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4.8 out of 5 stars94
4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 27 February 2013
I saw Company Commander recommended when I'd finished reading WAR by Sebastian Junger, the American author & journalist's account of the five trips he made to the Korengal Valley with US forces in Afganistan. At times an uncomfortable and disturbing read, interspursed with facinating information gained over many years of research on how military personnel react in moments of extreme danger.
Company Commander is Major Russell Lewis's personal diary of his six month tour with the Parachute Regiment at Inkerman, which was the British Army's most exposed Forward Operating Base in Helmand Province, Afganistan. His story telling is calm and controlled but with warmth and passion and an obvious admiration and respect for the men who served under him. Their role is not to sit and wait for the enemy to strike but to go out and find them. Russell Lewis's accounts of their daily patrols, usually under cover of darkness in the early hours of the morning, make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up! It's not at all surprising that he was subsequently awarded the Military Cross for his leadership and gallantry. A highly recommended read.
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on 2 July 2012
For someone who would much rather read a fiction novel than about war I loved this book! It gave me a real insight into front line action in an honest and endearing way, whilst opened my eyes to the challenges that our soldiers face. Russell writes with real passion, and humour, about his day-to-day life during his tour of Afghanistan and I almost didn't want him to 'come home' as I was enjoying the book so much. A 'must-read' for everyone as I think we could all do with knowing a little bit more about what goes on when you are a soldier in the British Army.
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on 1 June 2012
This is an important book to add to the growing list of recent titles covering our involvement in Afghanistan. Don't read this if you are looking to understand the wider geo-politics or the 'big picture' of the UK's involvement. However if you want to understand the reality of decisions in Whitehall then this is what it boiled down to - 5 square kilometres around a forward operating base.

This book is a testament to the courage and warrior spirit of the British Army, 2 Para and B Company in particular. This is the story of a band of brothers who went off to war and validated their trust in each other and the ethos and fighting spirit of a great unit. Their courage and spirit constantly shines throughout this account.

What Major Lewis does not answer in his account is whether any of the sacrifice and effort were worth it. As a serving officer I suspect he stayed well clear of anythig remotely political or critical of the wider military and strategic direction of the campagin but without any real political progress one is still left wondering what has been the point?
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on 31 May 2012
I have been struggling to write a review for this book since I finished it last night. I picked it up a few days ago to start reading it in the garden and I have barely been able to put it down since. Russell Lewis gives a brilliant and imaginative account of his tour in Helmand which inspires, amazes and shocks. His writing includes detailed facts of places, events, kit and circumstances which will keep all readers with a military brain absorbed. However, he also shares his thoughts, feelings and very honest emotions about events and incidents that really illustrate the human side to this War in Afghanistan.
As the book progresses through Russell's tour, you get to picture the scenes quite vividly. I liked his descriptions of 'Star Wars village' and of his various loyal men like 'Mad Dog'. You feel like you know and admire many of his B Company men and by the end of the read and you desperately want them all to just make it home safely and in one piece.
I think that this book is a 'must read' for all Officer Cadets going through Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Russell's account is awe inspiring and I am sure that many new, young Officers coming through will aspire to achieve what he has as a leader of men in extremely intense and testing times. For all other readers, this book is a fascinating account of events that you will find hard to put down once started. It will have you laughing out loud during the flashes of hilarity that occur and gasping in shock at how in a few seconds everything can change.
As someone who has a tendency to speed read and skip paragraphs, I read every single word of this book, cover to cover! Brilliant and highly recommended!
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on 16 October 2013
This book really stands out from the usual fair of books being written about "the Stan". For a start it is actually a diary or journal written in first person by the author. This gives the book a feel of small snappy chunks of text rather than lengthy chapters, which make you feel that you can just read about one more day before putting it down. Which given the subject matter is a good thing.
Russ Lewis has delivered a book full of thoughts and observations which are refreshing as they are thought provoking.

The book is light on superlative descriptions of combat, which other books deliver in spades; instead it provides the depth needed to understand the issues faced when you are in a position of command in an environment as unforgiving as Afghanistan. Many entries are nothing more than "washed clothes, read a book, chatted to the lads" type of thing, but rather than being dull, this in fact helps us understand the frustrations and long periods of boredom the lads and Russ has to endure between the moments of sheer adrenaline fueled terror/excitement of a contact.

