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Running for cover in flip-flops

For the past six days I've been working with photojournalists Rodrigo Abd and Evan Vucci of the Associated Press, publishing their Photoblogs from an embed with the 101st Airborne Division in Afghanistan.

Most days I hear from them as they're finishing their day and I'm just beginning mine - convenient timing due to the many time zones between us. Working weekends is part of the deal as the fighting doesn't stop so neither does their work.

It’s a fascinating, and at times anxiety-inducing window into some unusual working conditions. I hear that the flies are terrible. And that they were woken up by RPG fire one morning, or had to run for cover another afternoon in flip-flops. Occasionally, some entertaining exaggeration slips in, “There are ants the size of small rats.”

The insights are sprinkled into our conversations about story ideas and filing times which happen via instant messenger, the easiest way to keep in touch over the fickle internet connectivity of a satellite phone. Email is cumbersome.

They can count on a firefight most afternoons. But at times it grows quiet - they had a break for a day or two earlier this week. The "schedule" resumed Tuesday, though, as Rodrigo shows us above, with U.S. and Afghan soldiers responding to mortar fire and 40mm grenades. Fortunately, most of the enemy rounds thud harmlessly against the walls or sail overhead. The insurgents don't take much time to aim for fear of getting picked off by the soldiers at Nolen, Evan says.

From my comfortable chair in a safe newsroom, I get an education on the daily rhythm of covering war.