I Went Back To Afghanistan With The US Marines And It's Worse There Than Ever

Afghan Patrol

Photo: Geoffrey Ingersoll — Business Insider

I spent four years in the Marine Corps covering everything from combat patrols in Iraq to commanding generals cutting ribbons. It was challenging, exciting, life-changing and boring in almost equal measure.After I’d gotten out and finished my Master’s in journalism at NYU, I took what little money I had saved and decided to head to Afghanistan. I needed to go back, I needed to see the guys I knew and remind myself what seemed more real to me than anything else in my life.

So, I did. I got approved to embed with a Marine unit, filled out the paperwork absolving the Corps of my not unlikely demise, and took off for Kabul.

The freedom of being a civilian in that environment was a blessing and a curse. A blessing in that I could cover whatever I wanted, and a curse because so many ranking contacts now refused to talk to me. Weird being the enemy on the American side like that, but it was a good trip.

I’ll be posting a series of photo essays and features on my time in country over the coming weeks, and this is a preview of what’s to come.

Out with Marines it's patrolling every day — here Sgt. Richard Elsie is searching a compound for bomb making materials ...

...Elsie's hoping to prevent what happened to Lance Cpl. Colton Carlson from happening to another of his Marines — Carlson stepped through a doorway one day and an IED took both of his legs ...

Doc Nathan Bracie ran uphill through thick dust and flying shrapnel to get to Carlson when he lost his legs — Doc found him calmly applying his own tourniquets

Lt. Mike Rhoads was right beside me when he was hit — if it weren't for Estrada's know-how and Doc Bracie's courage — Rhoads wouldn't be alive today

Moments after the the lieutenant was hit — Staff Sgt. Justin Rettenberger and his Marines tore through a hostile village using C4 explosive to make doors in the wall along the way

Back in Kabul — kids sell pretty much everything you can imagine right on the street

I had to pay this sheepherder for his time — while he sang the praises of America — hoping for a fatter payday

This Kabul contractor pulled me aside and said Obama's development contracts often support vicious warlords — who simply take the money and do nothing in return

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Then there are packs of kids, mostly boys, up in the mountain slums overlooking Kabul — they idolize the actor/wrestler Jon Cena — who appears on posters all over the city

These Marines called in air support, but it wasn't an A-10. That's a piece of Army gear.

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