Small Wars Journal

Bridging the Civil-Military Gap: Soldier Photography in Afghanistan

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 3:16am

Bridging the Civil-Military Gap: Soldier Photography in Afghanistan

Kris Bachmann

The twenty-first century wars in Iraq and Afghanistan experienced and experience the most media coverage of any conflict in American history.  Take for instance the famous picture of a statue of Saddam Hussein being pulled down by Marines as a crowd of Iraqis looks on.  This image made the rounds of television media and government as proof that the Iraqis saw U.S. troops as liberators.  Later revelations exposed that the toppling did not come at behest of the Iraqis and that much of the crowd in the photo came from the press staying at the nearby Palestine Hotel.[i]  Television news, taken in by the story, replayed it incessantly while removing the context by making comparisons to iconic events such as the fall of the Berlin Wall.  The photo did not lie, but its usage became propaganda to push forth a narrative that an administration desperately needed the public to believe.  This image, and the aftermath, clearly displays the dangers inherent in the irresponsible use of photography without context.  While the image did not necessarily get staged, the lack of context and availability of journalists along with twenty-four hour news changed the meaning of the event for the audience.  Iconic images often run into issues with interpretation due to their power in presentation.  On the other hand vernacular images by soldiers, never published, and not seen outside their circle of family and friends allows for a more intricate view of their war and their response to it and building the foundation for a broader understanding of the experiences of the Iraq and Afghan wars.

Less than one percent of the US public participated in uniform these wars over the last decade.[ii]  This historically low number underlies much of the disconnect, and rage, among young veterans returning home to discover the assumed apathy of their countrymen.  On the professional reporting side many journalists risk their lives to bring the realities of war against an often unidentifiable foe into the American home.  Several respectable documentaries detailing the more crude aspects of these wars attempt to engage in public dialogue, such as the documentary Restrepo and the accompanying book War by Sebastian Junger, but they are so far, underappreciated.  The journalist’s war does not concern us here today; with the proliferation of mass media devices the soldiers fighting these wars created a massive, yet untouched, realm of primary documents presenting the soldier’s view of the conflict.  With the advent of the All-Volunteer Force (AVF) the Civil-Military divide increases as fewer citizens and politicians are related to, or know someone in the military.  The military must be kept in conversation with the populace it serves or risk the rise of a warrior class unable to relate to or understand the public they are defending.  Additionally, due to the fact of their not being personally invested, much of the public hardly engages with U.S. foreign military adventures, a fact increasing the isolation of the military from the populace.  Utilizing Soldier photography to bridge the gaps between Army culture, American culture and Afghan culture will allow us to uncover the Soldier’s experience and assist in bridging the growing divide between society and their protectors.

The three photos selected come from the same deployment to the country of Afghanistan by two lower enlisted soldiers from a California Army National Guard unit, the 578th Engineer Battalion.  “Tebow Trucks” and “Security” belong to Specialist Kevin Ulloa, a Combat Engineer assigned to the Security Platoon.  “Market” belongs to Specialist Enrique Reveles, a Chemical Corps soldier who provided much needed manpower on several Combat Logistics Patrols.  The photos have not been published or circulated outside of the photographer’s friends, family and fellow soldiers.  Interpreting pictures presents a risk for the interpreter as their own bias may obscure the deeper meaning.  Theoretical constructs build a manageable path for the interpreter and a sound basis of knowledge for the audience.  The Army builds a purposeful subculture through recruiting, training and lifestyle.  This subculture exists within the bounds of American culture.  U.S. soldiers interact with popular culture.  This interaction with, and subversion of, signs, as well as acts of bricolage will concern the first photo in this paper; three soldiers “Tebowing” on top of their respective gun trucks.  The discussion will center on this absorption of identifiable cultural signs and reimagining of them by soldiers in a combat zone.  The second photo, “Market,” depicts an Afghan market from the vantage point of an up-armored vehicle underlining the intersections of power and authority.  This photo will explore Afghan tribal culture and detail how the nature of the picture displays the difficulties of being an occupying power ostensibly there to protect the local civilians from insurgents.  “Security,” the final photograph, depicts the time-honored formation picture taken by soldiers since the advent of the camera, highlighting the ideas of normalization in creating a disciplinary subculture.  Examining Army culture through the lens of discipline will assist civilians attempting to understand the soldiers through a new viewpoint and provide better context for stories of the military.

