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January 12 2011

16:04

The War After the War Plays Out for Veterans in Psych Ward

Basetrack is following the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, 1-8, for their tour in Musa Qala, Helmand, one of Afghanistan's most dangerous and strategically important locations. The goal is to tell a small fragment of their story in real time, as it unfolds. We aim to create a connection between the Marine strapping on his helmet and heading out on patrol and the public who have little or no personal stake in the war. For the Marines and their families, there is a perception that no one cares, that no one even remembers there is a war going on.

(For more on this project, read this previous blog post.)

War stories are frustrating -- especially the true ones. They've been told a million different ways since Homer. Each one is unique, each one the same. Cruelness and beauty, savagery and charity, shame and pride, cowardice and valor, idiocy and genius are in full bloom in war. War is full of life's extremities compressed in tiny explosive packets, full of experiences that defy expression. Firefights and bombings and their aftermath -- a tongue can't contort those sights to language, a brain can't take full measure of them even long after the fact. 

Explaining it to an audience half a world away, desensitized and bored after 10 years of war is even more difficult.

Attracted to Risk-Taking

The Marines are halfway through their tour now. For many, this isn't their first and for many, it won't be their last. It has been a difficult tour. We communicate directly with people interested in the project and the Marines' families through our Facebook page, and the ebb and flow of emotion and strain of this deployment on the families is digitally palpable. 

(Note that out of respect for very real concerns about operational security and safety for all involved, there is a delay between the time a photograph or an audio interview or a story is composed and when it is posted on our site, which allows for redactions.)

I can't say for sure, because I haven't spent any time with the Marines yet, but if my past combat experience is any indication, many will come home with war still in them. They will have stories they are unable to tell -- stories that reside in limbic systems that were remapped for combat and now strain to adjust to life back in the States.

A footnote in the Army's report [PDF file] about the ever-increasing suicide rate within its ranks said, "The all-volunteer Army attracts and recruits individuals who enlist knowing they will be sent into harm's way. A segment of this population is not only aware of the risk but may be attracted to risk-taking."

Shared Commitment

I fought in Afghanistan and I miss it. I miss the risk, the bonding and the sense of purpose, which is one of the reasons I was attracted to Basetrack after I got out of the Army. I served 16 months in Afghanistan as an infantryman with the 10th Mountain Division.  

In Sebastian Junger's book about an infantry company's experience in the Korengal Valley, he wrote about the thing infantrymen miss most when they come home: The sense that someone has your back.

"The Army might screw you and the girlfriend might dump you and the enemy might kill you, but the shared commitment to safeguard one another's lives is unnegotiable and only deepens with time," Junger wrote.

This bond cuts both ways, however -- especially after a tough deployment when the absolute single-mindedness of combat action is replaced with the mind-numbing and often frustrating kaleidoscope of experience in the real world. The strain of combat presented itself in different ways when members of my battalion came home. Some of the more extreme examples: 

  • Drunk out of his mind, one soldier walked up to a police station with a pellet gun, threatening the cops. The officers said that he was trying to commit suicide-by-cop -- to let someone else have the responsibility of pulling the trigger for once. 
  • A friend's wife stole $4,000 from him and spent it all on heroin, the irony not lost on anyone. He divorced her, but not his emotions, and put himself into an early grave. 
  • The MPs went to a house on post to investigate a 911 hang-up call. By the time they came to the door, the Staff Sergeant was a bottle of vodka deep. He told them there was nothing wrong. They wanted to investigate more. He invited them in, produced a concealed pistol, forced them on their knees and took their weapons away. When their backup arrived and tried to talk the Staff Sergeant down, he fired two shots at them.  They shot him in the neck and the face and killed him dead in the house where he lived with his wife and three children. 

Of course, there were also divorces, fights, drinking, drug use, arrests, and other expressions of frustration with life after war.

These stories aren't unique; they're representative of the things that happen after war, when the bill for the psychic debt incurred after months of sustained tension comes due. It happens after every war.

Ward 1A

inuse.jpg

My story isn't unique. I spent my last two years in the Army back in the U.S., in a good job, with a wonderful girlfriend and the promise of better days ahead. Still, something was wrong. I couldn't sleep. I was depressed. Morose. Bitter. Angry. Drinking.

