B. I. A. P.: Baghdad International Airport a memoir by Brian Gordon was a good read mainly because it was a heartfelt story of one soldier’s experiences of the US Army during the second invasion of Iraq.
Mr. Gordon, in an easy-to-read writing style without any pretentiousness, takes the reader through the whole experience from enlistment right through to the day he left the Army.
If I say he was an “ordinary” soldier, it is meant as no disrespect. I have every respect and admiration for any young man, he was twenty-four while serving in Iraq, who puts their life on the line in the service of their country. That, notwithstanding the futility of war, and that war in particular. The author acknowledges his country was engaged in a futile exercise in Iraq leading to the deaths of many fine young men and women. He adds he felt his country would have been better served fighting in Afghanistan. Of course, that happened at a later date. But, in any event, I am not sure he is right on that point as recent history has shown with the gradual withdrawal of US and British forces in that country – a country that will never be “tamed.”
This is no gung-ho Special Forces tale. He was an NCO in a transport company but still a trained soldier. Indeed, some of the situations he found himself in were downright scary, not least the RPG and AK 47 attack on his convoy outside of B.I.A.P. – Baghdad International Airport. That attack raises, for me, at least one other question. The author tells us how he had to “baby sit” a young female soldier who “froze” under attack. He put himself at great risk to save her. It begs the question – is it right to have females enlisted and serving in war zones? Now, some of you may raise hackles at that question, but in light of the author’s experiences, surely it is legitimate to ask? It’s a pity the author offers no opinion on this.
In that same attack Mr. Gordon contrasts the cowardice of a tank crew who hid in action with the bravery of two civilian contractors. Those two men, under fire, helped release the Abrams tank carried on the author’s HET (Heavy Equipment Transporter). Mr. Gordon includes a useful glossary and acronym guide at the beginning of the book.
There was a most poignant part of the book when the author tells us some details about arrangements for military funerals. He mentioned being in charge of just under two hundred in a short time. It really brings home the futility of war.
The author is brutally honest in dealing with the highs and lows of his Army career. The bonding with fellow soldiers is noted as well as the overriding desire never to leave any of his men (or women) behind. He also is unafraid to describe the BS, a factor together with the horrors of war, I feel led to his leaving the Service. That, and an episode of PTSD. Perhaps, this breakdown was skirted over a tad in his book. That is no criticism. I am able to understand why. Mr. Gordon comes across as a proud, conscientious man, and was undoubtedly a fine soldier. He’s not a bad memoir writer either! I do recommend this book to anyone interested in a true account written by an “ordinary” soldier who in reality was not ordinary at all.
I recently watched an excellent movie, a true story. It was about soldiers of the British Army’s Parachute Regiment stranded in an Afghanistan minefield. It is not for the squeamish but an excellent portrayal of war against insurgents.
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