R. W. Riley's Surpassing the Crucible is an interesting and fast-moving story about a National Guard unit's golden opportunity. Although it is fiction, it is obviously based on Riley's extensive career in both the National Guard and the active-duty Army.
Captain Devlin Rourke is the company commander of the combat support company of the Pennsylvania National Guard's Second Battalion 220th Infantry. He knows what's expected of his company, but as a former cavalry officer, he has vision and drive beyond what is expected. When his unit is selected to go to the Joint Readiness Training Center, he knows it’s time to go above and beyond, not just for his unit but to preserve the reputation of National Guard troops across the country. Can he get his men trained up to go toe-to-toe with the active-duty OPFOR (opposing forces)?
The character development in this story is exceptional. As a reader, I immediately became invested in Rourke and his men, as well as Rourke's commanding officer. Though fiction, this is an easy read for those studying leadership at the small and medium unit level. In addition, the author does an outstanding job of using his background in two different army combat fields (infantry and cavalry) to provide a unique yet believable and interesting story. Finally, I appreciate that the author added just a hint of romance to his story. That usually feels forced but not here; it's a welcome and entertaining diversion.
National Guard veterans, infantry soldiers, or anyone affiliated with the Army reserves will probably enjoy this story.
Review by Rob Ballister (August 2019)
MWSA's evaluation of this book found a number of technical problems—including some combination of misspellings, grammar, punctuation, or capitalization errors—which indicate that further editing would lead to a much-improved final product.
The fight over the “One Army Concept” is at its peak. Some in the active Army believed the concept would never work. Weekend warriors couldn’t be reliable enough to be integrated into the Army’s demanding worldwide missions. In 1989 the National Guard’s 2nd Battalion 220th Infantry needs to perform well at the prestigious Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. The men and officers of the 2nd battalion were going to be tested by the Army’s best trained professional Opposing Force at the infantry’s ultimate proving ground. They must perform well. Everyone was watching. But this wasn’t your average National Guard unit. Their consistent superior performance during the last several years prompted the National Guard leadership to select them to represent the Guard on this national stage. There are countless distinct challenges for National Guard units that active duty units don’t face. This story describes how the battalion’s exceptional leadership is able to overcome these challenges to turn their unique situation into an advantage. Can the battalion prove to everyone that the “One Army Concept” works? If so, then what’s next?
ISBN/ASIN: 978-1-5320-6089-2 (sc)
Book Format(s): Soft cover, ePub/iBook
Review Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 400