The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.


October 24, 2007

Name: Toby Nunn
Posting date: 10/24/07
Stationed in: Kuwait / Iraq
Hometown: Oakland, CA via Terrace B.C. CANADA
Milblog url:

There are plenty of political opinions about Iraqi Forces and the state of security within the borders of Iraq. Being a participant and not a sideline player or armchair general I sometimes develop my own opinions. I spent the equivalent of half a tour (six months) training the Iraqis the last time I was here, so I have seen that what they get taught is instrumental. I am always paying attention to their actions so I can see the advancement or regression.

In speaking with a former boss of mine a few weeks back I was happy to learn that the key leaders who made the unit we stood up successful were still at the helm and taking the fight to al Qaeda and criminal groups seeking to exploit a weak security state. It was very rewarding and validating to get such an update.

The reason this has been on my mind the past week is due to my last trip to the north. While heading home and entering an Iraqi Forces checkpoint and overwatch area we were blown up by an IED. The position was under the control of Iraqi forces and was manned at the time of the event. A group had just passed through the checkpoint without incident, then around five minutes later we got blown up by a pressure switch detonator. And the entire time we were dealing with everything that goes with being blown up the Iraqi Forces just sat there and watched -- not once offered to help or approached the scene to see what had happened at their checkpoint. It took every ounce of discipline not to go through that place and systematically remove or detain them.

While conducting my evaluation of the site I did notice paintball splatter on the bridge where the Iraqi Forces typically sit and sleep, which raised a concern for me that perhaps our forces were harrassing them while they slept and our event was the retaliation. We do all look alike, but we do not all act the same. Just like when those scumbags and jackasses at Abu Graib took those photos, and the entire country and US Forces suffered from their immaturity and ignorance.

It does frustrate the hell out of me that the Iraqi Forces that are supposed to be watching over their country don't care enough to stay awake to fulfill their duty. But this is a cultural difference. We as Westerners believe that the task will get accomplished if you put effort into it, but here the culture promotes the belief that something will happen if God (Allah) wills it. There is an Arabic saying for this: "Im sh'Allah", pronounced "In Shalla".

I don't think God played any role in the emplacing of that bomb, just in the safe delivery of the guys. I also believe he saved the enemies' lives that night.


Dear Toby, Thank you for sharing. What a frustrating experience, but it seems you put it in perspective. I appreciate your concept of God who cares for everyone.

Be safe. Come home safely. Thank you for your service and sacrifice -- and for your reflections.

Ana from San Leandro

Great to hear your thoughts. I share your grief with the Iraqi attitude towards deadlines and Allah. I don't think God had anything to do with the placing of that bomb either.

Peace be with you,


My father is a surgeon and in the early 90s, he took a sabbatical in Afghanistan to work in the mountain hospitals and help train the local doctors. He couldn't believe what he saw; of the 5 doctors there, only 1 decided to pray in the hospital rather than leave for 30-45 minutes to pray in the mosque leaving the patients completely unattended. When they returned, they'd look at their patients, mostly young men with amputations and gaping wounds that were beginning to contract gangrene, and rather than try to fix it they'd say, "Im Sh'Allah". I guess it was God's will they die of gangrene and infection; I’m just not sure it would be God's will then that these men be doctors.

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