I just finished reading Hunting the Caliphate by Dana J.H. Pittard and Wes J. Bryant. While this book isn't about sports per se, I've always found a lot of similarities between sports and the military: the teamwork required to succeed, the hard work that everyone involved puts in, and the constant evaluation of strategy to be in a position to win.
First, it's mentioned right at the beginning of this book that Pittard and Bryant were both working on their own books about the US military's fight against Isis. When they discovered this, they decided to combine their stories and experiences into a single book, which makes for a great story.
For a bit of background, Pittard was a Major General and picked to lead US forces in their response against Isis in Iraq in 2014.
Bryant, a Joint Terminal Attack Controller or JTAC, coordinated some of the first US airstrikes against Isis in Iraq from the Baghdad Strike Cell.
One of the things that jumps off the pages is the US military's over the top care and consideration for every action they take. To be honest, there were stories in this book that didn't seem fair to US troops: enemy fighters purposely positioning themselves next to women and children, snipers hiding in densely populated urban areas, and suspicious individuals often wearing suicide vests loitering near US personnel.
The natural instinct in all of these cases is to take these people out. Instead, if there was even a sliver of a chance that an innocent person might get hurt, the US chose to wait until they could clear that obstacle.
When you're fighting an enemy that plays by different rules, I'm sure it was tremendously hard for a lot of these soldiers to exercise sound judgment. But, over and over, they remained patient.
A good example of this was Wes Bryant's air strikes. He would coordinate everything, from making sure aircraft were properly positioned and armed, to using drones to properly vet strike targets. There was zero spontaneity involved; instead, him and his team exercised a tremendous amount of discipline to make sure everything was in its proper place before giving the green light.
Pittard is essentially leading this "war" for the US. And while the US was in Iraq purely to help the Iraqis, you got the feeling that the Iraqi generals were leaning heavily on Pittard's experience and judgment.
Pittard talks through working with military lawyers, coordinating plans with Iraqi generals and politicians, and other "behind the scenes" work that frankly, I never thought about.
He also pushed Iraqi leadership and reiterated that there troops needed to display "the will to fight." In many cases, the US helped with the strategy, air support, and equipment. The Iraqis simply needed to follow orders and execute their part.
None of this happens without a leader that is well respected. Pittard had served for 34 years, and previous deployments equipped him with the street smarts to know the ins and outs of how to win in Iraq. It's one thing to show up with an America ego and say "this is how we do things." It's another to actively listen, take previous experiences into account, and work jointly with the Iraqis to accomplish a mission.
I won't reveal all of the tech that was mentioned in this book, but I was extremely impressed by how technology has evolved how we fight. The ability to use drones, in particular, to have eyes on key targets, Isis leaders, buildings, river crossings, etc. changes everything. These drones are beyond the line of sight, so in most cases, the enemy has no idea that every move they make is being watched.
Think about the ability to coordinate attacks:
*how many people are needed
*how much equipment
*what directions should be attacked
*is air support needed
All of these questions are easily answered making every US response one that is efficient and strategic. It's no longer just about "should we attack," it's about "what's the best way to do this?"
The only thing I didn't like about this book is that there's a lot of military jargon and speak. Certain parts were a bit tedious to read because of it. On the flip side, those with military backgrounds will appreciate the attention to detail and authenticity: these guys are speaking from experience and not trying to dumb it down for the general public.
I have to publicly acknowledge Major General Pittard, Wes Bryant, and everyone involved with taking out Isis. The sacrifices that all of these people made, not just for the US, but for the world should be talked about and praised.
If you enjoy military books, definitely check out another one of my favorites, Where Men Win Glory, which I talked about in the best motivational books section.
John Willkom is the author of Amazon best-selling basketball books: Walk-On Warrior and No Fear In The Arena. John is an avid reader, sports fan, and father to two incredible little girls.
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