War on Terrorism

Monday, March 29, 2010

Reporters Reflect on '30 Days Through Afghanistan'

By Judith Snyderman
Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity

March 29, 2010 - Two military journalists behind an ambitious NATO International Security Assistance Force project to traverse Afghanistan in one month and file daily reports in words, photos and video recapped their experiences in a March 25 "DoD Live" bloggers roundtable.

The Web-based project, titled "30 Days Through Afghanistan," concluded March 15. It was the brainchild of Air Force Tech. Sgts. Ken Raimondi, whose background is in broadcasting, and Nathan Gallahan, a photojournalist. Both are based at ISAF's Joint Command in Kabul.

The complex logistics required to reach all five ISAF regional commands in Afghanistan ultimately stretched the project an extra five days. From start to finish, Raimondi said, 90 percent of the encounters they had with coalition servicemembers and with Afghan civilians were positive.

"The whole 35 days through, we saw almost endless opportunity and good spirits out there, and it was really a morale booster for us about the whole mission," he said.

He added that no restrictions were placed on their coverage. "There was no approval chain. What we saw, we talked about," he said.

And they pulled no punches in talking candidly with those they met. Raimondi recalled speaking with a sergeant stationed in the south who had witnessed 117 "ramp" ceremonies conducted planeside for fallen soldiers. "It was just crushing, really, knowing that there are people out there that have seen that many ramp ceremonies," Raimondi noted.

Gallahan said the greatest challenge to keeping up the pace of daily reports was finding Internet access with enough bandwidth to upload video material to their Web site. The easy part, he said, was finding stories to tell.

"There are so many people in this country who have so much to say, and there's so much to talk about, that I could have spent 10 years blogging every day and could have found something new to talk about," he said.

Both reporters said they were gratified to read comments submitted by some of the several thousand followers of the blog, which Gallahan wrote, and the video log postings, which Raimondi produced. Although they would have liked the Web site to have attracted a larger audience beyond the military community, they said, they hope their approach has opened doors for others.

The airmen added that while "30 Days Through Afghanistan" may have broken new ground in contemporary military journalism, it really represents a return to the personal, frontline interview style of famed World War II reporter Ernie Pyle.

Gallahan said his two regrets about the project are a lack of time to plan out logistics and having to wrap up after just skimming the surface of the country.

"I would like to continue to try to tell the entire story of Afghanistan so people can make their own judgments," he said.

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