Wearing the Green Beret (2011) by Jake Olafsen

Discussion in 'The Book Club' started by exspy, Nov 9, 2012.

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  1. Wearing the Green Beret
    ISBN 978-0-7710-6852-2

    Jake Olafsen is a Canadian from British Columbia who enlisted in the Royal Marines during the summer of 2005. After his training he served two combat tours in Afghanistan. Upon completing his five years he took his separation and returned to Canada.

    The book is divided into two parts; the first dealing with his commando training and the second with his operational service. While undergoing his 30 weeks training at Lympstone Olafsen kept notes. He details what training he and his troop were undergoing week by week along with some of the training methods used by the Corps. While beatings were out, and lamented by his troop Sergeant, the front leaning rest and squatting with one's thighs parallel to the ground with the arms straight out, were not. Nor was hanging from the rafters like a fruit bat.

    From the first two weeks billeted in the foundation block until the passing out parade where the 'nods' are addressed as Marines for the first time, Olafsen relates the story of his training with easily read clarity, including the personal weaknesses he had to overcome in order to finish.

    After training Olafsen was drafted to 45 Commando in Arbroath and posted to Zulu Company. The Commando was preparing for Herrick 5 and Camp Bastion. He skips over most of the preparations and the daily life in a Commando and goes straight to his time on operations. 45 Commando was divided up between Bagram airfield, guard duty at Camp Bastion, and operations at Garmsir in southern Helmand province.

    Those looking for a detailed overview of what the Commando did during Herrick 5 will be disappointed as this is a personal account of one Marine's participation in the war from his perspective. No officers or senior NCO's are mentioned. In fact very few other Marines are mentioned, even by nickname. But this does not detract from the story. Lots of action and explosions with none of the days of boredom. And, for some reason, everywhere he serves he keeps running into other serving Canadians.

    This is as far in the book as I've got, and I've only been reading it for a week. So far it hasn't disappointed but, again, there isn't anything that I haven't heard before. Well, maybe some of the horrors of the time spent at Lympstone, which Olafsen admits he hated. I mean, washing and drying clothes and bedding by hand in this day and age? He does find help, however. He gets to know a nod named Steve who seemed to be getting more sleep than the rest of them. Turns out that Steve had been through the entire 30 week programme previously but was binned during the final week. Steve taught Olafsen all of the tricks (like where there were unused washers and dryers available).

    Overall, it's a thumbs up. One man's view of his war, as he saw it.


    Attached Files:

  2. wet_blobby

    wet_blobby War Hero Moderator

    Fruit bats..... How awful.
  3. So, after a brief delay, I've finally finished the book. I have to make one correction about Olafsen's service; he actually served four years rather than five.

    During his first Herrick tour with Zulu Company, 45 Commando, he took part in the battle of Jugroom Fort. He describes the battle as being comprised of three phases with an option for a fourth based on the commander's decision. The first three phases were conducted during the night and succeeded without any allied casualties. It was the optional fourth phase, an infantry attack against the strong point conducted in broad daylight, that resulted in the company incurring five casualties.

    After returning to England, he was sent to Lympstone and trained as a mortar number then assigned to 40 Commando in Taunton. 40 Commando was working up for their upcoming Herrick VII deployment. He went to Afghanistan a second time with only a six month break between his tours. The area for this deployment was in northern Helmand, but the operations and daily routine were much the same.

    After returning to England again, he stayed with 40 Commando until his discharge. He took part in Operation Taurus 09 which was a four month deployment on HMS Ocean from Britain through the Med, the Suez Canal, the Indian Ocean to Brunei. The Commandos make numerous amphibious landings in allied countries along the way working with Turks, Saudis, Malays, and Bruneian.

    What was most interesting to me however, is how the weaponry has changed since my time, which was the 60's, 70's and early 80's. During the Falklands War a Javelin was an air defence missile. For the life of me I couldn't understand why the Marines were firing Javelin AD missiles at Taliban strong points. More the fool I when I finally did some research and discovered what a dinosaur I was. Grenade machine guns, wimiks, Mastiffs and all manner of new kit. Quite the eye-opener. As was the amount of automatic fire used. It seems that non-stop fire from all weapons is the new norm. Still, there were snipers deployed and the continuing need for trained shots.

