KABUL, Afghanistan — U.S. Marines in southern Afghanistan this month lived and died with a calm understanding of these kinds of sounds:
That's direct fire at Golf Company, First Platoon. The Marines had taken up a position in a mud-walled compound, forced there by incoming gunfire in the area.
NPR photographer and video journalist David Gilkey, who accompanied the Marines on their mission, says that's what it's like to hear incoming fire that's close. He told me: "There's a very different noise when a round is fired AT you" rather than away from you.
Gilkey also told me that the Marines of Golf Company had become pretty used to this kind of direct fire during their assault. It was day six of a 10-day operation through a Taliban stronghold in a region of Helmand Province.
Yet, even as enemy bullets rain down on them, U.S. Marines cannot return fire until they actually see the enemy. It's called "positive idenfication," or PID — and it's in their standard rules of engagement.
Gilkey interviewed several of the Golf Company Marines during their assault. He took many gripping photos and has now produced this video in which some Marines talk about the challenges they were facing (fair warning: there is a common expletive in the audio):
There's more about David's experience at The Picture Show blog.
(Jim Wildman is a producer for Morning Edition. He and NPR's Renee Montagne are on assignment in Afghanistan as that nation prepares for its Aug. 20 presidential election.)