Saving Sandoval is the true account of the defense of U.S. Army Specialist Jorge G. Sandoval, Jr. Sandoval, a 22-year old infantry paratrooper deployed to the forward operating base of Iskan during the enemy uprisings of 2007 in Iraq. Iskan was located in the “Triangle of Death,” which at the time was the most dangerous area in Iraq; arguably the world. Sandoval’s unit began to take heavy casualties during the increased violence in the region. As the unit began to respond and regroup from their heavy losses, Sandoval was re-assigned from his regular infantry team to his unit’s most elite group–the sniper section. There Sandoval was taught first-hand Army sniper tactics, techniques, and procedures. On one of his first missions he was guided by the sniper section leader, Staff Sergeant Hensley, who was the most experienced sniper in his unit. On that mission Sandoval was placed in the shooting position while Hensley served as his observer, to determine an appropriate target to engage. Hensley spotted a man serving as a lookout for the enemy who had recently attacked U.S. and coalition units. This determination was made after communicating with other friendly units in the area who had come under attack. The man was in civilian clothing, posing as a farmer cutting grass. This was consistent with most of the insurgents and enemy in Iraq, who often wore civilian clothing and were not easily distinguishable from the civilians who resided in the nearby villages.
Given all of the information known at the time, Hensley directed Sandoval to take the shot. Sandoval complied and what happened next was a spiraling of events. Many of the actions of the entire sniper section came under question, particularly an event two weeks later in which a suspected insurgent was shot at close range with a pistol by another member of Sandoval’s team. Rumors began to spread about the legitimacy of actions by the sniper section, and Army Criminal Investigation Command descended upon the unit and began interrogating Soldiers, trying to link Sandoval and others to war crimes, including murder. Eventually Sandoval faced a court-martial for murder, for his first shooting as a sniper. Later another murder charge was added, for simply being in the same area where the other individual was shot at close range.
Saving Sandoval is the story of the trial told from the men who were there–Specialist Sandoval and his assigned military defense attorney, Captain Craig W. Drummond. The book quotes testimony from both the pre-trial hearings and the trial itself, which took place in a makeshift courtroom on a U.S. military installation just outside of Baghdad. The Associated Press and reporters from around the world were present throughout the trial. The jury was comprised of senior military and enlisted officers, all of whom were then deployed to Iraq.
Praise for SAVING SANDOVAL:
“Armed forces continue to operate in uncertain and complex environments and this story is an insightful and powerful look into the challenges and judgments faced by a young sniper deployed to the battlefield of Iraq.” – Brigadier General Jeffery L. Underhill, U.S. Army Retired, (Iraq Veteran)
“After the Iraq invasion, a military lawyer tests military justice by defending an American Soldier accused of a war crime. A revealing, real life, courtroom drama, reminiscent of ‘A Few Good Men.'” – Professor Hunter R. Clark, Director, International Law and Human Rights Program, Drake University Law School
“This book is a strong caution for all military commanders who would consider judging the warriors who run towards the sound of gunfire. Front-line actions should be judged from a front-line perspective, not for how those actions may play in the news.” – Dave Earp, Former U.S. Navy SEAL Officer, USNA ‘97, BUDS Class #230, (Iraq and Afghanistan Veteran)
“Saving Sandoval gives an inside look at the scrutiny Soldiers face on the battlefield and the politics involved in modern day warfare.” – Major Chris Ophardt, U.S. Army, Public Affairs Officer to the Secretary of the Army (2016-2017), Iraq Veteran
“War often comes down to the very personal and terrifying moment when a soldier comes face-to-face with the enemy. If he responds as trained, he lives. No one questions the killing. But for snipers, the situation is different. Their job is to prevent such confrontations by taking out the enemy at long distances. This is what sniper Jorge Sandoval was trained to do and what he did. Rather than being rewarded for doing his job, Sandoval was charged with murder of an Iraqi, despite the fact that his superiors had approved the shot. Having lived and worked in Afghanistan for two years, I am aware of the critical role snipers play in modern warfare. That role was revealed in the book and movie “American Sniper,” the story of sniper Chris Kyle, who died tragically, but as an American hero. With Saving Sandoval, we have a very different outcome in similar circumstances. Attorney Craig Drummond details the dramatic and compelling story of the trial of another American sniper and what it took to prevent a grave injustice.” – Peter Eichsteadt, award-winning author of BORDERLAND