In the Gray Area: A Marine Advisor Team at War

Winner of the 2011 Marine Corps Heritage Foundation’s General Wallace M. Greene Jr. Award and the 2012 Military Writers Society of America’s Gold Medal Award for “Best Memoir” 

In the Gray Area builds on Seth Folsom’s earlier award-winning memoir, The Highway War, which described his 2003 command of one of the first Marine light armored reconnaissance battalion companies to march on Baghdad. In February 2008 Major Folsom was deployed again to Iraq as the leader of a U.S. Marine advisor team embedded with an Iraqi army infantry battalion. The realities of the Marines’ mission is frankly addressed by Folsom in this new work as he reflects on challenges they and their Iraqi counterparts faced in their struggle to gain control of al-Anbar province. He explores the bonds he formed with his men, the “Outlanders,” and the tenuous relationships forged between the American and Iraqi soldiers whose cultures were so vastly different. The author creates a compelling picture of the obstacles faced by both as they lived, ate, and fought side-by-side.

The Highway War was lauded for its insights of how a young combat leader privately copes with his own vulnerabilities while publicly presenting a tough persona. In his new book, Folsom shows a mature commander thoughtfully evaluating the situation at a time when the Iraqi army is on the cusp of independence from its American partners. He further reflects on the difficulties posed by a possibly premature American departure from Iraq and questions if the advisor mission is really the key to an American exit of Iraq.

The number of military advisors is growing in every service, and – as with past conflicts – their stories are seldom told or understood by the general public or even history buffs. This work will appeal to anyone trying to understand the US military’s attempts to build competent forces in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. Anyone who has served as a military advisor or even worked with foreign forces will also appreciate Folsom’s work and chuckle at his team’s experiences and frustrations.
Air & Space Power Journal
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  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press
  • Publication date: 9/15/2010
  • Pages: 196



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Comments (1)

  1. Hosting June 5, 2016 at 12:50 am

    As someone who has spent many years working intimately with foreign militaries, I could identify with much of this book and thoroughly enjoyed it. It stands well beside the young Bing West s 1972 classic account of Marine advisers in Vietnam titled

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