In Afghanistan, warm weather means combat. The snow melts, the opium harvest is over, and part-time fighters and hardliners emerge from hiding to flood the country with violence. Referred to as “the fighting season,” it’s a time of year beginning in the spring and stretching into summer when violence reaches its peak with profits from the year’s opium harvest funding insurgency operations.
In 2012, the fighting season was especially fierce in Afghanistan’s southeastern Ghazni province, where coalition forces fought to wrest the province from Taliban control. For the soldiers on the ground, that basically meant long days walking along dusty roads and goat paths while waiting to get shot at.
And they usually did get shot at.
On June 15, 2012, in Afghanistan’s southeastern Ghazni province, paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division and their Afghan Army counterparts with 3rd Brigade, 203rd Corps, were headed back to Joint Security Station Hasan after patrolling through a nearby village when they came under enemy fire.
Army public affairs specialist Sgt. Mike MacLeod captured these five harrowing photos, which show the initial moments of chaos that follow an ambush after a day of patrolling during Afghanistan’s fighting season.
Army paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division and Afghan National Army soldiers, patrol across the Tarnak river in the southern part of Ghazni province, Afghanistan. The river separates the Gelan district in the north and Nawa district in the south.
Afghan National Army soldiers and U.S. Army paratroopers open fire on an enemy position during a gunbattle that erupted near the end of a daylong patrol through the village of Spedar in southern Ghazni province, Afghanistan, on June 15, 2012.
A paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne’s 1st Brigade Combat Team fires his M240B medium machine gun at insurgent forces during the firefight.
An Afghan soldier runs past an Army paratrooper during, staying low behind a mud wall.
Spc. Robert Zarlenga, a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, fires his M4 carbine through a small hole in a wall during the firefight.