14 February 2011

Review: 'Dudes of War'

Review: "Dudes of War" by Benjamin Tupper

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."

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 and 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 to 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:
  • The downrange debates between those who loved dogs and those who loved to shoot them.
"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.


  1. it goes without saying i appreciate the kind words about Dudes of War. Now, do i need to send you that bribe of $10,000 for this in cash or can it be a bank check? HAHA=
    keep up the great blog Red Bull ;)

  2. I have a question for either Sherpa or Benjamin. The photo on the front of the book is the same photo as on the blog for Vampire6 (I think that's right.) Is Benjamin one in the same person?

  3. @ Benjamin: No worries--although the promise of large amounts of cash in small-denomination bills reminds me to state, for the public record, that "the author was kind enough to send me a copy for review." Thanks for that, and for the kind words!

    @ Ria: The photographer credited with the "Dudes of War" cover shot is Rafal Gerszak. (While Benjamin can confirm or deny, I believe Vampire 6 is the pseudonym of yet another citizen-soldier writer ...) Looks like someone else is camping on the Vampire-6 "Afghanistan Shrugged" URL, so I'm not able to confirm that it's the same photo. Maybe I'm not looking in the right place?

  4. Hey Sherpa! That clarifies about the photo. No, you're probably looking in the right place for the URL. It is no longer active. Hence the question. Vampire-6 had a very humorous outlook on where he was, but left on a sad note. He and his group had been looking for a lost soldier who was not found at the time he had to leave. His last blog was him coming home, but no follow up as to how he did once he got home. And after some time the URL was invalid. HENCE .... the wondering if he turned his "adventures" into a book and his real name was Benjamin Tupper. But Mr. Tupper has his own tales to tell, and they look pretty interesting. I just hoping for all the best for our guys coming home, and that Vampire-6 had a happy homecoming. I'm going to read your book Benjamin!! :-) Thanks Sherpa!! You seem to be so well "in-the-know"!!

  5. ria- i was fortunate enough to get permission by the Vampire ETT team, as well as the photographer, to use that classic photo for the cover.
    I am not in regular contact with Vampire 6, but so I cant provide any updates, but I can say I too liked his blog, and for me, the photo of the Vampire ETT team is a classic that I was lucky to get permission to use. I was on an ETT team, but never lucky enough to have a professional photographer come take out team picture ;)

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  7. LOLOLOLOL!! Well ... you missed one, an American woman wouldn't NEED you. An American woman can take care of herself. Thank God for other men that aren't you.

    Is this somehow relative to "Dudes of War"?

  8. @ Ria: You're right. Previous commenter did not seem to be addressing anything related to the purpose or content of Red Bull Rising.

    Just the same, I enjoyed your response!


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