Sunday, February 9, 2014

Adrian Bonenberger's "Afghan Post"

Adrian Bonenberger deployed twice to Afghanistan with the U.S. Army infantry, witnessing some of the most savage fighting of the counter-insurgency. He has written for the New York Times and Policy Mic, and is currently a student at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism. He recently published his war memoirs, Afghan Post, through The Head and The Hand Press.

Bonenberger applied the “Page 99 Test” to Afghan Post and reported the following:
Afghan Post is an epistolary memoir, written through journal entries and letters and supported by a terminology glossary, as much military language is obscure to civilians. I drew on existing journal entries, letters, phone conversations, and emails.

Training, in the military, is the time when an infantryman learns how to act and think like a soldier (when I was in the infantry, it was an all-male organization). It’s where one’s civilian mentality disappears (or else you, the trainee, disappear), or at least becomes subordinated. It’s where the “warrior creed” replaces every other thought or sentiment. It’s a strange time.

Page 99 occurs during training, and includes the tail end of one letter that sees me looking forward to a weekend of socializing, and the beginning of a letter that describes a foggy day during my time in Airborne School. There are instances of the type of observational writing I was doing at the time, such as, “The fog suffocated light and sound; the only thing I could hear was the muted chugging of my car’s engine…” Page 99 also hints at the lasting social bonds that developed in training (more so even than in combat, where the stresses twisted people in funny ways) – Bob and Mike are friends of mine to this day. The page accurately captures what I looked like as a psychologically unified whole in the process of deconstructing into two different personae, my “military” personality and my “personal” personality. Later on in Afghan Post, during both deployments to Afghanistan, my personality fractures or compartmentalizes further, as the stresses pile up.

A lot’s been made of the different path I took to the infantry – Yale graduate, intellectual, etc. – the truth is, in America, this story isn’t exceptional at all. Everyone hears the call to service, many heed it, and collectively we find a way to do what’s needed. Afghan Post is a story for everyone who served, or knows someone who did.
Learn more about Afghan Post at The Head and The Hand Press.

--Marshal Zeringue