I took anti-depressants. I saw counselors. I spent 12 days in an in-patient psychiatric ward at the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Virginia, after I took matters into my own hands. I was not a happy patient. Here's a note from my art therapist:  

"Patient did attend and participate in art therapy group. He was agitated and attempted throughout the session to instigate and provoke arguments with other group members. This patient eventually calmed down...the graphic conversation and commented that 'I can draw bullshit all day!' He was loud and confrontational. He was not able to receive feedback and was not able to provide meaningful feedback to others. He was resistant to even hearing about others' assessments of their own work. During this session, the patient's mood was agitated and was congruent with his affect. The patient was challenging and distracting to others."

Getting out of the Army last summer didn't change much except my health care.

Less than a month ago, on the day after Christmas, I checked into Ward 1A of the Veteran's Hospital in Fayetteville, Arkansas -- the psych ward. The staff called it the "VA Spa," a place where a bunch of seriously messed up vets check in to chill out. Another patient, a Navy guy, called it the "flight deck" because it's where vets crashed and then had short take-offs, often to return or transition to another form of treatment.

"1A ain't spittin' out winners," he said.

On the ward, in plastic chairs molded around heavy weights to prevent throwing, sat combat vets from Korea and Vietnam, along with other veterans who had no combat experience, just serious mental conditions. All were clad in sterile hospital scrubs color-coded by size.

Blogging From Hell

I was the only one from Iraq or Afghanistan, but it was a slow time, the doctors assured me. Plus, most of the Vietnam vets hadn't started to show up at the VA until five or ten years after their combat tours. All of us were on potent cocktails of medications. Pretty much everyone in there had some sort of dual psychiatric diagnosis. PTSD. Drug addiction. Depression. Suicidal thoughts. Homicidal thoughts. Schizophrenia. Bipolar disorder. Delusional. Actively psychotic. Alcoholism. Pretty much anything in the DSM-IV

You could put all those conditions up on a bulletin board, throw a couple of darts and come up with someone's condition. Darts, of course, weren't allowed in Ward 1A.

For many on the ward, the war never ended. Many, like me, had been there before. I talked to Teru Kuwayama, who leads Basetrack, and we decided there was value in covering the way the war continues in individuals, long after deployment ends. 

So here I am, blogging from a VA psych ward now that I've transitioned to an intensive outpatient program. Kuwayama and I couldn't have written a script like this, but here it is, and it's important. If people can ignore a public war in it's 10th year, they will certainly ignore the private war that continues long after.

At the end of my first day in 1A, a nurse introduced another veteran in-patient, prompting him with standard questions -- name, hometown, current place of residence, that sort of thing. The man, a Vietnam Special Forces combat veteran whose father was one of the first 100 Americans killed in Vietnam, answered. 

"Where do I come from? I come from my mother. Where do I live? I live in hell."

November 30 2010

14:30

From Fighting in Afghanistan to Blogging for Basetrack

ser·en·dip·i·ty [ser-uhn-dip-i-tee] -noun

1. an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.

2. good fortune; luck: the serendipity of getting the first job she applied for.

2007

I'm sweating despite the snow on the ground. I'm at the wheel of my humvee, silently begging the platoon leader on my right to stop the banter that gets us through most long missions. The missions are routine now, a year into a 16-month deployment to Afghanistan, but I still hate this drive. 

A photographer from a national magazine rides with my infantry platoon up into the mountains of Eastern Afghanistan, in the Omna district. At some point during the trip -- as we inch up the vertigo-inducing, narrow switchbacks, hugging a road that ascends three thousand meters from the valley -- the photographer snaps a photo. I don't talk to him at all during the trip.

Going to Omna always made me nervous. Going up was fine, I guess. Coming down involved wearing night vision goggles to navigate a muddy and slick road when there was always something. I wasn't sure if I'd really checked the brake fluid, or changed the batteries in my goggles. A mistake meant my squad would descend the few thousand meters to the valley very fast, for the last time. Oh, yeah, we could also get shot at. I am a bad driver.  

Months later, the photo I never gave a second thought to is published. It shows an Afghan man on a motorbike looking down through the magnificent, scary panorama at the humvees snaking their way up towards Omna from the wide valley of Paktika province. My folks buy a few copies of the magazine for my scrapbook and we all go on with our lives.

2009

I'm behind a desk at Fort Monroe, Virginia, counting the days until I get out of the Army and wondering what I'm going to do after I take off my uniform. I'll go back to college, I guess, but I need something else, some plan, right? I'm well-educated, well-read, and in-shape -- but utterly devoid of any useful skills or qualifications suitable to long-term employment.

