Thursday, November 17, 2011

Immediate Response - Book Review

Immediate Response by Mark Hammond
This is the gripping true story of a Royal Marine helicopter pilot at war in Afghanistan. Major Mark Hammond was awarded the DFC, which ranks third after the VC, for remarkable feats in Afghanistan in his Chinook helicopter. Like the other Chinook pilots and crews, and the surgical teams who travelled with them, Major Hammond regularly put his own life in danger to save the lives of others. Three times on the night of 6 September 2006 he flew into hostile zones to pick up injured soldiers. During an attempt to land at the Para outpost in Musa Qala two rocket-propelled grenades passed within 10ft of his helicopter and four rounds hit it. He aborted the mission. On returning to Camp Bastion he found a new Chinook and made another trip, rescuing a soldier while still under heavy fire. "Immediate Response" is Major Mark Hammond's highly personal account of combat and provides readers with a vivid account of the brutal realities of war.

This book is a brilliant, real life story about one aspect of the violent and brutal conflict in Afghanistan. The story is told by Major Mark Hammond DFC, a Royal Marine aviator serving as a pilot with the RAF in the Chinook Helicopter Forces based at RAF Odiham. Through the clarity of his writing and his open and honest account of events of which he has personally experienced, he has been able to describe the environment in which the Chinooks helicopters have been operating in such a manner that the reader can feel the tension, the fear, and the sheer terror felt by all those involved.

The book highlights the major contribution the Chinook Force is making providing not only a means of access and the delivery of vital logistic support across Helmand Province, but perhaps more importantly getting casualties out of the immediate battle area and into the hands of the medical teams during the all important `golden hour'. To achieve this the author describes the terrifying experience of landing his helicopter while under fire to collect the injured, and the luck required to avoid what should have been certain death for all on board his aircraft on more than one occasion.

He also graphically describes the frustration when such missions are cancelled or postponed due to the unserviceability of the Apache Attack helicopters, which provide the essential close air support needed when the Chinooks go into a hostile area. This appears to happen all too often and just highlights the anger of many at the lack the necessary equipment and spare parts for the British armed forces in theatre. The reality is there are not enough helicopter airframes in theatre to provide cover as a backup, and a shortage of spares for one piece of equipment can have a snowball effect on other capabilities and impact on operations. The book indirectly highlights the impact of these shortages on our fighting troops on the ground.

This book has managed to capture the torment and serious challenges faced by our soldiers and aviators who have been called to serve in the Afghan War. Many aspects of this tragic conflict have gone unreported for too long, but this book is a `must read' for those who want to know what it must be like for our men and women deployed into that most inhospitable theatre of operations.

This is a different take in the current vein of 'what its like' books coming out of the conflict in Afghanistan 'Immediate Response' stands well up there alongside other previous books. For me its a nice solid 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Available from:
Mark Hammond
softback • ISBN 9780141039046

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