Interviewed by Aaron Griffing
Ask around your local VFW about what a military police soldier does for a living. The answers will make you laugh, cringe, and sometimes simply lean back at the nonsensical tales we evoke from our comrades in arms. Even to the standard military police soldier, their experiences from one to the next are largely different depending on any number of influences. Whether that is duty station, deployments, a specific type of military police. In this book, you will see the far edge of the combat spectrum for a military police soldier. Every so often, military police get training that enables them to be attached to units conducting missions well outside the purview of a standard military police soldier. For those soldiers, their story goes largely untold. Whether due to the incredulity of the story or because some stories are hard to talk about. The events in this book are told exactly as they happened. Some have been modified due to security concerns and for the privacy of comrades. Ghosts of the Valley gives a full spectrum recount of the incidents that took place in Afghanistan, and the recovery process that became necessary upon return to the peace of home. The book itself will hopefully serve as a benefit to soldiers who have not yet deployed, civilians who struggle to understand the average combat veteran, and the soldiers who have redeployed that still struggle in their recovery process. The book is not meant to glorify war, but to expose the horrors of it. Ghosts of the Valley also provides a comprehensive, and up-to-date as of the publication, list of resources for those struggling with PTSD, or those who simply need help.
Congrats on your new book Ghosts of the Valley. Tell me a little bit about it?
My book is about my experiences in Afghanistan told through my eyes. It’s a 10 chapter book with the first nine dedicated to sharing the stories of brave soldiers. Those chapters are not meant to be a biography but set the tone about who I am and where I came from and how it landed me in the valley in Afghanistan. I try to aim the majority of my vision towards actions I saw others take as well as leadership decisions that would soon be building blocks for myself as I would grow up. Two of the biggest firefights are told in separate chapters about how I earned my two Bronze Stars with valor and a Purple Heart. Chapter 10 is a resource chapter for any veteran who picks up my book. The chapter has information, phone numbers, and resources to point them in the right direction if they are in need.
When did you decide you wanted to share your story via this book?
For years, my mentors and seniors told me that I had a story that needed to be shared via a book. I’ve had bad past experiences with having the spotlight on me, and I don’t like the attention. For a long time, I just played the thoughts of a book off as a compliment from others but not something I ever wanted to do. It was not until I picked up my current position as a military police senior leader course instructor that allowed me the time to do so. One thing I have learned about PTSD is that your current circumstances affect it, and you have to learn how to adapt to it. With all the extra time on my hands and no direct mentorship of soldiers at the moment left me with a lot more time to think. Consequentially, I needed to figure out a way to address or suppress my thoughts. I figured if I put things on paper maybe that would help subdue my thoughts for a bit. However, as soon as I started writing, I couldn’t stop; I completed the book in about two months.
What lessons or insight do you hope your readers take away from your book?
My target audience would be enlisted soldiers, young lieutenants/cadets, or any leader that can learn from my earlier mistakes and achievements. I’m not going to pretend that I am the greatest leader there is. I feel that I am average at best. But I was fortunate and blessed to have the leaders that I did. They pointed me in the right direction, and through my experience, I became an outlet for others to live through vicariously. Over the years, I’ve learned that it’s my duty to share those experiences with others because that’s the only real way we —not only as humans but also as soldiers— will be able to expand and grow. Everyone doesn’t share the same experiences, and it’s our job to lay the bricks to build someone’s leadership foundation. Not only do I want to share these experiences, but more importantly, it’s my job to tell the stories of the brothers I fought with. Specifically, I want to share the stories of Lieutenant Parten as he gave his life and the sacrifices others endured to stand up, volunteer, and rescue his remains to bring back home to his family. If soldiers don’t share their stories, a piece of history will die, and others cannot learn from our endeavors.
During the process of writing your book, what lessons did you learn?
