LOS ANGELES - Four years after making Oscar-nominated film "Restrepo," about soldiers' life on the Afghan frontline, Sebastian Junger focuses on their thoughts on war, addiction and friendship, in a long-awaited followup.
2010's "Restrepo," named after a tiny military outpost in northeastern Afghanistan, won an Academy Award nod for US journalist Junger and his British co-director Tim Hetherington.
But Hetherington died while reporting in Libya in 2011, forcing Junger to delay "Korengal," which is released in the US this month, and which explores the young veterans' thoughts once back home.
"I really wanted to try to understand more deeply the experience of combat and how it affects young men," Junger told AFP.
He and Hetherington spent a year from June 2007 to June 2008 living with troops in Korengal, a small and idyllic-looking valley surrounded by snow-capped mountains on Afghanistan's northeastern border with Pakistan.
"It looked like heaven," said one of the soldiers in the documentary.
But Korengal was also known as the "valley of death," where US troops lost almost 50 men fighting with the Taliban, who knew its contours inside out, and used it to bring arms in from Pakistan.
Adrenaline and human closeness
After the intense frontline action of "Restrepo," the journalists decided to interview the soldiers back at their base in Vicenza, Italy, to explore their thoughts on what they had just been through.
The bottom line? They missed war, said Junger. Most said they would go straight back to Korengal in a heartbeat.
"You're dealing with two powerful drugs, in war. One is adrenaline, obviously. Combat is incredibly intense, and you get exposed to a huge amount of adrenaline.
"And the other is basically human closeness," he said, adding: "They developed a brotherhood that's just not possible to duplicate back home." Part of the adrenaline came from shooting, a "sport" which the young men admitted made them happy - a truth which those back home should know about, said Junger.