In 2006, 1st Lt. Wesley Gray was deployed as an U.S. Marine Corps military adviser to an Iraqi Army battalion in the Haditha Triad. For 210 days, he lived and fought beside Iraqi soldiers in the most dangerous and ruthless province of western Iraq. The province of Al-Anbar was filled with an insurgent population upset by a recent massacre of twenty-four men, women, and children shot at close range by U.S. Marines. They had been shot in retaliation for the death of one of their comrades in a roadside bombing.
In spite of the high tensions created by the shootings, Gray was able to form a bond with the Iraqis because he had an edge that very few U.S. service members possess – the ability to communicate in Iraqi Arabic. His language skills and his understanding of the culture led the Iraqi soldiers to call him a brother and fondly name him Jamal.
Gray draws on the brutally honest and detailed record he kept during his tour, including extensive interviews with Iraqi soldiers and citizens. He offers an all-inclusive portrait of the struggles of the Iraqi people to make their country a nation once again and includes a compelling report on the status and prospects of the U.S. government’s strategy for success in Iraq.
1st Lt. Gray’s stories range from hilarious to tear inducing. I have two favorites. First, the story about getting information on who plants improvised explosive devices (IED) is chilling. Here the Iraqis tell Gray we are going about getting information in the wrong way. We should give them 24 hours to tell us who planted the IED. He is told we should demolish a house if we fail to get info. If that doesn’t work we should then demolish a block of houses. Then we will have the information. Second is the story of Major Gaines using the bathroom outdoors with a “toilet kit” at night and his getting upset as the spotlights are turned on him.
Gray also outlines Iraqi history, attitudes about leadership, and the outlook for the future of a unified State in the absence of American troops. Most of his forecast is grim.
The book is a good read and would be a valuable addition to all community libraries. It gives a realistic insight into what the USA is still confronting. The book gives answers about Iraqi culture, military culture, and is filled with a war stories and some exciting activity.