Michael's Dispatches

Bad Medicine



As the shadows grew longer, the British and ANA began playing volleyball while EOD kept blowing up charges along Pharmacy Road.

When people complain about the British rations, I think of Laxle Kedian Harris, more commonly known as “H.”  I offered some weightlifting tips but H laughed and changed the subject.  But make no mistake—the rations are . . . to put it kindly, bland.

It’s dangerous to leave a camera unguarded around soldiers.  It could have been much worse.

That night, we stayed in the field because the mission was not merely to clear Pharmacy Road, but to build a sanger (guard position) about halfway down—one which would be constantly manned.  While we slept, soldiers from 2 Rifles and the engineers worked all night erecting the sanger.

After a long, hot day taking back Pharmacy Road.

Some work while others sleep.

And that was it.  Pharmacy Road was cleared and the sanger was built and most of us headed back to FOB Jackson just as the sun was rising on the second day.

Later that afternoon, back on FOB Jackson during the Battle Update Briefing (as Americans would call it), a BOOM shook the room.  Word came that a local person was pulling parts from one of the vehicles that were dragged off Pharmacy Road.  He encountered a Taliban booby-trap and he was killed.  EOD had not cleared the vehicles of booby-traps; the two vehicles had merely been pulled off the road.  Next day another local was killed on a parallel road that he thought the British had cleared.  It had not been cleared.  The Taliban blows up a lot of local people in Sangin.

The mission was an obvious success.  It was surprising that we endured no fatalities or serious injuries.  The mission was well-executed and since many of the soldiers have substantial combat experience from Iraq and Afghanistan, major dramas were averted.  Murphy had smiled upon us.  The only injury to my knowledge was the soldier who fell off the ladder.  Soldiers who had previously fought on Pharmacy Road said we had sustained about twenty fatalities and injuries in that general area.  And though at least one IED has been placed on the road since last week, C Coy and the ANA are now regularly patrolling and the freedom of movement has resumed.

This is a brutal fight.  Since that mission, eight more British soldiers and two interpreters have been killed in this area.  That’s ten KIA plus the wounded.  The soldiers keep going.

Coming up next: the fighting we saw on election day wherein the soldier beside me got his antenna shot off.


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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!!!
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    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!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    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.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    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!!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    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.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    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.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    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!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    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..
  • This commment is unpublished.
    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
  • This commment is unpublished.
    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
  • This commment is unpublished.
    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?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    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.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    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.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    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!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    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
  • This commment is unpublished.
    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!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    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.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    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!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    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
  • This commment is unpublished.
    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.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    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!

  • This commment is unpublished.
    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
  • This commment is unpublished.
    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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