“This is the Afghanistan War as you have never seen it before—the real ground truth—stunning, heartbreaking detail that will drive home to any reader how much we ask of our soldiers physically and mentally—and what they ask from—and give to—each other.” –Bob Woodward, associate editor of The Washington Post author of 18 books including six on recent wars, The Commanders (1991), Bush at War (2002), Plan of Attack (2004), State of Denial (2006), The War Within (2008) and Obama’s Wars (2010).
A riveting account of extraordinary combat aviation operations during intense fighting in the mountains of Afghanistan by one of the U.S. Army’s finest, most experienced aviation commanders. – General (Ret) David Petraeus, former Commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
“In the mountains of Afghanistan, those of us who fought on the ground regarded the helicopter pilots of the 101st Airborne Division as nothing short of a godsend. They kept our supply lines open; they flew in our reinforcements and evacuated our wounded; and when things truly went to hell, they unleashed a deluge of hellfire that kept us from being wiped off the map. Jimmy Blackmon did more than lead these men and women into battle: in “Pale Horse,” he has captured the extraordinary story of these “knights of the sky” in a manner that does justice to their skill, their courage, and the extraordinary sacrifices they made on behalf of the troops who depended upon them. An eloquent and inspiring account of an exceptional group of soldiers who personify the highest values of the American military.”
—Clinton Romesha, Medal of Honor recipient and author of “Red Platoon: An Untold Story of American Valor.”
“An extraordinary book of real clarity and vision that illuminates war across the ages. On the dusty trails, high mountain passes, and thin air of the Hundu Kush, Colonel Jimmy Blackmon gives us the crucible of combat in all its bitter glory. A must read for anyone who wants to understand Afghanistan and America’s path through our longest war” –Admiral James Stavridis, USN, (Ret), Supreme Allied Commander at NATO 2009-2013 and Dean, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy
“Close Combat Attack (CCA) is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to aviation supporting and protecting ground forces in the thick of battle. Pale Horse is a look at the mechanism and personal stories behind the scenes of this lethal asset, as told against the backdrop of Afghanistan.” ―Michael Golembesky, New York Times bestselling author of Level Zero Heroes & former MARSOC team member
“Army helo pilots are a different breed. They fly fast, low, day and night in direct support of their “Band of Brothers” in the ground fight. Jimmy Blackmon superbly captures the courage, heroism, skill and camaraderie in telling the story of his 101st Airborne ‘Pale Horse’ air cavalrymen during their yearlong combat tour in the dangerous and unforiving battlefields of Afghanistan.” — Dick Cody, General, U.S. Army (Ret.) 31st Vice Chief of Staff of the Army
“Pale Horse is a story full of heart stopping action as seen from the air! What these pilots do on a daily basis and what they do to save lives on the ground needs to be told. They are truly unsung heroes. I personally would like to thank these men and women for the support they have provided us. Thank you!” — Nicholas Irving, Army Ranger sniper (Ret.) and New York Times bestselling author of THE REAPER.
“If you’re looking to understand war from an aviator’s perspective, you’ve got to read this book. The words are authentic, as the story is told by a real aviator and close friend, who lived the triumphs and tragedies of battle of which he describes. It’s an emotional roller coaster that will grab you and not let go.” — Author and Leadership coach, Byrd Baggett
Blackmon narrates the blow-by-blow experience of flying helicopters through embattled mountains during the Afghan War.
The 101st Airborne Division is legendary for its actions in the D-Day invasion and Battle of the Bulge. As a squadron commander in the 2000s, the author helped lead the division’s modern incarnation. Small teams of infantrymen patrol the Afghan countryside in weaponized choppers, and the narrative is an endless series of ambushes and firefights. His subject matter is in turns suspenseful and violent, but Blackmon’s writing remains calmly technical: “Smoke began to fill the cockpit as the fire continued to burn in the back of the helicopter. Sergeant McLowhorn disconnected his safety strap and retrieved an extinguisher.” While the book is intended for military buffs, and Blackmon uses authentic jargon, he never loses average readers. More importantly, he adds personal touches that humanize the story. Blackmon grew up in Georgia and labels himself as a born fighter, and he idolizes his fellow servicemen, who come off as selfless, courageous, and professional. The author honestly reflects on PTSD and the damage it has wreaked on his colleagues. In one scene, a flight surgeon recounts his nightmares, which involve blown-off limbs and abandoning soldiers in the battlefield to die. Blackmon doesn’t delve much into civilian politics, and his outlook is rigidly martial, but he seems to empathize with the people and problems of the Middle East. “For me, there was no questioning the necessity of our mission in Afghanistan,” he writes. “What troubled me was how we could convince isolated tribesmen like those in the Helgal to embrace our vision of their future. It must have seemed like such a foreign concept to them, like my grandmother trying to convince me that castor oil was good for me as a child.”
A vivid, action-packed combat memoir, Blackmon’s book explores what life is like for those boots on the ground, as well as in the air.
Since the onset of the War in Afghanistan in 2001, the conflict has occupied the attention of Americans and generated several personal accounts by military personnel. Despite these records, the air war that took place high above the rugged and often formidable terrain has seldom been told. Blackmon, who commanded an aviation task force called Pale Horse between 2008 and 2009, provides a powerful and hard-hitting narrative of the daily lives of those men and women who fought against the forces that thrived in the remote northeastern corner of Afghanistan. Based on his diary, Blackmon’s work relates the day-to-day activities of his small squad flying Chinook helicopters in support of American ground forces struggling to contain attacks from well-entrenched Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters. Describing what is akin to a modern-day cavalry riding a steel beast, Blackmon’s story helps fill a gap in our understanding of America’s involvement in this lengthy battle. VERDICT An excellent addition to the growing literature on America’s 21st-century wars.—Ed Goedeken, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames