In this memoir, Hill, having reached a dead end as a radio newsreader, recalls rejoining the Army, this time as a journalist in the Combat Camera Team.
Hill’s parents weren’t happy to hear he was being sent to Afghanistan, but Hill assured them he would be safe. This was 2011, and the insurgents were taking lives, as Hill found out when he and his Combat Camera Team—female photographer Ali and cameraman Russ—arrived in country. Stationed at Camp Bastion, Hill and his team learned that their job was not to chronicle the war but to give the impression that things were improving. They were also asked to chaperone civilian journalists and broadcasters who visited the war-torn country in search of stories. Although he didn’t see combat, Hill saw the aftereffects of battle; here, he tries to process what he witnessed. He also had to deal with an acronym- and euphemism-happy military bureaucracy. Although about a current war, Hill’s book has its roots in World War II service stories such as Evelyn Waugh’s Put Out More Flags (1942) and Marion Hargrove’s See Here, Private Hargrove (1944). Since he didn’t see combat, the book is more about the tedium of living on a base that was always under the threat of attack. Even though the war was winding down, the casualty count continued to mount, which is the real point of the book. Hill, who graduated from Sandhurst Military Academy, makes for an engaging, self-effacing narrator, filling his story with all sorts of fascinating details about a soldier’s life in Afghanistan, such as the facts that Lee Child’s Jack Reacher thrillers were library favorites and the military brass preferred to euphemize drones as “remotely piloted air systems.”
Although largely plotless and somewhat rambling, Hill’s memoir nevertheless manages to enlighten and entertain due to the deftness of his observations.