Creativity Contest; Diamonds In The Rough; Pictures From War-Torn Afghanistan

We recently worked with 2LT Palmer of the 141st Logistic Task Force on a photo contest open to personnel at Camp Phoenix and serving in Afghanistan. The winners of that contest are shown on these pages. Along with the winning images 2LT Palmer sent us this text, which we think pretty much summarizes the idea and images. We wish all our brave men and women the best and a safe return home.--Editor

When people hear Afghanistan, they think "the War on Terror" and "bombs, guns, explosions." What they don't think of is a little child smiling around a corner at passing soldiers, or a beautiful sunset over rugged mountains. So many people know and have seen some of the darkness in Afghanistan. They have heard about the pressure and desolation, but not many people have seen the diamonds scattered throughout Afghanistan. When I was asked to run a photography contest, originally for Camp Phoenix, and then spreading out to include anyone working for the military in Afghanistan, I had a chance to glimpse at some of these diamonds.

I asked for submissions in two categories, People and Landscape, and was amazed at the pictures I received. From across Afghanistan, people sent me their pictures to enter into the contest. All kinds of pictures showed up, from pictures taken out the window of a Humvee to pictures that look like they were set up with a tripod and special lenses.

Landscape -- First Place
© 2007, LTC James Randolph, C Co, 141st LTF, All Rights Reserved, All Rights Reserved

Landscape -- Second Place
© 2007, MAJ Rob Fraser, HHC, 41st BCT, All Rights Reserved

Landscape -- Third Place
© 2007, SSG Paul Schweitzer, HHC, 41st BCT, All Rights Reserved

Landscape -- Honorable Mention
© 2007, SGT Donna Mitchell, HHC, 141st LTF, All Rights Reserved

The pictures were put on display for voting from February 14th-28th, 2007, in the mess hall where soldiers and DOD contractors who ate there were able to place their votes on their favorite pictures. The top four pictures in each category were awarded first, second, and third place, plus honorable mention. Included here are the winning entries so that all can share with us the diamonds that we unearthed in our time of service in the war-torn country of Afghanistan.

We who participated in Operation Enduring Freedom hope you enjoy the pictures as much as we did, and we hope that they may show you a bit of the heart and soul of this country to which that we gave a year of our lives, in the hope that our service will help them return to the glorious country they had been in days' past.

People -- First Place
© 2007, 2LT Michael Palmer, HHC, 141st LTF, All Rights Reserved

People -- Second Place
© 2007, 1LT Constantin Barcan, Romanian Armored, All Rights Reserved

People -- Third Place
© 2007, CPT Dennis Lindsay, HHC, 141st LTF, All Rights Reserved

People -- Honorable Mention
© 2007, SSG Paul Schweitzer, HHC, 41st BCT, All Rights Reserved

All winners were chosen by popular vote of the soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and civilian contractors in Afghanistan, as well as friends and families in the US and around the world. Votes were taken both on paper ballots at Camp Phoenix and through the contest's website, They were not chosen by a panel of professionals or by a small select group. Every effort was made to make the voting open to as many people as possible and these winning pictures were the results of those votes. Enjoy.