TIME contract photographer Yuri Kozyrev has traveled on assignment to Afghanistan and Iraq countless times in the past 15 years, documenting just about every aspect of America’s on-going wars. His most recent assignment this past January took him to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, where he photographed the U.S. preparations to bring home the men and material of war after more than a decade of fighting.
While editing Kozyrev’s take, TIME’s international picture editor Patrick Witty noticed a similarity between several of the photographs. Looking back through the archive of the photographer’s work, Witty discovered that Kozyrev had made similar images of soldiers awaiting takeoff in a C-17 Globemaster—the plane that will take them out of the combat zone and, eventually, back to the States—in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite being taken almost three years apart, the photographs are visually similar—a subtle reminder that despite changing names, locations and circumstances, the tradition of war itself is a patterned response with a long history.
Above: August 2010: U.S. soldiers from the Virginia National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment await takeoff as they head home from Camp Adder in Iraq. The unit mobilized in January 2010 and was originally scheduled to serve a 12-month tour of federal active duty.
Below: January 2013: Soldiers from the 101st Airborne and 1st Infantry Divisions await takeoff in the C-17 Globemaster that will take them from Bagram to Manas Airbase in Kyrgyzstan. There, they will await contracted flights home.