The following review is a special provided to BlackFive readers by Elise Cooper.
Into The Fire, written by Dakota Meyer and Bing West, is a first hand account of the 2009 battle in Ganjigal, Afghanistan. The reader will get a glimpse into why Dakota is a Medal of Honor recipient, the intense battle scenes, and his relationships with other Marines and the Afghan infantry, who he was sent to train.
Bing West knows a lot about national security as evidenced by his eight books and his serving as Assistant Secretary of Defense under President Reagan. He wanted to write a book with Dakota Meyer because he “considered him a brave American. What fascinated me is how he attacked the enemy numerous times and was probably going to die. I wanted to explore why he did it, was it his nature, how he was brought up, or was it his nurturing and training by the Marines. I came to the conclusion that I hope the reader will as well, that he is a very determined and hardheaded person. It was absolutely in his nature; however, if the Marines did not train him to be a sniper for three years I think the Taliban would have easily killed him.”
In the fall of 2009, Taliban insurgents ambushed a patrol of Afghan soldiers and Marine advisors in the mountain village of Ganjigal. As the soldiers became pinned down they repeatedly asked for artillery support, which was refused. Marine Corporal Meyer disobeyed orders and attacked in an attempt to rescue his comrades. He made multiple trips in and out of the battlefield, repeatedly repulsing enemy attackers, carrying wounded Afghan soldiers to safety, and providing cover. For his actions he became the first living Marine in many years to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
The reader gets to know Meyer as he discusses his personal life and why he chose to become a Marine. It is obvious throughout the book that Marines have a special bond with each other. Dakota directly stated, “We should appreciate our freedoms and the men and women who are over there fighting. I am hoping the readers will get to know my teammates instead of seeing them as just names.”
The battle scenes are extremely powerful. Anyone reading this book will become upset, infuriated, and exasperated regarding the rules of engagement. A powerful quote from the book, “This couldn’t be happening. We were on the same side… This was war and my team was on the verge of dying. Whose side was the TOC (Tactical Operations Center) on?” Bing West commented to blackfive.net that the rules of engagement theme “… is what leaps off the pages. I wanted to show the chaos of battle but what struck was that particular aspect. The rules of engagement are not beneficial for our soldiers. Ganjigal showed what happens when the top insists on tougher and tougher rules of engagement in order to prevent civilian casualties. This is the trickle down bureaucracy that is read and studied by staff officers.”
The book further displays the strategy, that those at the TOC were making the decisions instead of the soldiers on the ground. Another powerful quote in the book by General Colin Powell, “The commander in the field is always right and the rear echelon is wrong…” West put in that quote because he felt it summarized the dilemma of American troops. West told blackfive.net, “We have gotten that exactly backwards in Afghanistan. So in the end we ended up with Ganjigal.”
The end of the book goes into the controversy surrounding Captain Will Swenson’s Medal of Honor application. Swenson was on the ground at Ganjigal and could not persuade the staff officers at TOC to fire the artillery. The Director of the Joint Staff, Lt-General Curtis Scaparrotti had an inquiry about what happened. West explained, “When Swenson was questioned under oath he said in essence, F--- You because you tried to tell me what to do when you were not even there. The General lost Swenson’s Medal of Honor package. This is disgraceful. How does that happen considering it is eighty pages long and a large number of people knew about it? The US Army needs a day of reckoning with this one. He was left out to dry. I am still hopeful he will get the Medal of Honor.”
West wants the readers to understand that Into The Fire is a tale of American values and upbringing, of heroism, and adjusting to the loss of friends while surviving. This book is a must read and will be very hard to put down. It is an intense story that puts the reader right into the battle.