NPR logo Afghan Dispatch: Finding Luck Amid Mustaches and Corn Stalks

Afghanistan Dispatch

Afghan Dispatch: Finding Luck Amid Mustaches and Corn Stalks

Afghanistan is not camera-friendly terrain.

"Everything is either made out of mud, steel or rocks," NPR photographer David Gilkey explains over the phone. Setting one's camera down thereby invites an array of problems. And even if you could make the camera out of graphene, it would eventually get destroyed by dust, he says.

Lt. Brandon Currie David Gilkey/NPR hide caption

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David Gilkey/NPR

Lt. Brandon Currie

David Gilkey/NPR

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Nonetheless, he's managed to keep the camera intact enough to send us the photos above - - an update on the Marines in 1st Platoon Golf Company. Though still patrolling Helmand River valley, with cots to sleep on and a shower, they are faring better than in July. Despite many close calls, they've managed to stay casualty-free. This has fueled some superstitious practices — their leader, for example, refuses to shave his lucky mustache.

The cornfields that fill the farms of Helmand have proved to be a dangerous hiding place for insurgents' weapons.

"The Taliban or insurgents hide the weapons in the cornstalks, run to the corn piles, pull out an AK-47 and then put it back in and act like they didn't do anything," Gilkey explains.

As Gilkey took the photo of a Marine searching through the cornstalks in the gallery above, he says he could hear gunfire; another squad caught several insurgents taking weapons out of the corn and fired back.

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If you missed Gilkey's previous audio slideshow on 1st Platoon Golf Company, you can find it here.

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