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Tynes back on duty for newspaper

A longtime DAILY LEADER reporter is safe at home in Mississippiand back on the job after a lengthy stint of service to hiscountry.

Lawrence County’s Scott Tynes, a 12-year veteran reporter forthe newspaper, is once more writing stories about life in SouthwestMississippi after spending 10 months in Afghanistan with the 102ndMobile Public Affairs Detachment of the Mississippi National Guard.He was deployed alongside another local soldier, Brookhaven nativeCharles Brice.

Tynes’ deployment began in February 2008 with training at CampShelby. It was his second deployment – he served in the Gulf War in1990-1991 as a United States Marine.

Tynes has been home for about a month and back at The DAILYLEADER for a week, and he’s already burning up the roads with hispen, pad and camera.

“I’m looking forward to renewing those relationships, meetingnew people and reporting on the good things in this area,” he said.”I wouldn’t do this job if I didn’t like knowing what was going onand meeting and talking to people.”

It’s a tricky transition, Tynes said, to go from one area ofjournalism to another. While in Afghanistan, it was his job toarrange embeds – placing reporters with units in the field – withthe 101st Airborne Division for news media from around theworld.

He rarely wrote stories, but while stationed at the massiveBagram Air Field with 18,000 coalition troops in Regional CommandEast, near the border with Pakistan, he was able to see the newsfrom Afghanistan in a way few people at home are rarely shown.

“The majority of media I saw over there wanted combat andcasualty stories because that’s what sells,” Tynes said. “Butthere’s a lot more going on in Afghanistan than the occasional IED(improvised explosive device). It was a lot easier to getinternational media to cover stories about the good things the U.S.is doing than our media.”

Tynes said most media outlets wanted to see “kinetics” – combat- but the prevailing action in Regional Command East wasdevelopmental. U.S. and coalition troops there were not as busywith fighting Taliban insurgents, but had their days filled withteaching and learning, showing the Afghans new agriculturaltechniques and building roads and schools.

“We (coalition forces) were teaching them skills they didn’tknow, teaching them to better their lives, and they liked having usthere,” he said. “We’re building their economy. We’ve helped createa currency – the Afghani.”

Tynes said Afghans who came onto Bagram to do contract work werepaid in Afghanis instead of U.S. dollars, thereby helping tocirculate the new currency throughout the country and establish itsworth.

Unfortunately, many media outlets didn’t journey into the warzone to cover soldiers leading classes, tilling gardens andinoculating little arms.

“When I first went over there, everyone was calling Afghanistanthe forgotten war,” Tynes said. “There was so much emphasis onIraq, the only thing you were getting out of Afghanistan was, ‘Aconvoy hit an IED today and so many people were hurt.’ You weren’tgetting the scope of the conflict, just the causality list.”

That trend toward selective journalism is changing. With Iraqdrawing closer than ever to stability since the 2003 invasion, thenews-seekers are looking to Afghanistan.

“By the end of my tour, we had reporters coming over from Iraq,saying there’s not enough there to cover,” he continued. “With thetroop buildup in Afghanistan and the draw down in Iraq, you’regoing to start seeing a lot more coverage in Afghanistan.”

When he could, Tynes would give visiting reporters anopportunity to cover both sides of the story. Some did, somedidn’t.

“Everyone wanted combat and everyone wanted to be on theborder,” he said. “But the border was always full, so I would sendthem to other provinces, where there was the possibility for somecombat, but there was also a provincial reconstruction teamoperating. Generally, the international media would be more open tomy suggestions.”

The problem wasn’t limited to combat coverage.

“There was all this attention on air strikes killing civilians,”Tynes said. “Everyone hears about it, and it’s a horrible thing,but what they don’t hear is the number of times a strike was calledoff because they couldn’t tell if everyone in the target buildingwas a combatant or not. They make it seem like there’s no checksand balances – we see a target, we drop. It influences people tothink we don’t care about civilian casualties, when in realityeverything possible is being done to avoid them.”

Unfortunately, Tynes said the very nature of reporting is whatstops a canceled air strike story from running in the news, eventhough the cancellation of strikes was “an everyday occurance.

“What’s there to report?” he said. “There was no bombdropped.”

Now, Tynes can only watch the war in Afghanistan like everyoneelse – on the news – while he readjusts to life in America. He saidhe isn’t used to having so many conveniences at his fingertips -driving to the store for a gallon of milk, relaxing at home, seeingfamily and friends.

Getting behind the wheel is also tough for him.

“We had a vehicle on base, but the speed limit was 15 mph,”Tynes said. “I was a speed demon before I left, but now I’m doing35 mph on the interstate and I think I’m flying. I also don’t likepeople to dart in front of me. That’s how insurgents (suicidebombers) inserted themselves into a convoy before they blowup.”