Meadville Tribune

Breaking News


June 16, 2010

Photographer recalls last interactions with Sgt. 1st Class Robert Fike


Harrisburg — ‘Morale was good’

Fike and Shakal met in January during training before the group deployed to Afghanistan. The encounter left an immediate impression. Fike “was just one of those guys you just liked instantly,” Shakal said.

During his time with Fike in Afghanistan, Shakal spent every moment with the troops — they ate, slept, worked and patrolled together. There were no special arrangements for the press. As a result, he got to see Fike’s leadership and its impact up close.

“He was amazing,” Shakal said of Fike. “The guys respected everything he said. They trusted and liked him. They were like his kids. They got along so well.”

The bond between troops and officer and the trust extended in that relationship was key to managing the stress of an environment that demands hyperalertness. Thanks in no small part to Fike, the troops were in good spirits and retained their focus, Shakal said.

“Everybody was on their A game. They knew what they are doing is important. Morale was good. But I can’t say what is going on there now.”

Haunting images

One of Shakal’s photographs shows Fike kneeling, pausing during a patrol. Another shows Fike working with Staff Sgt. Bryan A. Hoover of West Elizabeth. Both pictures were taken in Bullard Bazaar, the spot where Fike, Hoover and several civilians were killed by a suicide bomber on Friday.

The bazaar is not far from the troops’ base and, as a regional hub, the bazaar was frequently patrolled.

If the pictures had a soundtrack it would be a cacophony of beeping horns, revving engines, raised voices, pounding, sawing and rumbling machines.

The Bullard Bazaar is a nearly mile-long strip of one- and two-story mud and brick buildings, most with rollup garage door entryways. They’re swarming with people and bulging at the seams with commerce ranging from groceries to metalworking shops, Shakal said.

“It’s pretty much like the gathering place where everyone goes and hangs around. There isn’t too much to do in rural Afghanistan.”

It is also the site of one of the Reconstruction Team’s projects — coordinating the placement of speed bumps by local contractors.

“The people used to drive through there like Andretti,” Shakal said.

Although the bumps slowed traffic and cut some of the noise, the bazaar, with its warren of shops, constant movement and crowds, remained one of the most challenging security environments the troops faced.

“There are so many people,” Shakal said.

Text Only
  • Portraits of an Era VIDEO: Portraits of an Era

    Meadville residents, from very young to old, explain why they love the city as part of Allegheny College journalism program’s ‘The Story Next Door’ sunrise to sunset experiment, which took place in March.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo 1 Story

  • The People Next Door SLIDESHOW: The People Next Door

    Featured are images focusing on several local residents as part of Allegheny College journalism program’s ‘The Story Next Door’ sunrise to sunset experiment, which took place in March.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo 2 Stories

  • The Story Next Door SLIDESHOW: The Story Next Door

    The following are images from around Crawford County as part of Allegheny College journalism program’s ‘The Story Next Door’ sunrise to sunset experiment, which took place in March.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo 2 Stories

  • Screen shot 2013-11-26 at 1.31.23 PM.png VIDEO: How to carve a Thanksgiving turkey

    Evan Lobel of Lobel's joins Martha Stewart and actor Roger Bart and teaches how to properly carve a turkey.

    November 27, 2013 1 Photo

  • Screen shot 2013-11-27 at 1.13.13 PM.png VIDEO: How to spice rub a Thanksgiving turkey

    Martha Stewart and chef Tom Douglas prepare a flavorful Thanksgiving turkey with an easy homemade spice rub.

    November 27, 2013 1 Photo

  • screenshot travel.jpg VIDEO: Holiday travel costs down this year

    Traveling this Thanksgiving? Prepare to be stuffed along the way. Forty-three million people are expected to make the annual pilgrimage to the dinner table. Travel experts say costs are down this year and volume is expected to be high.

    November 22, 2013 1 Photo

  • screenshot natgeo.jpg VIDEO: National Geographic photo of the year candidates are breathtaking

    The candidates in National Geographic's photo of the year contest are all gorgeous. Votes can be placed at until Nov. 30th after which the winners will be printed in the magazine.

    November 21, 2013 1 Photo

  • Screen shot 2013-10-30 at 10.40.16 AM.png VIDEO: Woman plans to hand out letters to 'moderately obese' trick-or-treaters

    TV and radio stations out of Fargo, North Dakota are reporting that a local woman will not hand out candy to children she believes are 'moderately obese.' Instead she plans to give those kids a letter to take home to their parents which claims it is "irresponsible" to let them trick or treat.

    October 31, 2013 1 Photo

  • spt_cardscelebrate.jpg VIDEOS: Memorable MLB postseason celebrations

    Some of baseball's most enduring October memories are punctuated by jubilant celebrations. Take a look back at some of the most memorable expressions of joy in Major League Baseball's postseason by players and teams after the final out.

    October 22, 2013 1 Photo

  • screenshot retirement.jpg VIDEO: People are working longer, living healthier

    People are delaying retirement and seeking out job opportunities later in life according to a poll released Monday by the Associated Press and NORC.

    October 15, 2013 1 Photo

Business Marquee
AP Video
Disabled Veterans Memorial Nearing Completion Last Mass Lynching in U.S. Remains Unsolved Home-sharing Programs Help Seniors Ex-NYC Mayor: US Should Allow Flights to Israel Clinton: "AIDS-Free Generation Within Our Reach" Judge Ponders Overturning Colo. Gay Marriage Ban Airlines Halt Travel to Israel Amid Violence NYPD Chief Calls for 'use of Force' Retraining VA Nominee McDonald Goes Before Congress Bush: Don't Worry, Sugarland Isn't Breaking Up US Official: Most Migrant Children to Be Removed Police Probing Brooklyn Bridge Flag Switch CDC Head Concerned About a Post-antibiotic Era Raw: First Lady Says `Drink Up' More Water Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law Holder Urges Bipartisanship on Immigration Raw: Truck, Train Crash Leads to Fireball US Airlines Cancel Israel Flights Obama Signs Workforce Training Law Crash Victims' Remains Reach Ukraine-held City
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide