What is it really like to serve in Afghanistan?
Photographer Robert L. Cunningham and best-selling author and serviceman Steven Hartov attempt to demystify civilians through a series of behind-the-scenes photos and details of military life in their book “Afghanistan: On The Bounce.“
Cunningham followed 40 different units on 132 combat missions in an attempt to capture as accurately as possible the life of a soldier, both during combat and on-base routines.
As the U.S. military commitment in Afghanistan winds down from a peak of 101,000 in June 2011 to 33,500 today and even fewer soon, the book’s attempt to explain the life of a soldier is more important than ever.
With permission, we’re sharing some of his pictures here:
A U.S. Navy Commander works on mission planning in his office at Salerno. Due to the constant threat of incoming rounds, the Commander’s armour is stored within reach.
Service members from the 838th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group gather around a fire pit exchanging stories about life back home long into the night.
An F-16 Fighter pilot from the 77th Fighter Squadron based at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, inspects his aircraft at the Kandahar Airfield before a mission in Southern Afghanistan.
Robert L. Cunningham
A U.S. Army sergeant instructs members of a select Afghan National Army’s Commando unit in the use of the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon. The ANA’s Commando units are referred to as Kandaks and usually consist of 600 commandos.
Members of the Afghan Border Police share a laugh with local children during a patrol in eastern Afghanistan. ABP officers patrol a 55 km-wide corridor along the entirety of Afghanistan’s border, secure international airports, administer immigration services, and handle anti-narcotic efforts.
Solders from the U.S. Army’s 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment scan the area around their base while testing a newly-fielded rifle system. The 26th Infantry Regiment was founded in 1901 and has served in World War I, World War II, Vietnam, and the Global War on Terror.
Soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division, with aid of an interpreter, demonstrate methods for controlling a suspect to officers of the Afghan National Police.
UH-60 Blackhawks from the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division perform a resupply of a Combat Outpost in eastern Afghanistan. These missions often consist of moving troops from one base to another.
A crew chief assigned to Task Force Tiger Shark takes a moment of downtime while his aircraft awaits new passengers.
CH-47 Chinook pilots from the B/7-158 AVN “Spartans” perform a resupply mission in eastern Afghanistan. The Chinook is the largest and fastest helicopter in the U.S. army arsenal, and it has the capability of carrying up to 33 passengers.
US Army solders race to offload an Afghan National Army soldier with a gunshot wound. Firefights can occur at any time in Afghanistan. The driver of the HMMWV ambulance and the hospital staff member are dressed in the Army PT uniform, having been caught while working out.
Members of the Afghan National Security Forces await assignments from commanders on the Afghan side of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
A member of the U.S. Army cleans a belt-fed machine gun while listening to music on an iPod. Solders often report that these moments of maintenance are cathartic.
Robert L. Cunningham
A US Army crew member looks out the window of his UH-60 casualty evacuation (CASEVAC) helicopter as they approach the landing zone. CASEVAC helicopters serve as first response vehicles and stabilise the casualty until they can be transported to a hospital.
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