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Photo of the Year Winner: Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

Cpl. Sharadan Reetz (left), 19, from Indianola, Iowa, and Lance Cpl. Jarrett Hatley, 21, from Millingport, N.C., a squad automatic weapon gunner and an improvised explosive device detection dog handler with 3rd Platoon, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, rest next to Hatley’s dog Blue after clearing compounds with Afghan National Army soldiers during Operation Tageer Shamal (Shifting Winds) here, Jan. 4. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

You voted, and 2012’s Corps Top Shot comes from Cpl. Reece Lodder. Lodder, a combat correspondent, captured this photo in January 2012 while helping to clear houses of insurgent activity during Operation Tageer Shamal (Pashto for “Winter Offensive”) in Helmand province, Afghanistan. After being inserted into a remote desert town by helicopter with fellow “America’s Battalion” Marines from Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, patrolled for five hours before briefly stopping to rest in a dirty, abandoned, mud-walled compound.

“Everyone was pretty exhausted,” Lodder said. “We’d been up hours before first light, restless from anticipation for the operation and then busy carrying out our patrolling and searching.”

Lodder was no exception, sitting down and catching some rest and refueling with food. As he tried to sleep, uncomfortably, unsuccessfully, he glanced toward his right and noticed Lance Cpl. Jarrett Hatley’s improvised explosive device detection dog Blue perfectly curled up between two Marines. Though his camera was right next to him, Lodder said he took a moment to appreciate the “unexpected slice of reality and humanity amid a long, cold day. It visually, physically and emotionally gets to the core of their experience in this moment. It helps any viewer feel, even if only in a small way, what the Marines and their loyal dog felt.”

Cpl. Reece Lodder, combat correspondent with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines Regiment out of Marine Corps Base Hawaii, was deployed to Helmand province, Afghanistan in 2012. While there he documented the daily lives and missions of 3/3 Marines.

As Lodder quietly took photos from a distance, Blue raised his head, peeked one eye open to observe him and then dropped his head to resume his nap.

“This photo is powerful because of its richness in feeling and theme,” Lodder said. “It contains elements that interest such a wide variety of people — dirty, hardened Marines; challenging, tiring operations in Afghanistan; Hatley’s golden Labrador retriever; and of course, the Redskins blanket. The photo is an unfiltered expression of life as I observed it in that moment. Challenging and exhausting, but rich in beautiful moments that are waiting to be observed and captured … if only we have the eyes to see them as they unfold.”

Less than a month later, on a Feb. 8 security patrol with fellow Marines and Afghan National Army soldiers, Hatley and Blue uncovered a 40-pound IED emplaced by insurgents in a canal only moments before a dozen more men were to cross it.

“My dog Blue is pretty much like another Marine, I guess,” Hatley said. “He doesn’t know he’s doing it, but he’s protecting all of us. If I have him on a patrol and there’s an IED that could hurt us, I know he’ll find it.”

Lodder said most of the professional placements of his photo were military related, but it gained notoriety in October with a placement in the Washington Post online photo gallery, where it reached an audience of approximately 700,000 viewers. In addition, the photo was selected as a finalist in the Department of Defense and Department of State’s 50th Anniversary “Art in Embassies” photo contest, which was recently displayed in the Pentagon and will soon be shown overseas in Kabul, Afghanistan. He furthered that the photo’s greater impact came in the thousands of views, comments and shares it received in households across the U.S. and worldwide through the ‘Marines’ Facebook page.

“I love this photo because it never loses its relevancy,” Lodder said. “It had an immediate impact when I captured it a year ago, and other Marines, their families, friends and people across the globe are still recognizing this moment as if it just happened.”

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  • jim

    As both a former Marine and a Redskins fan I’ve always loved this photo. (BTW, they have a copy hanging in their corporate office too. ) The cool part of the Redskins blanket is, it reminds you that the guy is an everyday person too. We’re not just faceless action figures or COD/BF3 avatars. Underneath the boots and kevlar is a real person, with likes/dislikes, friend and family and a favorite football team. Just like you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jim.baron.37 Jim Baron

    Was T.A.D. to Lima Co. 3/3 on opening day of Harvest Moon in Phouc Hoa Valley 12/9/65 II kia 18 wia in first hour of being ambushed. One fine company of heroic Marines.

  • http://www.facebook.com/charlie.dominici Charlie Dominici

    No matter what the politics are, right or wrong, once you put that gear on I am with you 100%. Hoorah!