on January 14, 2008
I wasn't there and won't be. The warfare that I trained for, was to be in Europe fighting the Soviets. Having experienced the camaraderie of units within the forces, I feel for the young men and women on tour in Kandahar. The book brings forward compelling descriptions of the combat, fellowship, frustration, fearlessness and professionalism of our Canadians. Christie may not have gotten to talk to every soldier over there but I'm certain that she would have wanted to if it weren't for being paralyzed in fear in the back of a LAV. Maybe it isn't what some would have said or would have wanted to be told but for the 'folks' back home it brings the war to the doorstep. I'm proud to be a Canadian, but I'm even prouder after reading about the soldiering by these brave young men and women. I highly recommend the book. I truthfully couldn't put it down until I had finished it.
on December 31, 2007
this is a great book for canadians to read to see what we face over there but .... not all of her stories are accurate ... christie only talked to certain soldiers to write this book ... and some of her descriptions of what happened to us on certain days , are not accurate at all .... "OUTSIDE THE WIRE " is a much more in depth and more accurate book from all angles and is actually wrote by the soldiers and not by a reporter ..... it is published by random house and can be bought on here or in any book store accross the country .
I took on this book because I wanted to be better informed as to what the Canadian mission in Afghanistan is all about. While the names of the fallen and injured in Blatchford's account are well-known to most of us - most prominently the gallantry of Captain Goddard - through news services like CTV and CBC, the stories of their singular efforts may not be. Blatchford, a seasoned and savvy journalist, decided in 2006 to break out of the typical mould of an embedded reporter who hung around base, and connect with the troops on a more compelling, personal plane. What she discovered was both fascinating and revealing. These men and women are both dedicated to and trained for the mission of rooting out the Taliban from southern Afghanistan. Facing death every moment of the day, soldiers of the Princess Pats regiment - commissioned and regular - do their job with a strong sense of respect for vicissitudes of war, the needs of the local inhabitants, and the emotional burdens of each other. This book is the full-meal deal as far as we, Canadians, are going to get without being there ourselves. War is brutal but it also has a wonderful way of bringing together people in a common cause. While Blatchford never tries to soft-soap the reasons for Canada being in this war zone, she lets it be known that Canadians need to see what an incredible difference their soldiers are making on foreign soil. All is not doom and gloom as portrayed in those too-often-repeated ramp ceremonies and military funerals back home. One might be slightly critical as to how the book was laid out in terms of the fifteen days of death, but this is not the time or the place to take issue with such a picayune matter. A great collection of heroic stories told from many different angles.
on December 11, 2007
You won't regret diving into this book. Obviously the author had life changing experiences there and it comes through on every page. Clear also that she has a tremendous respect for our soldiers, and why the hell not. Very solid read. This was the first book I've ever read in my life that once finished, I immediately started reading again. I found it an emotional read; the book's characters visting my dreams at night. To flog the old cliché, I laughed and I cried.
on December 9, 2007
This is one of the most important books of the year, if not the most important.
Blatch describes the lives of our soldiers, and their families at home, and in theater with impeccable attention to detail and often the bluntness that no Canadian will ever get from the 2 minute sound bites on the CBC.
If you truly want an understanding of this war from the ground up, and of what it means to be a Canadian soldier, pick up this phenomenal book today.
on December 15, 2007
Reveals the reality of the war in Afghanistan, what the troops are actually facing everyday. Finally a book about the soldiers and not the politics behind the operation in Afghanistan!! I Highly recommend this book to all, especially to soldiers deploying in the near future!
on January 15, 2008
Fifteen Days is not a history textbook, nor, do I expect, was it ever meant to be, as some reviewers have suggested in their criticisms of the book's accuracy. Instead, Christie Blatchford gives us her perspective, and the perspectives of some of the Canadian soldiers she spent time with over the course of her three trips to Afghanistan in 2006.
The physical and psychological stress, violence, and devastation that these soldiers experienced during active combat in Afghanistan, mainly in the volatile Panjwaii district, are vividly described in Blatchford's writing. She captures combat in a very realistic, albeit, sometimes chaotic way, mimicking the chaos and catrastrophe of battle. Many of the soldiers' stories trigger outrage, pride, admiration, and sorrow. The soldiers whose stories are presented become very familiar to the reader; their personalities, strengths, and, in some cases, weaknesses, are apparent on every page of this book.
As Blatchford's title suggests, this is a book about soldiers' stories from the frontline, and on that level the book is successful. Readers will gain a better insight into many of the situations the Canadian troops are up against every time they venture out into Panjwaii and the surrounding districts in Afghanistan. [Amy MacDougall]
on January 13, 2009
A must read by every Canadian who has a concern and an appreciation of what our Military men and women are enduring and experiencing in a foreign land.
The Ecstasy of being willingly there and sharing/living with their comrades a determination and effort to help the people of Afghanistan regain their lives and freedoms against an enemy that hides and wantonly takes lives,regardless of death and injury to even their own citizens.
The Agony of having to experience the death of their fallen comrades-at-arms, the risk and challenge of removing the injured to a safe place and the remorse felt at having to live the moments in time of repatriating their fallen comrades back to Canada and sharing the loss with the families of the fallen, including the military 'family'.
