Attack State Red
Well Peter has done it again he has reviewed one of my favourite books on the Afghanistan conflict a great review that I am sure you'll all enjoy, well done Peter and keep them coming.
For my second review I am going to look at Attack State Red by Colonel Richard Kemp and Chris Hughes. The book follows the soldiers of the Royal Anglian Regiment during their tour of Afghanistan in 2007, following the 'break in' battles of the previous year. Part of this tour was also covered by the Ross Kemp documentary Ross Kemp in Afghanistan (well worth a watch in its own right), and you could do a lot worse than read and watch the two in tandem.
I felt the book had a real 'cinematic' feel, which allows you to paint a vivid picture of the events in your mind's eye. Although the book does reference commanders, particularly at platoon and company level, the book is (for me) at its strongest when describing the soldiers and NCOs operating at section level. Kemp and Hughes let these men speak in their own voice and the reader gets a real sense of immediacy and of being 'present' as the action unfolds.
A perfect example of this is the action which opens the book, describing a company operation which breaks down into numerous platoon and section contacts (one of these has been the subject of an episode of the BBC documentary Our War - an absolutely superb series).
In the close terrain a section gets pinned down, other platoons manoeuvring to support find themselves engaged and then initiate their own counter-ambushes as Taliban try to infiltrate/outflank them, a sniper protecting the Tac HQ uses his pistol to dispatch an insurgent (a feat he was to repeat later in the tour) and the CO calls in mortars whilst trying to co-ordinate his dispersed units' response. The authors convincingly convey the swirling, confused and hectic nature of combat, as well as the soldiers' own reactions, which include how they deal with the sad news that one of their comrades, injured in the battle, later dies after being evacuated.
There is a wealth of information in here for Skirmish Sangin players. What emerges is how often even large company operations break down into platoon and section engagements, so many of the actions are easily transferred the tabletop. So, you could game the ambush and extraction of Sgt Holmes' section in the opening chapter of the book, or the close 'urban' fighting experienced by the Anglians in the narrow, twisting alleys and compounds they often find themselves in.
Another account that I found intriguing is of events later in the tour when, due to R&R, illness and injury, a platoon is reduced to 3 sections of 4 or 5 men, rather than the usual 8. This might make for an interesting alternative 'platoon' action, where the platoon in question is at about half strength and opens up some interesting command decisions (can your 5 man section put down enough fire to suppress the enemy?
Can you effectively close with the enemy with a 4 man assault section?). There are actions alongside ANA forces and their OMLT mentors, which throw up several 'combined arms' scenario ideas, as well as actions involving vehicles (mainly WMIKs, Scimitars and Vikings), including one major ambush on the outskirts of Sangin. Another interesting idea is a sniper led ambush of a Taliban unit, an interesting reversal of roles for the conflict in Afghanistan.
As you can probably tell, I am a big fan of this book. It is well written, gives an immersive account of combat 'on the ground' as experienced by the soldiers of the Royal Anglian Regiment, and is a veritable treasure trove of scenario ideas. Top notch!