Company Commander, Major Russell Lewis MC

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Details

Title: Company Commander
Author: Major Russell Lewis MC
Publisher: Virgin Books
Publication date: 2012 (edition read published 2013)
Pages: 402
ISBN: 9780753540312

Review

April 2008. 2 PARA Battlegroup is deployed to Afghanistan, in the Sangin Area. ‘Company Commander’ is the personal story of Major Russell Lewis, Commander of B Company, and the story of the troops under his command. It is the riveting insight into the moment-to-moment changes of a modern battlefield, rapid leadership decisions made under fire, and the intense pressure placed on both Officer and Soldier. A combined telling of the pressures of command, the bravery of the British soldier - with the inevitable humour that follows - and simple human emotion, ‘Company Commander’ is a detailed and thought-provoking read for officers, soldiers and academics alike.

Written in the format of diary entries, the book is easily digested in small sections - making it perfect for those with little precious time for study (looking at you, new platoon and troop commanders) - succinctly and consistently getting the key information across, without neglecting the detail. It also becomes apparent to the reader that the battlefield can be as boring as it is dangerous; with periods of several days of inactivity. The author should be commended for being able to show this often overlooked aspect of modern conflict and still keep the reader riveted page after page.

Throughout the text, the author expertly conveys the human element of war. As is to be expected in conflict, casualties are taken. What Major Lewis does repeatedly is show how quickly the atmosphere of the battlefield changes, and just how fast things can go south. As noted, though, the whole atmosphere of the text can change in just a few lines. What is starts as a routine patrol quickly changes into an unfortunately tragic contact; a section focussed on the efforts of soldiers to cope with this blatantly emotional time changes face, and the inevitable and famous army humour comes to the fore. Without giving too much away, if you’re ever in Afghanistan just keep an eye out for a goat wearing Danish Army socks.

Final comments

One thing which should be noted: this is not a study of Britain’s fourth war in Afghanistan. It does not seek to analyse tactical decisions, the campaign, or pursue a political agenda. It matter-of-factly tells the reader the events of the day. It is then up to the reader to absorb and comprehend the scenario. What is aims to do, and achieves perfectly, is convey a personal story - the story of an officer in the field, the men under his command and the split-second decisions taken under fire. I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the story-telling of conflict, especially from a commander’s point of view.
 

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