Although Russ doesn't dwell on the contacts in too much detail, there is enough there to keep you interested and when casualties happen, which inevitably they do, you can feel the conflict on the page as Russ makes the decisions he does. His battle between what he `needs to do' and what he `wants to do'.

But this book also delivers the small stories, those that would otherwise be lost as life moves on. Those witty little incidents which makes the British squaddie so unique; that ability to laugh when others might cry. My personal favorites are the goat and mortar man dilemma (having served in a few infantry battalions myself in my time, I really can relate to this!), the story of the missing socks and of course who can forget Russ's bad decision not to lock up the breakfast cereal!

This book is not about the right or wrongs of war in Afghanistan. It is not a review of how the tactics or strategies of the war are being developed and implemented. This is not a book about what it is like to be in a firefight, although Russ covers it well. This is a book about leadership, the loneliness of Command, and how and why the Company Commander of `B' Company 2 Para made the decisions he did in one of the most demanding places on the planet.
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on 31 July 2012
Those in the know will recognise the infamous 18 Platoon by Sydney Jary as required reading for the budding Platoon commander. This is the modern version for Company Commanders. The author has allowed us into his thoughts and feelings about the "loneliness of command" and the responsibility that goes with it.
The sense of belonging the author has to his men is evident from the start, he really sets the scene well "of the bravest man he ever met." The fact that the last footnote in the book states all the authors profits go to charities just exemplifies this further.
This is a modern classic and simply has to become required reading for those that aspire to command on the field or even in the board room.
Thank you for writing a book on Helmand in 2008 that I can actually read - Well done Russ.
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on 1 June 2012
This is an extremly well written account of life at the tip of the spear. Major Lewis gives a brutal and truthful account of the demands and pressures of command. Situated in one of the most hostile areas of Helmand B company 2 Para act as bait to draw the taliban away from Sangin to allow reconstruction. An act in itself unimaginable to most This book takes the reader as close to the battlefield as it is possible, you feel the highs and sadly the lows. I Cannot express how gripping this book is you will not put it down and I will certainly re read.
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on 14 June 2013
This story is different to most military memoirs for 2 reasons. Firstly, it is written in a diary format, making it far more believeable than most, as it avoids any artistic licence. Secondly, you can really tell that the author is telling the story on behalf of his men, and that makes the underlying leadership lessons really ring true. Major Russell Lewis has not written a story "about me", it is without a doubt "about us" and surely that is the first lesson one must learn as a leader.
Well written and worth a read.
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on 22 December 2012
The media has been awash with political messages and pictures of our troops paraded for the media story but rarely have we got an honest and open account of what it is really like in Helmand. This book is well written and a very open account of the dilemmas of leadership in a real combat environment. The difficulties faced by the author in reconciling the orders from higher formations, sometimes with little explanation, to that of the safety of his subordinates is tangible and thought provoking. There is a compelling courageousness in his open dialogue about the difficulties he faced and how he dealt with it all. This book gives a real sense of the difficulties of operating in the Helmand Green Zone, working with the Afghan National Army and trying to get to grips with an elusive and slippery enemy; one moment a farmer and the next an AK47 carrying death threat.

This book is a must for anyone with any interest in Afghanistan and what it is like to serve in a combat area. The style is for all and it will keep you riveted from start to end, you do not need to be a student of the military to appreciate, enjoy and be engaged by the authors style and language. This will remain as a true and classic dialogue of what combat in Afghanistan is/was really like. I would recommend this book to anyone.
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on 5 July 2012
This first hand account of the fighting around FOB Inkerman is an exceptionaly gripping, well written and insightful account. Russ gives real insight into the realities of life in a forward operating base using his journal as a handrail to deliver his account. His understated accounts of patrols provide an insight into the mind of a commander on the ground, the Taliban tactics and his approach to defeating them.
His inspiring approach to leadership is delivered as a very personal account of what worked for him. It is delivered without prejudice and leaves the author with an understanding of how Russ chose to prepare himself for the strain of operational command; with his, often unorthodox, techniques provided as observations on his FOB routine rather than evangelical rhetoric of what leaders should do.
As well as being probably the best first hand account of life on operations I have read, it is also a real page turner. Even a long term member of the slow readers club like me will race through this in a matter of days.
Whether you have an interest in Afghanistan and the Army or just like a well written story this book should be on your must read list.
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