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Afghanistan Journal

Seattle Times reporter Hal Bernton, who just returned from assignment in Afghanistan, shares his observations about life in a country now in its third decade of war.

October 9, 2009 at 12:15 PM

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Green zone patrol

Posted by Hal Bernton

I wanted to post this link to a story I wrote earlier this week about a Bravo Company patrol in the green zone of the Arghandab Valley. The day started slowly, but after an informant's tip the soldiers ended up making an important find of a bomb-making operation.

Bravo Company is part of the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment of the Fort Lewis-based 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, which has been hit by road-side bombs as well as bombs buried in foot paths since deploying to southern Afghanistan in mid summer.

Here are a few photos from that patrol that I wasn't able to send while I was at Combat Outpost Outlaw.

Sgt. Jeff Lillard, 27, of Lake Stevens pauses in an orchard to make a radio call.

Up and over the walls - again and again -- while on patrol in the Arghandab Valley

1st Lt. Ryan Fadden takes a radio call before pushing back from a patrol in an area frequented by the Taliban.

1st Platoon, Bravo Company. This group portrait was taken Friday as the platoon arrived at Kandahar Air Field. I appreciated very much the opportunity to spend time with the soldiers of this company and share a bit of their lives. As I depart, I am keely aware they still have most of a year left to serve in the Arghandab Valley.

On many patrols, the soldiers meet children. They are often the sons or daughters of struggling farmers, who are trying to make a go of it amid the fighting. Many of the wealthier property owners have sought refuge elsewhere.

Sometimes the children are sick and need bandages or pills. Sometimes they are wounded and need emergency care. Sometimes they are a bit surly and may try to pick your pocket or toss a rock.

But many of these children have a special grace and beauty. They are often smiling and bursting with curiousity as these strange America men in their helmets and armor walk through their villages. They may try to teach the soldiers a bit of Pashtun. They often ask for pens, an interesting request in villages where the fear of the Taliban has shut down most of the schools.

The soldiers don't have a lot of spare pens. But they do offer a few candies, usually from the pockets of Staff Sgt. Seth Marquez.

The soldiers also hand out bottles of water or Gatorade. For many of the soldiers, these are the best memories from patrols that sometimes have plenty of tense moments.

Capt Jamie Pope, Bravo Company's commander, asked me to put in a note about these children. He was hoping for some care packages with pens, pencils, kites, notepads, crayons, hard candies or children's clothes. The soldiers could then distribute these items on patrols.

The care packages can be sent to this address:

Capt. Jamies Pope
Packages for Afghanistan Children
Bravo Company
1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment
5/2 SBCT
FOB Frontenac
APO AE 09355


It is also important to drop these packages off directly at a USPS office counter, and check with USPS representative for mailing requirements such as customs forms or other restrictions that apply specifically to Afghanistan.

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About the author

Hal Bernton has been a staff reporter for The Seattle Times since 2000. He has roamed widely around the Northwest for regional reporting and to help in the newspaper's military coverage. His oversees assignments have taken him to Russia, Algeria, Aceh Province in Indonesia and Iraq in December of 2003 and January of 2004.

Related links

Afghan News Center News of Afghanistan written by Afghanistan journalists.
McClatchy News Service: Dispatches from Afghanistan and beyond.
Talking with the Taliban: A Toronto Globe and Mail series.
Foreign Policy Blog on Afghanistan
Michael Yon: Embedded blogger Michael Yon posts front-line dispatches.
Washington Post's Afghanistan/Pakistan site
Abdulhadi Hairan: Afghan writer reflects on events in Iraq
GlobalPost's Taliban project: Features wide-ranging coverage of Afghanistan.