I can walk all night through mountains wearing 80 pounds of gear. I can shoot a grenade into a window at 300 meters. I can set up a radio that broadcasts encrypted messages off a satellite. I can speak, read and write some Pashto, an interesting and nuanced language (though my vocabulary contains little poetry and much violence).

"When my three-year enlistment expired in 1967, I was almost completely ignorant about the stuff of ordinary life, about marriage, mortgages, and building a career," Philip Caputo wrote in his Vietnam memoir, "A Rumor of War." "I had a degree, but no skills. I had never run an office, taught a class, built a bridge, welded, programmed a computer, laid bricks, sold anything, or operated a lathe. But I had acquired some expertise in the art of killing. I knew how to face death and how to cause it, with everything on the evolutionary scale of weapons from the knife to the 3.5 inch rocket launcher."

I don't even have a degree. I do have a set of wings showing that I graduated from Airborne School.

I wonder if I could get my old job at Lowe's back, selling toilets.  

My web browser wanders and I end up on Gizmodo, with an article called "Ask a Pro: How to Shoot (and not get shot) in a War Zone." Some photographer is answering questions. I'm skeptical but I read on.

The guy sounds legitimate, and I see that reflected in his packing list, which features things like zip ties, zip lock bags, tape, and batteries. It doesn't include crazy gizmos or expensive, trademarked, patent-pending outdoor gear worn mostly on New England liberal arts campuses. He has a website, www.lightstalkers.org that serves as a community for other people who travel and work in places that don't have a ministry of tourism. Or tourism. His name is Teru Kuwayama, and yeah, I realize we've seen each other before on the road up to Omna. My platoon leader was from Flushing, Queens and that's one neighborhood over from Teru's. Small world. 

February 2010

After four combat deployments, my brother is killed in a helicopter crash in Germany. I post a note on Lightstalkers mentioning this. I am overwhelmed by the empathy and compassion in the notes I get back. Teru writes:

We didn't know it then, but I was embedded with Matt's platoon in Afghanistan. Only years later, during a random stateside conversation, did we realize that we'd been a humvee apart in a small convoy that snaked it's way through the mountains along the Pakistani border.

In the small world that is LS, I don't doubt that some of us have crossed paths with his brother, or strapped into his blackhawk at some point during the course of those four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

all my respect to the Farwell family - and thanks for getting us home to ours.

T   

Teru is now my friend. I go on Facebook and make it official. 

September 2010

I'm in Arkansas, back in college.

Teru is about to go to Afghanistan for some crazy-long project he got a grant for. This project, Basetrack. There are some visa problems. I know some people, and I know the military bureaucracy and the lingo. I volunteer to help. One thing leads to another and pretty soon, over Facebook chat, Teru asks me what my schedule is like in January. Would I like an all-expenses-paid trip to Musa Qala, Afghanistan? He offers me all the MRE's I can eat and says I can borrow some of his body armor. It's a weird conversation. I'm sold. 

Now I'm writing for www.basetrack.org. Monica, our lead writer, and I exchange phone calls and emails daily. She corrects my grammar. I burp and offer to send her cold weather gear and tourniquets. We help each other out. 

Balazs and Tivadar, two photographers from Hungary, travel to Afghanistan with Teru. They suit up and head out with the Marines, carrying iPhones and cameras rather than rifles. At night they come back and curse the satellite phone and its 1995-era uploading speeds. I curse David Hasselhoff being voted off "Dancing with the Stars."

Basetrack continues to grow and evolve. We all learn. Patient phone calls and emails from David Gurman and the rest of the web team help me empathize with what a senior citizen taking a library's "Introduction to Computers" class feels like. They're based in California and Utah. Sadika coaches us on Central Asian geopolitics. She's in D.C. We have a funky little crew. 

We're getting to know some of the Marine's family members via our Facebook page. I do pushups and now add one more for Chesty Puller. This whole thing is new to everyone. It's exciting and I'm glad to be a part of it.

A few years ago on those switchbacks up to Omna, though, I couldn't see all that. I just saw the twists in the road. 

Serendipity.

October 19 2010

14:14

Basetrack Pushes Off to Follow Marines in Afghanistan

Safi Airways flight 4Q-52. Sept 28, 2010 at 20:00 GMT-Zulu -- I'm airborne and en route to link up with First Battalion, Eighth Marine Regiment (a.k.a. "one-eight," the subject of our Knight News Challenge grant), in southern Afghanistan.

