These Are A Renowned Combat Journalist's Favorite Images From A Decade Of Deployments

Combat journalist and author of The Final Mission Of Extortion 17, Ed Darack, has a new book out that captures in vivid imagery some of his most memorable moments with the U.S. military over the last decade. This has included everything from tagging along on combat patrols in the Hindu Kush, to embedding alongside armor in Iraq, to flying with aircrews on live-fire training missions over the American Southwest. 

Ed has been kind enough to supply us with some of his favorite images and abbreviated recollections found in his new book War Moments: Images & Stories of Combat in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Beyond.


Ed told us a bit about his new creation, how it’s different than his past narrative works, and why he thinks people of many backgrounds will enjoy it:

“War Moments is a collection of my 118 best war images, beautifully printed in full color, I created while embedded in Iraq, Afghanistan, and during training over the course of more than ten years. Each image has an associated “story behind the photograph” that gives each image so much more depth than just a simple caption. I’m really excited about this book because I was able to showcase modern war and the modern war fighter with both breadth of subject matter and depth of each individual image through narrative. 

Here are 17 select images I chose for an excerpt for The War Zone, each with a short caption and a note of where the image is located in the book. For the full story of each image, and over one hundred more images like it—and to get technical photographic details of how I got each shot (camera, lens, etc.)—get the book! I think both veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as non-veterans will really love War Moments. The veterans I’ve shown it to love it because it brings back memories, and non-veterans I’ve shown it to love it as it uniquely brings modern war and the modern warfighter to life—as it’s a fusion of both text and images, so they can see the moment in time, and read about it as they scan each image. 

Thank you!”

So, without further ado, here are Ed’s images and the recollections that go along with them in his own words:

“Ospreys at Night” – Page 64. I made this image while embedded with VMM-261, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261. This was during the very first MV-22 deployment to Afghanistan. I was super fortunate to be able to fly in the cockpit (on the jump seat, just behind the two pilots) for a number of missions, as well as in the hold of the amazing craft. Here’s one of my favorite images from the embed, shot at night as the Osprey’s spin up for nighttime operations. 

“Mountain Sniper Training” – Page 21. I shot this photograph at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center – one of my all time favorite places to visit. The image is of Joe Roy, a sniper I met during my first embed (in Afghanistan). We both happened to be at the MWTC at the same time, and I tagged along to get some images of him training, high in the Sierra Nevada of California during winter.

“In the Highback” – Page 70. Tough Marines! This was during my first embed. I joined Marines based out of Firebase Blessing, in eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar Province, near the border with Pakistan. I shot this at the end of a weapons cache raid as we were returning to base, as an Apache gunship provided cover. The ride was painfully bumpy! So getting this image was not easy!

“Out of the Dust Storm” – Page 68. I was at the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range photographing a large training exercise (at one point there were 42 aircraft in the air in the region) when this scene emerged. It’s an MV-22 Osprey, launching in the desert. The Osprey is an amazing machine, and incredible to ride in and to photograph from a distance. Here, one emerges from a brownout it created as it lifted off the ground. 

“Combat Engineers” – Page 50. Most people outside of the military have never heard of “combat engineers.” They’re an incredibly important and select group. Not only do they build all sorts of structures, but they also find hidden munitions, including improvised explosive devices, (using metal detectors and other implements). Here are two combat engineers I photographed at the end of a large combat operation outside of the city of Marjah, in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. 

“Yodaville at Night” – Page 33. Yodaville is an incredible place. It’s a “city” in the desert, but nobody lives there. It’s not a ghost town, as nobody has ever lived at Yodaville. It was built for urban CAS (close air support) training, and meant to be shot at with bullets, rockets, missiles, and bombed. Here’s Yodaville at night, being attacked by helicopter gunships. 

“Mike, Oscar Mike” – Page 125. This is my friend Mike Scholl. It’s one of my favorite images I’ve ever shot. It’s during a combat operation in eastern Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush, specifically, the Pech River Valley region. I shot this image right at dawn, as Mike’s platoon had just ascended the side of a steep mountain during an operation to root out Taliban and Al Qaeda. 

“Hornet Versus MiG” – Page 47. I was very fortunate to be able to embed with a Marine F/A-18D Hornet squadron during a training exercise they participated in where they practiced air-to-air combat with the Royal Malaysian Air Force, who at the time flew MiG-29s (they now fly SU-30s). I detail how I got this shot in the book—it was a very exciting photo shoot, nearly two miles above the South China Sea!

“Into the Pech” – Page 48. The Pech River Valley in eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar Province is incredibly beautiful. It is also incredibly steeped in recent military history—and when I shot this image, incredibly dangerous. I saw this image emerging at the tail end of a large combat operation and I raced into place to grab this silhouette of a Marine descending into the Pech. 

 “Abrams at Rest” – Page 41. I shot this image at the end of a large combat operation north of the town of Haditha, Iraq. I was in a perfect spot to capture two Abrams perched atop a small rise, with the waters of Lake Qadisiyah in the distance, at sunset. 

“F-15E Strike Eagle” – Page 51. Look at all those hard points! What an amazing aircraft. I photographed this Strike Eagle at Bagram Airfield at dusk, just as the pilot emerged after returning from a close air support mission. 

“Canal Jump” – Page 88. I was embedded with a squad of Marines tasked with tracking down a local Taliban commander, and we did a lot of jumping canals. Yikes! This image brings back memories. Details, and one of my favorite captions, in the book!

“Harriers Over Al Anbar” – Page 74. Wow, this was an exciting photo shoot. Here are two Marine Corps AV-8B II Harriers miles over the Al Anbar Province of Iraq. I shot this during a close air support mission – more details in the book!

“Scanning the Distance” – Page 40. I shot this image during a large combat operation in southern Afghanistan. No, it wasn’t posed, but yes, I did see all of the elements of the image coming together and I quickly “pre-visualized” – and it was a very exciting moment, indeed!

“Hornets at Dusk” – Page 84. I shot this image of these Hornets during a close air support mission in Iraq’s Al Anbar Province. I was where I was at just the perfect time to capture this moment—the Hornets silhouetted and breaking away. 

“Yankee Launch” – Page 123. I was embedded in Afghanistan during the first combat deployment of the UH-1Y “Venom,” the latest iteration of the venerable UH-1 helicopter. I was fortunate to be able to grab this shot during a combat operation this “Yankee” (phonetic for ‘Y’). Loved this moment!

“Up Close with the Osprey” – Page 37. I shot this image during my time embedded with VMM-261, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261, during the very first deployment of the MV-22 Osprey to Afghanistan. These guys are incredible pilots, and I was able to witness some amazing moments, like this one. More details and many more images in the book itself! Thank you!

A big thanks to Ed for sharing these great images with us and make sure you grab his new book at the Amazon link posted at the beginning of this piece and also be sure to snag a copy of The Final Mission Of Extortion 17. As you can see by the reviews, it is an absolutely awesome read!


Contact the author: [email protected]

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