The country the West calls Afghanistan is historically tied together by tribes and does not have a strong nationalist identity.  Several ethnic groups make up these tribes and all have separate customs amongst a shared Islamic heritage; the Pashtuns comprise the largest of these groups with forty-two percent of the population followed by the Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks at nine percent a piece.[iii]  This dominance allows the Pashtuns to build a strong base as tribal bonds lead them to vote only for Pashtun candidates.  A sarcastic quip exists that President Karzai is merely the ‘President of the Pashtuns,” rather than Afghanistan proper.  These tribal and ethnic tensions make up the bedrock on which the violence in Afghanistan since the expulsion of the Soviets.  The internecine fighting between the warlords that formerly made up the Mujahedeen destroyed what little was left of infrastructure in Afghanistan and turned Kabul into a wrecked wasteland with a large percentage of the city left in urban ruins.[iv]  The former Mujahedeen could not come to an accord in order to create a government after the collapse of Najibullah’s Communist government in 1991.  By 1994 Kabul lacked any cohesive services vital to maintaining a city of millions so it became a ghost town with the territorial owner changing from street to street. 

The nature of this decimating conflict in an urban area naturally led to millions of refugees streaming, typically, across the border into massive refugee camps in Pakistan.  For the average Afghan civilian, not much seemed to change from the withdrawal of the Soviets to the rise of the Warlords.  For urban areas, the warlords certainly caused more damage than cities suffered during the Soviet occupation. This chaos and instability set the stage for an organization claiming it could establish stability and end the decade plus of conflict.  Understanding the violence that permeated Afghan society for the previous thirty years provides the context for the interaction between Afghan civilian and U.S. (or allied) soldier.  During the civil war of the 1990’s alone over 400,000 Afghans lost their lives.[v]  This level of death and destruction led to many Afghans being disingenuous, as westerners would call it, in order to stay alive and keep their family/village/tribe safe from reprisals.  Naturally, this cultural lack of trust makes an impact on the psyche of soldiers when interacting with local civilians.

The Taliban, like many warlord groups, recruited from jihadi fighters that no longer had an allegiance to one of the existing militia groups.  The Pakistani military, concerned with the civil war taking place next door and interested in increasing their sphere of influence, gave material assistance to the Taliban which, along with foreign fighters, made the Taliban a force to be reckoned with.[vi]  The support of a nation-state gave the Taliban the resources required to overthrow the Mujahedeen militias and exert control over most of the country.  Initially, the Taliban were greeted well by the weary Afghans but soon alienated the population with a brutal enforcement of sharia law.  This, coupled with an inability to fix the destroyed infrastructure, soon led to widespread discontent with the Taliban government among many Afghans.  Public executions and other punishments, such as lashings and mutilation became forced public events in areas such as former soccer stadiums.  The former Mujahedeen militias did not lie down quietly; further complicating the Taliban’s efforts to administer Afghanistan.  These militias finally coalesced into a single organization, the Northern Alliance, and continued to contest the Taliban’s control of the country.  The Northern Alliance managed to survive in the mountains in the north of Afghanistan and would become crucial to the United States’ attempts to fashion a stable situation.  The Taliban’s harboring of al Qaeda led to an invasion by the US in 2001 and its quick demise from power.[vii]

