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When writing fiction, your best work may come from what scares you the most: you take pen in hand and imagine the worst. When I first flew into Afghanistan, what scared me the most wasn't the thought of getting shot down and killed. It was the thought of getting shot down and not killed.
For most aviators, an encounter with the enemy usually happens in the form of lights streaming up from the earth. It has an air of unreality about it, almost like a video game. If those lights don't hit you, they don't hurt you. But what if you had an airplane blown out from under you and you met the enemy on his terms, in his territory? What would you face on the ground? What would your buddies need you to do? Under conditions of extreme duress and hardship, would you make decisions you could live with later on?
When I went to the Air Force Survival School years ago, an instructor gave a briefing I have never forgotten. He said, "Every Air Force flier shot down in Vietnam, captured, and dragged to the Hanoi Hilton sat right here in this auditorium and thought, 'It won't happen to me.'"
I still think it won't happen to me. But if it did? The Mullah's Storm is an imagining of that fear.
The book's action begins with the downing of a C-130 Hercules in Afghanistan, set at an indeterminate time in the war. It could have happened in 2001, or it might not have happened yet. A shoulder-fired missile blows my main characters out of their normal world and onto a journey that forces them to disregard personal safety and even personal loyalties for the sake of the mission.
My fears have become reality for some service members, and the characters in The Mullah's Storm are composites of people I have known. One of those people was an early mentor and squadron mate who had served as a Marine Corps helicopter crew chief in Vietnam. He enjoyed target shooting, and I assumed such an avid marksman would also be a hunter. But when I invited him to go duck hunting, he declined. He said, "When I was shot down in Vietnam, I learned what it felt like to be hunted. I have never hunted anything since."
Though my colleague's Vietnam ordeal echoes through the book, the characters draw their motivations and mindsets from veterans of the current wars. These service members, all volunteers, come from the best-educated military ever fielded. American troops have more skill and training than ever before, and their leaders have more confidence in them. They have more individual responsibility, and in extremis, more ability to act alone when necessary. They are not cynical, but neither are they naïve about their missions and the mistakes of those who send them on those missions.
Another difference with today's military is the greater contributions of women. Their presence as part of the team no longer raises eyebrows; in fact, it is taken for granted. My novel's female character, Sergeant Gold, was inspired by the women with whom I have served. Those real-life military women include some of the best pilots, navigators, and flight engineers I've known.
Other characters are from a U.S. Army Special Forces team. As a C-130 flight engineer, I often had the pleasure of working with Special Forces. Sometimes we flew SF troops during their parachute training, dropping freefall jumpers from so high that they breathed from an oxygen bottle on the way down. In addition to their other military skills, each SF soldier is fluent in a foreign language. Those guys are very smart and very tough, and I've seen them face awful conditions with spirit and humor.
I could have set this novel, or one very much like it, in Iraq or even Bosnia or Kosovo. But during airlift missions over Afghanistan, I was struck by the stark beauty of the country as seen from the air: snows of the Hindu Kush, great distances of mountains unmarked by so much as a dirt path, cold and clear night air lit by a meteor shower, rural expanses so dark the stars appeared not as scattered points but as silver dust.
The book contains scenes of violence, and sadly, that reflects reality, both past and future. Afghanistan may never completely rid itself of insurgents and warlords, jihadists and opium traffickers. The Taliban will not show up on the deck of the USS Missouri to sign an instrument of surrender. Even if American forces end combat operations tomorrow, the country will need humanitarian assistance and airlift support into the foreseeable future. Whether U.S. troops stay or go, this will be a long war for the Afghans.
Though the idea for The Mullah's Storm had been knocking around in my head for a while, it took an in-flight emergency to get me started on the actual writing. In August of 2007, I was part of a crew flying a routine airlift mission into Osan Air Base, South Korea. On the way, we lost a hydraulic system and a generator. We declared an emergency and landed safely, greeted by the flashing lights of the crash trucks. When we taxied to the ramp, the aircraft dripped a trail of hydraulic fluid.
After we shut down, we learned we'd be stuck for days, waiting for parts. So with time to kill at Osan, one morning I went to the Base Exchange and bought a yellow legal pad and a cup of coffee. I sat on a couch in aircrew billeting, and I wrote at the top of the pad, "Chapter One."
--Thomas W. Young
At the start of Young's well-crafted first novel, a transport plane carrying a high-value prisoner, a radical mullah, is forced down in the rugged Hindu Kush of Afghanistan. Maj. Michael Parson, the plane's co-pilot, and female Master Sergeant Gold, an interpreter who speaks Pashto, must brave a ferocious winter storm and reach a nearby Special Forces team with the mullah, but they wind up in the hands of Taliban insurgents. The SF team rescues Parson, but the Taliban escape, taking the mullah and the translator in opposite directions. The team must try to recapture the mullah, but Parson can't abandon Gold because "You love your comrades more than you hate your enemies." Young (The Speed of Heat: An Airlift Wing at War in Iraq and Afghanistan) draws on his own war experiences for verisimilitude, which, along with believable characters and an exciting plot, makes this one of the better thrillers to come out of the Afghan theater.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
A great read!! Full of accurate details and a suspenseful plot. I look forward to reading all of Young's books as quickly as I canPublished 10 days ago by David G.
Good read! I've read all of Young's book. The others were good but in my opinion this was the best.Published 16 days ago by MK52
Actually 3 3/4 stars. I was very much engaged by The Mullah's Storm. Not having military experience, I appreciated getting a seemingly in depth look at a piece of the war in... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Tasawuf
As a Veteran of Viet Nam I lived through many similar stressful situations as our young soldiers do now. The climate was different but every day was life or death. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Kindle Customer
I've read his other novel called "Silent Enemy." Was a nice entertaining novel and lots of surprises, this book jumps into action on like the second page, very smart writer... Read morePublished 4 months ago by MOSTAFA MANSOORI
Good read, I will definitely read another "Parson and Gold" Novel.Published 8 months ago by KIRK SOLBERG
Recommend this authors books and this series to any of my friends... The Author has an interesting writing style. I enjoy it!Published 8 months ago by Chris Lochman
Exciting read. Well written. Great story, description of characters, mission, location and what they had to deal with to survive. Read morePublished 9 months ago by mike