Time has been hard to come by lately. As much as I'd love to blog right now about the 2 intense air assault missions that Jeff and I accompanied Alpha and Delta companies on, my priority is to produce a story for tonights newscast about the memorial service we just attended for Cpl. Kirton. Brandon Kirton was killed on the 2nd air assault mission we went on. We did not originally plan to be turning a story for tonight. But the service was so touching that we can't help but share this relevant event with the community. Not to mention how much his family and friends back home deserve to see this. I cannot begin to grasp the agony they must be going through after anticipating Brandon's return in a few days, only to find that he would not be coming home. My heart breaks for them. Hopefully seeing this service and hearing the comments of gratitude, love, and respect for Cpl Kirton will help bring them peace.
I do have a moment to share a few photos from our 2nd air assault:
After trudging through grape rows, one after another after another, Jeff finally relaxes between two medics, Spc's Pickel & Gadison. Maybe one of the safer places to be. Although, if you'll notice just above them, gunners were always posted, scanning the horizon for insurgents. Anytime men of military age were sighted, a smoke shell was shot their way as a warning to stay out of the area.
After clearing compounds for the day, we established a strong point to take cover and further surveil the area. This structure belonged to a family, but is basically taken over for a day by our forces. The owner can't really opt out of the occupation, but they are paid in return. I was relieved to see that the soldiers don't trash the compounds. A force of this size consumes a lot of water and MRE's (meal ready to eat) which creates a lot of trash. But before leaving, it's all collected and burned.
This is another shot inside the strongpoint. Midday, when the sun is overhead, shade is hard to come by. This makes for a potentially dangerous situation in dry 110 degree weather. Rooms like these are often sought for shelter from the sun. But there's a trade off, as ventilation in these rooms is horrible. We found the best method was to alternate between the two locations. A shady room to stay out of the sun and then outside to feel the breeze.
I took this picture of the strongpoint while leaning against a wall after trying to get some rest. You can see some soldiers utilizing the shade of a tree taking some cat naps as well. They effort to finish clearing compounds early before the hottest part of the day kicks in. Since ex-fill flights only arrive under the cover of night, there's a lot of waiting around to do before leaving. So there was plenty of time for rest, but it was intermittent, and never comfortable or fulfilling. The ground was rocky and hard and the walls made of animal manure. They were rock solid, a light brown color, and contained lots of straw and grass. I look forward to sleeping on my nice soft mattress at home rather than on and around so much poop.
This was taken at the last compound we cleared. Jeff is relaxing near a few soldiers with some rather leary locals sitting watch behind them. They waivered between skepticism and hospitality. Sometimes shaking hands and offering smiles, other times keeping a blank stare and rigid expression. Although I don't share a language with the Afghani people, it was refreshing to find commonality in our facial expressions. It was mystifying to gaze deeply into the eyes of people I know so little about, yet grasp so much from a single glance or smile. The white sheets you see hung across a string in the back were to abstract our view of the women hiding themselves behind. It was rare for women of any age to be out and about whenever we were present. Although, they could often be spotted peering around a corner with a curious eye. I got one shot in particular with my video camera that captures such a moment beautifully. It screams National Geographic or Discovery Channel haha. It'll end up in one of our stories for sure.