Hesitation Kills: A Female Marine Officer's Combat Experience in Iraq


This riveting memoir is the first book written by a female Marine about the war in Iraq and one of the only books written by a woman who has experienced combat firsthand. Deploying to Iraq in 2003, Jane Blair's aerial reconnaissance unit was assigned to travel ahead of and alongside combat units throughout the initial phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Throughout her deployment, Jane kept a journal of her and her fellow lieutenants' combat experiences, which she draws on to convey the immediacy of life in the ...
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Hesitation Kills: A Female Marine Officer's Combat Experience in Iraq

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This riveting memoir is the first book written by a female Marine about the war in Iraq and one of the only books written by a woman who has experienced combat firsthand. Deploying to Iraq in 2003, Jane Blair's aerial reconnaissance unit was assigned to travel ahead of and alongside combat units throughout the initial phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Throughout her deployment, Jane kept a journal of her and her fellow lieutenants' combat experiences, which she draws on to convey the immediacy of life in the military, not just for a woman but for all Marines. Jane's stories highlight the drama and chaos of wartime Iraq along with the day-to-day challenges every soldier faced: from spicing up a "pasta with alfredo sauce" MRE to keeping the insidious sand at bay. She also copes with a bullying superior officer while trying to connect with local civilians who have long been viewed as "the enemy." She recounts the struggles specific to women, including being respected as a Marine rather than dismissed as "the weaker sex" and battling the prejudices of male soldiers who don't believe women belong in uniform. And always, she fights the personal loneliness of being separated from her husband, balanced with the challenge and joy of stealing a private moment with him when his unit is close by. Jane describes not only her experiences as a young lieutenant and as a woman but also those of her fellow Marines, whom she lauds as the true heroes of her story. Ultimately, she learns from her commanding officer, and her fellows in arms, what it truly means to be a leader, both in the military and in life. Weaving her story together with the experiences of the ordinary people of Iraq, this book offers compelling insights into the profound impact of the war on the lives of soldiers and civilians alike. Her unforgettable narrative bridges the gap between those who have experienced the Iraq War firsthand and those in America who could only follow its life-altering events from a distance.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Beginning in 2003 with her squadron landing in Kuwait, Marine Major Blair (then a lieutenant) reflects positively on her experience in Iraq. Her unit provided backup for army troops, and she was in charge of deploying unmanned planes to bomb suspected enemy emplacements without hesitation. As a new officer she had to face fellow officers who tried to push her to the sidelines, but with the support of her superiors these conflicts faded into the background. "Marines made war an art form" she writes, describing an incident of friendly fire, "...I knew no matter how much the plan was screwed up … the infantryman's decisive actions would win this war." Blair writes with honesty as she describes feeling fear during her first experiences in battle, but the greater challenge for her turned out to be the hardship of poor quality MREs (military "meals ready to eat"), months without access to showers, and sheer boredom. The author is not concerned in this memoir about broader issues to do with the Iraq war nor does she engage fully in the larger issues of gender discrimination. This is rather one marine's on-the-ground account of her pride in being part of a military history. Likely of greatest interest for someone—male or female—contemplating a career in the military. (May)
Fresh out of officer’s training, Blair, a second lieutenant with the U.S. Marines, was deployed to Iraq in 2003 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Her aerial reconnaissance unit was often on the leading edge of battle, making her one of the few women in the combat zone. In recounting the run-up to the invasion and the first chaotic weeks of the war, Blair offers a bird’s-eye view of military operations and a window into the life and mindset of a soldier. Describing chemical warfare drills, near-ambushes, and what it’s like to order an air strike, Blair gives civilians, if not the actual experience of war, then an understanding of it. A thoughtful guide, she admits to her struggles with boredom, loneliness, and fear not just for her own life but for that of her husband, a fellow marine. Though support for and interest in the war has long since waned, Blair, forever changed by her time in Iraq, reminds readers of the sacrifices soldiers make on our behalf.
New York Post
In her new memoir, Hesitation Kills, [Blair] tells of her transformation from a sheltered, privileged daughter of a Manhattan lawyer and an artist who were members of Andy Warhol's social circle to a steel-nerved combat veteran.
San Diego Union Tribune
Blair brings to life the drama and chaos of wartime Iraq, in combat, in camp and on the streets of the cities where part of her mission was to connect with civilians who had been seen as the enemy.
The Armorer
Lt. Blair writes in a very clear and engaging manner, never forgetting to translate milspeak and acronyms for the civilian reader. (There is also a handy index in the back.) Her descriptions of what life was like during the hectic and dangerous initial days of the invasion and the Thunder Run are gripping and vivid, and she does an excellent job of giving the reader a 'you are there' experience of her unit, the good and the bad. I enjoyed reading of her delight in seeing the ancient Gates of Babylon through the eyes of the UAV, and the puzzlement of some Iraqi prisoners who were not only confused by a female officer, but one who spoke Arabic with an Egyptian accent.
Joint Force Quarterly
[A] precise and accurate account of the day-to-day operations of a front-line unit and the significant toll it takes on leaders at all levels of command. The fact that the author was a woman, and a respected officer, makes the important observations about the best and worst of our officer corps in combat scenarios highly relevant and important for both public understanding and the education of young officers. The author pulls no punches in naming names and explaining the failures and successes—including her own—of commanders in maintaining the support and commitment of subordinates and peers in the planning and execution of not only those combat operations critical to a unit's success, but in taking care of the troops on a day-to-day basis. . . . The ultimate value of this book is the sincere and accurate portrayal, from a very personal level, of those who serve and what their experience on a daily basis as they prepare for war and then deploy with very little clear understanding of what their fate will be.
Military Officer
Allowing women to serve in combat always has been a contentious issue, but retired Marine Corps Maj. Jane Blair reveals what it really means in her perceptive and ‘unladylike’ memoir of her wartime experiences in the Iraq War in 2003. . . . Blair describes the technology, operational uses, and battlefield value of UAVs; the harsh conditions of desert living; gender discrimination; the real threats of enemy attack; the humor of fellow Marines; and the positive combat leadership of her commander and senior NCOs.
Maj Blair’s memoir is a well-written and powerful account of her experience in Iraq in 2003 and of her experience being apart from her husband. . . . Hesitation Kills is a female Marine officer’s account of life on the front lines in Iraq, and a book that all Marines should read. It is not a glorification of combat, nor is it a book with a political or social agenda. Her book is a straightforward tale of a Marine officer in combat, who happens to be female. The book is important because it examines the intensity of combat, the anxiety of separation from family, and the powerful sense of isolation and solitude upon leaving the combat zone. Hesitation Kills is a literary milestone in the history of the United States Marine Corps.
Frank Schaeffer
My son and Jane were in boot camp together. Our shared 'Marine family' history means that I truly understand the remarkable insight found in this wonderfully engrossing book. Jane brings a clear eye to her subject and offers a unique and deep insight into both war and the role of women in the American war machine that rings true.
Dalton Fury
Jane Blair is an extraordinary example of the passionate modern-day Marine leader and female warrior. The pipe hitters I rolled with typically roped and breached in unisex fashion, but Hesitation Kills makes me wonder if we might have been underequipped. Not only can 'Boots' Blair write like a seasoned and inspiring author, she could whip GI Jane's butt!
Library Journal
In this military memoir, Marine lieutenant Blair, who served in an aerial reconnaissance unit during Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003), ably depicts the chaotic and often disillusioning experiences of modern warfare. Laced with observations on the challenges facing women in the Marines, Blair's account provides a compelling behind-the-scenes description of how unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, were used to gather crucial intelligence during the first weeks of the invasion of Iraq. Tracing the emotional roller coaster of her own challenges during the conflict, Blair's narrative is especially effective at depicting how the intensity and deprivations of war permanently changed her and her fellow marines. VERDICT Blair's derogatory remarks about American civilians may grate with some readers, and she occasionally lapses into dense military jargon or seemingly petty complaints. However, her eloquence in examining the grim emotional costs of military service makes this a timely, moving, and eye-opening work. Best suited to readers interested in women in the military, UAVs, the Marine Corp, or Operation Iraqi Freedom who are not offended by gritty content. Readers may also consider Kayla Williams's Love My Rifle More Than You.—Ingrid Levin, Salve Regina Univ. Lib., Newport, RI
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781442208766
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/16/2011
  • Pages: 296
  • Sales rank: 784,743
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Jane Blair joined the United States Marine Corps in 1999. She spent several years in the enlisted ranks before reaching the rank of Corporal and receiving her commission as an officer. After mustering out of the Marine Corps in 2005, she rejoined the active duty corps again in 2006 and left as a Captain in 2007. She remains a Middle Eastern regional affairs officer and a Marine attaché in the Reserves. She lives with her husband and fellow Marine, Peter, in Washington, D.C. For more about Hesitation Kills, and to find out where Jane Blair will be appearing next, check out her website: www.janeblair.com.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