Detailing the more than decade of war NATO forces have been involved in during their occupation of Afghanistan would be exhaustive and unnecessary.  Here, the focus will be on the different insurgent groups in arms against the NATO led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).  Due to US involvement in Iraq and the weakness of the Pakistani government, along with sympathies for their creations, allowed for the resurgence of the Taliban in the latter part of the 2000’s.[viii]  This led to a surge of violence in the Southern and Eastern provinces of Afghanistan and a near collapse of ANSF forces in these areas.  These insurgents were not the same as those previously in power.  A powerful cadre of hardliners that managed to evade the US invasion led a new younger generation of extremists disillusioned with the new Afghan government and the presence of infidels in their country in the form of ISAF.  This force combines the idealism of youth with the experience and cold-blooded nature of surviving die-hards.  These younger guerrillas adopted the tactics of insurgents through the decades, utilizing raids and ambushes to hit government forces and escape before superior fires can be brought against them.  Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) provide a new and potent weapon in the arsenal of these insurgents.  These bombs pose a great danger to local and coalition forces, able to cause damage and death even to heavily armored vehicles and even greater danger to dismounted troops.  These crude, but extremely effective, weapons force the Afghan forces and their international allies to massive expenditures in attempting to keep the roads clear for civilian and military traffic.  The Taliban mostly find support among the Pashtuns in the South and thus most of their efforts focus in this geographic location.[ix]  In the East, the location of these pictures, the insurgent groups ally with the Taliban but do not necessarily share all the Taliban’s goals.

The method of asymmetrical warfare adds the most stress to soldiers used to operating in an environment which places strong emphasis on the Laws of Land Warfare as fashioned by the world body and United Nations.[x]  Understanding the historical context of the location of photography plays a key role in deciphering the meanings held within.  The nature of these photos allows the beginning of an understanding of the difficulty American Soldiers deal with when trying to ameliorate cultural, usually unconscious, expressions of power in order to better relate to the Afghan people.  Additionally we must understand how instant communication affects the deployed experience.  The ability to e-mail, Skype, Facebook and browse the internet enables soldiers to stay in touch with their family and friends in an unprecedented manner.  Corresponding with family on a daily basis creates a double edged sword, several of my soldiers experienced difficulty in focusing on missions as their thoughts focused on family matters that they received updates on a near daily basis.  Additionally, digitally corresponding with family builds a greater sense of loneliness and loss that affects the morale of deployed soldiers as that separation is continually reinforced through these mediums.

Soldiers keep up with, and enjoy, popular culture produced at their age range much like every other group.  Younger soldiers especially can construct their own ideas of what a popular icon can mean in their own subculture.  Typically acts of taking mainstream representations and erasing their meaning through sarcasm or parody are perpetrated by younger soldiers more connected with society at large; especially with the advent of the digital age.  The massive proliferation of memes and specific internet sites produce an environment open to the creation of differing meanings for the same symbol.  Bricolage, as defined by anthropologists, defines the theft, erasure or subversion of cultural signs by subcultural groups and their re-definition in service of the subculture.[xi]  While deployed my personal favorite meme contained variations of: “u mad?” “y u mad bro?” and “problem?”  They all must be presented with faux concern in body language and inflection.  I picked these terms up from the online gaming world and used them to sarcastically respond to peers and subordinates who emotionally reacted out of proportion to the issue at hand. 

“Tebow Trucks,” taken in early 2012 by a fellow platoon member, depicts three soldiers “Tebowing” on top of their gun trucks imitating the move recently made famous by football player Tim Tebow, though not invented by him, and imitating each other.  Tim Tebow often performed this gesture as a sign of his thanks to Jesus Christ and a method of prayer in the end zone after scoring a touchdown.[xii]  The craze took off in fall 2011 and reached massive numbers of imitators in the millennial civilian and military worlds who follow the National Football League and to whom the NFL markets its products. Many made the gesture in sincere imitation, while many may have done so in mockery.  The soldiers present climbed onto the tops of the gun turrets on their vehicles to stage this photo in mockery as they present themselves as being thankful for returning from a mission unscathed.  Being on top of impressively menacing machines of war already drastically changes the nature of this imitation.  By the very context of being in a combat zone, Tebow’s act cannot be merely a vulgar copy of this gesture but must add significance to the soldiers understanding of the difference between their world and that of the civilian or highly paid NFL player. 

