Apr 10, 2009
Donovan Campbell's book, Joker One, subtitled A Marine Platoon's Story of Courage, Leadership, and Brotherhood is a first-hand account of a marine platoon in Ramadi at the beginning of a local Jihad there in 2004. It was the first time I read any book about our work in Iraq and it was gripping, insightful and revealing. Not knowing much about soldier's lives and work, I found myself admiring these men greatly. their job, after arriving in Iraq was to befriend and protect the city dwellers, but to put down any active insurgents who might harm the people or the platoon. This proved nigh impossible because the insurgents and the rest of the population appeared the same. It was impossible to tell the difference between the two at a casual glance, or even a careful look...the only different is the rocket suddenly hoisted onto the shoulders of a man and launched at the men.
Danovan Campbell himself is revealed as an articulate young man, untried and unsure, but sharp, and carefully honed to his task of leadership. The devotion of his men staggered me. I was unprepared for their willingness to put themselves in danger for their leader. My admiration for them rose.
The difficult decisions a leader needs to make here stateside can be heart-wrenching, but the decisions made in the middle of a firefight can be devastating...and Donovan Campbell made them and his men followed him without hesitation....following the course of honor and protection of the innocent. They put themselves at great risk for a people who might be targeting them. It was terrifyingly sublime.
The platoon was named Joker One because someone higher up named them so. The supplies for the platoon were not always adequate, and the leadership from headquarters was not always viable or wise, but the perseverance of these men under harrowing conditions was a story I was honored to read. The reality of war in the modern world is one more thing I am trying to grapple to understand. This book is well worth the read.