1 A Home and a Country 1

2 The Call 23

3 Matilda 31

4 The War Plan 39

5 Countdown 55

6 Dread Silence Reposes 65

7 Uncertainty and Human Factors 77

8 Red Ink 83

9 Time on Target 91

10 On the Shore, Dimly Seen 99

11 A Dangerous Position 111

12 A Fiery Crash 131

13 Garden of Eden 137

14 Killbox 149

15 National Geographic 155

16 A Turning Point 161

17 Their Blood Had Washed Out 177

18 Star-spangled Banner 185

19 Ashura 193

20 Occupation 199

21 When Free Men Shall Stand 209

22 Mortars in the Garden 221

23 Strategic Corporal 237

24 No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy 249

25 Ribbons 259

26 The Twilight's Last Gleaming 267

27 Home of the Brave 273

Appendix A Ranks in the United States Marine Corps 277

Appendix B Structure of the 1st Marine Division 279

Glossary 283

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 24, 2011

    A great read - funny, intelligent and unique

    Anyone military past, present and future will enjoy this read. Written with simple, direct language you are take right to center of the story. Often I felt like I was almost standing near her during the events portrayed - she is effective bringing me as a reading right into the action. There are multiple threads in the book that had me thinking and also laughing a lot. I will be VERY careful if I am anywhere near an MRI machine from now on.

    Jane confirms what, as a civilian, I thought people who serve in a war zone think and feel. Jane has a very unique perspective that she explains well and will surprise a reader once you read the entire story. All in a good way it is not what you think from any stereotypes.

    Read it and enjoy it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2012

    Incredibly moving and motivating!

    Being both a female and in the military, I took MAJ Jane Blair's experiences close to heart. She instilled much pride in me through her words and the words of others. She gives a detailed image of those in the military today and the difficult missions they have faced at war, on a very personal level.

    I highly encourage this book to everyone, especially those close to the military!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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