A Nightmare’s Prayer

A Memoir

I highly recommend “A Nightmare’s Prayer” by Mike Franzak. It is a wonderful memoir of the early days of the Afghanistan campaign. You get the feeling you are with him as you go through the deployment from Yuma, AZ to Bagram.

I was shocked to learn that the Harrier aircraft cannot take off vertically about 5,000 feet elevation. His description of the scary take off from Cherry Point, North Carolina had the hair standing up on the back of my neck.

Blues Brothers Call Signs

I loved the Blues Brothers call signs of Jake, Elwood, Blues, and Joliet.

Harrier Aircraft’s Achilles Heal

The information that the Harrier Aircraft struggled to stay above 400 Kilometers Per Hour (KPH) with a load and at altitude had me questioning the wisdom of using the aircraft in this theater and wondering why it had ever been added to the arsenal. The book provides a profound reminder of how lethal mines are … and how they don’t know who they are killing.

I shook my head at the policymakers since the 400 KPH speed is the maneuver speed needed to avoid the Surface to Air Missiles (SAM). When reading the book I jotted down a couple of things that caught my attention. First was “The generals and policymakers had grown so risk-averse, they tied the hands of those charged with enforcing the policies.” The second was when he was landing at night and wrote, “I saw the base, but not the runway…” That was pretty profound. The tiny IR lights had been obscured by the generator-powered lights of Bagram Air Base. So much for night light security.

Prayers and Promises

The chapter Prayers and Promises is riveting, heart-pounding and action-packed. And you too will see after reading that chapter that “This time God had answered a Nightmare’s Prayer.”

The book is wonderful. It makes a lasting contribution to the literature and history of the Afghanistan War. You get Mike Franzak’s story. And the story is gripping. It will have you cheering the Nightmare’s actions and shaking your head at the big picture decision makers. Mike Franzak’s memoir will grip you and hold your interest. It will have you turning page after page. You get a nice picture of the soldier on the ground form the pilots point of view. Bravo Lt.Col (Ret) Mike Franzak for a telling your story.

Recommended for all military history buffs and aviation buffs.  Read and reviewed by Jimmie A. Kepler.

Predator: The Remote-Control Air War Over Iraq and Afghanistan: A Pilot’s Story

A Great Story

Wow! This is one well-written book. The story is well told. The book is surprisingly interesting exceeding my expectations.

Flying Airplanes From Half a World Away

My thought going in is a book about flying remote control airplanes from half a world away? No way this could be interesting. What I found was a compelling story that kept my interest and had me viewing modern warfare through a new set of eyes … and I am a former US Army officer! The book will make an amazing movie.


You travel with Gen-X author Matt Martin from his graduation at Purdue University and commissioning as a second lieutenant in the US Air Force through his navigator training and his RC-135 crew experience. We see how his passion to pilot an aircraft fly leads him to apply for the Predator.

The Stories Are Amazing

The stories are amazing. I laughed when his growing up on a farm experience lead him to name the suspicious object between the two builds as a manure pile that was generating heat. The chases of the green Toyota was both educational and spellbinding. The story of the rocket man and their motivation to get the bad guys had me turning each page.


I loved the chapter with the Peugeot chase and surveillance, especially with the Abrams Tank pointing its main gun at the driver. In another chapter, I was amazed when they blew off the front end of the vehicle with the machine gun and gunner surviving. The story of the double air strike’s success in taking out the mortar crew made me glad I am no longer a mortar platoon leader as I was 40 years ago!

Warfare Has Changed

I enjoyed the human side of the stories in the book. You realize how warfare has changed. You realize people go to war for their shift and then go home at the end of their workday. You learn how both restrictive the rules were on the US and yet see how hard we work to protect the innocent.

Helps Explain Both Iraq and Afghanistan

Lt. Col. Martin gives some of the best historical backgrounds on the conflict I have read. It helps explain both Iraq and Afghanistan. He also looks at the morality of war in a very personal way that helps show the human side of our military. The book deserves more attention as it is a significant contribution to the literature of modern warfare.


When I first received the book to review my first thought was we are too close to the war. I highly recommend the book giving it five out of five stars.


You will not be disappointed when you read “Predator: The Remote-Control Air War Over Iraq and Afghanistan: A Pilot’s Story” by Matt J. Martin.

A Few Typos

The book has a few typos that a forward explains. They did not impact my enjoyment of the book. It looks like “quarters” being replaced with “Bobby” … so you have the word “headBobby” instead of headquarters a few times as well a “quarters” being replaced with “Bobby.” It was no big deal. Well done!

