August 10, 2009

Book Review: Horse Soldiers

Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of U.S. Soldiers Who Rode To Victory In Afghanistan
By Doug Stanton
Scribner 2009

Before I begin with my review allow me this opportunity to apologize to Julie at FSB Associates for taking so long to publish this review. I finished this book over a month ago and quite frankly it took me a while to organize my thoughts about this book, not because it was so bad but because it was just that good.

A little background on how this book came to me.

On Thursday, May 7, 2009 I was standing in the local Barnes and Nobles bookstore looking over the new arrivals section when a book entitled Horse Soldiers caught my eye. Thinking it was a story about the Cavalry during the American Civil War I picked it up and was surprised to find out that it wasn’t about the American Civil War but rather about the American invasion into Afghanistan and the Special Forces soldiers who after linking up with Northern Alliance commanders saddled up and rode into battle against the Taliban. I was sorely tempted to buy it then and there, but then a thought occurred to me; maybe I can contact Julie at FBS Associates and see if they would be seeking reviews of this very book. Hoping that I could somehow finagle one out of them I put it down and headed for home. Color me shocked to find a request from Julie in my mailbox the next day asking if I would be willing to review Horse Soldiers. Karma? Coincidence? You figure it out.

Horse Soldiers lives up to its name for it is without a doubt an extraordinary story, one that you will have to read to believe, but it is more than that. Horse Soldiers is a story about a group of men that trained for years to perform a singular mission: go to war for their country and then one day woke up in the pre-dawn hours on a tree-lined street in the middle of America to find out that that is exactly what they are about to do. The men in this story were special operations soldiers but this story is one that has occurred with quite regularity for hundreds of thousands of American Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines since 2001. Children’s toys fill the driveways of the neighbor’s houses up and down the street as he and his family drive to the base. Once there goodbyes are said and the man steps away from his family and turns for a last look. He may not see this place or these people again, and then he is gone, off to war. This is the story of Horse Soldiers.

Horse Soldiers is also the story of the undying American drive to succeed. Even when under equipped and ill prepared to operate in Afghanistan, the men of Captain Mitch Nelson and Captain Dean Nosorog’s teams persevered and overcame daunting obstacles to succeed where success literally hinged on their ability to adapt and make do. They walked not only the precipice of mountains but the precipice of disaster and failure and in the end they led their Northern Alliance companions to a huge victory over the Taliban.

Stanton covers the opening battles in Afghanistan with detail and precision, from the close calls, to the successes and even the failures. When everything was at stake, the Horse Soldiers threw caution to the wind and took an approach towards success that can only be considered audacious.
Horse Soldiers is a must read, not only because the story details with great accuracy the stories of the men who lived these battles but also because it follows the women and families at home that supported these men in their secret but pivotal war against the Taliban.

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