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Superb first person urban combat narrative; slightly clinical point of view,
This review is from: Rage Company: A Marine's Baptism By Fire (Hardcover)
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At a time when the US is involved in combat in two locations (and our footprint in Iraq was still large during the events described in this book...as was our casualty rate), fewer and fewer Americans have served in the armed forces. There are probably fewer still who appreciate the nature of the current engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan. The maneuver phases in both Iraq in 2003 and Afghanistan in 2001 ended in short order because of our massive advantage in military capability.
What remains for US forces in both places are sustained operations against foes who don't wear uniforms, who don't muster in garrisons, who prefer to avoid direct confrontation with their opponents and whose operational elements are not only spread among a civilian population, but are also often hiding in plain sight.
In "Rage Company", Thomas Daly does yeoman's work in detailing the manifold challenges on the streets where national policy gets interpreted by the armed forces in southwest Asia. Small unit leadership at the platoon and company levels while conducting anti-insurgent warfare in an urban environment requires its practitioners to maintain delicate balances between kinetic engagement and sidewalk diplomacy. This must happen while keeping subordinates informed and measuring the risk you place them in, carrying out the objectives of superiors and staying out the headlines and casualty reports. Part diplomat, part weapons expert, part city planner, part motivational speaker, part carpet merchant...these are the moving parts that company grade officers must grapple. Daly addresses these complexities in vivid detail.
Parts of this book are tape measure home runs in the genre of first person combat narratives. Those unfamiliar with combat operations get insight into the stressors and danger of facing hostile weapons and people. Daly reminds us of the other parts that the Marine on the ground faces; sleep deprivation, primitive sanitary conditions, discrepancies between what is needed to do one's job and what one actually has. His accounting of December 7th, 2006 and the kit he packed for that patrol are very reminiscent of Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried. Strapping on a hundred pounds of stuff just to head to work --and never complaining about it-- is heroic enough.
This book chronicles Daly through four months of combat patrols in and around Ramadi...the eastern gateway to Baghdad in Iraq. It pulls no punches in describing the the challenges they faced; strategic, tactical and logistical. As with his stoic approach to carrying 100 pounds of weapons, ammunition and armor, Daly is never asking for a concession about the goodness (or not) of his mission. He is simply describing a Marine going about his business as honorably as possible under the circumstances; circumstances often complicated by ambiguity and degrees of chaos.
The only shortcoming in this book is the abruptness in which Daly begins the story --already in Ramadi-- and ends it. He makes brief references to the training that preceded his deployment when detailing the muscle memory that's part of proficiency with a weapons (in a potentially disastrous --but quite funny-- shotgun accident) and when describing the "orientation" command to a pre-mission briefing, I was left unsure if he felt properly prepared for his role as a leader in combat; this was a question I really wanted him to answer. Even though he painstakingly provides descriptions of military terms and hardware, the overall tone is surprisingly clinical. He is a skilled and detailed chronicler of events, but I wanted to hear more from Thomas Daly the writer and less from Thomas Daly the Marine. Neither of these detract seriously from the book. If you want a sense of what post-invasion combat operations in Iraq are all about, you'll gain plenty from this book.
And for that, I salute the author.