I fly a Canadian flag on my back yard pole which I move to half mast when I hear of another fallen Canadian soldier, but, after reading Blatchford's book I have mail-ordered a Canadian Armed Forces White Ensign flag to fly on these hopefully rare occurrences in his or her memory and a silent thank you to those still there and those waiting to be 'in-country'.
on December 19, 2007
The structure of this book is, ultimately, horrifying.
I do not mean this in a negative sense at all; for each day is a day of death, the death of a highly admirable person, and once you are aware of this it becomes more and more difficult to start a new chapter. Finally, November 11th reconciles the sacrifices of both the living and the dead - an inspired chapter describing the outcome of an inspired thought.
Christie Blatchford herself is an admirable person (for a broken-down newspaper hack), but in this book she puts herself much farther in the background than one would expect from an embedded columnist... and this makes her subjects so much more luminous that it is difficult to grasp that the 'new' Canadian army is filled with people like these.
I was grateful for her reference to 'Dispatches' and to the Stone family.
I am not always taken by her writing style; I am used to her column length articles, so the chapters can feel stretched. Therefore I suggest new readers ration themselves to one chapter per day... and I further suggest to re-read each chapter on the day in question.
I certainly intend to.
on November 5, 2007
The Canadian army is very small - many organizations claim to be like a "family" but the Canadian Army is a family. In the larger world there may be 6 degrees of separation but in the Canadian Army there may be only two. So every loss is a wound for all. Every loss is indeed the death of a brother.
This remarkable book is a revelation of what it may mean to be part of a true Band of Brothers - a world where the most senior general lends a master corporal his own wedding ring so that he can ask his girl to marry him - a world where the entire platoon comes to the home of a fallen comrade and spends a week in the community celebrating his life - a world where a 40 plus year old widow enlists so that she can continue to be part of the family - a world where Colonels weep for their men.
The book also causes the reader to think more deeply about war and soldiers. It is politically correct to feel that all war and everything about it is bad. But we discover, that for all its terror and for all the losses, for a soldier war is what he lives for. It is when he also discovers whether he is any good at his life's work. We discover how good our soldiers are. Surprisingly, for we always think the less of ourselves, in Afghanistan, we are considered the heavy weights who punch well above our weight.
We discover that while war exhausts a person more than any other activity, it also makes him more alive.
We discover that PTSD is much more prevalent in peacekeeping than in the kind of situation that we find in Afghanistan. In peacekeeping the kit was awful and the impotence high - imagine simply witnessing atrocity? But in Afghanistan our soldiers can take the initiative and they are very well equipped and have rules of engagement that make sense.
We discover a new kind of woman soldier - who are at home in this strange world, as is of course the "Blatch", and who are no longer seen as odd.
We discover how the families of our soldiers have been integrated into the mission and we see how the worst of all news is given and how the families are supported when what they all fear the most occurs.
This is not the civil service in green that was the sadness of our forces for many years. Implicit throughout the book is that someone really knows that he is doing. I think that someone might be called Rick Hillier.
We discover how great our local field leadership is too which also says something more about General Hillier -
Brig- Genl Dave Fraser to LTC Ian Hope, in radio orders given at 11.30pm on July 17 "You need to recapture Nawa and Garmser by 1600 hours.
Hope to Fraser: "Roger that. Recapture Nawa and Garmser by 1600 hours."
Fraser: "Any questions?"
Hope: "Just one: Where are Nawa and Garmser?'
Not only do we routinely pull off tough missions, but the Cols take all the risks that their men do - they lead by example. They also tend to do the really terrible things like personally extract the burnt and mutilated bodies of their dead so that the buddies in the platoon would not have to remember their friend like that. There is all this bull in the public service about "Servant Leadership". Here you see it for real at all levels from the LTC down to the Master Corporal.
We discover the central frustration of the mission. That we have to go back again and again and take the same ground because the ANP, the police, cannot hold it - we learn how complex this work is.
But most of all, we learn how fortunate we are to have those wonderful people wearing our uniform.
It is a mystery to me how, in a nation, so cut off from the reality of war, that we can once again have the kind of army that we had in 1917. A pathfinder Army.
A small army that can think and adapt. A small army that is lead by men and women of an integrity and skill that put our business and public organizations to shame. A small army largely made up from men and women from small town Canada who have that can do attitude that used to be the hallmark of Canadians.
Who else could tell this story but "Blatch"? A woman who acknowledges that she knows of only two soldiers who swear more than she. A woman who shares the hardships, the joys, the terrors, the losses and the fun. A woman who loves her boys and who is loved back.
She writes with such a love and a passion - I could not put the book down except when my eyes were so full of tears that I could no longer see.
It is exciting, it's very funny, it's very sad. But in the end it is heroic. Not in a little boy's view of heroic but in the most mythic sense of people who live for each other in undertaking a very hard task.
At the end of the book, "Blatch" goes back to see everyone to see how they are.
"Eight months later, Hope (LTC Ian Hope) answers my email form an airport lounge somewhere. I wrote back to tell him of one of the stories - bawdy and funny, loving and sad, always brutally honest - I'd heard from the troops.
You must miss them so xxxxxxx much," I said. " I can hardly bear to write about them sometimes. I find them so beautiful."
"You understand what I miss," he wrote back. "I am Odysseus."
This is a wonderful book about wonderful people written by a wonderful person - who has by the way a wonderful dog but that is another story.