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on 19 March 2013
Very well written, engaging and informative book about both the Parachute Regiment and the conflict in Afghanistan.

Much as Catholic converts are often the most devout, so ex-"craphat" Tootal lovingly explains to the reader just what it is that makes the regiment so effective and unique-the severe training and selection process which bonds all-regardless of rank-into the Airborne brotherhood. What neither he or others who have covered this ground have pointed out is the risk that men take in volunteering for this regiment. Not in terms of injury, but in terms of self esteem.... what sets them apart is their willingness to risk failure. Personally, I believe anyone who attempts the selection process is owed respect.
It is no coincidence that nearly 60% of the SAS come originally from the Parachute Regiment or that 1 PARA has been designated the Special Forces Support Group.

In the words of Montgomery after "Arhnem"-"Every man an emperor".

By the end of the book I understood why Tootal resigned-he was very much a fighting officer in the mould of John Frost who held the bridge at Arnhem. He was clearly too interested in the welfare of his men and outspoken in general terms to be considered suitable for the political vagaries of higher command.

Tootal is clearly inspired/influenced by the exploits of "Easy Company" as described in the excellent series "Band of Brothers". An ad-hoc company is designated "Easy", he refers to "band of brothers" (yes I know it was originally Shakespeare's) and describes the disasterous move made by the sniper platoon to hit a Taliban stronghold as the "Day of days"-used in BOB to describe the US Paras drop on D_Day.

I admit I was less happy with this. The depiction of the "Red Devils" post Arnhem in BOB was less than complimentary. They were shown as grateful rescuees of the American Airborne-all clean shaven, clean uniforms, bright and cheerily drinking beer. The reality was the they represented the heroic and exhausted remnant of a force which had fought the cream of the German Army, heavily out gunned and outnumbered, for 9 days in what German veterans of Stalingrad described as the most intense street fighting of WW2. In BOB the US Paras proudly boast "nobody rescued us" after Bastoin-call me paranoid but I took the as a slur on our guys.
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Stuart Tootal was out in Afghanistan when the politicians still thought this was a peace-making mission. This meant he was short of everything except aggressive opponents; as a result this is a war fought by platoons where every sortie from their own Fort Zinderneuf attracts an enemy ambush. The power of the support weapons available to the Paras has a Starship Trooper quality, but when casualties are taken that edge can be lost. Because Tootal was a Lieutenant-Colonel I had expected something rather staid and "correct". How wrong I was.
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on 27 January 2010
A fantasic read. I've read quite a few 'war' books, and this is one of the best ! The book throws the reader straight into the action and the tempo continues right the way through. Tootal has done an excellent job in helping the reader to understand and share his experiences as a CO, and I was very moved by his observations of how the wounded are cared for at Selly Oak. The book brings home just how brave and professional our soldiers are, and I agree with him that they, and their families, deserve nothing but the best treatment.
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VINE VOICEon 28 July 2011
There have been many, many books written on Britain's most recent conflict in Afghanistan; Colonel Stuart Tootal's Danger Close is the first to be written by a senior commander who was actually there.

Many of the books already written on the subject, despite being well-meaning, are often rather mundane to read and can be viewed at best as a source for future historians (books like Patrick Bishop's 3 Para and Ground Truth come to mind, though are by no means unique). These books are often dry and get rather repetitive; Tootal's, whilst being somewhat familiar (Helmand, 2006, biggest engagement since Korean War, Sangin, Kajaki Dam et cetera) is differentiated by providing the reader with some of the conflicts that a command position throws up, such as when to call in casualty evacuation helicopters at risk of being shot down, versus how long wounded troops can survive on the ground. These challenges bring to the foreground a different form of combat stress, one that I would like to have seen explored further.

What shines through most emphatically is Colonel Tootal's passion for his troops under his command - a genuine and heartfelt protectiveness is clearly a commendably strong determinant in his personality, one that you hope is widely shared by others in similar senior positions. What else becomes clear from this book, again, like many other books on the subject of Britain's war of choice, is that almost nothing was actually accomplished. Tootal naturally tries to put the best spin on the subject: that 3 Para established a dominant foothold against the Taliban and won the break in the war, allowing for a greater NATO expansion in the province - but the mission was to provide a defensive force that would allow nation-building projects to be completed. No projects were completed at all, not even the plumbing in of a washing machine in a hospital. Elsewhere, Tootal names Afghanistan as the "cradle of 9/11" but the Taliban had no involvement with that atrocity - most of the hijackers were from an allied country, Saudi Arabia; the hijackers might have "trained" in Afghanistan but then the London 7/7 bombers "trained" in Wales and we're certainly not bombing the Welsh countryside.