    There is also the use of unlimited, on-call air power, but I'll leave that for those who wish to read about it themselves.

    Olafsen did not like the soldiers of the British Army when he had to work with them, for a number of reasons. 1) Short falling sabot from artillery star shells landing on the Marine's mortar position and the ensuing argument about the shell trajectories over the radio with the RA gunners. 2) The Marine mortar section, in British uniform and set up beside a Mastiff, being taken under fire in daylight from an Army grenade launch gunner thinking the Marines were Taliban. 3) A member of the Parachute Regiment firing a live LAW rocket at the mortar TAC CP in FOB Gibraltar. 4) A soldier wandering out of the night defensive position in the middle of the desert to relieve himself, getting lost, and having the entire Mobile Group compromise its security in order to retrieve him. Olafsen puts it all down to a lack of fire discipline, and discipline in general, a characteristic which he attributes to the Army.

    Would I recommend it? Read it from your library first. If it's something that you think your collection needs then by all means, get it. But with such a dearth of good reminisces from RM's in general I think it would fill a gap in anyone's collection.

  4. Dan,

    Thank you for spending the time to review my book and I think you did a fine job summarizing it. And you are right about many things in your review. Unlimited, on call air power is the norm and overwhelming fire support is central to any plan out there now. Very hard on the taxpayers treasure chest, but I'm sure it results in fewer good-guy casualties.

    Yes, very few other marines are mentioned in my book and you will notice there is almost no dialogue. I found a lot of people didn't want to be mentioned in the book and some didn't mind so I pretty much adopted a blanket policy that little was said about others. (Army excluded!) All of the names that are in there are made up, but the people are of course real. My mates got a kick out of, calling me up and saying 'What?? My name is Steve?? ******* hell! Couldn't I have been Rocky or Swinger or something?" Good for a laugh.

    And I hope I didn't make it out that I dislike the entire British Army. There are of course a vast number of excellent soldiers in the organization. I think I was just unlucky enough to find a lot of the shit ones in a short space of time. Reading your review brought back a lot of memories. I mean I don't think about all of these details daily and then reading your review I find myself getting angry at those dicks that fired on us all those times. Oh well. That's how she goes.

    Again, I thank you for your review.

    Oh, also, if you are interested search out 'wearing the green beret' on facebook. I just started a page there where I post pictures and tidbits that aren't in the book. Lots of neat facts going into the comments on the pictures.


    Jake Olafsen
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2012
    • Like Like x 1
  5. Think I will take a wander into Waterstones and see if I can buy it this lunch time.
    cheers both
  6. Jake,

    Welcome to RR and thanks for the kind words. You're the very first author who has ever commented on a review I did of his work. I hope WTGB is available in the UK since, as I've said on this and other posts, there's not a lot of good RM bios out there. Yours helps to fill this gap. And it's relevant for those looking the join the RM now to show them what challenges they can expect to find.

    I also enjoyed your 'Canadianisms,' which I didn't include in my review as they might not have had the same impact on the Brit readers as they did on me . (Heck, half of the stuff on this site I don't get just because I'm not steeped in British vernacular.) But, as far as I'm aware, there are no Tim Horton's in Britain, so how could a double-double and a Boston Cream translate? I also enjoyed reading that the RM were more interested in your application and responded faster from England than the Canadian Forces did in your home province. And your observation on how fat the Canadian soldiers in Helmand were. Well, the female ones anyway. That's what happens when you put a McDonald's in the combat zone.

    Anyways, it was a real pleasure to hear from you and I appreciated the sentiments.

  7. wet_blobby

    wet_blobby War Hero Moderator

    Hey Jake,

    If You make it down south give us a shout, we'll put on a kiwi feed for you.

    P.s.... You're right about the pongos. :)

  8. Oh My Days!!! JAKE OLAFSEN!!!!!!
    Hello Royal.

    Dude i havent seen you since we left training, just about to buy your book, iv heard its a cracking read.
    i hope your keeping well

    Message to all,
    This man is an amazing bloke, got me through the live firing in training, with his good old SKOLL
    kept my morale up without even realising he was doing it..

    keep safe dude.


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