- Customer Care
THE SNAKE EATERS: An Unlikely Band of Brothers and the Battle for the Soul of Iraq.
Pulsating throughout the pages of “The Snake Eaters: An Unlikely Band of Brothers and the Battle for the Soul of Iraq,” often paragraph by paragraph, is probity, a virtue defined by this noblest noun in the English language. Resonating among a small team of U.S. advisors, call sign “Outcast,” it meant to them exemplifying the highest of human principles and ideals while embedded in Iraqi Battalion 3/3-1—the 3d Battalion, 3d Brigade, First Iraqi Army Division—nicknamed “Snake Eaters,” often thrust into bitter and sanguinary urban fighting.
The author, Owen West, was a member of the fourth Outcast team to mentor the Snake Eaters in the battalion’s 33-month existence. The U.S. Army most often had provided staffing for the advisor team, but in 2006, the author’s team was an uninitiated, no combat-experienced hodgepodge, including a cop, a firefighter, an unemployed rock ’n’ roll guitarist, a plumber, a mailman and a DEA agent. Together, they planned amid pessimism and fought in optimism.
Binding them to each other as well as their “Snake Eater” Iraqi soldier-cousins was a strong, unwavering allegiance to the Allied mission bolstered by an empathetic understanding of the odds against any of them surviving the street-by-street, house-to-house killing in Anbar province’s Khalidiya, an insurgent-infested town along the Euphrates River. No amount of cunning or overwhelming enemy fire weakened their resolve or loyalty to each other.
West, a third-generation U.S. Marine who served two combat tours in Iraq, one as an advisor to the Snake Eaters, explains that his account focuses upon how ordinary American weekend reservists were deployed in extraordinary ways.
Researching, interviewing, gathering material and then writing the book required more than four years of constant effort, a dedication and commitment that he said “almost killed [him]. … It was worth it. The incredible contribution of these advisors is now memorialized, and with a collective voice we assert that the advisor model works.”
Indeed, as it should be. For West smoothly carries readers into Khalidiya, placing us into the streets, schools and homes of supporting civilians whom the 12 advisors were trying to protect. The only problem was that their friends were indistinguishable from the enemy they were determined to destroy. Complicating things was that the Iraqi battalion they mentored was at first amateurish and hostile, leading to the possibility of a failed mission.
But the men of Battalion 3/3-1 wouldn’t give up. They quickly acclimated to the culture, made friends with translators, and learned how to work with townspeople. By the end of their stay, Battalion 3/3-1 was the first Iraqi battalion granted independent battlespace, the insurgency was wiped off the streets, and peace was restored.
Although the core of the narrative zeros in on and details the near epic struggle where the fighting was so intense and prolonged that the combatants knew each other’s names, faces and families, West offers significant lessons for future counterinsurgency wars. During interviews, West argues the problem today is that the role of the military advisor is “a mystery to the public and misunderstood by politicians.” Even President Barack Obama has declared “that advisors are not combat troops.”
But the author says the opposite is true: “Few troops take as much risk as advisors, whose unwritten orders are to set the example in battle.” Our response in Iraq and Afghanistan has been “to send hundreds of thousands of troops at a cost of a hundred billion dollars a year, mistakes reminiscent of Vietnam that, left unchallenged, will be repeated.” West’s book now demonstrates there is a better way.
“The Snake Eaters: An Unlikely Band of Brothers and the Battle for the Soul of Iraq” is neither a memoir nor an official history. It’s a case study for a new way of war: the advisor model. Suggested by Owen West after observing one particular group of 12 ordinary but resolute men, who found themselves together in one small phase of an anguishing conflict waging battle in an unorthodox way, the model in its full measure is certain to be appraised by military strategists and historians alike, especially in light of our counterinsurgency efforts in the wars yet to come.
THE SNAKE EATERS: An Unlikely Band of Brothers and the Battle for the Soul of Iraq
By Owen West.
Published by Free Press.
352 pages. Stock #1451655932.
$23.40 MCA Members. $26 Regular Price.
Subscriptions to Leatherneck Magazine are a benefit of being a Marine Corps Association & Foundation member. You’ll receive Leatherneck Magazine in print, have access to a number of other benefits and be supporting Marines. Membership begins at $35.00 annually. Join now.
MCA: 100 Years of Service
The Marine Corps Association & Foundation remembers the past and honors the present. Review the first one hundred years of MCA via historical photos and film clips of the organization that serves the men and women of the Marine Corps. Click here to watch the video.
- SNAKE EATERS: An Unlikely Band of Brothers and the Battle for the Soul of Iraq (Book Review)
- Leatherneck July 2012 Issue (Issue)
- Gazette September 2012 Issue (Issue)
- Philadelphia and the Marines (Magazine Page)
- A CHANCE IN HELL (Book Review)
Today in USMC History
Historic Leatherneck Magazine Covers
Leatherneck Staff Artist, Technical Sergeant Robert Fleischauer, felt that our July cover should be commemorative of the Fourth of July. Since the members of the missile units are probably the Corps' best rocketeers, he picked them to perform a standard Fourth of July action. Whether or not the "Honest Johnny" is useful as a combat piece is a matter for debate, but you can't beat it for morale." [July 1957.]
“The Join Up on the Nick” by Major Alex Durr, USMCR, a member of the History Division, Marine Corps University, Quantico, Va.
