Journalists will bring stories, photos from front lines of war

THE OLYMPIANMarch 18, 2012 

Even before a Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier allegedly murdered 16 Afghanistan civilians, a deployment there came with risks for any U.S. personnel. Since the unexplained killings, it has grown considerably more dangerous.

That is the tense war zone environment into which our military reporter Adam Ashton and photographer Peter Haley will spend the next six weeks. The two veteran war correspondents are embedding with the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division in Zabul Province, and also with I Corps in Kabul.

They both volunteered for the task and began the journey last week.

Haley has previously taken three embed assignments in Iraq. Ashton worked in the McClatchy Newspapers Baghdad bureau before joining The News Tribune and The Olympian to cover JBLM.

In 2006, Olympian photographer Tony Overman spent six weeks covering the 3rd Brigade Stryker soldiers from JBLM in Baghdad and Mosul in Iraq.

The two journalists will spend their time on the ground, living in close quarters with the troops. They will witness first-hand the challenges and experiences our soldiers face every day, and report how they cope under such stressful situations.

The embed assignment will inform our continuing coverage of military issues. Knowing what life is like for soldiers on the front lines of a war zone will add richness and depth to their future stories back home.

There are about 4,700 JBLM soldiers in Afghanistan today, with another 5,800 preparing to deploy. Most of them are serving in the southern provinces where our journalists will be embedded.

The stories they send back, which will appear in print and on our website, will focus almost entirely on what soldiers do every day, not the international politics surrounding the war. Lewis-McChord soldiers are engaged with the international coalition of forces, training Afghan troops and carrying out security operations.

Before leaving, our journalists went through a checklist similar to military personnel, including protective gear, communication devices and life insurance policies. We have their scheduled itinerary on file and expect to hear from them regularly.

Just like the thousands of South Sound families who have watched their loved ones leave for this war zone, we wished our colleagues well, urged them to stay safe and promised to pray for their return.

ET CETERA

Where are the best restaurants, pizza places and galleries in the South Sound? Find out what readers of The Olympian say when the annual Best of South Sound publishes next Sunday, March 25. Watch for it in next Sunday’s newspaper … Gray power is making a difference in Thurston County. The group of senior citizen performers known as Entertainment Explosion, recently raised more than $23,000 with their A Really Big Shoe Six concert at the Washington Center. The money goes for homeless and needy students in eight local school districts, and to Community Youth Services. These 55- to 85-year-old singers and dancers have raised just over $127,000 in the past six years … Think you or someone you know has what it takes to be a community leader? Then apply now for the 2013 class of Leadership Thurston County. It is a nine-month course that prepares people to take on leadership roles in the South Sound … Did you know the Olympia Symphony will celebrate its 60th anniversary on May 5?

George LeMasurier, publisher of The Olympian, may be reached at 360-357-0206 or glemasurier@theolympian.com.

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