See How Soldiers Sleep in the Field

While embedded with U.S. troops in Afghanistan, photographer Tim Hetherington created images showing rare and precious moments of calm.

Photograph By Tim Hetherington, Magnum Photos
Read Caption
Forward Observer Murhy sleeps in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan in July 2008.
Photograph By Tim Hetherington, Magnum Photos

In 2007, photographer Tim Hetherington and writer Sebastian Junger were embedded with U.S. troops fighting the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan's Korengal Valley. This is an excerpt from Junger's introduction to Infidel, Hetherington's book of photographs from their time with the troops in Korengal. (Tragically, Hetherington was later killed in a mortar attack in Libya in 2011.)

I remember one stifling June day in the middle of a real combat drought—nothing for two weeks straight—and almost every soldier at the outpost was asleep. They were sprawled on their bunks in the fly-infested hooches or slumped against sandbags wherever they could find some shade and I remember sitting there and thinking that this was pretty much hell on earth: twenty guys trapped on a hilltop with the heat and the dust and the tarantulas and the flies and nothing to do but wait for someone to try to kill them.

It seemed to be the definition of a moment where there's no story to tell, and yet that wasn't quite true. Creeping through the outpost came Tim, camera in hand, grabbing photographs of the soldiers as they slept. 'You never see them like this,' he said to me later. 'They always look so tough, but when they're asleep they look like little boys. They look like the way their mothers probably remember them.'

View Images

'Doc' Kelso, July 2008.