Mockery does not comprise the entire interpretation of the gesture these soldiers make; this action also functions as a method for stress relief from the intensity of being in a combat zone.  Insurgents often show impressive amounts of tactical ability and daring in their attacks on ISAF installations and convoys: in the past their fighters breached the wall of a base and sent several fighters in wearing suicide vests.[xiii]   This high level of capability makes the insurgents very dangerous to soldiers operating in Eastern Afghanistan.  Coming under attack from small arms fire regularly occurred while on mission and dramatically increased tension levels, even if the fire did not pose a great danger.  The climbing on top of vehicles in the manner shown in the photograph generally violates safety procedures and the soldiers could expect to receive a verbal reprimand if caught in this position.  Ignoring regulations viewed as silly or onerous follows a time honored Army tradition.  This allows troops to gain a feeling of independence through subversion and build stronger bonds when sharing the story with their fellows.  Sharing amusement helps to defuse the tension that naturally builds up in troops during a mission.  The charge of uniformity often comes about when discussing the military, especially with groups that do not have a favorable opinion of the armed forces.  These groups may claim that this photo simply reproduces American culture in the worst way; implying that this environment dulls a soldier’s creativity.  In reality, soldiers engage a quick wit and penchant for shenanigans that provides an outlet for tension release but also gives many commanders headaches.[xiv]  It would be a mistake to underestimate the ability of soldiers to understand the ‘intrinsic meanings’ of culture, and to subvert its signs in order to create a situation that a civilian would find relatable.[xv]

While deployed we knew that our experiences overseas came across as nearly unintelligible to the average citizen.  Members of the armed forces desire the ability to make their family and friends at the least understand some small part of the experience of war.  In this photo, a major known meme is being redefined in order to help build understanding.  The vehicle platforms depicted in this image belong to the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) family of trucks.  Considerably armed and armored, they come at a high monetary cost to the taxpayer but save many lives from roadside bombs and rockets.  This choice of platform changes the meaning of “Tebowing” through a subversion of the mixture of Christianity and war that encapsulates much popular culture in the United States.  Sports represent a controlled form of combat and by “Tebowing,” football fans, sincerely or not, signify the idea that God is on our (teams) side.  These soldiers take that idea and warp it by nature of being in a true combat situation.  Sitting on massive machines of war, while mimicking a gesture of prayer, these men decry the hypocrisy of many sports-loving Americans.  These trucks personify violence; they cannot be seen in any other manner.  They exist only to bring death and destruction to the enemies of the United States.  The undercurrent of violence in this image makes clear the mockery of athletes and fans thanking God for their successes.  A strong feeling exists amongst many soldiers that most civilians care more about their sports team than about what happens in distant wars fought by men and women they little know, outside of preposterous movies.  Many military members from all branches notice the discrepancy between lip service and reality when receiving recognition from civilians.[xvi]  Soldiers daily engage in the great competition of staying alive and their struggles, while triumphs and tragedies may get a thirty second blurb on the local news station.  This general indifference about our overseas involvement drives much of the distaste for popular culture found in the Army.  Unfortunately guilt exists in the U.S., leading to a glorification of military personnel as “heroes.”  Very few of us would consider ourselves heroes and being referred to in this manner builds on our certainty that civilians don’t understand what soldiers experience in Afghanistan.

Soldiers also act as bricoleurs by appropriating not just images but sounds as well.  Soldiers enjoy the absurdity of listening to Britney Spears or Rihanna while traveling down roads where ambush by IED or small arms fire reaches near certainty.  By enjoying seemingly mindless pop music, created by artists as far from military service as it is possible to conceive, in such a setting, soldiers undermine the shallow professions of partying and carefreeness that these songs loudly proclaim.  Again, they utilize the inherent violence of their situation to take themes and products enjoyed seriously by the population to underscore the divergence between Soldier and civilian.  Importantly, many of these actions affect morale by allowing the diffusion of stress through laughter and joking.  This function allows soldiers to enjoy the absurdity of a sign moved from a space of domestic peace and transferred into a violent context.  This subversion does not usually start out with a hostile intent.  As a deployment drags on, the tone frequently moves to a darker focus.  What starts out as an amusing stress relief becomes warped by sarcasm and bitterness and becomes a damning judgment on American culture rather than a relief valve.  Unfortunately a not insignificant number of soldiers cannot escape this mindset upon their return to the United States and end up struggling to readjust to domestic, non-war life.

