Are we making ourselves vulnerable by relying too heavily on civilian contractors in our
military operations? Some will say these contractors play a crucial role in filling a role that
a thinning military is straining to fill. Others would say that hiring civilians introduces an
outside-the-chain-of-command variable that is too difficult to control, and this can be a
dangerous thing in a wartime environment. What one person calls a civilian contractor, another
would call a mercenary. These are the issues Dale Brown deals with in his military thriller
The action takes place in Iraq, where Kurdish rebels have begun a guerrilla campaign to gain
independence. Their attacks are focused on Turkey, with the apparent goal of inciting a war
between Turkey and Iraq. The US presence is slowly being drawn down and, as a result, the
military is bringing in civilian contractors to help with security as troops are being
withdrawn. Enter the familiar face of Patrick McLanahan, a name that fans of Dale Brown will
most certainly recognize.
McLanahan is retired and now acts as a civilian contractor. His company has helped develop
the latest in state-of-the-art aircraft. It is the most diverse military aircraft in history,
capable of a variety of duties including surveillance, cargo, refueling, air traffic coordination
and others, essentially doing the job that previously required a dozen older-model aircraft.
His arrival sparks some intense internal conflict, particularly with the military chain-of-command,
and this is when the dilemma surrounding civilian contractors begins.
Kurdish attacks have taken their toll and the Turks slowly grow fed up and more resolved to
take action despite the international outcry that would result. The slimmed-down US force finds
itself in the middle of this brewing dispute. The situation naturally escalates, as does McLanahan’s
maverick nature. His lack of respect for authority and tendency to do his own thing was enough of
a problem during his military career, and is even more apparent as a civilian. However, his
motives are unclear, and that is what keeps the pages turning.
Overall, I feel this is one of Brown’s best works. The action is well paced. There is a fine
line between the authenticity that military jargon and terms add to a narrative, and the clutter
that can result from the overuse of such terms. Many authors tend to get bogged down in such
language, but Brown walks the line to perfection. In addition, the story of a potential conflict
between Iraq and Turkey over Kurdistan is believable. And the military dilemma surrounding civilian
contractors introduces a new, intriguing aspect to Brown’s style.