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!

Battle for the City of the Dead: In the Shadow of the Golden Dome, Najaf, August 2004

 

Shiites and Sunnis

The year was 2004. During the spring and summer violence inundated the Iraqi nation. The nation’s Shiites and Sunnis headlined the sectarian fighting. The disbanding of the Army of Iraq by the United States Proconsul fueled the situation.

The results of the United States Proconsul’s actions were the infusing of many scores of angry young men into the streets of the population centers in Iraq. These men had no jobs skills, no jobs, and no prospects for employment.

These men were literally raging in the streets. The Shiite clergy fueled their anger which developed into a rage and campaign for jihad against the United States and all “occupation forces.”

Mahdi Militia

August 2004, Muqtada Al-Sadr, a Shiite cleric, called upon thousands of Mahdi Militia, his armed followers, and de facto private army, to resist the occupation. Fighting would break out in several locations. The holy city of Najaf, the site of the largest Moslem cemetery in the world, and the Imam Ali Mosque were major sites of fighting.

Fighting in 120-degree Heat

U.S. forces found themselves fighting in 120-degree heat. The battleground was through a tangle of crypts, mausoleums, and crumbling graves. The fight was rough. It had the religious zealots against the motivated and disciplined United States Army and Marine Corps troopers. It makes for a spellbinding account of Americans in battle.

The book itself is excellent. Dick Camp tells an exceptional story. The book’s quality is remarkable. I am referring to everything from the writing, a large number of high-quality color pictures, and even quality of the book’s paper. I recommend Battle for the City of the Dead: In the Shadow of the Golden Dome, Najaf, August 2004 by Dick Camp.

Battle for the City of the Dead: In the Shadow of the Golden Dome, Najaf, August 2004 by Dick Camp

9757715The year was 2004. During the spring and summer the Iraqi nation was overwhelmed with violence. The nation’s Shiites and Sunnis headlined the sectarian fighting. The Army of Iraq had been disbanded by the United States Proconsul.

The results of his actions were infusing a large number of angry young men into the streets of the population centers in Iraq. These men had no jobs skills, no jobs, and no prospects for employment.

These men were literally angry in the streets. The clergy fueled their anger which developed into a rage and campaign for jihad against the United States and all “occupation forces”.

By August 2004, Muqtada Al-Sadr, a Shiite cleric, called upon thousands of Mahdi Militia, his armed followers and de facto private army, to resist the occupation. Fighting would break out in several locations. The holy city of Najaf, the site of the largest Moslem cemetery in the world, and the Imam Ali Mosque were major sites of fighting. U.S. forces found themselves fighting in 120-degree heat. The battleground was through a tangle of crypts, mausoleums, and crumbling graves. The fight was rough. It had the religious zealots against the motivated and disciplined United States Army and Marine Corps troopers. It makes for a spellbinding account of Americans in battle.

The book itself is excellent. Dick Camp tells an excellent story. The quality of the book is remarkable. I am referring to everything from the writing, the large amount of high quality color pictures, and even quality of the paper the book on which the book is printed.


Jimmie Aaron Kepler is a novelist, poet, book reviewer, and award-winning short story writer. His work has appeared in over twenty venues, including Bewildering Stories and Beyond Imagination. When not writing each morning at his favorite coffee house, he supports his writing, reading, and book reviewing habit working as an IT application support analyst. He is a former Captain in the US Army. Kepler’s Military History Book Reviews was named a 100 best blogs for history buffs.

Never Surrender: A Soldier’s Journey to the Crossroads of Faith and Freedom by LTG (Ret.) William G. Boykin and Lynn Vincent

Few people have been involved in as many significant US military operations over the past three decades as has LTG (ret.) William G. “Jerry” Boykin. From being a founding member of the Delta Force to commanding all US Army Special Forces he shows that a person can be a committed Christian and a soldier.

Co-written by New York Times best-selling author Lynn Vincent, Never Surrender: A Soldier’s Journey to the Crossroads of Faith and Freedom gets your interest on page one and keeps it through the entire book. The book’s structure helps with the presentation. It is has thirteen sections. Each part covers one of the stages of Jerry Boykin’s life or a major US operation where he had involvement. Each section is divided into short, action-packed chapters.

The book tells story after story of how important military operations went down. The Iran Hostage Crisis, Sudan, Grenada, Panama, Waco and the Branch Davidians, Columbia, Somalia, the Balkans and more give great insight into contemporary US military history.

Jerry Boykin is a born-again Christian. The role of his faith is very tastefully woven into each story. You will not feel preached at, but rather have an appreciation of how his belief in God sustained and directed him through the years.

One of my favorite stories in the book involved Panama, the playing of loud, rock music and Manuel Noriega. The media thought the US Army was using the loud music as a psychological weapon against Noriega. The original intent of the music was to keep the media from being able to eavesdrop on the conversations between Boykin and the Vatican embassy where Noriega was hold-up.

The most insightful section was in Mogadishu, Somalia. It gives the real story that the movie Blackhawk Down omits. Boykin was the leader of the mission. He had to make the tough decision of leaving a man down to save others. He said that was the worst thing he has ever experienced.

Boykin has never been afraid to admit he is a Christian. Some things he said during the most recent war in Iraq upset people. He stated that he believed God put George Bush in the White House. The news media quoted that statement. What the media didn’t quote was that he continued by saying God put Bill Clinton and every other American leader in their positions. Boykin was beaten up in the press over this. He was completely exonerated by internal military investigations.

I highly recommend the book. It provides some fascinating insight into military tactics and life behind the scenes of Delta Force.

Love My Rifle More Than You by Kayla Williams

Love My Rifle More Than You by Kayla Williams is about being a young female in the US Army and her deployment to Iraq for a year with the 101st Airborne.

Kayla Williams was an Arabic linguist. Thirty-four years ago, I came off active duty as an US Army officer. Ms. Williams’s book made me reflect back to all the women soldiers I worked with, lead, and knew.

This is a good military memoir. While grit and rough language are on almost every page, what shines through is an intelligent young woman serving her country and putting up with all a woman experiences in the military. It appears little has change since back in my day.

We learn of her role as an Arabic linguist. She tells us how she feels her skills could have been used better with direct contact with the population as oppose to routine intelligence gathering. Particularly interesting are her experiences with leadership while in Iraq as well as her questioning the war in Iraq’s day-to-day conduct without looking at the logic and underlying rationale.

On the light side – her tale of the birth control glasses is funny, but true. Put those military black framed Drew Carey or Woody Allen styled glasses on any man or woman and instantly they are effective birth control. Why? They make people unattractive thus scaring off members of the opposite sex. It is a book worth reading.

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.