Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Ramadi Declassified: A Book Review

It's been a while since I have agreed to do a book review, and it isn't for lack of material.  I literally receive at least one request per day to review a new book or two -- but truth of the matter is, I just don't have a lot of time.  To say things are a little crazy around here is a massive understatement.  Between the 5 boys, the ADHD that runs through their veins, the dog, the toddler, and the baby... then throw in homeschool, chores, church responsibilities, Army stress, and everything else... you get out of control chaos.  In fact, my husband had a four day weekend these last few days and he told me he couldn't wait to go back to work to get a "break" from the stresses of our household.  And he's a rear-detachment commander.  What does that say about this place?

I try to maintain some level of order.  I really do.  And when I can't, I put on my headphones, put on an audio book and ignore everyone.  So I DO get a long of reading in... just not technically "reading".  Audio is my thing these days.  My only way to escape this circus of my own making and still get some housework done.

I love being a mom.  I really do.

Anyway, about a month ago, I got another request to review a new novel called Ramadi Declassified, by Colonel Anthony E. Deane.  I almost skipped right past it, because you know, the time issue.  But I read the brief synopsis and decided I would try to give it a go.  I am really glad I did!

I read (or listen) to A LOT of military books.  I may not be a service member myself (I actually almost enlisted when I was in college, but I couldn't get my run in because of my breathing -- which I later discovered was asthma and they probably wouldn't have taken me anyway... ), BUT I have always loved everything about the military and the lifestyle.  So I live vicariously though my husband, our community, and educating myself through literature and keeping up with current events through military publications.

The majority of the military books I have read have been written by previously enlisted men.  They love to write about the adventure, the thrills, the dangers, and the unbreakable bonds of friendship and brotherhood they find among the amazing men they serve with.  Also, they don't particularly like the majority of officers and their leadership, for the most part, and have no qualms about letting the world know that fact. Being the wife of an officer myself, I get a little tired of reading about poor leadership... not because I don't believe them, but because I DO! "Toxic leaders" are a HUGE pet peeve of mine and it makes me REALLY angry! And it's not only because it's in a book and I am relating to their story, but because to me, it's personal, it's part of our life too.  I can't tell you how many times I want to march right over to my husband's office and tell off some Captain D-Bag or Major Jerk for being so horrible.  But I don't.  I may be a little crazy, but I'm still classy... I just tell them off from a distance, where they can't hear me.

Grrrrr....

Moving on....

Now, books actually written by officers are few and far between.  I don't know why, they just are.  Of all the military books I have read, only FOUR were written by officers.  Two of them, were so full of self-righteousness and self-praise I could hardly stomach all the wonderfulness of these men.  It was so off-putting.  However, on the opposite end of the spectrum, the other two were some of the best military books I have ever read.  Ramadi Declassified, is one of those two.

Ramadi Declassified: A Roadmap to Peace in the Most Dangerous City in Iraq, is the first hand account of Colonel Anthony E. Deane, who is now retired, and his experiences, thoughts, and insights of what happened in Ramadi back in 2006.  This book is not only well written and composed, but the narrative is top notch.  I really felt like I was being taken along for a ride in this real-life scary adventure.  What impressed me the most was Col. Deane's humility.  He took very little credit for anything, but at the same time, the reader knew very well he was the one in charge.  He made sure the men serving with him got the credit they deserved for their heroism, bravery, ideas, and their deeds. He didn't have to tell me how wonderful he was, I could tell by the way he serves and cares for others that he truly is a good man.

Col. Deane, was and is an amazing leader with a great sense of humor.  He shares so much wisdom and insight, I actually read the book with a highlighter and shared a ton of stuff with my husband.  And often times, I found myself laughing out loud at some of his subtle one-liners. He also has a great love and respect for the men and women he served with and it reflects in the way he talks about them in his story.  He has a deep understanding that we are only as good and awesome as those around us, the people we love and work with everyday. That if we want to rise above and be a great leader, it is only truly accomplished by raising up those around us as well.

You know, they say that the Military family lives in a relatively a small world.  And the more years go by the more I realize how true that is.  We met people all the time that we have mutual friends with, or we run into people who know my husband's Dad or his brother. It's actually pretty cool and a lot of fun.  This is, however, the first time, I have sat down to read a book and have someone I KNOW pop up in the story!

Those of you who attended ROTC with my husband, one of our beloved Utah State ROTC cadre stars in this book.  I'm not telling who though!  You have to buy the book and read it to find out who.  But I'll give you a hint, despite being one of the scariest, he was also one of the cadet's favorites and most beloved.  My husband still talks about the time he smoked the Utah State's Girl's Volleyball team... good times.  Needless to say, I was absolutely THRILLED to read about his pre-ROTC cavalry adventures.

Col. Deane included LOTS of background and history to his narrative which helps the reader not only understand what is going on in the middle east, but WHY it is going on and WHY they do the things the do.  Which is the most important information to know when trying to win this war.  Know thy enemy, and all that.  What I really liked is that I felt I was reading a history book, but at the same time seeing history through the eyes of someone who was there and living it.  The book was thrilling, and exciting, and stressful (Military books always stress me out) but at the same time teaching history on a personal level and drawing conclusions based on personal experience and facts.

There is a saying that I hear a lot in the military community: "We fight not because we love war, we fight because we love peace."  Col. Deane's narrative is not a man who loves the hunt and a good shoot up.  Col. Deane is a man who fights for peace -- not just for us, but for those people over in Iraq who can't fight for themselves without the help of those who are stronger and better trained. He believes in good.  He believes that with understanding of the past and present, it is possible for a better future for the people of Iraq and other areas there in the middle east.  I love his optimism and attitude.

I also appreciate his honesty.  He tells it how it is.  Sadly, the majority of American's have NO IDEA what is going on over there.  They read their Facebook feed of their favorite biased news, and tout they have "done their research" and everyone else is ignorant.  If one really wants to know the truth, they need to pick up first accounts like Ramadi Declassified and read about the men and women that were there, that know what is going one.  That have seen things so horrific the news stations refuse to cover it.

Col. Deane understands politics and how they work to the benefits of those in power.  Staying classy all the way, he describes how politics are deeply influencing and in most cases causing many of the problems the military faces.  He also offers up his own ideas and some solutions.

Ramadi Declassified is a must read for everyone who seeks some understanding and truth about what's going on in the world.  We can only hope for a better future when we come to understand the hard truths of the past. I think everyone who seeks to be a better leader politically or militarily needs to pick up this book and read it as well... like me, with a highlighter.

Ramadi Declassified is thrilling, suspenseful, at times funny, and as an Army wife I found it very personal and at times tragic and sad.  But I feel smarter and more informed for having read it, and as soon as I can find it on Audiobook, I am having my husband read it too.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some proverbial whip-cracking to do in the next room... Kids Gone Wild is in full swing in the living room and there is a ton of work still to be done today!

-Cat




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