Battle of Takur Ghar
4 March 2002
Operation Anaconda was in full swing. Australian and coalition forces were locked in a fierce battle with the Taliban and al-Qaeda in the Paktia Province in Afghanistan. Pressing his precious camera to his flak jacket, Jack Rogan hit the ground as heavy machine-gun fire erupted from one of the caves on his right. This was soon followed by mortar fire from above. The battle raged for hours in the difficult terrain, riddled with heavily fortified caves and bunkers, but by nightfall, the Shai-Kot Valley had been secured. According to US estimates, between 500 and 800 rebel fighters had been killed.
Working as an experienced freelance war correspondent with an impressive track record – especially in sensitive hotspots in Africa – Jack had quickly earned the respect of the US forces operating in Afghanistan. Fearless, and maintaining his sense of humour even in the most dangerous situations, Jack’s easy-going – at times almost laconic – manner had endeared him to many of the fighters at the front. His photographs were legendary and his articles sought after by leading newspapers and magazines all over the world. His Voices from the Front Line articles were balanced and incisive, without sensationalising or over-dramatising events. Jack told it how he saw it, and he made sure he was right there where it all happened. His reporting had a raw, often quite confronting eyewitness quality that showed war as it really was: brutal, unforgiving, and often totally senseless and inhuman.
As soon as the guns fell silent, Jack took off his helmet, pulled his notebook out of his backpack and sat down on a rock ledge overlooking the valley. With the pungent smell of cordite and death still hanging in the air, he began to jot down his impressions of the battle he had just witnessed. Jack knew that to capture the authenticity of the moment was the most important part of his work; it gave his articles the edge. The next most important thing was timing. Still high on adrenaline, there was an almost feverish energy pulsating through Jack as he described the dramatic events of the past few hours. He knew that the newspaper which had commissioned the articles was standing by, waiting for his call. But before he could contact his editor in the US, his satellite phone rang inside his backpack.
The reception wasn’t good. Distorted by interference and constant crackling, the voice on the other end of the line sounded distant and could barely be heard.
‘Yes, yes. This is Jack Rogan,’ Jack almost shouted. ‘Who are you? Where are you calling from?’
‘The Felicitas Boarding House in Townsville. It’s about your father,’ said the voice.
‘What did you say?’
‘What about him?’
‘He wants to see you.’
‘I’m in Afghanistan, in the middle of a war,’ Jack said impatiently.