Highlanders: Charlie Company Goes to the Iraq Training Center, The
Author: Rob Kauder
Publisher: BookSurge Publishing (2008)
Binding: Paperback, 356 pages
By April Fools Day 2004, the war to liberate Iraq had "officially" ended with Saddam Hussein's capture and President Bush's announcement that major combat operations had ceased. The truth was the war in Iraq was just getting warmed up, and it was at this point that the 1st Battalion, 161st Infantry of the Washington Army National Guard arrived in Baghdad. This is the story of Charlie Company's 1st Platoon, who were mobilized for federal service and attached to the 1st Cavalry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team for a year in Iraq. A motley crew of part-time weekend warriors, 1st Platoon had its share of cops and criminals, professors and students, fathers and husbands, teenage privates eager to see war and thirtysomething veterans who had served in Panama and Kuwait. This is the story of 1st Platoon as told from the perspective of their "Invisible Embed" Rob Kauder, a former Marine turned journalist serving as a National Guard infantry squad leader. In The Highlanders Kauder captures the stories of struggle and sacrifice of the enlisted men as they fought the boredom, madness, heartbreak and the enemies both inside and outside the wire of the Green Zone.
MWSA 2008 Silver Medal for Non-Fiction, Current Affairs
Some books need to be read by everyone, and “The Highlanders” is one of them.
Written by former Marine Rob Kauder about his year in Iraq as a sergeant with the Washington National Guard, this book ignores the politics of the war, and instead focuses on the lives and events of 2004-2005 south of Baghdad.
Kauder can surely write. This book is as realistic and gritty as was the Salman Pak area he and his men were tasked with peace-keeping. From his descriptions of the heat, the dust, and the stench of months of uncollected garbage and sewage, to his dealings with the local sheiks and children, Kauder draws the reader into his world – the world of the American National Guardsman - citizen-solider – that so few Americans know exist, much less understand.
At the same time Kauder and Charlie Company are dealing with IED’s and potentially fatal ambushes in their little corner of the Sunni Triangle, they also find themselves fighting some incredibly inefficient and inept active-service army officers. While Kauder’s Guardsmen are up-armoring their humvees themselves, and devising their own IED tactics, they are forced to deal with Army officers like MajGen Peter Chiarelli who was ordering snap eye and ear protection checkpoint inspections within the safety of the Green Zone. “Gotta look good; Hooah.” He then contrasts this inanity with the actions of the Marines – some friends from his old unit - 20 miles away fighting door-to-door in the November 2004 fight in Fallujah.
For those who have served in Iraq; this book is for you. Kauder returns you to “The Stables”, brings you back to standing guard at 0300 as the sand and grit forms on your chapped lips, and reminds you of the friendships and bonds formed with those who fought and bled together.
And for those who didn’t serve – read this and you’ll begin to understand what these few endured in the opening years of the war.
Reviewed by: Andrew Lubin (2008)