We're at cruising altitude, somewhere between Hungary and Turkey, on a civilian flight into Kabul. The first leg of our trip, on Singapore Air between New York and Frankfurt, was fully packed. Frankfurt to Kabul is almost empty. Go figure. Apparently Afghanistan has yet to re-establish itself as a vacation destination for European tourists.

Battling Red Tape

Plan A was to travel from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina to Afghanistan with one of the first waves of Marines from one-eight -- but the battalion lost its first skirmish to red tape. Adjutant Lt. Hull, over at battalion HQ, waged a months-long campaign to clear me for travel on the chartered jets that the Marines use to reach Manas airbase in Kyrgyzstan. I traveled to Camp Lejeune repeatedly as identification cards and travel orders were being processed.

Ultimately, I don't fit into any of the Pentagon-approved categories for non-military passengers -- I'm not a contractor or a detainee -- and so I find myself standing by and watching as the first group of Marines push off from Camp Lejeune at 5 a.m. on one of the last days of August.

I drag my kit back to the civilian airport at Jacksonville, N.C. the next morning and head back home. I'm actually more than slightly relieved to have the departure postponed -- I need every second I can get to scramble this operation up to half-baked status. We're still a long way from cruising altitude.

Preparations

Over the next month, my place in New York takes on the appearance of a propeller-head survivalist compound. Piles of Kevlar flak jackets and bullet-proof ceramic rifle plates accumulate in the corners of my living room, with satellite phones, GPS navigators, and head mounted fiber-optic cameras spilling out across the floors. Stacks of portable hard drives are wedge between waterproof expedition packs, shockproof hard cases and Camo Bivy sacks.

Dubious looking men with shaved heads and laptops occupy all available couches, and a pervasive smell of spray paint and WD-40 fills the air, as gear gets modified, tricked out, and dialed down. Conversation is limited to Skype conference calls between cities across the planet as blueprints are drawn out for everything from website architecture and digital data management to water purifiers and solar power generators. Airline weight allowances and national regulations pertaining to body armor become subjects of almost obsessive concern. AmEx calls me several times a week to inquire about the "unusual activity" on my credit cards.

Occasionally my 3-year-old daughter wanders into the living room, puts on a ballistic helmet, and turns on the CD system, thus injecting Shakira and mil-spec interpretive dance into the mix.

Exactly one month after the original deploy date, the first two-man crew heads out for Afghanistan. We barely make our flight, dragging more than our combined body weight in baggage with us.

But the project is finally wheels up and mobile -- and it now has a name and a website: Basetrack. (Here's a recent blog post about my flight to Dubai.)

Everything else is TBD, but ready or not, here we come.

More soon from the other side.

August 23 2010

16:21

One-Eight, Afghanistan: Social Media + U.S. Marine Corps

As the saying goes, "Be careful what you wish for."

In my case, I won a Knight News Challenge grant to launch an online, social media reporting network that follows a battalion of U.S. Marines throughout their deployment to southern Afghanistan. (Congratulations! You've won a year in Helmand Province, roadside bomb capital of the world...)

Although recently upgraded from "forgotten war" to "central front," the Afghanistan conflict exists on the periphery of the American consciousness. We're nearly a decade into the longest war in U.S. history, but most Americans still have a pretty fuzzy idea of what we're actually doing over there. "Counterinsurgency" is the new buzzword, but if we held a national pop quiz to actually define the term, I don't expect we'd get good grades.

Beyond social media, this project is really about the simple, literal question: "What are we doing in Afghanistan?"

A Year to Rediscover America

While the public is clearly disconnected, I somehow don't accept the notion that they aren't interested -- personal experience over the past year tells me the opposite. I spent that year at Stanford on a Knight journalism fellowship -- mostly impersonating a college student, but occasionally impersonating an "Afghanistan expert" on the lecture circuit. (Prior to the fellowship, I hadn't read a lot of books on the subject, but I'd spent years wandering the far reaches of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Kashmir as a photographer, sometimes embedded with military forces. My photos have appeared in publications including Time, Newsweek, Outside and National Geographic.).

For the first time I could remember, I spent a solid year in my own country. I saw a lot more of America than I ever had before, I don't think we've got a public that doesn't care -- I think we've got a profession that doesn't know how to communicate.

Flash forward to now, I'm at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina -- a week from departure, without so much as a domain name registered. I'm dusting off body armor, scrambling to locate satellite transmitters and solar panels, wondering what I was thinking, and what exactly an "online social media reporting network" looks like, and how I'm actually going to materialize all this vaporware.

