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“Joker One”: The Stand-Up Marine on Our Options in Afghanistan

He’s brilliant as well as thoughtful and cautious in his assessments, and — best of all — he’s walked the walk, and he’s been a TRUE LEADER whilst maneuvering large groups of tautly-tuned soldiers in the belly of the beast. Now here is future presidential timber, the kind of experienced and knowledgeable leader I believe should be in the White House. Our nation’s lonely eyes get a fleeting glimpse of what a true leader is made of, molded from an experience like his leadership in Iraq and Afghanistan of …

… around 40 dudes: country boys and smalltown jocks; a few Hispanics and a single black. Some were college men with futures; some had pasts they preferred to forget. The battalion was assigned to one of Iraq’s worst hot spots: the city of Ramadi, where faceless enemies found shelter among 350,000 Iraqi civilians. Joker One fought from street to street, house to house and ambush to ambush for seven straight months. By the end of the tour, even the Gunny’s hands had started ceaselessly shaking, …


jokerone-sJoker One: A Marine Platoon’s Story of Courage, Leadership, and Brotherhood

Here are several reviews via the Amazon store, odd since Shuster’s interview were about the parts of the book on Afghanistan, yet it’s not mentioned in the reviews here:

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Campbell decided as a junior at Princeton that attending Marine Corps Officer Candidate School would look good on his résumé. Three years later, in the spring of 2004, he was in Iraq commanding a platoon known by its radio call sign, Joker One. Campbell tells its story, and his, in an outstanding narrative of the Iraq War. Joker One counted around 40 dudes: country boys and smalltown jocks; a few Hispanics and a single black. Some were college men with futures; some had pasts they preferred to forget. The battalion was assigned to one of Iraq’s worst hot spots: the city of Ramadi, where faceless enemies found shelter among 350,000 Iraqi civilians. Joker One fought from street to street, house to house and ambush to ambush for seven straight months. By the end of the tour, even the Gunny’s hands had started ceaselessly shaking, Campbell writes. Faced with urgent life-and-death decisions, Campbell had learned that there are no great options… you live with the results and shut up about the whole thing. For all his constant self-questioning, Lt. Campbell brought Joker One home with only one KIA—a record as impressive as his account. (Mar. 17)
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Review
“Donovan Campbell, first as a Marine and then as a writer, shows us that the dominant emotion in war isn’t hatred or anger or fear. It’s love. His story stands as a poignant tribute to his men–their courage, their dedication, their skill, and their love for one another, even unto death. This is a deeply moving book.”
–Nathaniel Fick, author of One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer

“Joker One is the finest small-unit description of a platoon at war in Iraq. Hang on and cheer them on.”
–Bing West, author of The Strongest Tribe

“Joker One is the real goods, what Hemingway called ‘the true gen.’ The classic military story: one platoon leader, the men of his platoon, and the impossibility and urgency of the assignment. The book will sharply take its place in ranks beside Black Hawk Down and Jarhead. If you want to know what American fighting will look like in this century, you need to read Campbell. Like the best stories, military and nonmilitary, it’s a story about love, community, and a brotherhood.”
–David Lipsky, author of Absolutely American: Four Years at West Point

“Donovan Campbell was a platoon commander in the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment in Anbar in 2004–the unit that had my flank. In Joker One, he tells the story of that hard fight from the ground level better than I thought possible. This is how it was in Ramadi in 2004, before the Surge, before the Awakening, when Iraq fell apart. And this is what it is like to lead men in battle. Read this book if you are going to war, or if you have gone to war, or if you want to know what war is.”
–Lieutenant Colonel John A. Nagl (Ret.), “Centurion 3,” author of Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife

  • Peggy Sue

    Another very impressive young man!

    I was struck by his language: honor, duty, a privledge to serve, filling the gap, receiving an education he didn’t deserve and wanted to give back through service.

    Old time values. Too bad we don’t hear the same coming out of Washington.

    Thanks for the piece, Susan!

  • Sassy

    This young man reflects so much of what I used to believe this country stood for!
    We truly have intelligent, honorable giants among us still.
    Why are so many people unwilling to value that?
    How dire will our circumstances have to get before we place our trust in the right person for the times?

  • Judy L. NC

    Wow! He’s very impressive. Thanks for calling this to my attention. Contrast him to PBO saying that millitary service wasn’t worth his time because there was no war. . .

  • FranSC

    Thank you, Susan, for this example of true, self-less leadership. Indeed, Donovan Campbell was an impressive participant in an ugly situation. He gave concrete, intelligent examples that showed real involvement on his part, but in the end giving his men all the credit for his own success.

    You are absolutely right that this is what a future president should sound like. We heard similar things from Hillary. But what a contrast in what we have heard from Obama for the last two years, trying to make himself look good at all costs.