Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fire Strike 7/9 - Book Review

Fire Strike 7/9 by Paul Grahame and Damien Lewis
'Being a JTAC is the closest a soldier on the ground in the midst of battle can get to feeling like one of the gods - unleashing pure hellfire, death and destruction' - Duncan Falconer Meet Sergeant 'Bommer' Grahame, one of the deadliest soldiers on the battlefield. He's an elite army JTAC (Joint Terminal Attack Controller- pronounced 'jay-tack') - a specially trained warrior responsible for directing Allied air power with high-tech precision. Commanding Apache gunships, A10 tank-busters, F15s and Harrier jets, he brings down devastating fire strikes against the attacking Taliban, often danger close to his own side. Due to his specialist role, Sergeant Grahame usually operates in the thick of the action, where it's at its most fearsome and deadly. Conjuring the seemingly impossible from apparently hopeless situations, soldiers in battle rely on the skill and bravery of their JTAC to enable them to win through in the heat of the danger zone. Fire Strike 7/9 tells the story of Bommer Grahame and his five-man Fire Support Team on their tour of Afghanistan.Patrolling deep into enemy territory, they were hunted and targeted by the Taliban, shot at, blown-up, mortared and hit by rockets on numerous occasions. Under these conditions Sergeant Grahame notched up 203 confirmed enemy kills, making him the difference between life and death both for his own troops and the Taliban.

This book chronicles the experiences of Sgt “Bommer” Grahame, a member of the Light Dragoons more normally to be found conducting Formation Recce, but who for 6 months was attached to 2 MERCIAN as a member of their Fire Support Team employed as the Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) during a deployment to Op HERRICK, which I think was H6.

The book covers a pretty short time frame; some time before deploying whilst Sgt Grahame is training, the deployment (as 1WFR which became 2 MERCIAN)) and then a small amount post tour but it tries to keep the focus on the kinetic actions that took place during the main deployment and more so how he, as the JTAC, was employed. The book is written in a very easy to read style which I suspect owes a lot to Damien Lewis, as even without knowing the author I just can’t see him describing something as “peachy”.

As I’ve said the book is actually less about the deployment and its objectives, which do get mentioned, and more about the JTAC and what he brings to the party but you don’t get an in-depth description of what the JTAC does, it’s much more generalised account for clear reasons. There is no doubt that the book highlights the essential role of the FST and in particular details just how devastating, effective and clinical a JTAC can be, and how he can be employed to take the fight to the enemy whilst saving his comrades lives by keeping them out of trouble. I just found the pace a little slow and the actions repetitive. It may have just been the writing but I felt that occasionally Sgt Grahame came across as a little blasé or perhaps flippant which made we wonder more about him and his relationship with the TOC and the Junior Officers around him, more so than about the action.

Described as “a frantic page-turner with relentless accounts of enemy contacts relayed at a rapid-fire pace” and “an adrenaline-fuelled hell-ride of non-stop combat”, I was looking forward to a really engaging and gripping read but sadly I didn’t think the book lived up to those strap lines. It was nonetheless an enjoyable read if nothing particularly special.

In sum this is an easily digestible if perhaps a little superficial, account but it is nonetheless an entertaining insight into the role of the JTAC which many people should find interesting. Personally though we must give Paul Grahame top marks for having the drive and enthusiasm to write a book and make a shedload of money for charity! Still for me though its a solid three and a half stars but I will say that this book makes a great pool side read so if you pick it up you wont be disappointed.

Available from:
Fire Strike 7/9 by Paul Grahame and Damien Lewis
Softback • ISBN 9780091937768

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