Troops in Contact
Written by Nathan Gallahan   
Sunday, 14 March 2010 06:55

FOB Shank | Day 34 – There’s a very important portion of the Afghanistan story that I feel we haven’t told successfully. It’s the story of the troops living in holes next to the Afghan National Security Forces while fighting to secure this country.

I look back on 30 Days, and the only time we spent with them was at Strong Point Khyber. It was a great day, a great story with great people helping us to tell it, but I feel like we should have done more.  Yes, I feel mass media sensationalizes the amount of fighting going on. Yes, I do feel the global view of Afghanistan is skewed towards this place being 100 percent hell hole when it isn’t. But there is a lot of fighting going on here and Ken and I did everything we could to get out there to cover the story.

My dream photo has always been showing international forces

and ANSF fighting side-by-side with a fast mover rushing overhead in a show of force mission flushing the Taliban out of a village. There were opportunities for Ken and I to get in there, but we were either outright blocked from the opportunity, travel fell through or the operations were rescheduled.

Combat here is a strange beast. It seems to me there are two ways to come in contact. One, it happens out of sheer happenstance, such as when a convoy is driving and hits an improvised explosive device or a patrol is shot at out of the blue.

The second way is planned out operations. While these are planned, everywhere Ken and I went the plan either started two days after we left or happened two weeks ago. Other times, it was happening just down the road, but getting there in time was impossible or we were limited by our requirement for internet. We could have gone places, but we would have had to stay there for a week with no access to the internet.

It’s also important to note its wintertime. It’s not “fighting season”. The fighting here greatly reduces in the winter due to the cold and the anti-Afghan fighter’s lack of determination to fight in the cold. Had 30 Days been completed in the summer months, this could have been a completely different experience.

I’m not saying Ken and I have a death wish, we don’t. What I am saying is the combat story should have been told at some point during our journey.  According to www.icasualty.org, about 74 troops have been killed since we started this project.  In my heart, I feel 30 Days hasn’t done them justice. We weren’t afforded an opportunity to tell the story of those directly in the fig ht or caught in bad situations.  Although Ken and I only saw one IED and it was taken care of, combat operations are conducted every day.

I know my family has been worried sick about me being outside of the wire for the past month. The reality is, ISAF knows where the danger lies and they will never put their troops in harm’s way for no reason. I believe, they pick and choose their battles carefully and with forethought, so the risk they place their troops in will maximize the benefit for the Afghan people. It’s great really, but it sure makes telling the story difficult.

I guess I should admit, in a way I am jealous of “big media”. They place their requests in to embed with units in the fight. They go to those units for weeks on end and when something bad happens one day they write all about it. I just feel the other 13 days spent with those soldiers is equally as important as the “action.” Perhaps these media gurus are writing about the other 13 days and their stories aren’t being published, who knows. All I know is I don’t see much of it when I’m not in Afghanistan.

Within the first month of arrival to Afghanistan, I had the opportunity to sit on the Joint Operations Center floor. I basically answered media queries and wrote press releases while looking at these massive screens that outlined the war. One screen talked about the number of IED hits and finds, a long with the number of casualties. We had computer systems with every bit of information on what was happening. For three weeks, I knew exactly everything that happened in this country within minutes. It was pretty amazing to be honest.

I knew then, a TIC, or Troops in Contact, aren’t an everyday occurrence for the average troop but they are an everyday occurrence for ISAF. This is why it’s a topic that needs to be talked about. Although Ken and I never got to relay any truly harrowing stories, they are out there and unfortunately we have to rely on big media to tell them for us.

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Comments (6)add comment

Kenny said:

Sgt. OR-5
I was part of a contingent when we went into the Gohrwmach/Bagdhis province back soon 2 years ago..
I still respect all of you down in RC-(S) ,especially now with OP.Moshtarak going..good luck man and stay frosty.
As I am a US citizen serving in a non-US army(double citizenships)and my contract soon running out(in the reserves now)..I will enter the USMC DEP later this year and hopefully get deployed again next year sometime..
Anyway..your brother..yours truly ..Sgt. Kenny D.
 
March 24, 2010
Votes: +0

Gary said:

So proud of y'all!
@PhilosophiaeD
 
March 14, 2010
Votes: +0

Alan Krutchkoff said:

Success of your mission
It's not like you're tornado hunters. And frankly some of those big media types seem like that's what they are. You've given us a unique perspective on the situation there, one we'd never see. It was great meeting all the different allied warriors and also esp local people, visions of AFG on the ground, through the air, stuff we'd never see without your help. So yes, I echo the pat on the back and thank you all (the entire team) for this terrific mission. You took risks going on this thing and delivered a quality product to your audience - us! Thank you!
 
March 14, 2010
Votes: +2

Kingstown Coy., Dublin said:

...
Last leg, stay the course - hooyah!
 
March 14, 2010
Votes: +0

Dylan Matheson said:

...
Although you didn't get the opportunities to cover all the fighting, and like you said before, its winter. Its not their fighting season. If it was done in summer ya, yours and Ken's experiances would have been completely different. When you were with the Canadian's there's no doubt in my mind that you would have seen some sort of combat, yes it is important to cover their story (the troops who face the threats of IEDs and ambushes on a daily basis) but since the big news agencies cover those stories on a daily basis I think the photo's you snapped, the stories told in your blogs, Ken's interviews in his vlogs covering everyones perspectives are even more important. The interviews with the Afghan people, sharing their stories and opinions, like Ken's Vlogs those interviews with the Afghans, I think are the most important. You just don't see them on the news. So seeing the Afghans expressing themselves was greatest thing ever.

All in all I guess what i'm trying to say is that yes covering the fighting and hearing the stories with the people who live with it everyday is important but hearing/seeing the development projects and sharing the stories of the Afghans are just as if not more important becuase you just don't hear/see it anywhere else. And as I scroll up the page and see that there is only 9 hours left remaining I'd like to congradulate you and Ken on an excellent job. Really glad you guys decided to do this project, because it completely changed my views on Afghanistan and showed me that I really didn't know anything about it. I always thought that the entire country was in an all out war. That you couldn't walk 4 feet out the gate before getting shot at, that all the Afghans generally hated NATO and ISAF forces, but seeing Kabul in the 3rd vlog that view changed pretty darn quickly
 
March 14, 2010
Votes: +1

dennis said:

Old world
I see the two of you as the WW-2 combat cameramen. Even they did not get all of the stories.Sometimes they brought up the rear and told what they saw. But the big thing over the mainstream media was, you showed a side they don't. I think you have done a fine job,Pat yourselves on the back. I hope the powers that be see value in this format and keep it.
 
March 14, 2010
Votes: +1

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