Tuesday, January 17, 2006

My Favorite Iraq Photo?

This is such a classic photograph, that it is possibly my favorite Iraq photo. From Stars and Stripes come this story surrounding the photograph and the defiant Marine, Gunnery Sgt. Michael Burghardt.

Marine bomb expert shaken but not deterred by IED
Photo taken after blast has become symbol of resolve

By Monte Morin, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Sunday, January 15, 2006

RAMADI, Iraq — For Marine Gunnery Sgt. Michael Burghardt, the business of hunting down and defusing roadside bombs is something of a deadly chess game.

Burghardt, 36, of Fountain Valley, Calif., is probably one of the best-known and most well-respected improvised bomb experts in Iraq, where his skills are in constant demand.

Last September, an embedded journalist snapped a photo of Burghardt moments after a roadside bomb exploded on him in a notoriously troubled corner of western Ramadi — a city that Burghardt describes as “the scariest place on Earth.” The image shows Burghardt with bloodied legs and shredded uniform, flipping the bird to an unseen insurgent who triggered the bomb.

The photo has circulated widely among military personnel in Iraq, who view it as a powerful symbol of resolve and fighting spirit.

“It’s one hell of a picture,” said Col. John L. Gronski, commander of U.S. troops in and around Ramadi.

The 2-28 Brigade Combat Team commander keeps an enlarged, autographed copy on his office wall.

Whether Burghardt is using a Mars rover-type robot or a knife blade to probe for bombs, or searching for them in a heavily armored Buffalo mine-clearing vehicle, his goal is to outmaneuver the fertile yet deadly imagination of the unseen bomb-maker and, he hopes, save the lives of fellow soldiers and Marines.

Now, with roughly two months remaining in his third Iraq tour, Burghardt shakes his head in wonder at the variety and evolution of the roadside bombs he has encountered and the relentlessness with which they’re planted.

Washing machine timers, cordless telephone docking stations, battery acid, shaped charges and artillery rounds seemingly scrounged from all corners of the globe are the insurgents’ currently preferred tools. Yet Burghardt said it’s only a matter of time before they move on to newer and deadlier devices.

The Rest of the Story.

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