Afghanistan roundup No. 3: Stories and photo showcases

Stories and photographs from our team that you might have missed in the past couple weeks. As always, this is content you’ll only find in the World-Herald.

Sgt. Daniel Micek, of Columbus, Neb., walks by a mosque during an organized effort to clean up the streets of the bazaar at the district center of Marwakh, near Combat Outpost Zormat, on Sunday, March 20, 2011. Micek is an MP based in Germany for the 615th battalion. (Photo by Alyssa Schukar / The World-Herald)

PHOTO SHOWCASES

Cleanup in Zormat (March 24)

On patrol (March 17)

Weaspons discovery mission – Gardez (March 15)

Soldier portraits (March 15)

Police checkpoint (March 14)

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ARTICLES

A day’s pay and a reason to hope (March 25)
The Iowa Army National Guard soldiers was expecting several dozen residents to show up for a new cash-for-work program, cleaning the town’s bazaar. Instead, more than 300 turned out that first day. More than 500 came for the second day.

Iowan keeps enemies closer (March 24)
The insurgents here can seem like ghosts at times. They plant their roadside bombs, lob mortar rounds or fire off a few rockets, then melt away. But 1st Lt. Justin Schultz of Council Bluffs looks into the enemy’s face every time he goes to a meeting of the local Shura, a gathering of elders.

Teacher’s assignment: Kabul (March 23)
This time last year, Mike Edmundson was teaching high school students about astronomy, physics and chemistry. Now Sgt. 1st Class Edmundson is tromping through a muddy morass in the middle of Kabul, searching for a cache of stolen U.S. weapons.

Soldier knows how to barter (March 22)
Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Esser is a man looking for a good deal. The 41-year-old from Riverton, Iowa, loves to barter in the Afghan shops here.

‘Everybody’s dream:’ Nab bin Laden (March 21)
It could well be nearby, the point where Osama bin Laden crossed into Pakistan after slipping away from U.S. forces nearly a decade ago. Maybe he’s on just the other side of the border even now, plotting further mischief. “We think about it all the time,” 2nd Lt. Robert Hansen of Omaha said as he stood atop a guard tower and looked at the checkpoint at the Pakistani border, just a few hundred yards away.

A bumpier but safer ride (March 20)
The guardsmen and military experts alike say MRAPs, increasingly the main form of transportation in Afghanistan, are far safer than the Humvees that proved susceptible to roadside blasts in the early years of the war. But these MRAPs — the name stands for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected — come with serious liabilities.

Troops eager for action (March 19)
When Spc. Jacob Haefs of Sioux City, Iowa, signed up for the Iowa Army National Guard, he expected more shooting and less sitting around waiting for the enemy to show up. “I came to fight,” the 19-year-old Haefs said as he drove a large armored truck down a road in eastern Afghanistan. “We’ve been here four months and haven’t been shot at once. I just figured it would be different.” Haefs’ feelings are shared by more than a few Nebraska and Iowa Guard members who deployed to Afghanistan in November, particularly the youngest guys.

Sweet gesture from Guardsman (March 18)
Pvt. Kyle Heese wanted to tell the kids about the day it rained candy. That’s why the 24-year-old Nebraska National Guardsman showed up Thursday at St. Columbkille Catholic School in Papillion. Heese wanted to tell them about the candy, wanted to close the circle that started at St. Columbkille in late January, and so he got up early, put on his Guard uniform and strode into an all-school assembly at the church and … He wasn’t ready for the standing ovation.

Soldiers break for sheep (March 17)
Supply convoys face all kinds of potential hazards as they haul goods to Iowa National Guard soldiers at remote combat outposts. Roadside bombs. Small-arms fire. Rock slides. Livestock.

Getting a jump on the enemy (March 16)
Across this swath of eastern Afghanistan, Iowa Army National Guard soldiers have been searching abandoned buildings, poking flashlights into irrigation ditches and chatting up the locals for information. The goal: Find as many enemy weapons caches as possible before the spring fighting season starts in earnest.

Guardsman’s job: Policing the police (March 15)

1st Lt. Justin Von Loh and his men are responsible for helping Afghan police who operate what’s known as the Ring of Steel. It’s a series of police checkpoints that circle the heart of Kabul, including the Green Zone, which includes the U.S. Embassy, Kabul police headquarters, Camp Eggers and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) headquarters.

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