The Company They Keep

Anna Simons, Author
Anna Simons, Author Simon & Schuster $25 (240p) ISBN 978-0-684-82816-9
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
Hardcover - 978-0-02-928935-8
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""The third Special Forces soldier I met I wound up marrying."" So begins the prologue to this elegant and insightful study of life among the Army's Green Berets, as written by an anthropologist who first encountered the elite warriors while conducting Ph.D. research in Somalia. Simons secured permission to spend more than a year in the Green Berets' daily company in order to research this book. She presents the men as she finds them. There are no cartoon-like Rambos here, but plenty of real soldiers--failures and successes alike--who demonstrate what it takes to belong to a highly specialized unit whose members can help topple a government or protect one from insurgency. The qualifications have more to do with character than with pure physical ability. One outstanding soldier, ""Steve,"" failed at Special Forces because he tried to force a bond with his fellow Green Berets by exposing intimate details of his personal life, thereby alerting his team members that both he and his wife were potential security risks. Another, Dave, fit seamlessly with his unit in large part because he understood the finely tuned hierarchy that includes elements of both rank and social standing. Simons's eyewitness account of one Green Beret selection course, a realistic mission code-named ""Robin Sage,"" clearly demonstrates both the immense difficulties of Special Forces missions and the absolute necessity for unit cohesion and clearheaded field leadership. All the candidates learn that they are expected to withstand situations wherein ticks drip from the trees, and discomfort is a constant. Simons's chapter on ""Wives and Other Women"" is a must read for any woman involved with a Green Beret. Well-researched and thoughtfully presented, this will likely be a steady seller among military and other readers. (Mar.)
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