HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan - “So you’re getting your cherry popped,” a Marine jokes as Dan Morrison and I prepare for our first trip outside the wire, meaning our first trip outside the secure perimeter of the base.
We are headed to the Marjah District Center with Cpt. Benjamin Swanson of the 3rd Civil Affairs Group.
For the first time, we see Afghans riding on mopeds and sitting outside small shops. | Photo Gallery
The presence of children swimming in the canal and running along side the Marines seem to indicate relative safety, but reports of firefights and ambushes are relatively common in this area.
Swanson informs us that the road beneath our feet, built by the military, was problematic for the locals.
“They said the vehicles were going too fast,” says Swanson. “So we had to put in speed bumps.”
As we enter the checkpoint to the District Center, Marines behind us shake hands with the locals. Inside more children stop and stare. Our first trip, lasting only minutes, is already over.
Morrison teaches photojournalism and multimedia reporting at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication in Eugene, Ore.
Bagby is a freelance multimedia journalist who spent 10 months embedded with the Oregon National Guard in Iraq for KVAL.com.