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 21, 2011

Name: America's 1st Sgt.
Stationed in: Bahrain
Milblog: Castra Praetoria

OP Omar, Kharmah, Iraq, 2007. Fanatical insurgents brandishing AKs and RPGs. Diabolical bomb makers concocting recipes for home made explosives. Suicidal zealots handcuffed to the steering wheels of trucks laden with explosives barreling down a one way street to Gehenna! These are the dangers most often associated with deployments to hostile environments in the 21st Century.

Lesser known are the predatory varmints insidiously slithering, buzzing, and barking  about us on patrol or merely hovering nearby while we ineffectually bathe out of a canteen cup.

Those horrors are well documented here and other places and we thankfully need not dwell on them again today. No, I speak today of one of the most daunting experiences anyone deployed overseas in a combat zone has had to endure. Even the fiercest war heroes have blanched at confronting this villainy. Yes friends, I speak of the biological abomination that is the porta-john. 

At OP Omar the porta-johns were firmly sandbagged and in cover. Not for the protection of possible occupants, but to protect passers by from the denizens dwelling within the depths. These were known to occasionally snatch the unwary. 

Upon breaking the hatch of a porta-john one was never sure which would assault the senses first; the stench of the roiling contents or the swarm of flies just as eager to escape. Futilely, some would gulp a lung full of air before entering. I never met anyone who was able to last though.

During the summer, the atmosphere inside was akin to an abandoned sauna. Touching any bare skin to the inside surface was as risky as it was unavoidable in such a confined space. Not to mention the flies unfortunate to be sharing the space with you. There was neither rest nor room to be had. 

Then our Forward Air Controller, a helo pilot with the call sign 'Dong,' improvised a piece of equipment which would transform our entire deployment.  If ever there were a group of people dedicated to making life suck less, it's Air Wingers.

Dong and A1S. Who's awesome? You're awesome!


One fine day Dong produced what he proudly called the Poop Kit. It contained a number of items designed to significantly reduce the unbridled barbarity of the porta-john experience.

What were the items? A screwdriver, a can of aerosol deodorant, baby wipes, and hand sanitizer.

The screwdriver was used to lock the door of the porta-john with the broken lock. The logic here being no one used a broken john, so the likelihood of touching down where 200 other buttocks already had was minimal. Once inside, Dong would insert the screwdriver into the broken door handle mechanism and, voila! Privacy assured.

Before entering, Dong would open the hatch wide and stand outside spraying his can of deodorant into the john. This would send the occupying flies buzzing for cover as the air was replaced with aerosol spray. It also had the added benefit of taking the edge off the heady odors within.

Baby wipes were used on every surface that had the remotest possibility of coming into contact with human skin.

Hand sanitizer; we probably used so much of this during the deployment it may have made us all sterile.

Dong demonstrates the proper application of the Poop Kit's contents.


Praise and glory were heaped on Dong's name for the introduction of the Poop Kit by the few of us who adopted its use. Military historians have so far not recorded this ingenious item as we pretty much kept it to ourselves. After all, we wouldn't want everyone using the porta john with broken lock, now would we?


i love to read this great knowledgeable blog

Thanks for letting us see the humorous side (if there truly is one) of being in a hell hole. You guys continue to amaze with your ingenuity and resilience. We love you all!

I love how you guys are showing another side (humor) to this. It is great you can keep your spirits up! I am grateful for all the men and women in the military! Thank you for your service!

I think its great that not only were you able to come up with the poop kit under such conditions but to share it lol, Im thinking I just might keep one in the truck just in case! I enjoyed seeing the pictures of you smiling and having fun while making this blog! THANK YOU FOR ALL THAT YOU DO TO KEEP ME AND MY CHILDREN SAFE AND SOUND! YOU ARE ALL ALWAYS CLOSE TO MY HEART, IN MY THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS!!GOD BLESS AND COME HOME SAFE!!

It is great you can keep your spirits up! I am grateful for all the men and women in the military! .. I just might keep one in the truck just in case! I enjoyed seeing the pictures of you smiling and having fun while making this blog..

Hilarious! Thanks for sharing this!

Excellent post. Thank you.

I loved reading this! It was good to read about a little humor and lightheartedness. Congrats on the invention of the "poop kit". I know if I were in your situation I would feel like it was christmas around there with that thing. Today when I go to our restroom free of flies, extreme heat, and stench, I will think of you guys over there :)
Thank you so much for you bravery!
Nicole Hayden

This is amazing! I will certainly send all the tools necessary for the poop kit when I ship care packages to you service men and women. Thank you for serving our country. God Bless!!!

Good humor!! Thanks for posting this!

Wow. I've been reading your stuff for about a year now and this is basically the only sh*t I dont agree with. Give atleast a little credit where credit is due. Kobe got his ass kicked by this so called fluke. So what? Chill out. No one said the Rockets were the best team.

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