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Lt. Col. Seth Folsom, USMC is the recipient of the 2011 General Wallace M. Greene Jr. Award presented on behalf of the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation. Online at: http://www.marineheritage.org/Awards.asp
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
This book is published in cooperation with the Association of the U.S. Army.
Lt.Col. Seth W. B. Folsom, USMC, has a Bachelor's degree in international relations from the University of Virginia and a Master's degree in South Asian national security affairs from the Naval Postgraduate School. He currently serves as the International Affairs Officer Program Coordinator, Strategy and Plans Division, at Headquarters Marine Corps. In 2003 Folsom and Company "D" deployed with 1st LAR Battalion in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In February 2008 he deployed to
Praise for In the Gray Area
“In The Gray Area is an excellent hands-on account, brutal in its descriptions and honest in its observations. Not written as a scholarly text or as a gung-ho guts and glory popular war story, it is the reality of the day in and day out work carried out by Americans alongside their Iraqi counterparts.… Many lessons can be gleaned from this short tale, not only about the obvious cultural conflicts that exist in war time, but also in terms of the role of advisors in foreign conflicts and the challenges, military and political, that America has had and will continue to have in the Middle East.”
— Digest of Middle East Studies, Fall 2011
“In the Gray Area highlights the kaleidoscope of cultural, institutional and personal challenges a line officer aced accomplishing advisory duties while embedded with the Iraqi Army. Folsom’s description of these and his musings about problem solving in an alien environment—and coping with a recalcitrant counterpart—are instructive for personnel working with foreign forces in training, on exercises or on secondment for any reason. More generally, the book is useful in raising cultural sensitivity, a critical ingredient for success for military personnel in foreign environments.”
— Australian Defence Force Journal, Issue No, 185, 2011
“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 The Village. Our mentors in Uruzgan province will strongly identify.”
— Australian Army Journal, Volume VIII, Number 2
I previously read Lt Col Folsom’s first book, The Highway War, and found In the Gray Area to be equally engaging. Folsom presents a first-hand ground level perspective of Military Transition Team deployment preparations and real-world operations. He successfully captures the endless cycle of optimism, frustration, acceptance, USMC motivation, and renewed optimism… The chapters are short; each is sort of a self-contained vignette, making the book easy to read. Just one minor criticism relating to context. Because the book was written at the ground level, it was difficult to grasp the bigger picture- what was occurring simultaneously at regional, national and international levels. But this is more an indictment of my own ignorance than Folsom’s writing.