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July 22, 2014

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Combat photographer captures emotions of war zone

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Leila Navidi

Photographs taken in Afghanistan by Air Force Staff Sgt. Larry Reid are displayed in the student union at UNLV.

Inside Afghanistan

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Air Force Staff Sgt. Larry Reid carries a 9 mm Beretta, and sometimes an M-16, on missions in Afghanistan. But it’s the shooting he does with his Nikon D3 that he believes contributes most to turning the tide in the war-weary nation.

Reid, who was living in Henderson before his deployment, is the chief combat photographer for NATO’s training mission in Afghanistan. His days are spent documenting training of the Afghan National Army and Afghan police forces and mentoring local photographers.

Unlike the battle photos that fill wire services and Web sites, Reid’s shots show children at play, soldiers in moments of prayer and women at bazaars. Photos of the local military trainees typically focus on their faces, etched with worry.

The close-ups show “the hardships that the individual is enduring and continues to endure day after day,” Reid wrote in a recent e-mail. “I believe in the famous saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ and, as a photographer, capturing a person’s facial expressions can better connect you emotionally with a photo.”

Reid, originally from the Tampa Bay area in Florida, has been in the Air Force for six years. He’s spent three of them stationed at Nellis Air Force Base.

Before leaving for Afghanistan, he was preparing to enroll at UNLV and working part time as a photo lab technician at Walgreens. There he met Martin Dean Dupalo, who teaches political science at the university.

Dupalo, a former Air Force officer, believed Reid’s work in Afghanistan might help UNLV students get a fuller and more nuanced picture of the military — “the 99 percent that you don’t see or don’t hear about on the evening news.”

The two struck a deal.

Now, for each day of his deployment, Reid sends Dupalo a photo. The growing collection of 120-plus pictures are displayed on the west wall of the Student Union.

“I want to show Las Vegans and fellow Americans nationwide that this war is more than U.S. and coalition forces engaged in battle against the Taliban insurgency,” wrote Reid, who plans to enroll at UNLV upon his return. “The strategic message to this war ... is simple: winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people.”

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