Joker One by Donovan Campbell

Joker OneReviewed by Allen Hott

Joker One is a true accounting of a United States Marine Corps unit as they fought in Ramadi, Iraq in 2004. Lieutenant Donovan Campbell who was the Platoon Commander of the forty-man infantry platoon does a great job of telling the happenings of their year in the combat zone. Joker One was the radio call name for his platoon and it came about because it was the first platoon in a company led by a Captain who “laughed like a donkey braying”.

If you have any interest in the Marine Corps, its fighting structure, and how the Marines work and hang together this is your book. Campbell goes into great detail as he explains how his unit came together. He tells about highlights of the behavior of Marines in combat and how they react. He is rather hard on himself as he recounts mistakes that he feels that he made but he is also hard on our government in places. He is also hard on the Iraqi people who did not even give the Americans a chance to show what they were trying to do.

Campbell tells of the various Marines in his platoon and also in the company to which the platoon belonged. He describes his own superior or Company Commander as being a very nosed leatherneck who was extremely hard on the lieutenants under his command.

Many of the Marines in his platoon had some strange habits or behaviors. One was an intellectual sort who read Che Guevara. Another was a Filipino who was full of excess energy and also verbalized loud and often with a mixture of English and other languages from his home country. There was also a fellow lieutenant who believed that he knew it all and aggressively showed everyone else what he knew or sometimes didn’t know! Another strange one in his platoon was a narcoleptic who fell asleep at various times including during firefights in the field.

Throughout the story Campbell takes the reader through the streets of Ramadi as the Marines work at policing the area and keeping down the insurgents. His own feelings come out very often in describing the action that he and his men encountered. Killing people did not come easy for the lieutenant or his troops and they fought hard to save the lives of their own injured, their injured enemies, and especially the injured civilians. His religious thoughts often come into conflict with some of his actions but he realizes down deep that what he was doing was for the good of man.

The tough days and nights of marching under fire and flushing out enemy gun emplacements took a tremendous toll on his troops, as did the exhausting heat that they endured in the Iraqi country. Exactly how these 40 some individuals blended together and became in fact a band of brothers is a heartwarming tale. Sadly all of the Joker One Marines never made it home and many that did were injured severely both physically and mentally. A really great accounting and very well told!

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