This book benefits greatly from the length of Moore’s front line service with the Rangers, which lasted for ten years from 2001 until he was wounded in 2011. As a result he witnessed how the nature of the war changed over that key decade, from the initial wars to topple the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, to the start of the insurgencies in both countries and the US response. We also get to see how the US military’s strategy in both countries evolved over this period, and in particular how the Rangers altered their tactics. Two things stand out here – the first is the switch from noisy operations to much more effective silent infiltrations, where the aim was to capture your targets before they even knew they were under attack. The second was the increase in the pace of operations, from a mission every few days to several missions per day. One of the interesting themes of the book is the author’s willingness to learn – both as part of the unit and as an individual. His account of his first operation as a platoon sergeant thus focuses on the mistakes he believes he made (having to make the transition from someone who led from the front into someone who had to hang back to coordinate the operation and take some of the burden off the unit commander).
Moore (and Bahmanyar) have produced a very atmospheric book. You get a real feel for what it was like to patrol in the Afghan mountains, operating along narrow mountain trails or into the woods, camping in the mountains and spending long periods away from base, as well as the more familiar urban battles in Iraq, with the regular assaults on domestic compounds that also made perfected serviceable mini-fortresses. Moore is honest about his attitude to combat, expressing his disappointment when early deployments were quiet, and general excitement about the potential for fire fights (the sort of thing that attracted him to the Rangers in the first place after all!), while being willing to acknowledge the positive nature of the changes the Rangers went through in this decade, which he considers to have made them much more effective.
Moore’s time with the Rangers ended on a rather downbeat note. First he was nearby when a Chinock was shot down with the loss of everyone on board, and had to take command of the recovery operation. Next he was shot three times during a fairly standard raid – the first time he had actually been wounded in combat in a decade of combat. Although he largely recovered from these wounds, they had just enough of an impact on his fitness to prevent him from remaining on combat operations. A brief attempt to remain with the Rangers but in a more administrative role didn’t work out, and he had to leave two years after being wounded. Despite this ending, this is an enjoyable, atmospheric book, and one of the best memoirs from the War on Terror that I have read.
Part One: Private First Class and Specialist
1 – A Long Time Ago in a World Far, Far Away, 2001
2 – Operation Endure This: Afghanistan, 2002
3 – First Blood: Iraq, 2003
Part Two: Sergeant – Team Leader
4 – Now is the Winter of our Discontent: The Winter Surge in Afghanistan, 2003
5 – Springtime for Hussein and Iraq: The Spring Surge, 2004
6 – Fast and Furious: Mosul Part One, Iraq, 2004
Part Three: Staff Sergeant – Squad Leader
7 – Through the Looking Glass: Afghanistan, 2005
8 – Fast and Less Furious: Mosul Part Two, Iraq, 2006
9 – Not Quite the Titanic Boat Operations: Ramadi, Iraq, 2006-2007
10 – Tiptoe Through the Deadly Tulips: Mosul Part Three, Iraq, 2008
Part Four: Sergeant First Class – Platoon Sergeant
11 – Don’t Lead from the Front, Platoon Sergeant! Afghanistan, 2009-2010
12 – Bad Santa: Afghanistan, 2010
13 – Ragnarok, the Day of Reckoning: Afghanistan, 2011
14 – From Trigger Puller to Pencil Pusher: Afghanistan, 2012-2013
Author: Nicholas Moore & Mir Bahmanyar