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National Journal's Oral History Of Iraq & Afghanistan

From 2004 to 2006, National Journal reporter Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. conducted in-depth interviews with more than 140 military service members about their experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq. The resulting series of articles covered subjects ranging from rules of engagement to National Guard call-ups to the role of armored vehicles in urban combat. With National Journal's support, Mr. Freedberg is continuing this oral history work as an independent project called Policy at the Sharp End.

Freedberg won top honors from the Military Reporters & Editors association two years running for stories published in 2007 and in 2008, which were based in part on interviews conducted for the oral history project. Here’s what the judges said most recently about Freedberg’s work:


“Sydney Freedberg's winning entry is an outstanding body of work, from 'Treating Trauma' to 'Chess with the Sheikhs.' His interviews with soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder show a sensitivity and depth of feeling while revealing the many facets of treatment. His reporting from Iraq was compelling in the detail and analysis he provided of how the military shifted its approach to the Iraqi tribes and helped stabilize the country, providing new insights on the ways units implemented new strategies using the sheikhs as key allies.” 

For National Journal's influential audience -- members of Congress, their staffs, lobbyists, analysts, activists and other Washington insiders -- this series helps provide an infusion of "ground truth" into often abstract policy debates. At the same time, it puts individual experiences into the wider context of the high-level decisions being made about how to equip, organize and employ the U.S. military.

How to Participate in the Oral History Project

If you or a loved one has deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, or any other operation since 11 September, 2001, Mr. Freedberg welcomes you to participate in Policy at the Sharp End, whether you are currently active duty, reserve component, separated, retired, or a civilian friend or family member. If you are a Public Affairs Officer or other representative for personnel who have deployed and who would like to participate, please contact Mr. Freedberg to set up interviews for them.


To learn more about Policy at the Sharp End or to ask about participating, please go to, look over the participation guidelines, or e-mail Mr. Freedberg directly at:

Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.

Policy at the Sharp End


Articles in the Oral History Series

September 25, 2010: The Afghanistan Air War

The Air Force is playing an increasingly critical support role for the Army. (subscribers only)

September 18, 2010: When The Troops Come Home After nine years of war, the strains facing military families won't end any time soon. The military and the families themselves will have to keep dealing with them long after the last soldier returns.

In Their Own Words:

August 7, 2010: Army Tries Again For A New Tank Defense Secretary Robert Gates gutted the confusing and expensive Future Combat System last year. (subscribers only)

June 26, 2010: Roadside Bombs Plague Afghanistan Improvised explosive devices are the bane of U.S. troops fighting the Taliban, just as they were during the Iraq surge. (subscribers only)

February 20, 2010: Supplying The Surge In Afghanistan Afghanistan's geography makes supplying President Obama's troops a logistical nightmare. Sidebars: When All Else Fails, Try Bribery & The Bottled-Water Problem (subscribers only)

In Their Own Words:

January 23, 2010: No Job? Join The Army In this recession, as in past ones, military service has become more attractive to young people. (subscribers only)

December 12, 2009: The Army Looks Beyond Afghanistan The service has struggled with weapons purchases in recent years. (subscribers only)

December 5, 2009: In Iraq, Combat Turns Into Advise And Assist The Army is replacing combat brigades with training brigades. (subscribers only)

October 24, 2009: In Afghanistan, Training Up Is Hard To Do If the U.S. wants Afghans to defend themselves, in the short run it will require more American troops, not fewer. (subscribers only)

In Their Own Words:

September 19, 2009: The Army's Growing Pains Troop strength is rising, but can the Army grow faster than Iraq and Afghanistan are wearing it out? (subscribers only)

In Their Own Words:

About Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.

Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. is the founder of Policy at the Sharp End, a project to inform policymaking and public debate by injecting the experiences and insights of US military veterans of Afghanistan in Iraq.

Freedberg covered the military and homeland security for the National Journal from 1997 to 2010, writing on subjects as diverse as veterans’ benefits, nuclear terrorism, military computer networks, and regional tensions between Pakistan and India. He wrote his first article about what became known as “homeland security” in 1998, his first article about what became known as “military transformation” in 1999, and his first article about “asymmetrical warfare” in 2000. Since 2004, he has been conducting in-depth interviews with military personnel about their experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq for a series of stories that combine oral history with policy analysis. It is these oral history articles that gave rise to Policy at the Sharp End.

Before joining National Journal, Freedberg worked for the late Michael Kelly at The New Republic. He earned a bachelor’s degree, summa cum laude, from Harvard University and a master’s from Cambridge University (United Kingdom), both in modern European history. He is the son of the late Sydney J. Freedberg Sr., a World War II veteran and historian of Italian Renaissance painting. 

Freedberg lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife, whom he met while they were both working at National Journal, and their two adorable but exhausting children.

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