This is a Google Earth image of Sangin, Afghanistan, which was the city in the Helmand Valley province where my unit operated for 7 months while deployed. The imagery on Google Earth is amazing, so as I recount stories I will not discuss particulars about locations and landmarks as they pertained to missions or significant events, however, if you are interested in knowing what my little slice of heaven looked like for 2008, check it out.
The river you see in the northwest part of the image is the Helmand River, which runs north to south through the province and provides water for the entire area, in addition to powering the Kajaki hydroelectric dam to the north. To the east of the river is the green zone. The green zone consisted of family/ tribal operated farming communities. The primary crops for the area are opium in the spring, along with watermelon, wheat and other food staples, and corn in the summer and fall. The corn there was insane, growing to over 13 ft tall. The entire green zone is criss-crossed with man made irrigation ditches that have no rhyme or reason, creating a nightmare for foot patrols. Bordering the green zone is the 'urban' area of Sangin, with the market butting directly up to it, and family compounds spreading eastward into the desert and wadi areas. The compounds consisted of 13-15ft mud walls, enclosing the family land. Inside these enclosed ares you would commonly find nothing. Nada. Sometimes there was a mud dwelling, but more often than not you found that the family had simply decided to parcel off their land with a medieval fortress wall.
There were no paved roads, barely any electricity, all water was pulled from wells dug into the water table, raw sewage was common in the streets, the bazaar was always bustling with commerce, but the compounds were mostly abandoned. This is Sangin, and it is not a Travel Channel vacation destination.