The following review/Q and A is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.
Danger Close by FOX News Consultant Amber Smith takes readers into battle worn Iraq and Afghanistan. People will learn about the world of an Army Kiowa Helicopter pilot who engaged in high intensity warfare. One of only a few women to fly this helicopter her missions were armed reconnaissance, and support for those fighting on the ground.
People might question why she appeared to sidestep addressing military gender politics. But in actuality, through some of her examples, she did bring up the gender issue. What she did not do is hit readers over the head, instead allowing them to form their own opinions and impressions. Her view, there needs to be a mission standard and not a gender standard, comes through loud and clear. Through her own exemplary actions she showed that it should not matter if someone is male or female, showing that her sex did not matter in her performance of the job and contribution to the mission. She noted to blackfive.net, “I chose to never make being a woman as an excuse. I felt I was a good pilot who had the attitude to my male peers, ‘get over yourselves. I am here whether you like it or not.’ I consider being a Kiowa pilot an amazing part of my life including having the brotherhood and sisterhood.”
Interestingly there were three examples that readers can interpret about the possibility of some form of sexism involved. The first was with a peer who actually threatened to hit her. She took it in stride and never backed down. But can this be interpreted that she was actually accepted as an equal since he was not afraid to “hit a woman.”
The other two incidents probably do have sexism play a role. She was grounded and not put on a flight schedule because her superiors did not think she “could handle it,” even though other newbies were flying. She eventually received orders to fly after the Iraqis voted on the referendum, the day Iraqis voted on their Constitution. The other incident involved an accident where her helicopter was hit while on the ground, after landing. Again she was grounded while the male pilot who had committed the accident was already back up and flying. Eventually, she was cleared to go after some senior warrants in her unit had defended her.
She commented, “I should have never been put through it. I did not put this in the book, but one of those who ruled on the accident was the person who later did a check flight with me. He felt guilty and maybe he realized he was wrong about putting me through the mud, something that should never have been done. As I say in the book, ‘The false accusation and witch hunt had changed me. I no longer trusted that my unit leadership would have my back if something bad happened that was out of my control…whether they will become an internal target for doing their job.’”
But more than anything readers will understand the untold story of the Kiowa warrior and the importance to those fighting on the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan. This job can be compared to a western. The pilots called themselves the “air cavalry,” where they scouted the enemy, the horses were the helicopters, and the Stetson cowboy hats were their helmets.
Two incidents potently drove the point home of their duties of reconnaissance and protection. Her co-pilot, on a mission, had him questioning whether to take off and fly in support of a ground unit. She considered it “lazy and extremely selfish. It is just not what you do to say ‘someone else should pick it up.’ It is so far out of the norm for the rest of the Kiowa pilots and how we operated.”
The other mission had the command refusing to give clearance even though no friendlies were present. Although low on fuel she and her co-pilot wanted to engage the enemy who was burying a mortar shell for an IED. Because of the command’s indecisiveness they almost crashed with a low fuel count, and the enemy escaped with a weapon that could have cost lives as they were allowed to fight another day. She noted, “The route was IED alley. Bad guys should have been taken out. It was a bad decision, the inaction. Afterward everyone received a re-education.”