Joker One Written by Donovan Campbell
I have read many war themed books but never did I feel like I was in the middle of our troops, watching and feeling every action they endured from injury to death and from a restless night’s sleep to no sleep for days. Joker One takes the reader from young Lieutenant Campbell’s school days, his graduation from college, his training that produced his desire to lead soldiers in battle, and then to his ultimate return home a completely different man after his fourth tour of duty. He served one tour in Afghanistan and three in Iraq starting in 2003. His final tour in 2004 in Ramadi, Iraq, was the most mind bending, morale buster, the most bloody, and made him realize the brutality he was fighting was so far different from anything he had ever seen or thought could occur.
As a leader of an infantry platoon comprised of about forty soldiers, Campbell had little time to learn hands-on what he would face in training these men to be a cohesive fighting unit. His platoon selected Joker One as its name. Three other platoons comprised the infantry company, also each having about forty-men, or so the records said. There was a large shortage of men. When Joker One, two, three, and four were scheduled for disbursement, their ranks were only about one-third filled. As time got closer to deployment, the platoons were filled in with many ultra-green recruits that had to learn a lot on the fly and the leaders of these platoons had their hands full getting necessary joker slot information into their young men while getting ready to move very soon. It was not a pretty sight or description. Campbell was quite inexperienced himself so he was also learning on the job and picking up lots of his knowledge from the non-commissioned officers around him. The sergeants and other longer-timers took him under their wing very nicely. But, learn he did and fast!
Campbell makes you feel the flight of weapons going all around you, some exploding nearby and some hitting your men that are your friends as well as fellow soldiers. The everyday life of these men that fight our battles while trying to stay friendly with the Iraqis, but generally battling them more than being friendly, was severely hampered every day and night by not knowing who and where an attack would come from, sometimes from a person that had smiled at you earlier in the day or week.
The many skirmishes that started at unexpected times and places caused the soldiers and their leaders to feel unsafe all the time. There was no place safe. No place to relax and have a cigarette. No place to get several hours sleep. No time or way to eat the proper food. No feeling of satisfaction when all they saw was killing and attempts at killing so much so that they lost the feeling of sense of killing the insurgents. It no longer affected them as it did months ago.