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.


September 25, 2009

Posting date: 9/25/09


Benjamin Tupper was a frequent contributor to The Sandbox during his 2006-2007 deployment to
Afghanistan, and he has continued to write for the site since he returned home. We are pleased to help spread the word that he has just published a book, WELCOME TO AFGHANISTAN SEND MORE AMMO: The Tragicomic Art of Making War as an Embedded Trainer in the Afghan National Army.

While he was deployed, Tupper's audio-posts were often featured on National Public Radio, and "Morning Edition" recently interviewed him about the book. You can listen to the program here.


"A penetrating look at life deep inside Afghanistan and way outside the wire.Tupper's timing is right, and readers will appreciate the context he provides for the news stories we will be reading soon."

        -- G.B. Trudeau, creator of Doonesbury and The Sandbox

"Captain Benjamin Tupper has produced a series of compelling commentaries for 'Morning Edition,' raw, direct and powerful reports on what it's like to serve along the Pakistani border. This work is vitally important to our 31 million listeners nationwide."
        -- Ken Stern, former CEO of National Public Radio

"A keen and sympathetic observer, and a fine writer. His vignettes describing combat and the people involved in it are insightful and poignant, offering vivid and moving pictures of the realities of war."
        -- former Ambassador Goodwin Cooke, Professor Emeritus, Syracuse University


ETTs: The Tip Of The Counterinsurgency Spear

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Forget what you know about the American Army. Strip from your mind the familiar images of U.S.
soldiers fighting their way through Germany, Korea,or Vietnam. The essays you are about to read reveal another side of the American soldier's experience at war: Individual soldiers removed from the comfort and familiarity of their Army units and placed into the ramshackle, newly formed Afghan National Army.

An average ETT team is sixteen American soldiers, embedded into an Afghan Battalion of about five hundred soldiers. These ETTs are separated into teams of two, each team assigned to its own individual Afghan National Army Company of about one hundred Afghan soldiers. They are embedded into these foreign ranks with little knowledge of Afghanistan's language, history, or culture, and they are forced, often in the heat of battle, to abandon the American doctrine of warfare and embrace creativity, patience, and primitive war-fighting techniques.

These American soldiers are the ETTs, the Embedded Training Teams, and these essays are my personal stories as a member of this force in Afghanistan. ETTs are Marines, Army, and most often Army National Guard officers and NCOs assigned to the fledgling Afghan National Army (ANA), where they are tasked with the daunting mission of training it in garrison, leading it in combat, and mentoring it to a final victory against a thriving and brutal Taliban insurgency.

Photo 1

These essays provide an introduction to the Afghan war as seen through the partnership of the
ANA and the ETTS, forming the literal "tip of the spear" in the counterinsurgency fight. They chronicle the personal experiences of two ETTs: myself, Captain Benjamin Tupper (Infantry) and my partner, Corporal Radek Polanski, also an infantryman. The stories vary in their scope, from personal war stories of our successes and failures in combat, to observations of day-to-day life inside the Afghan Army; the humorous moments, the culture clashes, the voice-raising arguments, and the differing role that religion, women, and politics play in the lives of Afghans and the American soldiers assigned to train them.This collection of essays also explores the injuries inflicted during war; from the slow but steady
degradation of healthy minds by combat stress, to treating the physical wounds of combat, to the
permanent, and final mortal death of our comrades and enemies.

To understand Afghanistan's culture, its potential for modernization and democracy, and its remaining military challenges, one must walk in the shoes of the Afghan people and its army. From May 2006 to  May 2007, I walked in those shoes. These essays are the footprints of my journey.

Read a review here.

Order a signed copy from the author here.

Links to some of Benjamin Tupper's Sandbox posts:

Pieces in the Snow, 1-22-07

Decency and Honor, 1-29-07

A Clear Shot, 3-14-07

The Heat in Dreams, 8-17-07


Request permission to come aboard your "Sand Box," Sir's !

As I'm stuck back here in the world it's hard to keep up with the troops in action and wonder what you are going through over there while Jodi is back here driving your Cadilac's,and making sweet love to our girls or guys while your away.

I usually just blog AOL news stories which I hope aggravates them more than they do me having to listen about someones sick call complaints just so they can go " Gold Bricking," their way through life complaining about everything thats wrong with our government and Uncle Sam,and tell me what they would do if they were the president,governor, or GOD !

Well the laughs on them,because we've heard it before so many times in the past that I thought this letter I got from a Marine from WWII might bring a smile of thanks for an " OLD MAN !"

" Easy Company,started with 130 men.We suffered 75% casualties.Only 50 men boarded the ship after the battle. Seven officers went into battle with me. Only one - me - walked off ( IWO ).

Captain Dave Severance,Commander :

Easy Company

As a Soldier or Cav Trooper we sometimes have to dig in and hold until relieved, but when I play in the sand box I like to shovel like a Marine when I make a joke about Latrines !

Took me time to read all the comments, but I enjoyed the article.

Never let kids ride on or use the lawnmower. Of course at an appropriate age it is possible to let the children use the lawnmower, but that readiness will have to be at the parent's discretion. It is best to consider that only teenagers should be operating such machinery, if they are physically and mentally able and prepared to do so.

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