Afghanistan — Reporters Reflect on ’30 Days Through Afghanistan’

WASHINGTON, 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.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)