Blogging from the Battlefield: The View from the Front Line in Afghanistan by Major Paul Smyth
Front Line Bloggers - Afghanistan and Helmand Blog - Aghanistan (now combined as UK Forces Afghanistan) were established by the MoD to allow UK armed forces personnel to tell the public back home what they were doing there, in their own words. Officers, NCOs and other ranks representing a wide variety of units - infantry, artillery, signals, logistics, aviation, medical - contribute their thoughts and experiences on everything from what it's like to take on the Taliban in a firefight to the difficulties of trying to eat well at a patrol base. These personal accounts give a picture of the conflict at ground level, the details of daily life that usually do not make the news, as well as individuals' perspectives on major events. Some of the bloggers have even been asked to contribute to the Radio 4 Today Programme and Channel 4 News. With the war in Afghanistan in the news almost constantly, this is a timely book which tells the real story of what it's like for our troops on the ground.
This book is one emotional rollercoaster from start to finish. A no holds barred look at life on the front lines from the men and women who are there. It transports you from your safe home to an unfamiliar landscape, thousands of miles from the ones you love. Where it's incredibly hot by day and freezing cold at night. Where nothing can be taken for granted.
From the start of their tour in Sept 2009 til the end of it in March 2010, this book covers the highs and lows of life of on the front lines. The stories behind the news headlines. From Christmas dinner cooked and served by the CO to the excitement of a major operation. Routine things like night duty, setting up a vet clinic or a local meet and greet with the village elders. To the sudden death of a friend and colleague.
Reading this over the beginning of November, with my poppy still on my desk, and as another death on the front line was announced, had me alternately smiling and in tears. Watching it on the news is one thing, being transported there, standing with those soldiers as they watch the coffin of someone who was at their side only a few short hours ago being repatriated, before going back out on patrol, shows the war in a different light.
These men and women risk everything to bring hope and life to a nation. A job like none other brings risks, but incredible rewards as children can play safely and markets can reopen and schools rebuilt.
Definitely not for the faint hearted, but this book is a keeper.