As far as I know, the project is a bit of an anomaly in the technology-heavy spectrum of News Challenge winners. It promises no coding, no new widgets or algorithms, and not much that could really pass for a business model.

Ultimately, it comes down to the idea that we could do a lot more with the resources that we already have. Among other things, those resources include communication tools of incredible, and untested reach. (Consider the notion that 50 percent of the activity on the Internet occurs on a single website, Facebook).

To be honest, this thing wasn't actually my idea, and I had one foot out the door on the Afghanistan business, when I got the call.

The Idea

The idea came from a Marine I'd met in Afghanistan in 2004. Back then he was a captain, leading a hundred Marines through the mountains in eastern Afghanistan, just a few miles off the Pakistani border. I'd just come out of Iraq, and he was on his way over, and I remember sitting on a hillside, in total darkness one night, telling him what he was in for. I told him Iraq was a lot worse than he'd heard, and it was just starting to slide off the edge. Afghanistan, by comparison, felt like it was on the right track.

I was half right, at least.

He's a major now, with a mind-bending six tours under his belt. He's second-in-command of a battalion and about to return to Afghanistan with almost a thousand Marines. And he asked me: Did I want to come along? Would I ride out the entire tour with them?

One of these days, I have to learn how to say no.

Typically, embedded journalists spend a week or two with a military unit, reporting for a news agency or a magazine or a newspaper. The embed slot is like a revolving door, with one media outlet rotating out, as another one rotates in. Correspondents in places like Iraq and Afghanistan work on directives from editors in places like London and New York -- and if you're a photographer like me, you might find yourself in some remote desert or mountain range, hunting for scenes conjured in the imagination of a correspondent in Kabul or Baghdad.

What if we tried a different approach, something both more autonomous, and more collaborative?

Execution and distribution might come down to the question: What's the social graph of a thousand Marines? I have no idea, but when I run a Facebook app to analyze my own social network, my MacBook spins, chokes, and crashes as it attempts to crunch the data, and plot the connections around a single person. That might just be buggy code over at Facebook, but I'd still guess the numbers surrounding a battalion-strength network of 19 year-olds are some degree of real big.

It may be that the Marine Corps had the same question, because earlier this year, it lifted a long-standing ban on social media for deployed troops. Translation: Marines can tweet and Facebook from Afghanistan.

It's anyone's guess what that means practically, especially in a place that doesn't have a lot of Internet cafes. But it's worth watching how the military makes use of the social web. So far, on an institutional level, they seem to have made much more effective use of it than the professional media.

More soon from the other side...

16:21

One-Eight, Afghanistan: Social Media + U.S. Marine Corps

As the saying goes, "Be careful what you wish for."

In my case, I won a Knight News Challenge grant to launch an online, social media reporting network that follows a battalion of U.S. Marines throughout their deployment to southern Afghanistan. (Congratulations! You've won a year in Helmand Province, roadside bomb capital of the world...)

Although recently upgraded from "forgotten war" to "central front," the Afghanistan conflict exists on the periphery of the American consciousness. We're nearly a decade into the longest war in U.S. history, but most Americans still have a pretty fuzzy idea of what we're actually doing over there. "Counterinsurgency" is the new buzzword, but if we held a national pop quiz to actually define the term, I don't expect we'd get good grades.

Beyond social media, this project is really about the simple, literal question: "What are we doing in Afghanistan?"

A Year to Rediscover America

While the public is clearly disconnected, I somehow don't accept the notion that they aren't interested -- personal experience over the past year tells me the opposite. I spent that year at Stanford on a Knight journalism fellowship -- mostly impersonating a college student, but occasionally impersonating an "Afghanistan expert" on the lecture circuit. (Prior to the fellowship, I hadn't read a lot of books on the subject, but I'd spent years wandering the far reaches of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Kashmir as a photographer, sometimes embedded with military forces. My photos have appeared in publications including Time, Newsweek, Outside and National Geographic.).

For the first time I could remember, I spent a solid year in my own country. I saw a lot more of America than I ever had before, I don't think we've got a public that doesn't care -- I think we've got a profession that doesn't know how to communicate.

Flash forward to now, I'm at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina -- a week from departure, without so much as a domain name registered. I'm dusting off body armor, scrambling to locate satellite transmitters and solar panels, wondering what I was thinking, and what exactly an "online social media reporting network" looks like, and how I'm actually going to materialize all this vaporware.

As far as I know, the project is a bit of an anomaly in the technology-heavy spectrum of News Challenge winners. It promises no coding, no new widgets or algorithms, and not much that could really pass for a business model.

