|SHEPHERDS OF HELMAND|
In 2008, an all-volunteer group of National Guard Soldiers from Oregon deployed to Afghanistan to train the Afghan National Army. Their mission was to be a first-of-its-kind 'counter narcotics' battalion sent into the deadly Helmand Province to interdict the opium trade. The mission quickly breaks down and the Oregonians find themselves split up and isolated on remote patrol bases along the Helmand river. At a patrol base called 'Attal' (Afghan for warrior) the men suffer daily attacks from a determined enemy committed to over running the base and killing everyone inside it. Relying heavily on footage and photographs taken by the men who were there, Shepherds of Helmand takes viewers deep into an Afghanistan rarely seen by the outside.
Gary Mortensen, is an award-winning director and President of the National Combat History Archive. Mortensen is a passionate advocate for the preservation of our veterans legacies and actively supports programs that help support our wounded veterans. Mortensen's films are hard hitting, honest and non-political and he tries to use as much of the actual photographs and video as possible from his subjects as possible. The result is a raw authenticity that transports the viewer to the front lines of the action.
Gary prefers to keep himself out of the spotlight as the director, and this quote reveals why: "What I try to do is give the soldiers a voice," he says. "Everyone seems to want to speak for the soldiers, and my job is to give them a platform so they can speak for themselves. The soldiers call it the "ground truth", and that's what I'm after".