The next image, “Market,” explores the interactions of power between Afghan society and the U.S. Army.  It underlines the fundamental difficulties of occupying a foreign country with a radically different culture from the occupiers.  In addition, this image illustrates the predicaments soldiers find themselves in during a counter-insurgency campaign.  “Market” provides a view of the unfortunately typical interaction American Soldiers have with the local populace: from inside an impersonal, heavily armored vehicle.  This image, taken by a separate soldier from “Tebow Trucks” and “Security,” depicts a Combat Logistics Patrol reaching its turn onto the ring route, Highway #, 1 or as these Californian soldiers called it, PCH.[xvii]  Simply being in this massive, armored truck creates a clear disparity of power between the locals in their small Toyotas and the Americans in their more obviously wealthy machines.  The relationship of power is obvious in this photo: through their very presence, these massive vehicles force the Afghans out of the way in their own country, denoting a de facto U.S. superiority.  Additionally, this photo represents the difficulties soldiers experience in Afghanistan: they must accomplish a mission.  Here, the transporting a materials and equipment while being courteous drivers in a country where driving rules are not enforced-and among a populace with little regard for road rules-all the while driving vehicles several times larger than anything else on the road.

 “Market” comes across as grainy, perhaps mildly out of focus, but these flaws expose another level of separation from the local populace.  The warping sensation comes from the ballistic glass that makes up the windshield and windows of all Army vehicles in a combat zone.  Being several inches thick and heavily bullet resistant, this glass builds another level of separation between the Afghans and the soldiers: only a warped view of each other can ever exists as even sound becomes distorted when it manages to penetrate this glass.  As Westerners in Afghanistan, American troops already represent an alien culture to the locals, while the technological advantage builds another level of space between the two parties.  Obviously, the undercurrent of power affects relations between the two groups. Soldiers most often do not naturally carry a strong sense of cultural sensitivity and the Army belatedly began to issue tactical directives attempting to enforce more restrained behavior by its members in order to lessen alienation of the local people.[xviii]  These tactical directives, usually with a new revision every time a new commander takes over, clearly show the Army beginning to understand the influence of inequalities of power when dealing with a populace at a distinct wealth and technological disadvantage.  The American public often fails to understand the precarious conditions faced by soldiers in the field, when interacting with foreign cultures.  “Market” starkly represents the difficulties soldiers endure when attempting to engage the populace.  The nature of American wealth and technological superiority generates an environment that increases the difficulty in relating to a poorer, more rural, population.   

The final image, “Security,” taken by the same soldier as “Tebow Trucks,” depicts a platoon of soldiers serving together in Afghanistan in a time honored formation with their brothers.  These soldiers all take very similar stances without instruction and their individuality faces further blurring by the nature of the uniform.  Here we can see the absolving of the individual in the practice of creating a greater organism built through the cohesive bonding of Army life.  You are not looking at a collection of individuals but rather the parts making up the unit, in this case a platoon.  Building a team by subverting individuality displays the part of the Army that most civilians least understand and feel most disturbed about, especially considering the belief in the supreme sovereignty of the individual in American society.  The Army’s desire to govern gestures and dictate behaviors in order to create a new normal aimed towards building a powerful bond between all of its soldiers must be understood in order for the civil and military societies to keep a healthy respect for one another.[xix]  Discipline obviously comprises the basic building block the Army utilizes to convert civilians into soldiers.  Enlisted recruits must all go through Basic Combat Training in which all must internalize the basic value system of the Army or fail.  Officers must pass a five to six months long Basic Officer Leadership Course in their field.  This course teaches basic competencies along with basic Army culture, including,  the Army Values: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage-all of these- embody the minimum baseline of beliefs a Soldier must internalize in order to become a member of the subculture.[xx]  The Army uses discipline to enforce normalization.  Violation of these norms results in some type of ‘corrective action.’  The essence of the uniform is to craft a sign by which members of the subculture can instantly recognize each other and understand the base beliefs of that person without knowing anything other than what they wear.  In light of this, the Army concerns itself very much with the proper wear and appearance of the different uniforms in the Army’s repertoire.[xxi]  Through these varied regulations, 670-1 being the most prominent, the Army enforces discipline throughout its structure as any Soldier, regardless of rank, can correct another Soldier for being ‘out of regs.’  No Officer or Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) wants to be corrected by a lower ranking; this generates a powerful incentive towards normalization. 

