to believe they were taken at night until I noticed the stars in the sky!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Carl Nogueira · 12 years ago
    Damn fools!!!!!! Don't they realize that by surpressing the truth rather than working overtime to improve the situation, so that the truth paints a brighter picture, is folly? Guess not. Damn it!! Guess the spin doctors are just as bad on both sides of the pond. If you can't get an imbed with the Marines Michael, just come home. You have really been in the sh*t over there and it wouldn't hurt to get some seperation and fresh perspective. Take care.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ted Adams · 12 years ago
    the trucks are "jingle" trucks, not "jingo". The jingle comes from all the metal chains and chimes they attach to them which makes the noise as they drive (I am at the end of 9 months in Nuristan, Kunar, and Nangahar as an ETT).
  • This commment is unpublished.
    casstx · 12 years ago
    I suspect, from reading the Brit papers, that they don't want the deaths reported, hence canceling your embed. I know you'll find another unit to go out with. Thank you for all this info and the pictures are excellent as usual. Operators always have such a good eye for photography, your stuff is really great. I hope to see more of it, whether it's the Brits, US, or some other country. Stay well.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Sue Smith · 12 years ago
    Thank you for the fantastic article and pictures that show the world what wonderful brave heroes our troops are. My son was out in Helmand a year ago and as a mum my heart goes out to all our special men and women who work so hard to keep us safe . I am outraged the MOD have cancelled your embed, they really hate the public to know what wonderful brave and hard working soldiers we have in the British Army, Navy, Marines and RAF. Keep safe and keep reporting. Much love and respect to all who serve or have served. Sue xxx
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Sandy · 12 years ago
    I'd echo the frustration at the cancellation of your embed, Michael, but...that's not going to change the MOD. Just going to say thanks - and I'm praying for you to get a new embed where your voice may be needed even more. There's got to be a reason for this, and I'm going to count on it for GOOD.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Randall Hannaway · 12 years ago
    Hi Michael,

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

    Until then...

    All good things,

  • This commment is unpublished.
    Max Biaggi · 12 years ago
    An excellent piece of journalism, Michael. As an ex-Royal Irish officer I detect the ring of truth in your account.

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

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

    Keep up the good work.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Hooah · 12 years ago
    The new kids in town need you Michael!!!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Barry Sheridan · 12 years ago
    News of your cancelled embed is distressing, you have been the most reliable source of what is going on over there, apart that is from Ross Kemp video reports.

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

    Regards Barry Sheridan. Hampshire England
  • This commment is unpublished.
    James Carrier · 12 years ago
    Here's mine:

    Dear Mr Grogan,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Yours sincerely etc.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jake Beale · 12 years ago
    Yer Michael that was me that took that picture, u asked me to look after it hehehehe.

    Gnr Beale ( 40th Regiment )
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mike Jenvey · 12 years ago
    Just used the MOD link to send them this:


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

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

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

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

    Yours faithfully,
    M D Jenvey
  • This commment is unpublished.
    grichens · 12 years ago
    Why the MOD cancellation? Because liberal pols in the UK are not interested in the mission; only in dragging their boys back home ASAP. Some of the frank exchanges between Michael and the servicemen are simply contrary to the interest of those in power. My bet is that the following conversation is what did it:

    "Finally, Axle said, 'You Yanks are great. You like to hear stories about us smashin’ the Taliban but people at home want to know how much we miss our families.' We both chuckled, and I asked, 'Really? They don’t ask you about smashing the Taliban?' 'That’s right,' then Axle said something like, 'They only want to hear how sad we are.'"
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Terry Windmiller · 12 years ago
    To aid in the cause to convince the British Government to reconsider, I, on the recommendation of another concerned reader, sent the following note to the MOD. I urge others to do likewise.

