“Without a trace of sentimentality, Mr. Gallagher draws the reader into the everyday complexities of leading 44 soldiers from every strata of American society. Among the members of a platoon that he calls the Gravediggers, we meet Staff Sgt. Boondock and Sgt. Axel, who “routinely bantered like a married couple, on only the most trivial matters”; a Texan who spent eight years in college without getting a degree; and Private Das Boot, a “gangly German-American hell-bent on proving his mettle in battle.” At first this seems like a gang that can’t shoot straight, but then violence flares up—”contact with enemy rifle on Route Swords” comes the report from Lt. Virginia Slim—and the platoon launches into action with smooth professionalism, even if Mr. Gallagher racks his mind, trying to remember his manual training, as his men come under fire.
One of the attractions of “Kaboom” is its first-hand reporting, unfiltered by a journalist’s interpretative “framing.” Whenever a tense situation arises, whenever bullets start flying, Mr. Gallagher and his soldiers rush to the scene and instinctively take charge through pure force—and we’re right at their side. Mr. Gallagher brings the reader down to the stinking streets, through the sewer water and into meetings with cunning sheiks and sycophants. Typical of a combat leader, he calls wartime Iraq “the suck.””