A little more from the NTC

May 9, 2008

Got back from a trip to the NTC yesterday, and the more I go the more conflicted I get about my job as “media” there.  Everyone’s really friendly (though these guys were less welcoming than the Ft. Hood guys) but increasingly dismissive of us (I was with my friend Jane this time) as fake media and therefore not really worth bothering with.  Most of our time was spent on two ten-hour route clearances, which in civilian terms means driving 5 mph in large trucks for 10 straight hours.

I’m not complaining, though, ’cause even when an experience is dull or frustrating, it’s still instructive because the soldiers themselves are, as people, fascinating to talk to (or try to talk to), and it’s still a culture where I can relate to a lot of these guys’ backgrounds but I’m still (obviously) an outside observer.

And a guy offered to sell me extra ballistic goggles and a kevlar helmet he has, so that’s a real windfall in terms of saving money on my Afghanistan trip.  That, plus the money I may make from selling some work over the next few weeks plus the money people have donated/raised for me is making all of this possible.

One of the pitfalls was I didn’t get many good pictures, but here are a few:

We had our own overflow tent to ourselves, since when the other soldiers heard that the Rangers were moving in they got out of there fast.  This, plus their stories, just makes me want to meet some Rangers even more, though.

An inadvertent Lee Friedlander homage because I had to stay behind the rear driver’s side door when I got out to take pictures.

A checkpoint between villages.  The graffiti on the concrete was interesting because 1) half of it was written in English and 2) it mostly seemed to deal with the Kurds.  (The mottled sky is from dust on the humvee window.)

This was the 1151 I rode in for the second route clearance; it was pretty interesting to hear that gun being fired about 2 feet directly over your head.  It wasn’t as loud as you would think, though.  Some of the shells fell in my lap, which was also kind of a unique (and sort of cool) experience for someone who doesn’t even know how to aim and fire a gun.



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