Building cohesiveness sits at the top of every commander’s list before deploying to a combat zone.  They must be wary of extremes, you do not want a unit whose loyalty to each other outweighs their loyalty to the Army Values; this could set the stage for crimes being committed and not reported.  A significant juggling act occurs during team building due to the fact that the soldiers in the unit need to work as a team but work within definite levels of authority built to guide the same team.

The third photo displays the differences in authority, in variously obscured ways.  Understanding the gestures found in Army culture produces a deeper meaning found in this photo by defining the connotation.[xxii]  Focus on the two figures to the left of the group; they clearly exist with the group but stand apart from it, almost above it.  In the greater formation the soldiers stand close enough to be touching, you travel from one uniform straight to another until you reach these two figures at the left end.  Space becomes visible and the background comes through, whether it’s the tan of the vehicle or the light of the sky, showing an amount of distance between these men and the rest.  A casual observer may not catch this subtly and almost certainly will not catch the significance of the creation of physical space.  The two soldiers on the left are the senior NCOs of this group.  They lead and manage the rest of these soldiers and know that they may have to order these younger troops to their deaths in order to complete the mission.  These two NCOs total nine combat deployments between them while most of the rest of the group is on their first.  The knowledge and experience gained by the two NCOs and the coming and going of other soldiers under their care in past years along with the amount of violence they have seen and perpetrated, creates a distance between them and the larger formation.  They stand with the group, but not of it.  This displays the fundamental reason the Army rotates unit leadership every two years (attempts to would be more accurate), the experience and knowledge stay within the organization but the cohesive level, theoretically, remains at a level where the leadership’s loyalty lies more with the Army Values than their own soldiers.

The nature of the AVF hampers the ability of civilians and soldiers to understand one another.  The fact that such a small percentage of Americans served in the current wars increases the difficulties of engaging the populace in understanding the wars and the soldiers who fight them.  Considering the shared unpopularity of these wars between soldiers and civilians, there still exists a large gap of understanding.[xxiii]  Soldiers still interact with popular culture and society but in a far more dangerous and regimented context.  Taking signs from the civilian world and changing their meaning shows that soldiers do understand the inherent contradictions prevalent in American society, specifically the world of sports.  In order to bridge the growing gap between military and civilian, the culture and experiences must be understood, which takes a dedicated amount of time and effort.  Soldier photography presents a great resource to begin understanding the Soldier’s experience in war by gaining context of the Army culture, Afghan culture and American culture and the interactions of all three in Afghanistan.

Tebow Trucks




Army Leadership. Army Regulation 600-100. Washington DC: Department of the Army, 2007.

Barthes, Roland. Image Music Text. Translated by Stephen Heath. London: HarperCollins, 1977.

Baldauf, Scott. “Life under Taliban cuts two ways.” Christian Science Monitor, September 20, 2001. Accessed December 15, 2013.

Burke, Peter. Eyewitnessing: The Uses of Images as Historical Evidence. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001.

Central Intelligence Agency. “Afghanistan.” Accessed December 2, 2013.

COMISAF Tactical Directive of 20 November 2011.

Egan, Timothy. “The Other 1 Percent.” New York Times, March 15, 2012. Accessed December 1 2013.

Foucault, Michel. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972-1977. Edited by Colin Gordon. New York: Pantheon, 1980.

Goodson, Larry. (1998). “The Fragmentation of Culture in Afghanistan.” Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics,No. 18 Post-Colonial Discourse in South Asia. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 1998. Accessed December 9, 2013.

Hammersley, Robert. “Task Force Mad Dog Newsletter.” April 2012.

Hebdige, Dick. Subculture: The Meaning of Style. New York: Routledge, 1979.

Jones, Lindsay. “The story behind the ‘Tebowing’ craze.” The Denver Post, October 27, 2011. Accessed  December 1, 2013.

Karon, Tony. “The Taliban and Afghanistan.” Time, September 18, 2001. Accessed December 17, 2013.,8599,175372,00.html.

Mass, Peter. “The Toppling.” The New Yorker, January 10, 2011. Accessed December 17, 2013.

McGurk, Tim. “Behind the Taliban’s Resurgence in Afghanistan.” Time, September 16, 2009. Accessed December 3, 2013.,8599,1923303,00.html.

