Editor’s Note: We’ve received a lot of questions lately about how we’re addressing the invasion of Ukraine in the Sandboxx News Dispatch, or the newsletter we send to recruits and trainees at basic training. We are covering some aspects of the conflict with our focus squarely on information service members need to know. There are, however, Dispatch options you can choose that don’t cover any military news, but are instead aimed at military life and culture, as well as popular sports. These options are listed as “Off Duty” and “Scoreboard” respectively. Military News is published in the “On Duty” Dispatch.
I’ve asked Tory Rich—Marine veteran and the editor of The Dispatch—to discuss the work he and his team are doing to help address any concerns parents or supporters may have.
Thank you for reading and for the support of your loved ones in service,
Parent, Marine veteran, and Sandboxx News Editor in Chief
Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine is barely a day old, but there are already some disturbing stories and images making their way all around the world. Europe is watching its largest armed conflict since World War II unfold while receiving news on it in almost real-time. It is surely enough to worry families of U.S. service members as we fulfill our obligations to NATO and strengthen our defensive posture in Europe to deter further violence.
It has been brought to my attention that these developments have parents and families asking about how we will cover the war in the Sandboxx News weekly newsletter that we produce for service members at recruit training, also known to us as “The Dispatch.”
To answer that question, I’ll just give a quick rundown of what each of the three sections contains.
“On Duty” Dispatch
The On Duty section is for military-related news, updates, and general information on military life and careers. This section aims to contribute to instructors’ efforts to train well-rounded, informed Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and Airmen. This space consists of articles that were generally featured on the Sandboxx News website, and when warranted, a small “Additional Updates from Around the Force” section.
This past week, our Ukraine coverage in the On Duty Dispatch was only in the “Additional Updates” section and included a brief summary of Vladimir Putin sending Russian troops into Luhansk and Donetsk. Feature articles will cover topics anywhere from “The Future of the Marine Rifle Squad” to “The Five Best Fighter Aircraft the U.S. Didn’t Buy.“
“Off Duty” Dispatch
Briefly put, if the “On Duty” section is meant to inform, “Off Duty” is meant to entertain. The Off Duty section is intended to be more of a brief escape from training and focuses on some lighter military-related topics. It includes some motivational quotes or photos along with several of our favorite memes from the week that you’ll also see posted on Sandboxx News social media accounts. We never publish memes that are derogatory to people or service branches and keep the humor appropriate for a professional military environment.
The Off Duty Dispatch includes another feature story about something fun and interesting that has some sort of military tie-in. History, pop culture, or just a funny story from one of our writers who served might all appear in this space. Articles like, “How World War II Aviation Inspired the Sights and Sounds of ‘Star Wars’” and “The 5 Best Video Games from the GWOT Era” will appear here.
Scoreboard is the section where we provide coverage on one of the things I missed most while I was at boot camp: sports! Scoreboard includes an article or two providing recaps of the biggest games of the week, analysis of offseason roster moves, and an occasional human interest piece (such as a summary of how the Army’s World Class Athlete Program did at the Winter Olympics, or paying tribute to veterans like Pat Tillman and Ted Williams).
Then there are two full pages of scores, standings and statistics from all major American sports. For the second year, we will also be including an entire page for the NCAA Basketball Tournament bracket when March Madness is upon us.
You control what your recruit or trainee receives
I wanted to offer an explanation of each section and make it clear that there are options to purchase Off Duty and Scoreboard separately. I take a lot of pride in our comprehensive approach to informing and entertaining the future of our armed forces. I am also very proud to work for an outlet that uncompromisingly avoids sensationalized accounts and partisan views. We are strictly focused on providing updates and relevant information for service members, and while that does include covering a war on NATO’s Eastern border in our On Duty Dispatch, it’s only as appropriate or necessary.
One more thing that gives me a deep sense of fulfillment and gratification in getting The Dispatch to recruits each week, is the idea that I and all of the writers and staff at Sandboxx News get to play a part in your loved ones’ very first days in uniform. We are part of opening their eyes to the military world and a small piece of developing and preparing them for their years of service.
It’s worth emphasizing, a small piece…
Drill instructors and drill sergeants will tell their trainees about the war
The men and women who are a much larger part of that development and preparation—drill instructors and drill sergeants—are undoubtedly exposing your service member to some of the unpleasant realities of war. I have little doubt that news of the war in Ukraine, like any major conflict, will reach their ears or eyes soon—with or without reading about it in the Dispatch.
Your service member’s instructors are essentially their new tough older brothers or sisters, and they are some of the best examples their branches can provide for new recruits and trainees to emulate. They are also neither instructed, nor inclined, to sugar coat anything for their recruits.
I can even confirm this based on the time I ran into one of my drill instructors about a year and a half after I graduated from boot camp (and on my first date with the woman who would become my wife!). We spoke for a while, and he was very clear that he did everything in his power to make boot camp a difficult and transformative experience for all of us. He was gruff, he was mean, and he was honest. His heart was also in the right place and I thank him and the rest of my drill instructors for the role they played in making me a Marine.
Once again, one of the many beautiful things about being an American is our choice to consume information as we see fit. You have the option to purchase Off Duty and Scoreboard separately to avoid news about the invasion of Ukraine. Regardless of whether you choose On Duty, Off Duty, Scoreboard,or some combination of the three—we are grateful to be a part of your service member’s life in uniform and for your choice to make us so.