This piece first aired in July, 2010, as part of the show, “Uploading the War”
- Host Intro: Youtube has produced many minor celebrities and internet phenomena because it provides a stage and an audience for anybody with anything interesting to say. Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have been taking full advantage of this, posting videos of their experiences in the conflict. Kyle Crawford has more about soldiers who use Youtube to tell their story.
[Clip] – Sgt Dunson on Dismounted Patrol
KYLE CRAWFORD: Entering the search terms Iraq or Afghanistan and War into YouTube yields about 800,000 videos and many of these were shot by soldiers. During World War II, radio and newspaper reports were the primary way the public was informed about the war. During Vietnam, the major television networks delivered images of the battles waged in Southeast Asia. But now, the power to deliver war footage is in the hands of soldiers for the first time. Philip Hindmarsh, who served in Afghanistan for the British, sees youtube videos posted by soldiers as a way to fill the gaps in the media’s coverage of the war.
PHILIP HINDMARSH: In contrast to the news. Obviously the news will only tell the general picture…and they don’t go down to the soldiers levels if you life. They are sort of more looking at the command element. Not looking at what each individual soldier is experiencing.
KYLE CRAWFORD: Hindmarsh posted a series of slideshows that are a mix of videos and photos with music that he says capture the essence of his deployment.
PHILIP HINDMARSH: For example for a period of 3 months we were held in a base location and getting attacked up to 90 times a day…We weren’t making a difference out there we were just defending for three weeks and that was what I was showing in me videos is the actual ground truth. You see the firefights going on. It is just shown on the account of what happens every day.
KYLE CRAWFORD: For many sharing videos on youtube is a way to connect with friends and family.
PHILIP HINDMARSH: Certainly when me father seen the videos he was proud basically. He didn’t understand what was going on fully but he was proud once he had seen the videos.
KYLE CRAWFORD: Plenty of the youtube videos posted by soldier’s are slideshows like Hindmarsh’s. But there are also numerous videos that are purely raw combat footage depicting firefights or soldiers on patrol. Sgt. Leo Dunson is an American who has posted a number of videos from his deployment.
[Clip] – Dunson firefight
SGT DUNSON: No other war really were they able to videotape and actually have on footage them shooting or killing other people. Or even at war in a firefight. That is unheard of. There is nothing like that ever in the history of war. To have some live footage of something like that is like is something that is priceless really.
KYLE CRAWFORD: But Dunson added that shooting video is not without risk. And he recounted how he filmed the firefight that is posted on his Youtube page.
SGT DUNSON: Yeah there is danger. The guy who was with me, specialist Huskey. He came up and he had the video camera. He was like let me tape you while you shooting out the window. As you can see I didn’t have my flack vest on or nothing. So you know if I had got shot or if he got shot we would have been screwed. While we sitting up here trying to video tape you know how I am I going to show higher when they see him and the camera drop and get shot.
You are scared but at the same time you are thinking how cool is this going to look if everybody gets to see it or how cool when I get to look back on it in years.
KYLE CRAWFORD: The raw soldier’s point of view in many videos like Dunson’s are not only important for the public, but as Hindmarsh explains they can be a resource for those considering the military or for soldiers about to be deployed.
PHILIP HINDMARSH: I looked after 32 men within the platoon and I would have loved guys to have an insight in Afghanistan and such before one they joined the army or even deploying out in Afghanistan. So therefore you can identity their weaknesses those that don’t like the idea of it dont deploy. So therefore when you go to Afghanistan you know you’ve got 90% of guys in there who want to fight. And they are not going to become liabilities.
KYLE CRAWFORD: However, he thinks that sometimes the ability for anyone to share videos of the war can go too far.
PHILIP HINDMARSH: I’m not sure if they have been taking off now. But it was with private security companies as well was people actually being killed. You didn’t see the death but you heard on a couple videos you heard the casualty in pain and dying. I think that is a bad thing. Simply for the fact of relatives and you know family and stuff. If they see that video it is not going to be very welcome to them.
KYLE CRAWFORD: But Dunson thinks that even graphic videos should be shared with the world
SGT DUNSON: And honestly my personal opinion, I think there shouldn’t really be a hold on it…I think that people deserve to know what is actually going on you know when the people dont know what is going on. I mean cause it’s the people we are supposed to be over there fighting for.
KYLE CRAWFORD: While there are a great deal of videos that depict firefights and combat there are many that show other aspects of life. Erik Anderson, a public affairs officer with the 3rd infantry division in Iraq produces videos for their division’s official youtube page. Anderson describes the subject of the division’s videos.
ERIK ANDERSON: These aren’t out on combat patrols. These are the guys that make sure that everything runs smoothly over here. That we are safe that we are getting our food that we are you know we’re ? with our Iraqi partners. All these little jobs that sometimes go unsung but really gives a chance for somebody not familiar with the army or just haven’t been to Iraq yet.
KYLE CRAWFORD: The channel also highlights the lighter side of life. One video features a spoof of Fox NFL Sunday where NCOs face off against Field-Grade Officers in a flag football match.
[Clip] – Cold Bowl
KYLE CRAWFORD: The soldiers I spoke with saw the ability to show this side of life as one of the strengths of youtube.
SGT DUNSON: I got the one video of us playing MTV punk’d when we were over there we were doing all kinds of jokes having fun. We also mingled with the local people. I put one on there of me dancing with the local Iraqi’s stuff like that and wanted to make people think that we hated all them and stuff like that.
KYLE CRAWFORD: Youtube allows soldiers to share their experience in war faster and easier than ever before. No longer do the major networks or military command control the dissemination of the images of war.
For War News Radio. I’m Kyle Crawford