AFGHANISTAN: A Tale of Two Blogs

April 26, 2012 at 11:39 pm Leave a comment

Reporting from Afghanistan

Defense Dept. photo by Staff Sgt. Charles Crail, U.S. Army

Two journalists your 4GWAR editor knows have been blogging from Afghanistan for the last few weeks and they present a fascinating picture – in very different ways – of what it is really like over there. Maybe not what it’s like for the troops who are deployed for a year, but what the weather is like and what the food and the roads and the people – in uniform and out — are like. The kind of things you or I might notice in such a strange land.

Both blogs are listed on the 4GWAR Blog Roll in the right hand column on the Home Page, but we thought we’d call a little more attention to these two intriguing websites.

North Carolina newspaper

With the Troops is a blog written by Drew Brooks a reporter with a North Carolina newspaper, the Fayetteville Observer, along with his photographer, James Robinson. They are embedded with the 82nd Airborne Division, which is based in Fort Bragg, N.C., right outside Fayetteville. It is the second overseas embed with the military for both journalists. They were in Iraq last year to cover the drawdown in U.S. troop strength during Operation New Dawn (the successor to Operation Iraqi Freedom).

Now they’re in Afghanistan until May, reporting on topics like small unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) used by the infantry and female soldiers reaching out to Afghan women to overcome cultural obstacles and acquire intel.

I first met Drew at the University of Kansas journalism school’s Military Journalist Experience program last Fall. About a dozen jouros from all around the country – and one from Africa – spent five days at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri learning about what officers are taught and how enlisted personnel are trained. Drew covers Fort Bragg and military matters for his paper.

While I don’t know James Robinson, I do like his work. He’s taken some great photos and you can see some of them here.

Minnesota Public Television

I’ve never met Luke Heikkila, but I’ve enjoyed reading his blog about a trip to Afghanistan. We stumbled across each other’s blogs when he ‘liked’ a Defense Department photo I posted for the Friday Foto on 4GWAR. And when I visited his blog to thank him, I saw he was a public television reporter/producer from Minnesota who was getting ready to embed with the troops in Afghanistan.

What made Luke’s blog fascinating reading was his mission: embedding – not with combat troops or commanders — but with a Minnesota National Guard unit that would be serving as the Agribusiness Development Team for Zabul province – ZADT for short. These were part-time U.S. soldiers who were going half way around the world to offer advice on growing food and raising livestock.

Another reason to read Luke’s Ten Days in the Sand blog is his wry, self-deprecating narrative about preparing for this adventures – especially what to pack and how to get into and out of Afghanistan. The early months of this blog  provided a real education in being a do-it-yourself war correspondent. Who knew Afghan security won’t let you bring a Kevlar helmet and bullet proof vest into the country in your carry-on bag?

Also, Luke was a one-man band, taking still photos and videos, interviewing people and taking copious notes for the blog and the report he will do for Twin Cities Public Television.  I don’t know how he found the time or energy to write as much as he did.

Luke recently returned to the states but his journey still makes interesting reading.


Entry filed under: Afghanistan, Counter Insurgency, Counter Terrorism, Lessons Learned, News Developments, Skills and Training. Tags: , , , .

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