Mat Vance served as an US Army Scout, and spent over two years deployed in Iraq during some of the most chaotic phases of the Iraq War. However this isn't a memoir in the traditional sense, but instead a look at the more light-hearted (for a certain definition of light-hearted at least) aspects of his service career, giving an idea of what day-to-day life was like for the author.
The end result is a series of anecdotes connected by a chronological account of Vance's time in the military. Many focus on the developing bond between Vance and his fellow recruits, then with the members of his combat unit. Others look at the problems he had with some of his superiors, or with the men who came under his command. Many involve alcohol
Many military memoirs include similar anecdotes. What makes this book almost unique is that the author takes centre stage in almost all of his stories, whereas many authors describe the antics of other people or other units, while admitting one or two of their own. They probably don't portray the US army in the way its leaders would like, but
One section of Vance's experience does stand out as very different to other memoirs. The author joined an existing unit that had returned from Iraq, so was a novice joining a group of veterans. This inevitably leads to a certain amount of hazing, as the experienced troops tested their inexperienced colleagues - as the author says who could trust someone in battle if they couldn't put up with a bit of loss of dignity. However in this case the hazing turned persistently violent, not something I've encountered before. The impressive one gets is of a very stressed group of men, reacting to the lifting of the constant pressure of life in Iraq, and mistrustful of any newcomers.
Overall this is an entertaining read that paints a convincing picture of the US army in the middle of a long and often rather random war. Its not for the fainthearted, but that just added to the authenticity.
Author: Mat Vance
Publisher: Outskirts Press