APL Colloquium

February 12, 2016

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

Written from the perspective of a Marine infantry battalion commander, Where Youth and Laughter Go chronicles LtCol Seth Folsom’s command of the elite 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, known as “The Cutting Edge,” and his harrowing deployment to Afghanistan’s volatile Sangin District. This unique view 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.

Lt. Col. Folsom made the unusual decision to patrol with his rifle squads every day through Sangin, leading his Marines under desperate circumstances while they dodged improvised explosive devices and sniper fire from an invisible enemy. As his tour progressed and casualties mounted, Folsom found his objectivity evaporating and the love for his men growing. More than a blood-and-guts war story, Where Youth and Laughter Go 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.

A stand-alone volume, Where Youth and Laughter Go 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. Affecting and contemplative, this final entry completes LtCol Seth Folsom’s recounting of his personal experiences in command over a decade of war.

Colloquium Speaker: LtCol Seth Folsom

Lt. Col. SETH W. B. FOLSOM, USMC, has a bachelor of arts in international relations from the University of Virginia, a master of arts in national security affairs from the Naval Postgraduate School, and a master of arts in strategic studies from the Marine Corps War College. He is the author of The Highway War: A Marine Company Commander in Iraq and In the Gray Area: A Marine Advisor Team at War. The Highway War (2006, Potomac Books, Inc.) won the 2007 Military Writers Society of America’s (MWSA) Gold Medal for Best Memoir. In the Gray Area (2010, Naval Institute Press) won the 2011 Marine Corps Heritage Foundation’s General Wallace M. Greene, Jr. Award, the 2011 Marine Corps Professional Reading List selection, and 2012 MWSA Gold Medal for Best Memoir. Why Can’t We Win? Pitfalls in Modern U.S. Counterinsurgency Operations won the 2013 Foreign Area Officer Association (FAOA) Writing Award. He lives in Woodbridge, Virginia.