The Washington Post sends an artist to cover the Afghanistan War


A drawing of a soldier’s body armor. (Richard Johnson/The Washington Post)

Regular readers of Checkpoint may be familiar with the work of Richard Johnson, a senior graphics editor and field artist with The Washington Post. He has assisted on numerous occasions, producing visual representations of the Pentagon’s controversial Excess Property Program and of a fatal rocket-propelled grenade attack in the Gaza Strip, among others.

For the foreseeable future, Richard will be something else: a war correspondent. The Post has deployed him to Afghanistan, where he will not only write about the war, but draw what he sees. He arrived in the last few days, and wrote about the experience on his blog, Drawing the World Together.


A soldier relaxes in Afghanistan during down time. (Richard Johnson/The Washington Post)

Here’s an excerpt of Richard’s initial post from Afghanistan:

The meet up with the Washington Post Bureau’s driver and the subsequent drive to Bagram Air Base is perhaps best not described in this blog for fear that my wife may read it. But suffice to say that it was suitably entertaining and not without incident. When we got to the walk-in gates at Bagram after a firm handshake of thanks for still being alive – I duly exited and he duly left. There was a short period of concern during which they wouldn’t let me in, but in the end the issues were resolved.

The public affairs folks at Bagram got me settled in, and while they were sorting out some paperwork I doodled this of 10th Mountain Division’s Staff Sergeant Kelly Simon’s gear hanging on its wooden crucifix behind her desk. On this wooden cross system her body armor is always ready to be grabbed at short notice in event of a rocket attack. The rocket attacks are not so common anymore but the base still sees about one a week.

Late at the end of my first forty-eight hour day and I was sitting in the middle of a tent of bunks filled with soldiers en-route within the battle space. As the drawdown continues bunk space is at a premium and so lots of soldiers transit through tents like this. It is basically just a place to crash while waiting for your next movement orders. Not the worst place I have ever slept. The corners of the mattress at either side were about a foot higher than my ass.

After taking off my shoes and socks, I was just contemplating sleeping in the clothes I was wearing when I noticed Staff Sgt. David M. Rogers on the bunk next to mine talking via Skype to his wife, Maria, back in the States. It was a great scene – this new mix of technology and soldiering that allows families to stay in touch so easily.

Some of Richard’s art in coming days will be appearing here on Checkpoint.

Dan Lamothe covers national security for The Washington Post and anchors its military blog, Checkpoint.
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Dan Lamothe · September 4