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.

DUDES OF WAR |

March 05, 2011

Name: Charlie Sherpa
Unit: Deployed to Afghanistan
Hometown: Boone, Iowa
Milblog: Red Bull Rising
Email: SherpaatRedBullRising.com

In a second memoir generated from his experiences as a U.S. citizen-soldier deployed to Afghanistan -- the first was "Greetings from Afghanistan: Send More Ammo," reviewed here -- Benjamin Tupper presents readers with a rogues' gallery of his fellow soldiers: buddies and frenemies, gun freaks and mule-lovers, tobacco-chewers and pornicators. Tupper talks not only about about the guys who made war, he talks about the guys who made war hell for everyone else.

A New York National Guard soldier, Tupper deployed as a 16-member Embedded Training Team (ETT) to Ghanzi and Paktika Provinces. Before his 2006 deployment, he'd also worked in Afghanistan as a civilian non-governmental organization worker.

"Welcome to the war story where nothing goes bang..." he writes in his introduction to "Dudes of War." "This second book shoots an entirely different azimuth: To tell the story of the other 99 percent of the time we spend over there; the tasks, chores, and austere conditions that forge today's modern soldier culture."

Tupperflowerpower To tell that story, Tupper profiles a cast of characters constructed of various callsigns, caricatures, and (in one or two cases) composites. Let slip the dudes of war!

The writer's trick is a useful one. By not-naming names, Tupper is able to distill truths good, bad, and ugly from a group of disorderly personalities, the traits of which range from the outrageous to the compulsively routine. Although brutally candid, he never comes across as mean-spirited. He comes neither to praise these stereotypical soldiers nor to bury them.

Rather than air the military's dirty duffel bags, he's out to discuss a laundry list of hard-to-crack and almost-never-discussed topics. For example:

--    Dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (P.T.S.D.), as an individual and as a unit.

--    The downrange debates between those who loved dogs and those who loved to shoot them.

--    The question of whether soldiers are in Afghanistan to provide humanitarian assistance or to play "Whac-a-mole" with Afghan bad guys.

"The longing for women, or beer, or other vices of American culture cannot be wished away by Army regulations. The hours of boredom that are the fertilizer for political debates, pranks, and ball-busting continue to fill the days," Tupper writes. "The American soldier continues to adapt to and overcome these challenges. The means and methods are sometimes morally questionable and the results sometimes problematic, but the outcome is never in doubt: Dudes will be dudes."

The dude knows what he's talking about.

 

Note: Benjamin Tupper is a long-time contributor to The Sandbox. His numerous posts include DECENCY AND HONOR, PIECES IN THE SNOW, and THE HEAT IN MY DREAMS.

You can read another review of the book HERE.

Comments

Amazing, the same conditions that made life in a conscripted army (generic term) so interesting are still in evidence in an all volunteer force. I remember tales of G.I.'s buying chocolate milk at the PX, carrying it back out and pelting the grunts they passed on the road. Supposedly, the chocolate milk and jungle heat don't make for a pleasant combination. But, can one really believe what comes from someone who has so little time on their hands to fill behaving with such juvenility?

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