The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, our command-wide milblog, featuring comments, anecdotes, and observations from service members currently deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. This is GWOT-lit's forward position, offering those in-country a chance to share their experiences and reflections with the rest of us. 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. The Sandbox is a clean, lightly-edited debriefing environment where all correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted. And contributors may rest assured that all content, no matter how robust, is currently secured by the First Amendment. To submit a post, click here.

Name: Owen Powell (aka "Sgt. Roy Batty")
Returned from: Iraq
Hometown: New York City
Email: [email protected]

So, this is the end, my friend.

The Sandbox was good to me. It was a sanctuary from the insanity that reigned around me every day in Iraq, back in 2006-2007. I was a military police sergeant, deployed to FOB Rustimayah, FOB Shield, and Combat Outpost Callahan, on the east side of Baghdad.

I was writing under the pen name "SGT Roy Batty," thinking, falsely as it turned out, that it would stop me from getting into trouble with the Army. It didn’t, at least until my Company Commander, CPT Eric Tangeman, a really decent man, actually read my posts, and decided they were halfway readable and not an OPSEC issue.

So I would get back to the FOB after mission, go down to the hadji coffee shop, drink Saudi Arabian soda pop, and plug the day’s experience straight into The Sandbox.

It helped

but less so as things got more real

like when we started losing people.

Brad Shilling was first, from a NG infantry company I worked with, E Co, 1/125th INF.

Took an Explosively Formed Projectile through the door of his HMMWV.

I was on the QRF that responded to the scene, and I remember looking at the dark little hole in his door, and knowing that the wisecracking kid with the big smile was dead.

We moved to Combat Outpost Callahan, and life got more real, more focused,


Brandon Parr, Michael Peek, and Ashley Moyer were taken next;

500 lb IED underneath their truck

flipped it upside down, engulfed it in fire, and they all burned to death.

Then Karen Clifton,

her head gone from the RPG that came through her window and went out through the windshield.

All of them were under the age of 25.

And then there were the wounded,

here one day, and then gone the next, never to be seen again. From our perspective, It was almost the same as if they had been killed. Almost.

And then there were the dead Iraqis.

Burnt to a crisp in VBIED attacks, clothes blown off.

Or bound and executed, dumped in alleyways, draped in darkness.

Families flashed out of existence, stacked like long trash bags in IP pickup trucks.

The Worst Wake-Up Ever, when a bunch of 120 mm rockets, fired from a disguised van

100 meters away,

blew through the walls of our makeshift barracks.

The sniper round that tore through my Peltor headphones, and out through my ACH helmet

leaving me with not so much as a scratch, but a whopper of a headache.

The final attack on our IP station,

where I finally shot back

only to get reamed by Higher.

My platoon sergeant, who had been warped by Iraq from a semi-crazy but able leader

into a scared and abusive little tyrant of a man

told me "It is not MP tactics to put down suppressive fire while being attacked!"

which went against everything I had been taught, both in the Marines and the Army,

and who then vowed to make my life as miserable as possible, starting that night

as if it wasn’t enough already.

I went to kill him that night, pistol in my hand

and ended up, instead, turning the gun on myself.

Standing in the darkness in front of my squad leader

M9 charged, in my hand, at my temple,

“What the FUCK do you want me to do?!”

I was done, and was gone from Iraq with a quickness

after a quiet word with the BN Chaplain and Command Sergeant Major

which ultimately led to my platoon sergeant being kicked out of the Army.

Turns out he was sexually coercing and abusing his female soldiers

as well as terrorizing a whole slew of others.

My squad leader got busted in the process. I’m sorry for that, SSG J.

You were in over your head, in all regards,

but you didn’t deserve to go down with him.

So, I was back in Germany, with my wife and my dog,

but hating myself for leaving my Soldiers behind,

for being a non-hacker,

and the descent continued.

New duty station, Fort Hamilton, in NYC.

Garrison, chill, non-deployable.

Getting help from the VA was next to impossible

and I was angry and hating myself and charging as hard as I could away from it

throwing myself into training Soldiers, hoping it might save them

when they eventually would deploy.

Wife left after a year. Maxed the cards and took the car and one of the dogs.

The other one, Rocky, died shortly afterwards.

It was like a bad country song.

Two months later I was thrown into a mental hospital, after going after a smartass Soldier.

Took five DACP cops to take me down

but I had a good Commander and a great 1SG, who realized that something was seriously wrong inside SGT Powell, something that had to get fixed.

That helped a little bit

and I managed to squeak into retirement by the skin of my teeth.

Thanks, CPT Mouradjian, and 1SG Gonzalez. I am in your debt, forever.

But the descent continued.

Retirement was bewildering, like having your umbilical cord cut, in deep space.

I ran away from one overwhelmed girlfriend into family drama back home in Ohio,

punched out my stepfather in a stupid, heated argument,

landed up in jail,

and then blew up at my real father, who had bailed me out of jail, just two weeks later.

I was running, falling, and the ground was coming up fast.

Stayed for a couple of weeks in the basement of a good Army buddy, in Kentucky.

Thanks, Frank. You saved my life.

Regrouped. Got my shit together, a little bit.

During that time, I just happened to reconnect with an old flame over the Internet, and we decided to take a leap of faith together.

I drove 700 miles on my Harley, in 105-degree heat,

with my entire life strapped to the bike, back to NY.

Lizz calls it my "redemption ride."

