An account of the horrendous October 2009 attack on the American Combat Outpost Keating in Afghanistan, told in a frank, engaging vernacular by the staff sergeant and Medal of Honor winner.
The attack by the Taliban on Keating took the lives of eight Americans and countless Afghans, and it rendered numerous wounded. However, as Romesha notes in his character-driven narrative, it was hardly a surprise enemy move. Having joined the Army from his graduating class in Lake City, California, in 1999, following his two older brothers, Romesha became a commander of the Black Knight Troop’s Red Platoon, which was eventually sent to the most remote and dangerous outpost in Nuristan, less than 20 miles from the Pakistan border. The location of the fort defied tactical logic: rather than firing down at the enemy from the top of the hill, Keating was a target at the base of steep mountains whose ridgelines concealed attack points behind thick trees and boulders. It was the spectacularly ill-planned layout of the fort—“so breathtakingly open to plunging fire that massive amounts of artillery and airpower would be required to defend it”—that allowed the Taliban to observe in detail the movements and patterns of the American scouts, young men who were trained in reconnaissance, countersurveillance, and navigation. Romesha lovingly describes this cohort as “exceptionally ordinary men who were put to an extraordinary test.” The author devotes the narrative to building character studies of his troop, which he carefully “stacked” with the most determined, steely, physically fit, and battle-tested soldiers, headed by the very capable Lt. Andrew Bundermann. When the assault came at dawn, the soldiers took up their weapons and positions dutifully and with fervor, though they were stunningly outnumbered and nearly overrun until air support arrived hours later. The book is riveting in its authentic detail, right down to the determined attempts to recover American bodies before the Taliban could.
Romesha ably captures the daily dangers faced by these courageous American soldiers in Afghanistan.