Editor's note: Two Associated Press photographers Photoblogged this summer from an embed with the U.S. military in Afghanstan. This was their last post. The rest of the series is below, in reverse chronological order.
It’s nothing like the movies. There's no glamour when a young man loses his leg to a hidden bomb. There's nothing romantic about the ear-piercing shrieks from a man as his leg is torn from his body. These are images Americans back home rarely experience - the gritty horror of war fought in a land half a world away.
So it was when the bomb, or IED, went off about 30 yards from Combat Outpost Nolen in the Arghandab Valley, home to troops of the 101st Airborne Division. Everyone froze, expecting the worst. And it was bad. A soldier had lost his leg. It was the sixth limb lost among soldiers at the outpost in just three weeks.
The thought that the Taliban could sneak so close to the base angered many soldiers. Thick trees and mudwalls offer plenty of cover for Taliban bombers to hide. Cut down the trees? The idea had come up. But cutting down trees might anger the locals. And winning their friendship and support is a key goal of the campaign against the Taliban.
After the blast, the scene was chaotic. Soldiers scrambled to carry the wounded comrade to a helicopter landing zone. One soldier, Pvt. James Stennett, sat on the ground, dazed after being hit by a bomb fragment. Several soldiers screamed at photographers not to take pictures of the scene .
Soon a medevac helicopter arrived and flew the soldier who'd lost his leg to a military hospital. The men had a chance to decompress. A young officer walked over to apologize for screaming at us. The sun was boiling. And tensions were high. The American people need to see the reality that soldiers at Combat Outpost Nolen must endure every day, he says.
Editor’s Note: Pvt. James Stennett gave his permission to the Associated Press to have his name and image published. The second wounded soldier has not. Under standard rules for journalists embedded with combat units, the identity of wounded military personnel may not be published without their permission.