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Understanding & Importance

KABUL | T-4 Days - One of the greatest aspects of Web 2.0 and the reason I’m so excited about this project, is it’s conversational and interactive nature. I’ve been writing and shooting photos for the Air Force for more than six years and it’s been great, but I have always dreamed of being able to get honest and candid feedback on the stories I’m telling.

I’ve always believed that my ultimate bosses are the taxpayers, and they are who I’ve always kept in mind whenever I write a story or click the shutter. I’ve been honored with an opportunity, here and now, to work not only for Americans, but for 44 countries, which I must say is not only exciting but unnerving at the same time.

I know that I won’t be able to please everyone, and many will disagree with what we’re trying to accomplish. Those viewpoints are not only important, but critical to Ken and my work. It’s through both the positive and negative feedback that will guide our path during this mission.

We received a few comments last night that struck a chord in me, and they have driven me to write a bit. My “muse” for writing is my emotion, and I’m a pretty emotional person.

The first is in regard to whether or not we understand Afghanistan. I’ll be honest; we don’t understand all of it. I’m certain that unless I dedicate my life to learning Afghanistan, I never will. But, I haven’t always felt that way.

When we were on mission in Eastern Afghanistan in December, I thought I learned all about this country, I thought I understood the mission and the complexities. Then we went to Western Afghanistan in January and I learned that it was completely different. A thought struck me, we all live in bubbles, and that’s important in the military. We all have our place, our mission and our focus. Someone can be a subject matter expert in one area, but they can’t be subject matter experts in all areas.  That’s why there is a chain of command, the farther up the chain you are, the bigger the picture you’re looking at becomes. At the same time, the farther up the chain you are, you become less of an expert on absolute specifics in any given area; A reliance is built not just from the bottom of the chain to the top but from the top down – because the level of understanding required to complete such a complex task as securing Afghanistan and bringing freedom to these people, is too big for any one human to contemplate. This requires the greatest minds from 44 nations to figure out, and that’s what we have here in the International Security Assistance Force.

So why is it important to understand this conflict from the ground? From the everyday service members instead of the highest ranking leaders? Because the human element of this conflict has been buried under sound bites. Because this conflict has been turned into headlines and half-sentences floating across the bottom of the nightly news.

The countries fighting here deserve more than that, and more importantly, the Afghans who have been crushed by the hands of war for more than 30 years deserve a lot more than that. This conflict isn’t about news feeds; it’s about all the Afghan people who live in extreme poverty, and the average service member from one of 44 countries here helping the Afghan government to secure their freedom so they can live happy lives.

Our 30 Days mission is more than headlines. Our mission is to experience the counter insurgency and talk about it. We want the forums to erupt in conversation so we can all learn together. I really hope to see professors, scholars, generals, dignitaries, everyday people and Afghans, visit the forums and help us learn. I’m going to do the best job I can to be as accurate as I possibly can, but I need those smarter than me to help. The next 30 Days should be a very interesting experience and the only thing I ask of you, is to participate.

Now that I’m standing on my soap box, I wanted take a moment and say that this mission is not “cool”. Nothing of war is “cool”. War, killing, fear, repression are only a few of the horrible things that happen here. But all of that bows to an enduring hope that resides within me; and if I can bring that feeling of hope to just one other person over the next 30 Days, then I am willing to place myself in any situation to do just that – because the Afghans and the world deserve no less.

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