So dogma aside, Colonel Stuart Tootal's Danger Close is an interesting read from a different perspective than most of the books written on the same subject; the man is clearly passionate but the book never reaches beyond mere interesting.
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on 9 April 2016
Written from the heart of a man that deserved to be an infantry CO, with forthright honesty, no holds barred and obvious respect and care for his men.
He was our 2ic and had a well respected reputation. I haven't met a 3 Para soldier who served on the 2006 Op who had a bad word for him, very few CO's get that respect.
He was put into an extremely difficult political situation and made to undertake tasks that a lesser unit would not have accomplished, that is a credit to the men of the 3 Para Battle Group and his ability to juggle constant demands on a battle group that was sent to accomplish other tasks. To juggle all demands given to him whilst being s*** on by the powers above shows his commitment, but he did it all with thoughts of his men first.
This is an excellent book that would be enjoyed by all, including non-military personnel. It covers every aspect of the 2006 operation, the action, the dramas, the politics and the heartbreak - and it's all true, told with obvious honesty and feeling.
It is hard to understand that this is not written by a professional journalist as it captures all the realism, the essence of combat, the adrenaline rush, the raw courage and determination of the lads, the sheer professionalism and of course the downside in dealing with loss and motivation.
This tour was the epitome of professional soldiering and it has been covered faultlessly.
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on 13 March 2014
In spare, powerful prose, Stuart Tootal provides a unique and gripping insight into Britain's fiercest fighting since the Korean War. The book chronicles the deployment of 3 Para, which Tootal commanded on its deployment into Helmand Province in 2006, a pivotal moment in Britain's engagement in Afghanistan. While the UK government was still portraying the mission as a peace support operation, the Paras found themselves fighting intense eyeball-to-eyeball battles to defend isolated outposts from relentless attacks by the Taliban. The strength of the book rests on Tootal's skill in capturing the bird's eye perspective and agonising dilemmas of command with detailed recreations of individual confrontations between the men of 3 Para and the Taliban. He also has a remarkable eye for gut-wrenching detail: after one battle a pack of dogs gnaw at the bodies of Taliban fighters littering a bazaar -- one starts worrying a dead man's arm and it seems as if the slain fighter is giving a final wave to the Paras who killed him. Tootal is also refreshingly blunt about the shortcomings of Britain's care for the wounded and the broader trajectory of decline imposed on the British Army by budget cuts. A page-turner highly recommended for anybody who wants to know what it was like to fight as a British soldier in Afghanistan and what it was like to lead them.
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on 10 August 2010
This book is unusual as it is written from the perspective of command whilst providing a genuine feel for combat on the ground. The decription of combat is not overdone, allowing balance to describe the difficulty in making life or death decisions in the 'fog of war' and to reflect on responsibility placed on commanders for the human tragidy of those serious injured or bereaved. The best book I have read for a long time.
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on 4 May 2012
The book is well written. It hold your attention as would a novel but it is a very accurate and real journey into the true battle situation in Afghanistan.

You are lifted from your armchair and find yourself sharing the thoughts and actions of the men on the ground experiencing with them their comradeship and sharing their grief as a comrade is killed.

No longer is it a news bulletin - "Another Soldier has been killed in Afghanistan". That death has the impact of having lost a friend. You become an invited guest experiencing the highs and the lows of those involved in this war.

We learn a little of the position of the soldier who is placed in danger for political gain. Sent with inadequate equipment! Blamed by arrogant politicians!

When I finished reading this book I was left with many things upon which to ponder and I was very much better placed to understand the men who fight in such places as Afghanistan.

I found this book after reading Warlord, an excellent novel which referred to the book I am now reviewing.
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on 10 August 2011
A fantastic read written by a commanding officer who clearly cares for his men and their families and in return they obviously trust and respect him as both CO and soldier.

It is written with no glorification...it simply tells the story of his, and his regiments undertaking in a theatre of operations where the UK politicians and some REMF's seemed to have little grasp of the 'day to day' realities of simply surviving. A caring officer who looked after his men as best he could, fought political battles for them, fought in muck and bullets alongside them and anguished with them following inevitable injuries and sadly, deaths.

The author come across as a man who leads with authority and compassion which engenders him to his men. A man with the rare qualities (lacking in some upper echelon quarters and certainly with the UK political leadership) of morals, honesty, openness and compassion.....a man whose troops would undoubtably follow him into the jaws of hell (which on many occasions it reads as though they did). A highly recommended read.
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on 23 January 2016
I've read previous accounts of 3 Para's time in Helmand Province. This time it's the boss's account of things, fighting, looking after his men, and dealing with the confusing multi-national command structure. Very interesting, well written and well worth buying.
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