Andrew Milburn
ARRSE Rating
5 Mushroom Heads
The author, an American, was educated at St Paul's School (on of the best English public schools), studied philosophy at UCL, law at Westminster and then enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. As a private soldier. Demanding to join the infantry.

Clearly not a typical entrant to the USMC, he was eventually commissioned and served in Mogadishu, Iraq and Afghanistan. He left the Marines in 2019, his last job being the Chief of Staff of Special Operations Command.

The author has a story to tell, and this is it. The prose is light, descriptive and engaging with, showing perhaps his English education, a dry humour and tendency to understate. It is eminently readable and as jargon and acronym free as any book dealing with the military can be. The vignettes of his colleagues are deft and cliché free. It is a pleasure to read.

In the highly competitive environment of USMC Infantry he rose to command a battalion and beyond. At every level of command he was tested in combat and proven highly competent. His insights of fear, leadership and fatigue are candid but restrained and the toll on him understated – very English. At one point as the commander of seven advisers to an Iraqi battalion he had to personally lead every building entry. Pretty punchy stuff for a major.

The author pulls no punches in his description of the mess of Iraq; the constant disconnects between orders and reality: “Don’t expose yourself but get things done.” The higher military and political command echelons do not come out of this well. That may be a shock to no-one, but the author’s clear vision and dry prose make his points forcefully.

This book is quite simply excellent. Buy two copies; read the first yourself and send the other to your MP to remind them of what really happens when politicians decide to go to war.

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