We got  married four months ago

in a funny Tiki-style wedding that we put together ourselves,

complete with a Celtic blood vow, cutting our palms, and making our Oath together.

Blood binds people together

and it was the first step in putting my family back together.

Thank you, Lizz. You truly saved my life.

You were the only one that realized that I am just a traumatized Big Dog

and you will be my Lil Dog, forever.

Over the past year, I got into school, which I love in a way that I never fully appreciated before.

The VA, after almost two years, came through with my disability rating: 80%,

although they maintain that there is no proof that I have PTSD.

So here I am now. Doing okay. Maintaining.

Not looking at the railings of the bridges I ride over

thinking about how it would feel to go sailing over the edge,

with that long blue/black ribbon of water waiting below.

And this is where it gets weird.

Thirty-five days ago, around January 3rd,

I had what I can only describe as a massive consciousness change,

that got me thinking about life and consciousness and the Universe, from a fundamentally different perspective. That change brought about a Powerpoint presentation that described the

creation of the Universe in the Big Bang from the perspective of a raw Consciousness
and in describing that process, I guess I was really describing my own birth.

The strange thing is that the presentation was heavily centered around quantum mechanics, theoretical physics, and cosmology. I have been math-averse all my life, and can barely pass college algebra, and yet suddenly I was driven to learn about mathematics.

I gave the presentation to my Dad, who is both a retired USAF fighter pilot and a retired college math professor. Dad is the best quantum theorist I know (the only quantum theorist I know, but still…). He started bringing me up to speed on the math behind the theories, and Consciousness Theory evolved as he did so. 

If nothing else comes of this, just having the peace of mind from getting a piece of the Big Picture, and reconnecting joyously with my father, every day, this process has made me content and happy, for the first time in my entire life.

Dad urged me to put my thoughts into a book, which I did. This thing has been going on for over a month now, and the book is at 25,000 words, almost ready for submission to a publisher.

I copyrighted it three days ago. I even have a great editor -- David Stanford, who has so ably manned the helm, here at the Sandbox, all these years.

The book focuses on my awareness that the Universe is Consciousness, and we are part of that consciousness. The Universe is experiencing itself from the inside out, experiencing itself as you and me and the other seven billion souls on this planet.

The book is in the form of a Field Manual, a military FM, that gives enough information to get an idea of the scope of the operation, and then gives step-by-step instructions on how I raised my consciousness. 

Perhaps it will work for you too.

The funny thing is, as I became aware of this, I noticed that the people I came in contact with seemed to blossom and expand. Instead of people being afraid of me, people were the opposite: friendly, positive, supportive. Sometimes this happens with complete strangers, who appear out of the blue. It has been a revelation to me. I want that effect to continue, so I focus on actively projecting and radiating positive energy, from myself, all the time.

And the Universe is reacting to it.

If I am free to create my own reality, in union with the Consciousness around me, and all of the human consciousnesses on the planet, then I can make it as beautiful as possible, for as many people as possible, for as long as possible. 

We all can.

And in doing so, I can help to raise the consciousness of everyone around me, boosting all of us Higher, in a sympathetic Field. 


Humanity is my fire team now.

And the related applications from that teamwork, and from Consciousness Theory, are impressive.

Like powering an Alcubierre Drive warp engine with directed consciousness energy.

If you are free to create your own reality, why not create it as B I G as possible?

Personally, I’m planning on being my own superhero.

At least within myself, I am looking at the stars

and all of you are welcome to come with me. 

If you feel like it. Of course, we have plenty of work to do right here at home, first.

Actually, the subtitle of the book is: How To Be Your Own Superhero In X Easy Steps.

I believe it is completely possible. 

So much so, that two days ago I had eleven tattoos cut into both sides of my hands and feet, as well as a couple of other places, like the fontanelle of my skull, and chakra locations on my chest and back.

Why? To focus creative energy, of course.

A superhero has to be able to focus his powers, right?

Pain instructs as much as pleasure. Often more than. 

Yep, here’s SGT Roy Batty, in all his glory.


Framed POWELL Rally Point

Or, as my Dad says, “You can never unsee that.”  Sorry.

So, here I am.

Either I am a

half-crazy, dope smoking, burnt-out combat veteran, sitting in my tiny NYC apartment,

writing hippy dippy science fiction stories as I slip deeper into psychosis


I’ve figured out how to be my own superhero.

Which reality would you choose?

Yep. I’m going the superhero route.

But whatever I’m going to do,

it will be with a couple of different outlooks.

The first of which is: peace.

Whenever possible, in all things. And it IS possible, 99.9% of the time.

The next of which is the Four Precepts, as I’ve written in the book.

Be open.

Be honest, with myself first. And then everyone I come into contact with.

Be positive, in all things.

And then verify. Check the shit out of everything I think or do, at all levels. 

Never stop learning. Never stop asking questions.

The world has some huge, highly complex problems to deal with.

Our nation has some huge, highly complex problems to deal with.

I feel that we’ve lost our way, and I think a lot of us are feeling that something

Big is coming down the line for us

and it’s up to us to make that Big thing something beautiful, rather than something horrific.

Too many of the old ways don’t work anymore

and we are fragmenting as a society because of the fear.

We have to find some new ways of looking at ourselves

and I am passing along the only thing that has worked for me.

The title of the book is

FM 33-4-5: Navigating Consciousness and the Space-Time Continuum.

If that resonates with you, check it out.

I’d love to have you on the Team

because we have some work to do





P.S. And then there's this: Objective Rally Point.  




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