Friday, July 14, 2017

Dog Company by Lynn Vincent and Roger Hill, 2017

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Two decorated American war heroes survive combat in Afghanistan only to find themselves on an unfamiliar battlefield - the courtroom - in this true story by the commander of Delta Company, 1/506th a.k.a. Dog Company.

The deaths of two of his men is agony for Captain Roger Hill and the agony is intensified when he realizes those responsible - 12 Taliban spies- have been working right under his nose on the American base.

When unreasonable military regulations demand that he free the spies within 96 hours, and Hill can't get his superior officer to respond to the deadline, he takes action to intimidate the prisoners to confess - and to protect his company from another attack.

Instead of being thanked, Hill's superior brings him up on charges making this decorated officer's next battle a personal one - for his honor and for that of 1st Sergeant Tommy Scott, his second in command.

Combining the camaraderie and battle action of
Band of Brothers with the military courtroom drama of A Few Good Men, Roger Hill's story will leave you impassioned, inspired and forever changed.
(448 pages)

I'm not sure what was going through my mind when I asked to review Dog Company. It's not exactly my typical read, you know? I've been trying to become a little more informed about modern international relations, though, so I guess I thought a true story about soldiers deployed in Afghanistan could be a beneficial read.

I guess I forgot that I really don't like war. I mean sure, I've read lots of stories set during wars–about Jews fleeing the Holocaust, for example, or the brother-against-brother quandaries confronting soldiers during the Civil War–but the main characters in my books almost uniformly are either civilians or green soldiers. Captian Hill is just that: a captain. At the time of the events in the book, he'd served for eight years, and most of his men for far longer. They're all just such complete . . . well, soldiers. And I'm really not one. And I never really want to be. Lots of respect to the men and women who risk their lives to keep the nation safe, of course, but I could never stand the idea of shooting anyone; if I felt the call to join the service, I'd do it as a medic of some sort rather than as a soldier. The other reason I'd never want to be a soldier–and this is a huge one for me–is that I'd dread the day my higher-ups ordered me to do something that went against my moral code.

And really, that's what happened to Captain Hill. He was under orders to release the twelve men who were unequivocally spies for the Taliban, men whose intel had directly led to the deaths of two of his men, back into their freedom because his higher-ups wouldn't accept custody of them. Before they went, he wanted to get some good information out of them that would help them take down the Taliban and, presumably, prevent the loss of more men. To do so, one or two of the soldiers first slapped around a few of the prisoners (something that, in and of itself, was definitely illegal). When that didn't work, Hill grabbed one of them and pulled him outside, dumped him on the ground and shot at nothing so the other prisoners thought he'd killed their comrade. When they still didn't talk, he pretended to shoot two more men and then one of the remaining men cracked, spilling valuable information.

That's . . . pretty awful. I mean, I know the prisoners were probably all horrible people who would have done even worse to the soldiers if the roles had been reversed, but that still doesn't excuse that sort of behavior. We're supposed to be better than the Taliban; that moral high ground is our only real excuse for being in Afghanistan in the first place. So while I can understand the emotional reasons why Captain Hill decided to break the law and use such violent scare tactics on his prisoners, I actually agree with the decision to punish him. Was completely kicking him out of the army necessary? Definitely not, that seems rather disproportionate to his crimes. He should have just been demoted a rank or two (or however they call it) and posted somewhere where he could be monitored a little more closely.

Anyway, while the core moral dilemma is an interesting one, I didn't really enjoy reading Dog Company. It's broken up into units that jumble the chronology just enough to be rather confusing, and just kind of randomly jumps into the backstory of soldiers that were interesting but not exactly relevant. It also covers more than I really needed to know of the months leading up to the prisoner situation, which shifted from intriguing and educational to just straight-up boring by some point. I wound up skimming through a lot of the second half of the book. People more interested in military stuff might find those parts more entertaining than I did, though. Also, the language in the book is atrocious–gobs of f-words are littered in all over the place along with a whole alphabet of other (mildly less offensive) swear words. I pushed past them to read the book, but it wasn't pleasant.

If you've reading this review to the end, then you probably have a pretty good idea of whether Dog Company is for you. I can't say that I really recommend it personally, but it might do something for you that it didn't for me.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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