Where Youth and Laughter Go: With “The Cutting Edge” in Afghanistan

Where Youth and Laughter Go completes LtCol Seth Folsom’s recounting of his personal experiences in command over a decade of war. It is the culminating chapter of a trilogy that began with The Highway War: A Marine Company Commander in Iraq in 2006 and continued with In the Gray Area: A Marine Advisor Team at War in 2010.

The chronicle of Folsom’s command of 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, “The Cutting Edge,” and his harrowing deployment to Afghanistan’s volatile Sangin District presents a deeper look into the complexities and perils of modern counterinsurgency operations in America’s longest war. Charged with the daunting task of pacifying a region with a long history of violence and instability, Folsom and his Marines struggled daily to wage a dynamic campaign against the shadowy enemy force that held Sangin’s population firmly in its grip. With peace and stability always teetering on the brink of collapse, the Marines of “The Cutting Edge” confronted their own mortality as they conducted endless patrols through Sangin’s minefields while fighting to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan villagers.

No other books have been published from the perspective of a Marine infantry battalion commander in Afghanistan. It was Folsom’s job, as the unit commander, to lead his Marines under impossible circumstances. LtCol Folsom made the unusual decision to patrol with his rifle squads every day through Sangin, where his Marines dodged improvised explosive devices and sniper fire from an invisible enemy. As his tour progressed and casualties mounted, he found his objectivity evaporating and the love for his men growing. Where Youth and Laughter Go is more than a blood-and-guts war story, it is a jarring, “boots on the ground”–level examination of the myriad challenges and personal dilemmas that today’s young service members face as the United States approaches its final endgame in Afghanistan.

This book is a masterpiece that draws you from the first page. You ask yourself, What would I do if I commanded a thousand Marines in a hellhole like Sangin? This is the textbook of agonizing combat leadership, when the task is beyond the battalion’s control. Nation-building was a mistake that our policymakers and generals refused to admit. Only grit, love for each other and self-pride kept our grunts going. Here is the raw, unflinching truth all infantry battalions know—the story of the American fighting man in Afghanistan.
Bing West, combat Marine, assistant secretary of defense and best-selling author of The Wrong War and One Million Steps
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  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press
  • Available on: 9/15/2015
  • Pages: 352

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Comments (2)

  1. Ubuntu VPS May 6, 2016 at 3:52 pm

    These are the facts. The rest is Hollywood and neocon propaganda. Those doing the fighting, of course, have it much worse. As General Sherman said, war is hell, but successive generations with abundant evidence before them still persist in fighting.

  2. Virtual Private Servers August 5, 2017 at 8:35 pm

    Folsom makes his part of the war in the Sangin Valley come alive for the American reader by sharing anecdotes and incidents that occurred during his command. Put together, these experiences tell a bigger story that allows the reader to appreciate the difficulties of a commander who has to reconcile strategic considerations with operational problems on a daily basis.

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