Military Book Reviews

Dodgebomb: Outside the Wire in the Second Iraq War

Dodgebomb: Outside the Wire in the Second Iraq War by Darin Pepple. (self-published, March 26, 2021, 216p)

A powerful, compelling account of modern military life that is vividly told and utterly gripping!

During the height of the Global War on Terrorism, Lieutenant Eddie Fitzgerald (Fitz) is sent straight from West Point to the front line in Iraq. He is immediately thrown into combat and has to quickly overcome his naivety to earn the trust of other soldiers. However, if hunting Al Qaeda isn’t enough he’s pulled into Arab tribal politics and army officer rivalries. As Fitz gets accustomed to living a spartan, foreign life-style his confidence grows and over time he becomes one with his unit. At first, he is detached from the brutal reality of the results of war, but there will come a time when he will have to question his idealism, allow dread to replace numbness, and face his emotions.

For those who seek realistic books on war that are impossible to put down, this is the book for you. It is compelling and entertaining as well as educational and honest. The author has a deft hand and a keen eye for detail, bringing understanding to 21st century combat. Book includes illustrations and Professional Military Education section in the appendix.


“It was the heat and the smell. They were inescapable. People would look at pictures of this backward, foreign land and go, ‘That’s not so bad,’ as if it were a vacation getaway, an exotic dry wine country. But it was bad. This place was the reeking armpit of the world.”

Pepple 5

Overview

This quote begins Darin Pepple’s funny, irreverent, sad-but-true tale of 2nd Lieutenant (2LT) Eddie Fitzgerald, U.S. Cavalry, U.S. Army. Pepple’s fictional account of a platoon’s experience outside the wire during the second Iraq War is a terrific example of why leaders should read fiction. Loosely based on his own experiences with Bushmaster Troop, the author highlights both the good and the bad of wartime service. The young officer is fresh out of training and thrown into the fight. 2LT Fitzgerald is introduced to characters who are reminiscent of someone we have served alongside and perhaps we can even find ourselves in. The characters range from the fresh-faced grunts, the grouchy but competent senior enlisted, the experienced but jaded mid-level officers, and the oblivious and self-serving HQ (Headquarter) staff.

This novel encapsulates the myriad of different service and leadership found in the ranks at home and in combat. Pepple writes about the stark indifference and numbness that comes with troops who have been outside the wire for too long. We read about the absurd and completely useless tasking assigned by HQ staff who rarely, if ever, leave the comforts of their hardened HQ positions (Is your annual cyber awareness training complete soldiers?). Through the character of Lieutenant Colonel Gutierrez, we observe the inane micromanagement of some senior leaders who want all the glory without bruising the shine on their boots. And through Captain Holt, we see an individual who is torn between the care he has for his troops, the frustration with dealing with incompetent leadership, and the exhaustion that comes from a mission without end or purpose.

The author’s detailed description of the Iraq landscape plus the care and attention he gives to the development of his characters are both prime points of this quick read. He does an excellent job of providing a familiar environment to those who have served while simultaneously bringing along the uninitiated reader. The reader will identify with 2LT Fitz as he navigates the early days of his army career in the most inhospitable of environments.

Takeaways

This novel exposes us to the harsh realities of war. There is death here. It is sometimes gruesome, graphic, and close to home. There is also love here and a deep abiding familial bond. The novel helps us understand both the challenges the soldiers face, the ingrained desire for continued service, and a return to harm’s way. It also showcases some absurdities of war. Who can forget the ill-trained and ill-equipped Iraqi Army soldiers who often dressed the part of soldiers but didn’t know how to operate their equipment? If it even worked? Or the HQ Executive Officer (XO) who demanded that troops in combat search their forward operating base (FOB) for paint so he could put up parking signs in the rear echelon HQ?

Dodgebomb: Outside the Wire in the Second Iraq War is a well-written account of a small glimpse into the life of a deployed soldier during a short period of a never-ending war. Leaders of all ranks will benefit from reading this novel. The reader will laugh along with the absurdity and self-analyze where they fit into the story. Pepple’s novel is a great example of why leaders should read fiction. It is a great read for the public to gain a better understanding of the experiences of service members but also to ask themselves the question, “How can I serve the greater good”?


Matt Long is a contributing reviewer to DODReads.  He is an active-duty Naval officer and real estate investor.  An advocate for life-long learning, in his free time he can be found reading or hiking.  Matt can be reached through LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/longmatthewm/.

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