Well, I definitely learned that I am not as strong as I thought I was. Re-opening some doors and remembering certain events humbled me. Rethinking about a lot of the events gave me an even greater appreciation for the leaders that I had when I was younger. Although those were harder times, if it were up to me, I would spend the rest of my days in those moments. I learned that it is my job to be an ambassador for our future generation because of the situation I was placed in— especially for the MP Corps. I want to do everything I can to help our regiment and its soldiers. For all the soldiers outside of the regiment, I hope this brings us a little bit closer. I also hope it helps bring some appreciation to the capabilities that MPs possess.
What books are you currently reading, and are there any others that have influenced your leadership style that you would recommend to another reader?
Honestly, I’m not a big writer or reader. The last book that I read that truly inspired me was Red Platoon by Medal of Honor recipient, Clinton Romesha. The events that took place in his book as he earned his Medal of Honor occurred less than a month before the experience I share in my book. The same enemy fighters that were moving in to attack his post were practicing on us prior to their major assault. Understandably, I took great pride in reading his book while also finding his style of writing amazing.
How do you go about ensuring you continue your personal and professional development?
Things have been different since I’ve gotten to this job as an instructor. The nature of the position has allowed me to reflect on my experiences. However, prior to this job, I took great pride in continuing my self-development during every leadership position I have held. I knew I had been promoted ahead of the average pace. I wanted to ensure that I would not let my peers and subordinates down because of my lack of knowledge, time in service, and experience. I studied every regulation imaginable. Although I didn’t have the t-shirts that proved my experience at the time, I at least knew where to find the book answer. I could apply my knowledge and common sense to situations. I hate being unable to provide a soldier with an answer because I don’t know it. When that happens, I always tell the soldier I will get back to them. When I do, I make sure we learn together. I also know that I don’t know it all. I am very upfront with my soldiers, sharing my weaker points with them. I know I can learn from them. By doing so, learning becomes a two-way street. It’s created more buy-in and motivation for my soldiers. When they know they’ve contributed more to the team and not just themselves, it motivates them as they feel buy-in.
Over the years, I’ve tried to find new ways to develop my soldiers as well as myself. Some of the tricks my leaders tried on me just don’t work in the same way with the current generation. I’ve had to find new ways to make things interesting. I have utilized new technology such as certain apps, videos, and pictures to get my point across. This is much different than throwing a field manual in their face like many of my past leaders did.
Through the editing process, was there anything you had to leave out of the book that you wish you had kept in the book?
There were a few other stories and lessons learned I wish I would’ve put in the book, but—again— I wanted to ensure that I was focusing on my experiences in Afghanistan and not my career. This is not intended to be a biography. I know no one is going to care about my background; I’m just your average guy from Los Angeles. That is my place, and I understand that. I wish I had all of the time and words to tell stories of those who came before me. I wish I could have mentioned every battle-buddy I had and how they affected my life. I wish I could somehow put a spotlight on every single soldier, peer, and leader I’ve served wit I literally couldn’t have done any of this alone; it took a team. I want to carry and share their legacy with as many people as I can moving forward.
Purchase Ghosts Of The Valley Here
Sergeant Sean Ambriz First Class enlisted in the United States Army in February 2008 as a Military Police Soldier and completed One Station Unit Training at Fort Leonard Wood, MO.
Since that time he has served a wide verity of duty positions to include a Driver, Gunner, Platoon Medic, Team Leader, Designated Squad Marksman, Squad Leader, MMS NCO, Special Reaction Team Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge, and Platoon Sergeant.
His duty assignments have included Fort Carson Colorado, Schofield Barracks Hawaii, Joint Base Lewis-McChord Washington State, and Fort Leonard Wood Missouri. He served two tours in Afghanistan.
He is currently, assigned to the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence as the MP Senior Leader Course Instructor.
He has an Associate degree in Criminal Justice and has earned 170 credit hours towards his Bachelor’s Degree in Homeland Security.
Some of his more significant career achievements include recently being inducted as number 9, into the Military Police Corps convent Commandants 100 list, selected in 2011 as All-American, Distinguished Leadership Awardee in Basic Leadership Course and Advance Leadership Course, the 4th Infantry Division NCO of the Quarter, Audie Murphy Inductee, and he receive the Presidential Volunteer Service Medal. He is the recipient of two Bronze Stars with Valor and the Purple Heart.