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Voices Afghanistan

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If you could bring an American to Afghanistan, what would you show them?

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I posed this question to the nearly twenty-five marines of the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment based at the remote outpost named COP Kunjak in the Helmand Province. The marines were nearing the finish of a seven month tour of duty in Afghanistan. The 1/2 Marines lost ten men during this battle rotation.

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The marines speak in their own voices about what they would show Americans if they could bring them to their Afghanistan outpost.

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Run Amuck with the Nikon D3S

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The third annual Run Amuck 3.5-mile event featured 2,130 runners at the Marine Corps Base Quantico featuring race obstacles, military PT drills and pits of mud on the course.

My first assignment using the new Nikon D3S shooting both video and stills.

Pretty amazing how easy the camera is to use while shooting video.

Talk about putting the camera through a harsh environment. Both the camera and I were knee deep in mud for most of the day and came away mostly unscathed.

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Shaun White Secret Halfpipe

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Reason number 1,673 why this job is so cool. Nine months before the start of the Vancouver Olympics, I found myself just below the top of a 13,487 foot mountain in Silverton, Colorado hanging out with Olympic gold medalist snowboarder Shawn White. His sponsor Red Bull had built a super secret halfpipe for Shaun and only Shaun to develop his new tricks for the halfpipe prior to the Olympics. We were allowed out but promised and officially signed a bunch of waivers making sure we wouldn’t give up the location or show any photos of the halfpipe until just before the Vancouver Olympics.

On television, Shaun White seems like a pretty down to earth kid. To be completely honest, in person, the guy who has turned snowboarding into one of the most popular extreme sports in the world and has become a household name is really just that, a normal guy.

He is the Michael Jordan of his sport and by today’s standards of superstar athletes, you would think he would be completely out of touch like some (not all) acclaimed athletes.

Sorry to disappoint but definitely not. Just a normal kid who can do some pretty amazing things on a snowboard.

Maybe he stays grounded holding tight to his humble beginnings in the sport and the closeness to his fans both in the halfpipe and skateboarding. I don’t know but it is just surprising and refreshing to be around that caliber of athlete and feel like you are around a person who knows just how lucky he is to be living a dream.

I did learn one valuable lesson while in Silverton during the thick of winter in a pretty major snowstorm. Out at night having dinner with Shaun and the Red Bull folks, I made a serious menu selection error. When in a town that closes up shop for the season and restaurants decide among themselves who will open to serve a pretty small group of clients, NEVER order the seafood. I can count on one hand the times I have ordered fish at night usually when I am on the coast somewhere. I have no idea why but something made me order the mahi mahi hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean.

I paid the price a few hours later.

It was definitely a great night listening to all of Shaun’s stories along with his buddies and the great people from Red Bull. One of those moments I will always look back on and remember how lucky I am at times.

My stomach, however, wishes I would have just gone out for a hamburger instead.

From now on, I am sticking to the meatloaf.

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Combat Stress Therapists

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COMBATMEDS2Video from Mehtar Lam, Afghanistan in late October 2009 following the work of a USAF combat stress team deployed in remote area of Afghanistan. The story written by USA TODAY reporter Gregg Zoroya and video by USA TODAY photographer Jack Gruber was published in conjunction with the breaking news story from the rampage at Fort Hood, where Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan is alleged to have killed 13 people and wounded 29 others.