Exit Plan by Mike Sixsmith

Exit PlanIt took me a several chapters to get into “Exit Plan” by Mike Sixsmith. My ignorance of Arab names, customs and the geography became apparent when I started reading the book. This contributed to my original lack of understanding of what was taking place and my difficulty of initially getting into the book.  I am glad I stayed the course. Reading the book enlightened me in these areas.
It is apparent author Mike Sixsmith has a strong personal back in the Middle East. His military, intelligence community, and “been there” back ground are captured on the pages of the book. He does an amazing job of painting descriptions of the various countries. The detail made me feel as if I were there.
The longer I read, the more difficult I found to put the book down. The author has you reliving and walking the pages of the last dozen year’s history. Extremism and Jihadism are explained in a way where I could see how people might get pulled into their sphere. The complexity of the issues embraced give insight into the politics and history of the region.
Mike Sixsmith was written a very detailed, creative work that adds a British element to the assault on the World Trade Center in New York City.  You journey into the thoughts and learn the motivations of Shahid Al Sheehi. He is a British Muslim. You share his experience as he moves through his personal spiritual pilgrimage at a London mosque to his metamorphosis as a Jihad terrorist. You join with M16 agent whose is hot on his trail to thwart any more disaster. His name is Bill Sloan.
Whether on the streets of London, in the caves of Tora Bora in eastern Afghanistan, or the creek of Dubai, the action continues building reaching a fiery confrontation in Pakistan. The book is for anyone who loves military-political thrillers. If you read the first twenty-five pages, you will be hooked.

Poem: All Across The United States

All Across The United States

“Why are we still over there?”
I asked the Commander-in-Chief.
“Why are still in Afghanistan?
With Osama bin Laden dead,”
The Media worship our Leader.
While the FOX waits for him to slip.
“I want truthful answers,
No more straddling the fence,
The political jargon has to go,
I need words that make sense.”

“Keep calm, you just don’t understand,”
With irritation the President replied,
“You know it’s my predecessors fault,
And the Republican Congress’ too,
George W. blamed Presidents Clinton, Reagan,
And even President Number Forty-One.
That means the father, received blame from the son!”

All across the United States,
The Americans could make no sense.
Less than one percent serve in the military,
While the politicians straddle the fence!

The four horsemen of the apocalypse,
Ride above in the clouds.
As the Predators fly overhead.
They rain death from the sky!

© 2012
Jimmie A. Kepler

Poem: War is Not Far

War is Not Fair

Do not mourn, soldier, for war is not fair.
A large IED is planted by the roadside.
It waits patiently for a Humvee or a Bradley.
Caring not who is inside or whose life will be destroyed.
It cares not that you are there as a volunteer trying to give them a better life.

Do not mourn, family, for war is not fair.
The IED by the roadside blows up the Humvee or Bradley.
Bits of metal, flesh, smoke, and stench fill the air.
The destruction rains not caring who is destroyed.
It cares not that it kills, cripples, breaks hearts, and destroys families.

Do not mourn, parents, for war is not fair.
The IED destroys the dreams you had for your children.
George W. Bush took us there and Barack H. Obama keeps us there.
Caring not who is serving or whose life is being destroyed.
The politics of war is most unkind.

© Jimmie A. Kepler 2009
Originally published in:

Into the Viper’s Nest: The First Pivotal Battle of the Afghan War by Stephen Grey

“Into the Viper’s Nest: The First Pivotal Battle of the Afghan War” by Stephen Grey is the story of American and Afghan forces cooperation in dealing with the Taliban stronghold on southern Afghanistan. It details the vivid three-day battle for the Taliban stronghold of Musa Qala. The battle started on 7 December 2007 This is an excellent, well-written book.  Grey skillfully tells the story of how American, British, and Afghan forces took the fight to the Taliban in 2007.

The town of Musa Qala was a notorious Taliban stronghold. This was the location chosen for everything to change. A local leader decided he was going to leave the Taliban. He was joining the Hamid Karzai’s government. This defection needed coalition protection.

Stephen Grey is an excellent writer. He captures all phases of this story. He covers the discussions between President Karzai and coalition leaders. He covers the particulars of the deadly combat to wrest control of Musa Qala from the hands of the Taliban. He paints a picture of International cooperation as he tells the story through the words of the British, Afghani, and American men who were there. The publisher did an excellent job with eight pages of graphics and charts to showing systematically how the battle took place.

I highly recommend this book for any reader looking for a tactical-level viewpoint on the Afghan War. Anyone interested in Afghanistan and the war against the Taliban will benefit from reading the book. I recommend for community and university libraries as well as the personal libraries of all military historians. This is the best I have read on United States involvement in Afghanistan.