Scott A. Huesing Shares his War
There are some things in life which can never be properly explained through words or images, things which need to be lived through to be even partially understood. War is certainly one of those things, and if one looks at the spectrum of its portrayals by various authors, one will find its depiction to range from total glamorization to complete condemnation. Anyone who hasn’t lived through it has a different idea of how it really is, which is why I believe the work of people such as Scott A. Huesing to be invaluable for the rest of us. A retired USMC Infantry Major with twenty-four years of service and ten deployments to his credit, Huesing is a man who witnessed many wars and their far-reaching consequences first-hand. In other words, he’s in about as good of a position as you can be to depict war as it truly happens, and that’s precisely what he set out to do in his first published book, an autobiographical memoir titled Echo in Ramadi.
This very no-nonsense book begins in the winter of 2006 as we are introduced to Huesing himself, commander of Echo Company, Second Battalion, Fourth Marine Regiment, comprised of two-hundred-fifty Marines. Their task is simple on the surface: to capture or kill anti-Iraqi forces on the streets of Ramadi following the Multi-National Forces Surge ordered by then-president George W. Bush.
In practice however, the whole ordeal turns into a hellish nightmare as the Marines become thrust into the heart of urban combat taking place virtually every day. Fighting a different kind of war, one without frontlines or rules of engagement, the determined young soldiers trudge onwards, at the same time amassing a mountain of scars, both on their bodies and psyches. This is the true story of soldiers who braved a year and a half of chaos, mayhem and death, in the process bonding as a brotherhood and changing forever in ways they could have never imagined.
The Straightforward Approach
There are plenty of books to choose from for those who want to learn about the recent war in Iraq, and while they certainly contain knowledge deserving of preservation, they often feel disjointed and at times overly ambitious. With Echo in Ramadi, there is literally no place for any confusion or misunderstanding. Huesing took the most straightforward approach possible, which is recounting what one company went through in chronological order. He takes a bit of time to share his own perspective on war and his disillusionment with military life, as well as establishing the context and getting you acquainted with the Marines and the locale. After which, he objectively attempts to recount and analyze the various events they went through in between all the moments of tense boredom, an aspect he captures particularly well at the start when describing his first deployment.
In practical terms, he discusses various moments when they were able to help the local situation, more somber moments when there was nothing they could do as well as the tangible obstacles which lay between them and their mission. Huesing doesn’t shy away from admitting his own mistakes. Perhaps more notably, he gives an extremely detailed and moving account of urban combat, an aspect of warfare many of us don’t give much thought. I believe he managed to capture the dread of the idea you could be ambushed from virtually anywhere at any time, how psychologically-destructive it can be to fight an enemy which tries to remain hidden. We are with the author and his Marines for most of the ride, and as much as it’s possible, he tries to keep us at his side so we might get even a tiny glimmer of what his hellish reality was back in those days. From a purely educational standpoint, I’d say this book did a flawless job at depicting the fighting in Ramadi in a very memorable and detailed manner.
A Brotherhood Forged in Misery
While the author certainly offers a wealth of utilitarian information on the conflict, he is just as apt when it comes to portraying the Marines under his command and discussing the emotional and psychological impact of the events they went through. We are with them before and after every fight, and through each paragraph we grow slightly closer to these people, admiring them for the impossible difficulty of the situation they ultimately chose to put themselves in. It became obvious from the very first pages Huesing truly loved the Marines under his command and respected their bravery through and through, and in return they were willing to go to hell and back for him. He never discusses his own valour and when he talks about the losses they suffered overseas an immense amount of regret and sorrow leaks through the pages. It’s a very special kind of bond which I believe many of us will never experience (perhaps thankfully), and it feels to me like the author does it justice, as much as it’s possible.
There is another very interesting dimension to this book which comes with Huesing’s focus on the human side of his Marines, and it’s the repercussions this war had on people. He doesn’t pull any punches and realistically explains the kind of toll this fighting takes on friends and family, how it breaks some, perhaps strengthens others, but leaves permanent scars on everyone. Our first insight comes at the very start when the author makes a phone call to offer his condolences to the mother of the first soldier who died under his command, Corporal Dustin Libby. There are many very personal passages where the author explores his own aftermath following the Ramadi campaign when he came back home, honestly laying out the countless difficulties of re-adjusting to civilian life. While the problems faced by veterans have been gaining more exposure in recent years, it remains a criminally underexplored subject, and I believe we need more people like Huesing who won’t shy away from exposing the truths some would rather not know about their war heroes.
The Final Verdict
With everything being said and done, I firmly believe Echo in Ramadi by Scott A. Huesing to be one of the most educative and eye-opening accounts of the fighting U.S. soldiers had to go through in Iraq. He explores his time as commander of Echo Company on practical, strategic and personal levels, all of them providing invaluable insights into what those Marines went through overseas and upon their return back home. I highly recommend it to anyone who is even remotely interested in war biographies, especially ones relating to the Iraq conflict.
Scott A. Huesing is an American author and retired USMC Infantry Major with a career spanning 24 years of service as both an enlisted and commissioned officer. He conducted operations in over 60 countries around the world over the course of 10 deployments, including Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Horn of Africa. As a writer he has so far published only one book, a biographical memoir titled Echo in Ramadi , in which the author recounts his time spent as leader of Echo Company in the dangerous streets of the titular town.