Reporting Afghanistan

John Wendle

Posts Tagged ‘photography

Will Afghanistan’s Artillery Corps learn to shoot before the US withdrawal?

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As the US and NATO begin to pull out of Afghanistan, much attention has been given to whether the Afghan military will be ready for the fight they may have on their hands. But few have looked in detail at the different parts that make up the Afghan National Army. This story tries to outline the specific problems facing Afghanistan’s artillery corps – an essential combat element in the mountainous country. Part of the story is below:

At Forward Operating Base Shank, with Wimberly, the challenge appears in starker relief. Standing behind a D-30 painted a light yellow, a crew of six loudly counts off in Pashto, only to have artilleryman number five shout “seven!” They start over and get it right, then lustily shout, “Enemy! Death! Enemy! Death! Enemy! Death!” Then organized chaos breaks out as they swarm their gun, trying to ready it for action in a minute and 10 seconds. They uncover the recoil system, unclip clips and crank cranks so fast their arms become blurs. Then one soldier cannot unclip a clip, and he just stands there. The commander comes over and shouts, and he hops to it again.

At the same time, across a gravel lot, Afghan officers who learned that morning how to use sight to calculate bearings and arcs for indirect fire — hitting a target they cannot see — teach junior officers and noncommissioned officers how to use it. One officer sat writing a cheat sheet on his palm. A majority of Afghans, though, cannot read, let alone decipher a map or do the trigonometry necessary for the exercise. Though not nonexistent, the technical exactitude, education and discipline needed for accurate artillery are all elements lacking in Afghanistan.

“Some of them, if you give them a map, they couldn’t point out where their house was. But if you showed them a terrain map, they would start to be able to use the terrain to show you where they live,” says Wimberly. “Depending on what level they’re at, they should be able to read and write. It takes them a long time to calculate. That’s the longest part.” But in artillery, delays can translate into infantry being overrun and killed.

Aside from the massive difficulty of teaching people complex mathematics in a foreign language through interpreters, there are other complications. U.S. trainers have had to teach Afghan officers that they need to have up-to-date maps and intelligence, so they do not shell civilian areas or compatriots they cannot see on the opposite slope of a mountain by mistake.

You can read the full story and see my photograph from the ANA training at Bombs Away: Will Afghanistan’s Artillerymen Learn How to Shoot Right? (As always, I did not write the headline.)

Written by johnwendle

November 3, 2012 at 10:56 am

Razistan.org live

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Razistan is now live and can be seen at http://razistan.org/. The site is dedicated to telling the untold stories of the war and the people of Afghanistan through in-depth photo stories documented by award winning international and Afghan photographers. You can take a look at the work by following the link.

The Swirling Dervish

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Take a listen to The Green Tree Dervish just posted at This Land Press. This audio story by my sister, Abigail Wendle, tells how photographer Gaylord Herron got into the business with beautiful, audible visuals about trees and cameras.

Written by johnwendle

June 3, 2012 at 4:35 pm

Razistan

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I have joined together with other Afghanistan based photojournalists, videographers and reporters recently to help launch a new reporting platform focused on Afghanistan.

Last year, the war in Afghanistan accounted for roughly two percent of the news content published in the United States. Razistan aims to help give Afghanistan the attention it demands.

Our core project is a website of unique photo essays and short video documentaries that bring into vivid relief not only the war and its participants but also the country and its people.

Contributors include both award-winning Kabul-based photojournalists from around the world and local Afghan photographers and videographers. There is much more to the war than the mainstream media has shown. The purpose of Razistan — or “land of secrets” — is to reveal these untold stories.

View previously unseen work by these photographers at http://razistan.tumblr.com/ and follow us as photos are updated daily.

To learn more about Razistan, watch the video at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1626615603/razistan-or-land-of-secrets-a-new-outlet-on-afghan?ref=card and donate to our kickstarter page. Certain levels of pledges will receive limited addition or one of a kind photographic prints from our photographers.

The war is not over. Help us tell the story.

Thanks for your support.