As the new kid on the Casemate block I’m happy to be able to report that I’m hitting the ground running. With the support of President and Publisher David Farnsworth and the crew at the Casemate Central in Havertown along with that of Editorial Director Steve Smith and the Rockville Centre office I’ve already been able to add to our publishing program with new titles that will be coming out in the spring.
One of them is Hearts and Mines by three-tour Iraq War vet Russell Snyder. It is the moving and perceptive memoir of an army junior NCO who was a member of a three-man psychological operations (PsyOps) team working in northwestern Iraq where the Euphrates River enters the country from Syrian. PsyOps was a different kind of duty. In the author’s words, Russ and his team were “tasked with spreading propaganda on the battlefield and winning the hearts and minds of Iraq’s civilian population through leaflets, loudspeakers, conversation, and bribery.”
But don’t get the idea that this was back-office, rear-area duty. Sergeant Snyder’s “office” had four wheels: it was a specially equipped Humvee that mounted a six-speaker array alongside the machine guns in its cupola.
And this was definitely not a quiet part of the Iraq. Again in the author’s words, “operating along the Euphrates river valley in western Iraq’s Anbar desert during the spring and summer of 2005, I witnessed what was at that time some of the most vicious counterinsurgency fighting of Operation Iraqi Freedom since Fallujah.”
As an old soldier of post-Vietnam War vintage—I served on active duty from 1972 to 1978—and a military history publishing veteran with over thirty years under my belt, one of the things I found most interesting about Hearts and Mines in a general sense is how easily Sergeant Snyder and his soldier teammates worked with and got along with the marines to which they were attached: Third Battalion, Twenty-Fifth Marines followed by Third Battalion, Second Marines.
During my army active-duty days and my publishing time I have had very little experience with soldiers and marines working together in the “intimacy” of a battalion. Most military memoirs, particularly those of enlisted men and junior officers depict life in a service-centric world of squad, platoon, and company. There is very little interaction between America’s two ground-combat armed forces. Where it has come up is in stories of World War II in the Pacific, and here it is often with a sense of mutual animosity and disdain.
In Sergeant Snyder’s book, however, you see America’s best, some soldiers, others marines, but all are American warriors working together to achieve their mission and survive to fight another day.
I commend Russell Snyder’s remarkable story of life and death in Iraq. Add it to your “wish list.” When you get a chance to read it in March, you won’t be disappointed.