Ultimately, it comes down to the idea that we could do a lot more with the resources that we already have. Among other things, those resources include communication tools of incredible, and untested reach. (Consider the notion that 50 percent of the activity on the Internet occurs on a single website, Facebook).

To be honest, this thing wasn't actually my idea, and I had one foot out the door on the Afghanistan business, when I got the call.

The Idea

The idea came from a Marine I'd met in Afghanistan in 2004. Back then he was a captain, leading a hundred Marines through the mountains in eastern Afghanistan, just a few miles off the Pakistani border. I'd just come out of Iraq, and he was on his way over, and I remember sitting on a hillside, in total darkness one night, telling him what he was in for. I told him Iraq was a lot worse than he'd heard, and it was just starting to slide off the edge. Afghanistan, by comparison, felt like it was on the right track.

I was half right, at least.

He's a major now, with a mind-bending six tours under his belt. He's second-in-command of a battalion and about to return to Afghanistan with almost a thousand Marines. And he asked me: Did I want to come along? Would I ride out the entire tour with them?

One of these days, I have to learn how to say no.

Typically, embedded journalists spend a week or two with a military unit, reporting for a news agency or a magazine or a newspaper. The embed slot is like a revolving door, with one media outlet rotating out, as another one rotates in. Correspondents in places like Iraq and Afghanistan work on directives from editors in places like London and New York -- and if you're a photographer like me, you might find yourself in some remote desert or mountain range, hunting for scenes conjured in the imagination of a correspondent in Kabul or Baghdad.

What if we tried a different approach, something both more autonomous, and more collaborative?

Execution and distribution might come down to the question: What's the social graph of a thousand Marines? I have no idea, but when I run a Facebook app to analyze my own social network, my MacBook spins, chokes, and crashes as it attempts to crunch the data, and plot the connections around a single person. That might just be buggy code over at Facebook, but I'd still guess the numbers surrounding a battalion-strength network of 19 year-olds are some degree of real big.

It may be that the Marine Corps had the same question, because earlier this year, it lifted a long-standing ban on social media for deployed troops. Translation: Marines can tweet and Facebook from Afghanistan.

It's anyone's guess what that means practically, especially in a place that doesn't have a lot of Internet cafes. But it's worth watching how the military makes use of the social web. So far, on an institutional level, they seem to have made much more effective use of it than the professional media.

More soon from the other side...

July 05 2010

09:29

E&P: US military officials will now need permission for press interviews

According to a piece in Editor & Publisher, defence secretary Robert Gates has has demanded that military officials must now get clearance from the Pentagon for press interviews.

Gates allegedly sent a memo ordering military and civilian personnel across the globe to first gain permission before sharing stories with the media, which would prevent a repeat of the General Stanley McChrystal affair.

The order, issued by Gates on Friday in a brief memo to military and civilian personnel worldwide and effective immediately, tells officials to make sure they are not going out of bounds or unintentionally releasing information that the Pentagon wants to hold back.

The order has been in the works since long before Gen. Stanley McChrystal stunned his bosses with criticism and complaints in a Rolling Stone article that his superiors did not know was coming.

Read the full post here…Similar Posts:



March 16 2010

08:52

Channel 4 News: Embedded journalist in Helmand province

Channel 4 News correspondent Alex Thomson was embedded with the Coldstream guards in Afghanistan, while they came under heavy fire from insurgents.

His film from last night’s news programme:

Yesterday Channel 4 news wrote in its evening email, Snowmail:

[The film] reveals the state of relations between the Brits and the rather hapless Afghan army – who spend much of their time shooting in the wrong direction – or arresting, then releasing a local man who may, or may not have done anything wrong.

Suddenly the troops come under heavy fire as the insurgents start shooting straight at them. Our team are pinned down with the soldiers as bullets fly overhead – even into one soldier’s head, whose helmet luckily saves him. Not much ground is won at the end of it all – but it’s a remarkable watch.

Alex Thomson was tweeting throughout his visit, via http://twitter.com/alextomo. Tweets from the battlefield had a time delay because of operations security. An example from 12 March:

(Not live) RMP shot in helmet wakes up realising he has woken up . Alive. A shd let hm keep smashed up helmet. He’s back on roof sentry.

Thomson is due to participate in this week’s video conference in Coventry: Afghanistan – are we embedding the truth? The event is due to be livestreamed on this site and the BBC College of Journalism. The Twitter tag will be #afghancov.


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