Pittsburgh native Carmen Gentile, has been an embedded freelance reporter with American troops throughout the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, America’s longest war.
Despite a slow removal of troops from the Middle East, Gentile says the violence is far from under control.
In the areas that are heavily controlled by the Taliban, insurgents continue to press the Afghan forces. While he was in Afghanistan this past summer, Gentile says he saw a transition happening between the US and Afghan forces. American soldiers are moving away from leading missions and now mostly advise and assist the Afghan Army.
Gentile says this transition can be disappointing for soldiers on their first deployment, because it is not the leading role they were expecting to play.
“Before they deploy they hear exciting combat stories from veterans and seasoned soldiers and they’re expecting to have the same experiences. In fact, many signed up because of those stories,” says Gentile.
But, for those on their 4th or 5th deployment, America’s longest war is taking a huge emotional and physical toll on both them, and those they leave behind.
“ I know some soldiers who, since their first deployment, have been married and divorced twice,’ he says.
Considering the emotional and physically taxing environment of war and the fact that he's sustained some severe injuries, one would think that Gentile might want to stay away from the Middle East. But he says,
“I can’t let one event prevent me from going back and covering what’s going on over there."