Understanding & Importance
Written by Nathan Gallahan   
Wednesday, 03 February 2010 10:31

KABUL | Day -4 - One of the greatest aspects of Web 2.0 and the reason I’m so excited about this project, is it’s conversational and interactive nature. I’ve been writing and shooting photos for the Air Force for more than six years and it’s been great, but I have always dreamed of being able to get honest and candid feedback on the stories I’m telling.

I’ve always believed that my ultimate bosses are the taxpayers, and they are who I’ve always kept in mind whenever I write a story or click the shutter. I’ve been honored with an opportunity, here and now, to work not only for Americans, but for 44 countries, which I must say is not only exciting but unnerving at the same time.

I know that I won’t be able to please everyone, and

many will disagree with what we’re trying to accomplish. Those viewpoints are not only important, but critical to Ken and my work. It’s through both the positive and negative feedback that will guide our path during this mission.

We received a few comments last night that struck a chord in me, and they have driven me to write a bit. My “muse” for writing is my emotion, and I’m a pretty emotional person.

The first is in regard to whether or not we understand Afghanistan. I’ll be honest; we don’t understand all of it. I’m certain that unless I dedicate my life to learning Afghanistan, I never will. But, I haven’t always felt that way.

When we were on mission in Eastern Afghanistan in December, I thought I learned all about this country, I thought I understood the mission and the complexities. Then we went to Western Afghanistan in January and I learned that it was completely different. A thought struck me, we all live in bubbles, and that’s important in the military. We all have our place, our mission and our focus. Someone can be a subject matter expert in one area, but they can’t be subject matter experts in all areas.  That’s why there is a chain of command, the farther up the chain you are, the bigger the picture you’re looking at becomes. At the same time, the farther up the chain you are, you become less of an expert on absolute specifics in any given area; A reliance is built not just from the bottom of the chain to the top but from the top down – because the level of understanding required to complete such a complex task as securing Afghanistan and bringing freedom to these people, is too big for any one human to contemplate. This requires the greatest minds from 44 nations to figure out, and that’s what we have here in the International Security Assistance Force.

So why is it important to understand this conflict from the ground? From the everyday service members instead of the highest ranking leaders? Because the human element of this conflict has been buried under sound bites. Because this conflict has been turned into headlines and half-sentences floating across the bottom of the nightly news.

The countries fighting here deserve more than that, and more importantly, the Afghans who have been crushed by the hands of war for more than 30 years deserve a lot more than that. This conflict isn’t about news feeds; it’s about all the Afghan people who live in extreme poverty, and the average service member from one of 44 countries here helping the Afghan government to secure their freedom so they can live happy lives.

Our 30 Days mission is more than headlines. Our mission is to experience the counter insurgency and talk about it. We want the forums to erupt in conversation so we can all learn together. I really hope to see professors, scholars, generals, dignitaries, everyday people and Afghans, visit the forums and help us learn. I’m going to do the best job I can to be as accurate as I possibly can, but I need those smarter than me to help. The next 30 Days should be a very interesting experience and the only thing I ask of you, is to participate.

Now that I’m standing on my soap box, I wanted take a moment and say that this mission is not “cool”. Nothing of war is “cool”. War, killing, fear, repression are only a few of the horrible things that happen here. But all of that bows to an enduring hope that resides within me; and if I can bring that feeling of hope to just one other person over the next 30 Days, then I am willing to place myself in any situation to do just that – because the Afghans and the world deserve no less.

	Day -11	Home 	Day 1
Comments (20)add comment
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Linda Carter said:

Nate and Ken,

Your mission to get a better understanding of this war in Afghanistan and it's importance is a very needed well-rounded scope of a mission. The fact that your goal is to be as honest as possible... to me is the most valuable element to your final outcome. Your plan to report the positive and the negative aspects and views is of upmost importance to tell a ture story. Too often, we get reports that are tilted to the viewpoint of the messenger. I think we should not be afraid of truth and just tell it... and we of intelligent thinking minds can come up with a viewpoint of our own... and no reporter should be afraid of that.
As my son says, "I may not always like or agree with your opinion, but we (those in uniform) are the ones that fight so that you can freely express that opinion." When one is truly seeking "Truth," truth has a incredible way of showing up in the midst of all the "facts." The findings of your mission hopefully will be valuable to many, history, and future generations to come generations to come. There are many nations working together in this war, to make the world and our individuals nations, safer and freer from extreme and oppressive factions that work to do nothing more than bring destruction and devastaion to humankind that do not agree with their ideologies, relegions or motivations. The more honset "telling of this story", the more benefit to all who are serving, have served, lost lives, are wounded, seen destruction in their lands, and have reaped the benefits of the truly brave and courageous in this story.
Our prayers are with you and for you as you embarked upon your mission.
February 06, 2010
Votes: +2

