This book truly is a tale of leadership in a modern conflict. Major Russell Lewis MC's story of his command of B Company, 2nd Battallion the Parachute Regiment takes us through the sense of responsibility, the loneliness of command, the frustrations of orders being forced upon a commander on the ground and the terrible sense of grief at the loss of some very young and hugely dedicated soldiers under his command.
The six months spent by the 200 strong company of Paras, Royal Marines forming a Viking Troop and a handful of Gunners from 7 Royal Horse Artillery at Forward Operating Base Inkerman, one of the most notorious, almost infamous FOBs in the Sangin valley had moments of great triumph and a real sense of progress, punctuated by utter incredulity at the actions of the Taliban, clearly despised by the locals, but who were powerless to resist the actions of what would pass for protectionist gangsters in any other context.
Major Lewis' account delivers you right into the sweltering heat and dust of deeply rural Afghanistan, amongst the ancient compounds and huts, the lush irrigated poppy and wheat fields criss crossed by the ingenious diversionary ditches to feed the crops with river water rich in alluvium, out right into the oppressive heat of the open desert.
The atmosphere of the Green Zone just outside the forward operating base permeates Major Lewis' narrative, in his highly personal accounts of the commander's view throughout the deployment, and you really are delivered right into the tension and oppressive atmosphere in Helmand province.
The tales of combat, of near daily contacts with Taliban fighters determined to disrupt the work of the Battalion in the province are told exceptionally matter-of-factly, and the grim reality of the conflict is brought home in several incidents throughout the Company's deployment to FOB Inkerman.
Major Lewis' style is very personal and he often talks of how he feels about the situation on the ground in his area of responsibility. Not only that, but we are given a great insight into his own feelings as a soldier deployed half way around the world, away from home and his own home comforts. We are also given glimpses of his personal feelings of responsibility towards his troops, about the relationships between him and his soldiers, from the most junior private to highly experienced Company Sergeant-Majors.
Any aspiring leader of men in all capacities would be highly recommended to give this account a very careful read and serious reflection on the challenges faced by a commander in that situation.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, as it is a great account from a very personal perspective of someone in a position of significant responsibility, with a touchingly human aspect that makes it a hugely engrossing and absorbing read. You are left feeling a deep sense of respect for the courage of these young men who are going out, placing their lives on the line every day, fighting and dying for those they hold closest, their fellow soldiers.
Company Commander by Major Russell Lewis MC published by Virgin Books
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