    This morning I read Michael Yon’s DISPATCH from Helmand Province, Afghanistan where he was, until today, embedded with 2nd Rifles. I must enquire, what could possibly led your Government to revoke his embed status? I must admit that up until Michael joined the 2nd Rifles in Helmand Province, even though I am a Soldier, I didn’t think about the British soldiers and their contribution to the Afghan War. But daily through his words and pictures I grew to value and hold your troops in high warm regard. I, along with many others currently deployed to Iraq, and the thousands of people in the U.S. who read Michael's DISPATCHES, learned to respect and honor your troops in Afghanistan, where previously we believed you had no part and made no real contribution. We’ve rejoiced in their survival from horrendous wounds, and marveled at their contributions to the overall war effort. They have become heroes in my eyes along with my own troops. Michael Yon has given a face and voice to the British soldiers and their amazing efforts that previously did not exist. I don’t know why you have chosen to silence that voice or remove those faces. If you believe what he wrote in the article Bad Medicine[24 August 2009] diminished my regard and respect for the soldiers of the 2nd Rifles you are very mistaken. If anything, he improved my opinion of your Country and your Soldiers. And you are wrong to take this precious contact Americans have with the British Soldiers in Afghanistan away. This decision is a detriment to your improving good image in the minds of US Soldiers who do no see or appreciate the contributions of your Soldiers, and never will unless their story is told....told the way that Michael Yon does it. I encourage you to reinstitute his embed with 2nd Rifles, or at least another British combat unit. His efforts do more than you can possibly imagine for your National Image.
    Terry Windmiller (another combat Soldier)
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Sean · 12 years ago
    Team Rainbow are called Team Rainbow as an acknowledgment to the greatest kids program ever. You remember the one with Bungle, Zippy and george. Fact
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jerry Nobles · 12 years ago
    Mr. Yon, Thank you!! Please pass along to all men in the field my undying thanks for their devotion to Duty,Honor,and Country. This former U.S.Navy Corpsman will pray for each of you daily. Semper Fi,gentlemen, Semper Fi !!!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    RaniB · 12 years ago
    Wow Michael I just came across this article by accident and WOW. Your writing and your pictures are truly amazing. I cried but I laughed also while reading your article. Wow. As David said, here in America we have little, if any, idea of what goes on over there. Your article moved me very much and I will be sharing your site with my friends and sending my email to the MOD.

    Thanks for your wonderful work, I can't believe I just discovered this site only to learn your embed has been cancelled. Best of luck in whatever the next step on your path is!
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    Sean · 12 years ago
    What about the "Bad Medicine" dispatch offended the British so? Was it the Google Maps part? Does the MOD think that those images, which are used to illustrate the difficult situation the British are forced to deal with, are of any help to the Taliban who harass these outposts daily? Do they think the Taliban have no idea where the bases are? Come on.

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

    Hopefully you can get an embed with the US sometime soon. It's unfortunate that 2 Rifles won't have you as their advocate anymore. The British people should be angry that Yon's reporting is getting quashed, lest your citizenry find out what's really going on.
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    Jim Fehlberg · 12 years ago
    Great photos of the lads at work. It is truly unfortunate that Americans in general never see our friends in the fight. Thanks for having our backs and may you all be safe. I'll hoist a cold one for the 2 rifles unit. Keep your heads down and sights on target. Cheers!!
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    Amanda M. · 12 years ago
    Michael, I just donated my little pittance to your mission. I'm jobless right now or would be a regular subscriber. Please let me know when you get desperate again and I will send along what cash I can spare -- what you do is too important to lose. You are the single most effective spokesman for the heroism of the British soldier and it is criminal that their brass is shutting you out. It's a disgrace.
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    Doug Newton · 12 years ago
    Perhaps if enough of us write to the British MOD they might reconsider, perhaps after a restful night's sleep in London, Michael's embed with 2Rifles. Thanks to Cara Sims for the website link. Here's my contribution:

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

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

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

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

    All the best
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    Sherwood · 12 years ago
    watching this news reminds me what my freedoms cost. Apart from 'Thank You', words can't express my appreciation. I served in the army 6 yrs with Paras but you guys all deserve a medal.
    Serving in 'The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan'...will Democracy take there?
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    Sherwood · 12 years ago
    Pure truth. No spin, no b.s. no commercials. Great photos.
    This type of info is exactly what I wanted.
    CNN super sucks. Michael you DEFINITELY should get a medal.
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    Steve H · 12 years ago
    What you have been doing with the UK contingent in Afghan will not be forgotten. I served 16 years in the UK military but was lucky not to be ever sent into real harms way.

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

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

    Stay safe out there, thank you so much for your insight and may God go with you.
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    C. · 12 years ago
    Thank you for your contribution. Sorry to hear about the canceled embed, its a shame really. Thanks again for reporting the truth.
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    KP · 12 years ago
    "The British Military should give you special honors, "
    I'll second that!

