The Lieutenant Don’t Know

Layout 1We’re pleased to announce that The Lieutenant Don’t Know: One Marine’s Story of Warfare and Combat Logistics in Afghanistan is now available from Casemate.

In this book, Jeffrey D. Clement, a Marine Corps Lieutenant, describes the lives of the troops in Afghanistan on the front line.

To learn more about this new release, we talked to author Jeff Clement about his military service and process on writing this book:

Could you tell us a bit about any history of military service in your family? In what ways was the military part of your life from an early age? 

Both of my grandfathers were Navy men, and so were both of my parents, who graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1980 (dad) and 1981 (mom).  My dad was a Surface Warfare Officer, and he later became a JAG lawyer.  My mom was an Engineering Duty Officer, and managed the reactor overhauls on nuclear submarines.

I grew up in and around the Navy, so that’s what I always wanted to do.  JAG was one of my favorite shows growing up.  I joined Navy ROTC at Georgia Tech, intent on becoming a Naval Officer, but I switched over to the Marine Corps during my sophomore year.

My wife is in the Navy too, as a Nuclear Engineer at Naval Reactors.  She commissioned out of Georgia Tech Naval ROTC, and went on to get her Masters in Nuclear Engineering from Penn State.  She specializes in nuclear submarine reactor coolant pump design.

What fascinates you about revisiting the past and bringing it to life in a book?

I talk about this a little in the book, but my Uncle Joe was a World War II veteran.  I wish I knew a little more about his life, about what he did in the war.  This book may provide that little bit of detail that enriches the lives of my Marines’ descendants.  That would be incredibly rewarding, to hear that one of my Marines’ daughters or parents read my book and said “that’s what he did” and was moved by it.

How much research did you do for the book?  Can you give us some tips on this?

This is a memoir, a narrative, so I wrote mostly from memory, checking my facts with friends, against maps, Google Earth, my notebooks, the news, and various blogs.

The biggest thing that I would recommend with regard to research is to always talk to somebody who was there (or who knows a lot about the subject) and can give “the facts” proper context.

Why did you decide to write this book? What prompted you to put this story down on paper?

There are few books that really talk about combat logistics, or the role that logisticians play.  And I can’t say that I blame publishers for not selling them—a lot of what we do as logisticians is really boring, but it’s absolutely vital.  But the experiences and accomplishments of my Marines was tremendous, but we thought they were just business-as-usual.  Once I had left my unit and was back in the US for a while, I began to realize that nobody could even fathom what it was that we did, or the odds that we beat.  The stresses of combat and the technical challenge of the mission were tremendous, but my Marines overcame it all.

I had to tell the story.  I also wasn’t sure about a lot of things.  I didn’t know if I was making too big a deal out of things, if I was blowing my experiences and injuries out of proportion, what to feel about the War in Afghanistan.  I hoped to find some answers by writing it down.

This book will help everyone understand a little more about the War in Afghanistan and war in general.  Some brief flashes of war are glamorous and heroic.  For most Marines, combat is a slow, grinding road that you crawl inch by inch.  Days of stress are followed by nights of nerve-wracking darkness.  For the essential support troops, like the ones in my book, the dangers are the same and enemy contact is nearly constant, but recognition is infrequent.  People should read this book to come to understand a little more about what it means to be at war, what that experience is like for the thousands and thousands of “average” guys on the line.

You can purchase your own copy of The Lieutenant Don’t Know here.

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