Saturday, November 19, 2011

Dressed to Kill - Book Review

Dressed to Kill by charlotte Madison
"My fingers close around the trigger. I pause for a split second to think about the bullets I am about to spray across the ground. After today, I'll no longer be the new girl" Captain Charlotte Madison is a typical 26 year old woman. She looks forward to her weekly instalment of gossip magazines, worries she is developing bingo wings and is planning her fairytale wedding. She also flies Apache gunships for a living. Britain's first ever female Apache pilot, Charlotte knows exactly what it's like to fight on the frontline in the Army's deadliest machine. During the daring Jugroom Fort rescue, Charlotte became the first British pilot since WWII to use all her ammunition in one mission. She has not only mastered the skills required to fly an Apache and shoot from the air, but also earned the respect and admiration of her male colleagues, proving that whatever they could do, she could do just as well.From her intensive training to her tours of duty in Afghanistan, Charlotte shares all the dramatic details: The exhaustion of being confined in an airless cockpit for up to eleven hours The adrenalin rush of lethal, full-scale mid-air assault What it is like to kill in the name of duty Her female perspective on what being at war is really like DRESSED TO KILL is the extraordinary, gritty and exhilarating story of a young woman at war in a dangerous, mostly male, world.
Having read Ed Macy's Apache and Hellfire, and already knowing a little of the complexities of the Apache, it's target acquisition capabilities, and the weapon systems, made this book a very readable addition, showing as it does the varying human elements which go to make up our superlative AH Regiments, and the incomparable personnel who fly and fight these awesome machines.

The book gives a good insight into the training of Apache crews, particularly the aspects of the few but incredibly effective female pilots who have mastered both the technology, and the intrusion into a male dominated profession.

This is the story of "Charlotte Madison” from her time at an English boarding school through to her army service. She is obviously a determined and talented young lady and this is reflected in her success in joining the elite group of Apache pilots, and being the first woman to do so.

The life of an Apache pilot has already been told through two exceptional books by Ed Macy (and I do recall his account of Charlotte) so this is not new ground, with the obvious exception of the female perspective. And the female perspective is an interesting one and there is a distinct difference between Charlotte as a military pilot and as an off duty 'girlie' looking at Cosmo and worrying about the smell of 'the boys feet'.

Her perspective is perhaps less technical then Ed Macy's but gives a wider view of camp life in Afghanistan, the sights, the smells and the atmosphere. There is some sexist resentment of her during her training, but it was good to note that once she arrived in theatre, she was very much part of a team, and a very effective team at that. As mentioned before, the Apache is an attack helicopter, so the pilot's job is to provide air cover to ground troops and to use the vast array of offensive weaponry to take the fight to the enemy and, let us not forget, to kill them. So we are reminded that this may be one of the most exciting flying roles, it is also a deadly one and, I think I am correct in saying, the only role in the Army when a woman can have front line operational duties.

So we read about how she always wants to pee when out on a mission and how uncomfortable it is, and then we read about her putting a hellfire missile into a building, obliterating it and the insurgents inside and being the first UK Apache pilot to use up every bit of ammunition in a mission and to return to base 'guns dry'. She also recounts very well the difficulty of 'normal life' when away from the intensity of the war, hard to go for a party with your friends in London when the week before you were mowing down bad guys having not slept for 18 hours....Her leaving the Army is rather abrupt and she does not share much background into this.

You end up thinking you would like Charlotte if you met her, but also thinking you would want her above you in a helicopter if you were a member of our armed forces. So while the thunder might have been taken by the Ed Macy books, this remains a worthwhile and interesting book and reflects the intense and courageous service of our Apache pilots.

Charlotte puts clearly, in a very readable way, all of the pressures under which she, and all of the others operate the British Apache, and how she coped with them. I found myself becoming so immersed that I read her book form cover to cover. Charlotte also comes across as a very focussed woman, who with all the skill she gained dealt with formidable scenarios on a daily basis, and fulfilled her role admirably. This skill and focus is reflected in the layout of the book, there are no conventional chapter breaks just short sharp sections detailing a new aspect of her life and the mission, rather like the experience of flying she’s talking about. A great book and a must have alongside Ed Macys books. A solid 4 and a half stars from me.

Available from:

Charlotte Madison
Hardback • ISBN 9780755319602

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