Hospitalman Daniel T. Bobic, assigned to Headquarters and Service Company, 3d Battalion, Second Marine Regiment, rappelled at the Jungle Warfare Training Center in Okinawa, Japan, in late April, 2002.
The oldest post of the Marine Corps, Washington, DC, is celebrating 200 years of excellence. Posed near the Barracks main gate were members of the official Color Guard of the United States Marine Corps (left to right): LCpl Joseph N. Keough, rifleman; Sgt Blake L. Richardson, Color Sergeant of the Marine Corps; Cpl Gerardo A. Guajardo, organizational color bearer; and LCpl Gregory A. Serwo, rifleman.
GySgt Verlando Frazier, East Coast Food Service Management Team, looked ready to dig into some of the new items included in MREs.
This photo by Sgt Earnie Grafton of Marines from Fox Co., 2/4 shows varied emotions as they greeted the coalition forces outside Kuwait city.
A fleet of trucks was needed to transport Dr. Felix de Weldon’s original model of the Iwo Jima flag-raising statue from the sculptor’s home in Newport, R.I., to the grounds of the Marine Military Academy at Harlingen, Texas. After the statue’s arrival, a nearly around-the-clock effort by skilled workmen was required in order to have the memorial reassembled and ready for dedication ceremonies on April 16, 1982.
In April this year (1981), two squadrons of AV-8A “Harriers” sailed for the Mediterranean aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Nassau. Purpose of the cruise was to demonstrate the Navy/Marine Corps team’s capability to augment naval forces in any area of the World on short notice and to provide at-sea training for Marine Harrier pilots.
The cover of Leatherneck’s Bicentennial issue is an oil painting by the late Colonel Donald L. Dickson, USMCR. The painting depicts General George Washington’s Colonial troops at Gadsby’s Tavern in Alexandria, Va., during the French and Indian War.
Sightseeing tours for the men of the Marine Barracks, San Juan, Puerto Rico, include a trip to the El Morro Fortress. San Juan is now retired as a Post of the Corps.
The Marines in Vietnam have found that the programs which work best are those which operate close to the people. Our July cover is a mixed media (acrylic and charcoal) by Art Editor James L. Hopewell. It catches the spirit of Marines who enjoy their relationship with the Vietnamese around them.
In Naples, Italy, Marines are responsible for the internal security of the Headquarters of NATO’s Southern European Command, while the elite Carabinieri Corpa provides external security. PFC Robert M. Mallard’s NATO shield was admired by a Carabiniere as the two men prepared to take up their side-by-side posts at the entrance of the imposing NATO Headquarters, which appears in the background of this cover.
"We've Fought In Every Clime And Place": Stamping out the Caco Insurrection in the Republic d' Haiti.
January 2002: The Marines engraved another mark in the rich history of the Corps when they came from more than 400 miles offshore to establish a forward operating base south of Kandahar in the war on terrorism. The Marine CH-46 helicopter on the cover, photographed by PH1(AW/SW) Greg Messier, USN, fought in the desert sand to land and resupply Marines such as the ones (inset) photographed by Sgt Joseph R. Chenelly.
January 2001: This firefight during the Frozen Chosin Reservoir Campaign of 1950 was painted by “Chosin Few” veteran Jack Cannon, who served with Company B, 1st Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment and resides in the warmer climes of New Mexico. The cover was part of Leatherneck’s 50th anniversary salute to the Korean War veterans.
January 1992: This cover photograph of runners during Marine Corps Marathon XVI in Washington, D.C., was photographed by Sgt Deirdre Hallett.
January 1991: This month’s cover by Ross Simpson captures the Marines’ waiting-but-ready posture in the Middle East.
January 1982: Participants in the Sixth Annual Marine Corps Marathon presented a colorful spectacle as they began the 26-mile, 385-yard run in Washington, D.C., November 1, 1981. The cover photo, by Tom Bartlett, was taken from a bridge overlooking Highway 50 about a half-mile from the starting line.
January 1981: Nearly 7,800 runners participated in the Fifth Annual Marine Corps Marathon held in northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. The oldest finisher was 78; the youngest was 10. Leatherneck staffer Ron Lunn pre-positioned himself near the Nation’s Capitol to photograph runners during their 14th mile of the 26-mile, 385-yard course.
January 1972: This month’s cover, by Marine Combat Artist Peter Gish, shows members of the New Corps sightseeing in the Old World. While on liberty in Athens, Greece, the 3d Bn, Eighth Marines, were able to tour the Erektheon Porch and Cariatides. The water color is from the U.S. Marine Corps Combat Art collection.
Originally Published December 1983 -- Something tells us that we could date the cover without knowing when it was published.
Originally Published December 1972 -- We're not sure what's more interesting, Santa or the old style gas pump.
Subscribe to Our Newsletter
This November 1992 article in the Marine Corps Gazette looked at the uniform regulations of 1859 and the attempt to standardize uniforms within the Corps. Read the story and see more pics.
|You should read the article||7 hours 47 min ago|
|Marines!||14 hours 57 sec ago|
|Suicide||15 hours 12 min ago|
|This is a very helpful website...||16 hours 29 min ago|
|He has excellent points...||18 hours 2 min ago|
|looking for others||1 day 6 hours ago|
|i am looking for others that||1 day 6 hours ago|
|Frank Jirka||1 day 7 hours ago|