Michael's Dispatches

Sangin Then, and Now


2 February 2011

During the summer of 2009, the British were fighting hard for Sangin.  They were always outnumbered by Taliban and terrain.  Casualties were high.

Today, US Marines are paying in blood for the very same ground because, in part, they gave up a miniscule speck of Afghanistan, and then paid to retake it.  But by other reports, Marines also are fighting very aggressively and seem to be destabilizing the Taliban in that crucial area.

There is much to be learned by first reading my dispatch from summer of 2009: “Bad Medicine on Pharmacy Road,” and then watching the current BBC documentary: “The Battle for Bomb Alley.”

The tiny stretch that was then called “Pharmacy Road” is now called “Bomb Alley,” though it was just as deadly in 2009.

By reading my dispatch closely, and then focusing on the BBC documentary, you’ll notice familiar sights in this tiny speck of land, and familiar names.  Little has changed other than that Marines spilled blood regaining what the British had already fought for.  That is a shame.  The good news is that the Marines seem to be winning.

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mark Ex 11 EOD Regt, · 10 years ago

    It's sad to think of all that was lost during the 2 Rifles tour, It was during this period that I lost My friend SSGT Oz Smidt (Team leader of Rainbow 6) , who you met and photographed during your embed, and if I know Oz, he would have regailed you with his sharp whit.

    Unfortunately, those lessons which should have been learned haven't and yet again ISAF (in particular US Marines) are relearning those lessons.

    In Afganistan, once you remove the security you create a vacuum, one that Terry Taliban is only too willing to fill. So yet again, we find ourselves trying to remove a ruthless, determined and deceptively versatile foe.

    Once they are kicked back this time, lets hope that the powers that be don't rush to hand it back to them.

    RIP Oz

    Keep up the good work Michael
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Michael Yon Author · 10 years ago
    Mark --

    You were in a great EOD unit. It's still hard for me to believe what you men were doing. Incredible work brother. Really incredible.

    Oz is one of those Soldiers who just jumped out of space, it seemed like, and you could never forget him. He had me laughing quite a lot, even while you guys kept going straight at those bombs on Pharmacy Road. That BBC report says you did about 0 or so bombs that day, as I recall, and that seems realistic as per my memory. And Oz's wife, so incredibly brave. I hope she is doing well.

    I hope our paths cross again, but this time with no bombs.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mark Ex 11 EOD Regt, · 10 years ago
    Any chance of a book on your experiences with the British Embed? I know many who would subscribe to such an offering, including myself.

    It isn't often that you find a writer that can speak from the grass roots level and "tell it like it is", for although those that have gone before you have tried to convey the day to day, they do so in the knowledge that their time on the embed is like a boys own adventure and as a result (through no fault of their own) end up being a little patronising.

    Your dispatches, which I have been following for a couple of years now have kept me in touch with the "Real Afgan" warts and all, and consoled me through a particularly dark time following Oz's death.

    so give it some thought, I'm up for a copy or two


  • This commment is unpublished.
    Michael Yon Author · 10 years ago
    Mark --

    Have actually done enough work with enough British units that this would be possible. With a British publisher, would likely be willing.

    Must think about it.

    Talk later,

  • This commment is unpublished.
    Leyla · 10 years ago
    Wow.........imagine having to fight for the very same thing (ground) that others lost their lives for?!!
    I love your commentaries just think sometimes war is so crazy and the price too high!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mark Ex 11 EOD Regt, · 10 years ago
    Anytime mate,

    Thankfully the most dangerous thing I do now is write Health, Safety, Environmental or Quality plans or the odd risk assessment. (life as a civvie I'm afraid). But at least I can look St Peter in the Eye on judgement day and say in all honesty, I think I made a difference. It's whether he'll overlook my other misdemeanors that is in question.....

    By the way

    Mines a Guiness!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mark Ex 11 EOD Regt, · 10 years ago
    I've sat here in the last half an hour or so since my last post, contemplating what I would say to St Peter, and the more I think on it the more I'm convinced that when I drop off this mortal coil, I'll be off to hell in a hand cart.

    Ah well, as they say it's better to burn up than to fade away!

    Besides, old soldiers never die, they just go to hell and regroup.


  • This commment is unpublished.
    kib · 10 years ago
    How sad this is. In the end, we can only pray that our presence in Afghanistan will have made life better for everyone, especially the Afghan. Doesn't seem possible to secure that within the next three years. In light of that, justification of any loss is becoming hard to accept.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    mike wilson · 10 years ago
    If you are in country or heading that way- Be safe== How many Books have you signed-- I will be happy when I get mine- Like I said in another note I plan on giving it to a Sgt Donald Sanchez as he is ready to Grad from U of F- He served in Iraq during that time frame-- We at our K of C in High Springs, Fl. sent him and hius fellow troops many packages- He was at an outpost serving with the Brits- just a couple miles from Iran.. He Took lots of courses while sitting in the compound -- that is how he is able to finish School.. God Bless See you on the Suwannee River some day-- Mike Wilson
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jeff S. · 10 years ago
    Mark, regarding you and St. Peter--I'm pretty sure you can rest easy. You and your mates have done much more to keep us all safe than I ever could. Thanks for your service, from a Texan.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    AZ Angel · 10 years ago
    I would have preferred to read something about conditions now, rather than refer to older posts. My LCPL is there now not 18 months ago.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    mark · 10 years ago
    It was reported on the BBC that the coroner had ruled that Oz was unlawfully killed . . . . No shit sherlock
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Rick Schwab, Vietnam · 10 years ago
    I weep as I read your reports and other's comments. You are truly doing the Lord's work; God Bless and keep you safe...

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