On 25 December 2017, Douglas Laux participated in a live Ask Me Anything (AMA) on the hugely popular website Reddit. Laux fielded questions for over 24 hours from the Strip in Las Vegas.
The article that was published in the Indiana Daily Student newspaper.
The actual interview…
1. What year did you graduate college? (From IU correct?)
* I graduated from IU in 2005.
2. What was your major?
* My degrees were in East Asian Studies and Political Science. I had a minor in Business.
3. How quickly did you receive employment with the CIA?
* I can’t be specific with exact dates but it took me quite a while to get through all of the background investigations. That probably had something to do with me being an Acacian while at IU…or maybe the CIA was just busy with some other stuff at the time. Probably a little bit of both.
4. Could you have ever foreseen being deployed to Afghanistan?
* Well, yes, actually. It was the whole reason I joined the CIA. I wanted to go to the war zone. If I hadn’t been accepted into the Agency, I’m pretty confident I would have still found myself in Afghanistan through the military. 9/11 happened a few days into my freshman year at IU and had a profound effect on me, as it did with every American. I seriously considered dropping out immediately and enlisting but my dad, who is a Vietnam veteran, talked me out of that pretty quick. And while I initially chose IU wanting to go to their School of Optometry, I switched out of Biology after my first semester and never looked back.
5. Were you more scared or excited or a mixture of emotions at that time?
* When I first landed in Afghanistan I was scared shitless. I was armed with this tremendous training and was prepared as well as anyone could be, but I would be lying to you if I told you I wasn’t still terrified. Having said that, like anything in life, after living there for a significant period of time, you start to learn the customs and ways of the locals and it all seems natural. As strange as that might sound, I’m sure a lot of seniors at IU can look back four years ago to when they were a freshman and relate.
6. Do you have a favorite story in the book?
* Not in particular but I will share one with you that is IU related. Back in 2005 when I was a senior at IU, I got my first phone call from an Agency recruiter. I didn’t know when or even if they were going to call but they did — obscenely early in the morning. Now, I am sure this is impossible for current students to relate to, but back when I was in college, the cellphone did one thing — it called people. Nobody texted and social media was nonexistent on your phone. So when it rang, it was usually a friend calling to tell you something that in today’s world you could do in under 160 characters. So, generally speaking, it wasn’t ever that important — whereas now if my phone rings I presume it is a life or death emergency every time.
Anyhow, I answered the phone fairly disoriented (because I’m pretty sure we were playing Sink the Biz the night prior) expecting one of my roommates to be locked out or something. Nope. CIA calling. Time for an interview. If I had been drinking milk at the time it would have shot out of my nose. Either way, I still feel like I bombed that phone interview worse than probably any candidate before or since…so, you know, let that be some inspiration for the seniors going through job interviews now. No matter how badly you think you did, you’re probably just being too hard on yourself and you may very well get the job after all. So, just be patient and always put the blue chips down on yourself. And, you know, pace yourself at Nick’s.
7. What was the experience of writing down your times in the war like?
* Not enjoyable. A lot of people expect me to say “cathartic” but it wasn’t at all. My book is pretty dark at times because my life was entirely morose at various points and I didn’t disguise that. I did my best to inject as much humor as possible, but I definitely didn’t sugar coat anything or pull any punches. Kind of like my Tinder profile.