Partlow, Joshua and Craig Whitlock. “Attack on U.S. outpost in Afghanistan worse than originally reported.” The Washington Post, June 16, 2012. Accessed December 3, 2013.

Paul. “Nation Demands Deployed Troops Return Home—Oh Shit The Game Is Starting Again,” The Duffel Blog, Novmber 28, 2013. Accessed December 16, 2013.

Paul, Christopher, Colin P, Clarke, Beth Grill, and Molly Dunigan. Paths to Victory: Lessons from Modern Insurgencies. Washington DC: RAND, 2013.

Tavernise, Sabrina. “As Fewer Americans Serve, Growing Gap Is Found Between Civilians and Military.” New York Times, November 24, 2011. Accessed December 3, 2013.

Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia. Army Regulation 670-1. Washington DC: Department of the Army, 2012.

End Notes

[i] Peter Mass, “The Toppling,” The New Yorker, January 10, 2011, Accessed December 17, 2013,

[ii] Sabrina Tavernise, “As Fewer Americans Serve, Growing Gap Is Found Between Civilians and Military,” New York Times, November 24, 2011, Accessed December 3, 2013,

[iii] Central Intelligence Agency, “Afghanistan,” Accessed December 2, 2013,

[iv] Larry Goodson, “The Fragmentation of Culture in Afghanistan.” Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics, Post-Colonial Discourse in South Asia, (Cairo: American University Press in Cairo, 1998 )275,285, Accessed December 9, 2013,

[v] Scott Baldauf, “Life under Taliban cuts two ways,” Christian Science Monitor, September 20, 2001, Accessed December 15, 2013,

[vi] Christopher Paul et al., Paths to Victory: Lessons from Modern Insurgencies, (Washington DC: RAND, 2013), 61.

[vii] Ibid., 65.

[viii] Tim McGurk, “Behind the Taliban’s Resurgence in Afghanistan,” Time, September 16, 2009, Accessed December 3, 2013,,8599,1923303,00.html.

[ix] Tony Karon, “The Taliban and Afghanistan,” Time, September 18, 2001, Accessed December 17, 2013,,8599,175372,00.html.

[x] Law of Land Warfare combines rules from the Laws of Armed Conflict and Geneva Conventions in order to create Rules of Engagement for ground forces specifically.

[xi] Dick Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning of Style, (New York: Routledge, 1979), 104.

[xii] Lindsay Jones, “The story behind the ‘Tebowing’ craze,” The Denver Post, October 27, 2011, Accessed  December 1, 2013,

[xiii] Joshua Partlow and Craig Whitlock, “Attack on U.S. outpost in Afghanistan worse than originally reported,” The Washington Post, June 16, 2012, Accessed December 3, 2013,

[xiv] “Shenanigans,” is a termed much beloved by Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers to describe the amusing troubles the lower enlisted get themselves into.

[xv] Peter Burke, Eyewitnessing: The Uses of Images as Historical Evidence, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001), 36.

[xvi] Paul, “Nation Demands Deployed Troops Return Home—Oh Shit The Game Is Starting Again,” The Duffel Blog, Novmber 28, 2013, Accessed December 16, 2013,  The Duffel Blog is a satire site created by (anonymous) veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and provides a telling look into the military world and civil-military relations.

[xvii] Robert Hammersley, Task Force Mad Dog Newsletter, April 2012, pg 14.

[xviii] COMISAF Tactical Directive of 20 November 2011.

[xix] Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972-1977, ed. Colin Gordon (New York: Pantheon, 1980), 97.

[xx] Army Regulation 600-100, Army Leadership, Fig. 1-1.

[xxi] Army Regulation 670-1 establishes a baseline for the wear and appearance of soldiers in and out of uniform. 

[xxii] Roland Barthes, Image Music Text, trans. Stephen Heath, (London: HarperCollins, 1977), 27.

[xxiii] Timothy Egan, “The Other 1 Percent,” New York Times, March 15, 2012, Accessed December 1 2013,


About the Author(s)

Kris Bachmann  is a 12B Captain in the California Army National Guard and pursuing an MA in Modern American Visual History at California State University, Fullerton.