AFCop24Seven said:

It Is An Honor
It is an honor to serve with young men like yourselves. Be as an veteran of the Iraq War and not experiencing Afghanistan, I can say with an open heart that I hope I don't every have to experience the war your are covering. I am humbled you two would take these chances and do what you do. I know for a fact you two Soldiers (Airmen) will depict and reflect a little piece of what goes on each and everyday in this region. The people of Afghanistan like the people of Iraq appreciate us doing what we are doing. It is the first time in 30 years the country can feel a bit safer.

Gentlemen, take care and God Bless.
February 06, 2010
Votes: +1

T-Cube said:

February 05, 2010
Votes: +0

Julia said:

Well said! Say "Hi' to my son over there! lol
February 04, 2010
Votes: +0

RK said:

Keep it simple
It's a big job - going around the country and trying to absorb it all in only 30 days. I don't think it's as complex as we make it. I think things are pretty simple. It's about the people feeling safe, being treated fairly and with respect by us and by each other, and having hope for the future. I'm looking forward to reading more.
February 04, 2010
Votes: +1

Your former apprentice said:

Kris says:
Its good to see your doing well TSgt. Gallahan. I'm interested to see where this project goes; I hope it works out well for you. Being a servicemember that hasn't deployed yet (and probably will soon,) i'm interested in not only what you have to say about it, but the opinions of everyone who will respond.
- Kris
February 04, 2010
Votes: +0

Matt Hauser said:

What is cool about this project...
What is cool is that instead of hearing about just the "war" that we all know about from the headlines, we get to hear about other things that our forces are doing in the region to help people. I love the story/photos about the Lithuanian Lt. talking with school kids about mines.

I pray every day for your safety and that of every member of our armed forces. I also pray for peace. May God end this war and all wars soon.

Also, your web site is pretty cool! Great job Nate!

Matt Hauser - Former Air Force Geek (Software Developer)

February 04, 2010
Votes: +0

Karen said:

Interested Observer
wow. I applaud your enthusiam and planning and am looking forward to your reports. Something different than what you mentioned as the headlines and 30 sec clips on who got blown up. I mourn for every servicemember who loses his or her life over there. I'm invested in your reports now and wish I was there on the journey with you....but will just settle for living vicariously through you instead. You make me think of Kevin Sites his "hot zone" reporting. Did you see that video of our soldiers doing jumping jacks w/the afghans and they couldn't jump or jack? (same thing w/iraqi soldiers). We got public affairs folks teaching skills to people who can't read or write. It's a valiant effort I suppose ... but what are we doing, really? I'm sure we'll see some of the answers in your journey. Cheers for now!
February 04, 2010
Votes: +0

Christina said:

Interesting way of putting it...
I agree with the point you made about understanding Afghanistan and your comparison to being in a bubble is very enlightening. I agree with how important it is to understand and I wish people took more time to do that or at the least admit that they don't.
February 03, 2010
Votes: +0

Ken Raimondi said:

T-4 Days

I'm glad to see you had time to write a blog while I was escorting folks cleaning the bathrooms! Oh well...that's deployment life. Each day brings new and exciting challenges. smilies/wink.gif
In all honesty though, I'm glad you wrote that. Afghanistan is so complex and I don't think any one person understands it from top to bottom. In fact, one of the Afghanistan readers stated that if anyone claims to be an expert on Afghanistan, they are lying to you. That's what makes this project so exciting. This is a chance to get people talking and to share ideas. And while we are on the road we can share these things with you and the people we meet. Let the discussion begin...

February 03, 2010
Votes: +0
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