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

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

    Stay safe!
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    Robert · 12 years ago
    I wish the UK's MoD had half the brains, and the heart that their Soldiers, Marines have. Come on now, get them the helo's they need. WTF!!! Its like a broken record. Those guys have hearts like a Lion, and thier MoD has a backbone of jelly. Yo, ante up cuz. Get them thier choppers. Oh, by the way, M Yon, thanx for all you do, stay safe, be careful. Let the Brits know we here in the US do care, and damn we love them too. My heart breaks for the fam's who have lost thier loved ones. We DO care. Our "cousins"from across the pond. A bond that will NEVER be broken...Rhyno
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    Bill Radcliffe · 12 years ago
    What unbelievable stupidity led the MOD to cancel your embed? Nothing I have read comes close to bringing the reality of what our lads are putting up with out there. I'll truly miss your reports. We'll get nothing as objective from now on. Probably nothing even slightly objective from what we know of that lot.

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

    Good luck with those Americans!
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    Marie · 12 years ago
    OK, but they were/are mirages
    now according to this site, rafales are allso operating
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    Solomon2 · 12 years ago
    I wonder what his buddies think of his new nickname.
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    Marie · 12 years ago
    umm sorry, wrong video
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    Eric Hyde · 12 years ago
    Read about you in Thomas Rid and Marc Hecker's book called War 2.0: Irregular Warfare in the Information Age. Embed policies v. your blogging makes it it seem like the MoD cheated. Fuck it... you've already won.
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    Russell · 12 years ago
    Any chance you can embed with the Canadians? I'd love to know how my fellow countrymen are doing. Anyway, fantastic reporting. It's unfortunate that the brits cancelled your embed, I finally knew something about what the British were doing in Helmand. Keep up the good work!
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    brenda hale · 12 years ago
    Michael I know you and my hubby chatted while at Fob Jackson before he was killled by an IED. Your reports were as important as my emails with him. It is with a sadness I hear of you losing youe embed, it was a difficult but refreshing truth to hear what is expected of our guys there, and how they tirelessly continue to do a difficult job in horrendous circumstances.
    Brenda Hale
    Swift and Bold
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    AJ · 12 years ago
    Awesome read. As a Brit, please do not think that our Forces and the MOD are one in the same. The Forces are the boys out there doing the ground work. The MOD is the moronic government run body that has just pledged £2.8 bn to rebuild its offices.
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    Scott Dudley · 12 years ago
    Many of us here are combat veterans who understand that your husband was a true leader who cared for his men, so much that he gave his live. There is no greater love. We mourn your loss.

    Cdr. Scott Dudley, USN (Ret.)
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    Bob · 12 years ago
    I hope you can pick up the battle with the Stryker Brigade. The mud walls are no match for a select few of their pieces. The Brits have made some great reporting possible.
    It has been said enough here....We are mostly in awe of the British tenacity,,,due to your dispatches.

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

    Screw the political spin!

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    Brenda Adams · 12 years ago
    Dear Michael,

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

    I was most interested in your google maps. Your location in Helmand has been of great interest as I know an American soldier stationed at FOB Ramrod. If you know of this FOB, I would be curious to learn where it is located in relationship to FOB Jackson. Always, in reading about these British soldiers, I have imagined that Kevin was seeing and doing similar things....perhaps it is not the same but your news was the closest information we could glean.
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    Marc Madden · 12 years ago
    Michael, I very much hope your time with Brit Mil does not come to an end due the short sightedness of the UK MOD.
    Your background gives you the ability to understand, empathise & see with a soldier eyes the strengths & strength of purpose of those who have to close with the enemy.
    You very obviously have great empathy for the soldiers you serve with, I do not use the word serve lightly.
    Your work illustrates the incredible nature of the acts performed on a daily basis & without fanfare by the troops on the ground.
    You serve them & us by continuing your work.
    Stag on!
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    a father · 12 years ago
    Michael I for one will support you with money and will try to spread the word on how the MOD is trying to use bully boy tactics to censor you, as a Brit I am ashamed of way our MOD believes its role is to censor the news and spin the truth rather than support our troops.

    thank you for your despatches on our boys and girls and the risks they take
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    KellyC · 12 years ago
    Michael, thank you for continuing to be there and put a face and a human-ness on the lives that we are losing there.
    Brenda Hale, my sincerest condolences. I know there's nothing that can fill the hole in your heart now but please know that Michael's readers and millions of other Americans truly feel a huge debt of gratitude to your husband Mark for his sacrifice. He was a true hero.

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