Saturday, January 30, 2010

Save the Last Bullet for Yourself: A Soldier of Fortune in the Balkans and Somalia by Rob Krott

Hollywood typically paints a picture of glamor, riches, and women awaiting mercenaries. “Save the Last Bullet for Yourself: A Soldier of Fortune in the Balkans and Somalia” by Rob Krott corrects the myth. You will find how Rob Krott made the journey from private in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard in 1980 to becoming a US Army second lieutenant through the National Guard-ROTC early commissioning program in 1983. He graduated in 1985 with a bachelor of arts in history from Saint Bonaventure University. You go with him as he attends Harvard University for three semesters while stationed at Fort Devins, Massachusetts. You will learn how he had the journey from US Army officer to soldier of fortune.

As I started reading the book it immediately became apparent how little I knew of the geography of the Balkans and Somalia. I went looking for maps in the book to help me out with the locations he talked about. There were no maps. In future additions of the book it would be helpful to have a map of the areas discussed.

I was amazed at how amateurish the local leaders and military were. How foreigners were treated as “cannon fodder” instead of having their talents put to good use in training the locals. It was interesting to be told that almost everyone had a weapon. The variety of and quality of weapons used was an eye opener to me.

I appreciated the grittiness of the book. It had numerous small unit engagements given in detail. His description of Somalia caught my attention. “You didn’t have to go looking for trouble, like I had with the Bostswanans, to find it in Somalia. It usually came looking for you.”

I was surprised to learn about the number of highly decorated and qualified former US Army personnel serving in key training roles. Men like Peck who had been a Special Forces Team commander and exec in Vietnam. He had been a US Army Ranger School instructor, instructor at West Point, Delta Force member, served in Granada. I learned the roles of Dutch, English, and German mercenaries.

Rob Krott paints a vivid future of what a career mercenary's future has for him."...McKenzie's head was mounted on a pole outside the hut ...Nearby lay his emasculated body, identified by his distinctive military tattoos. ... Bob McKenzie had soldiered through Africa's most violent bush wars in the 1970s and 1980s, survived numerous mercenary contracts around the world and close combat operations during a major offensive in the Balkans, only to die in an unimportant skirmish on an unnamed hillside in an unknown African backwater."

The book doesn’t explain the politics of the local situation, the biodiversity, or give a big picture strategic viewpoint. It is a very good you are there on the ground memoir of a hired grunt toting his rifle to two of the 1990s hotspots. I recommend “Save the Last Bullet for Yourself” by Rob Krott.

Casemate Publishing, 2008; Read and Reviewed by Jimmie Aaron Kepler January 2010.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin



This is as good a book as I have ever read. It is extremely readable. Doris Kearns Goodwin has written a book that is alive - a story of personalities -- in a way a giant drama. The stories of Illinois’ Abraham Lincoln, New York's William H. Seward, Ohio's Salmon P. Chase and Edwin Stanton, Pennsylvania's Simon Cameron and Missouri's Edward Bates fill the pages of this great book. The book gives back ground on the lives of all the men. It gives use the story of the civil war from inside the cabinet and White House. It is a work for the ages that may well earn Doris Kearns Goodwin another Pulitzer Prize in History. Team of Rivals is worth the purchase price. No matter how many books you have read on Lincoln or the civil war, your education is incomplete until you read Team of Rivals. The book is a must for every personal, public, and educational institution library.