Few books have told the story of the role of CIA Paramilitary officers and contractors during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, prior to the 13 Hours debacle, and the incredible heroism displayed there, most American had no idea that those roles existed at all.
Andrew Coussens, himself a veteran of the US’ “never-ending wars”, knows what those roles require, having served for many years as a contractor in a classified CIA program. Coussens unpacks for us the requirements, the stressors, the difficulties, the successes and all the other aspects of life at the pointy tip of the spear. For those of us who served there, or served alongside our brothers and sisters there, every line rings true.
Damien Collins is caught between two worlds pulling him in opposite directions. He loves his family (though as we will see, his family too pays a price for this line of work) but also loves the mission and the brotherhood he serves with. Damien’s unit engages in both direct kinetic action, while also collecting both tactical and strategic intelligence, while trying to keep their sources safe from the grips of ISIS. As Damien and his team race to get the intel, and protect their assets, we get a little insight in how the Agency and JSOC work together, while navigating the corruption, shifting allegiances and growing terrorist threat on the ground in Afghanistan.
If you recall the Ray Davis incident in 2011 in Lahore Pakistan, Damien and his team’s experiences may help illuminate some of what Ray went through in that episode.
Lastly, our Agency officers and contractors often sacrifice marriages and relationships along the way. Damien’s experiences are no different and serve as a call that we need to help those men and women. My first DCOS said to me, “When you are 80, none of us will still be here for you. If you haven’t screwed it up, your wife still will be.” We need to recognize those challenges and provide the right support for our colleagues.
Coussens tells the story well, and as a reader, you can clearly tell he has worn these boots and walked these streets. I’m invested in Damien’s story and want to see where he goes next.
This is a murky world, the rules change rapidly, and our enemies are cunning and hard to find sometimes. I am grateful for the men and women who carry forward the fight that Coussens so ably describes.