Journalist Lewis (co-author: Sergeant Rex: The Unbreakable Bond Between a Marine and His Military Working Dog, 2011, etc.) highlights the soldier’s point of view in a tale from the front lines in Iraq.
In the spring of 2003, 60 soldiers were given orders to infiltrate Iraq from the northern border and negotiate the surrender of Iraqi forces, numbering nearly 100,000 in the area. Mostly British special services, with a few American and Australian soldiers in the mix, the men underwent three weeks of special desert training. While some of the older and/or more senior men had fought in the first Iraq war, most of the soldiers were completely new to both desert combat and working from vehicles. Lewis tells the story of the operation from the point of view of an older solider, Steve Grayling, though he acknowledges in the introduction that many names have been changed. Grayling was one of the few soldiers who had fought in Iraq before the Zero Six Bravo mission, and his narrative voice lends experience, gravitas and an appropriate amount of humor to the story. From the beginning, the operation was plagued with seemingly insurmountable problems. In addition to a serious training deficit, they were also dealing with lack of intel, little to no backup, a serious sleep deficit and supply constraints. Lewis does an excellent job of maintaining tension despite readers’ knowledge that the men survive. He vividly recounts the soldiers’ fatigue, stress and fear, arguing that many of the media reports, which often claimed desertion and cowardice, were simply wrong. Though acronyms and technical terms abound, they rarely interrupt the flow of the narrative, and Lewis includes a glossary to ease confusion.
While the book will appeal mostly to military history and combat tale buffs, the story is suspenseful and well-written enough for a wider audience to enjoy.