Sniper One by Dan Mills

Sniper One is Sergeant Dan Mills' account of his time in Iraq in 2004. After so many hours of playing Battlefield 2, I was interested to read about how real snipers operate. I was surprised to learn that snipers spend as much on foot patrol as they do tucked away on a rooftop.

In April of 2004, the 1st Battalion, the PWRR, arrived in Iraq. Dan Mills was a sergeant in the sniper platoon of Y Company. His platoon was posted to the Cimic House compound in Al Amarah in the Maysan province, to defend the CPA whose role it was to reconstruct the town.

It was intended to be a peacekeeping tour, with the PWRR visiting local police stations to help the Iraqi police keep order in Al Amarah. But on their first foot patrol, Dan's team are hit by a grenade thrown from an Iraqi police station being used by supporters of Moqtada al-Sadr, the OMS. What should have been a peacekeeping tour turns out to be a constant back-and-forth battle that lasts for months.

The author describes the action very clearly, never getting lost in metaphor or rhetoric. Dan Mills makes no attempt to hide his platoon's joy at killing the enemy, and he makes it clear that no remorse was felt for ending the lives of armed opponents. The blame is very much placed on the armed Iraqis that make it impossible for the non-military agencies to make a go of rebuilding the province. He does, however, express pity for the folk of Al Amarah that have no interest in combat, but are forced to live amongst the carnage of the power struggle.

The way he tells it, the PWRR were very careful to avoid civilian casualties, and any collateral damage was caused by OMS mortars, and OMS fighters using civilians as human shields. But this is of course just one side of the story of a very messy situation. Ask a member of the OMS that lived through those months of combat, and I bet you'll hear the exact opposite. Ask a civilian, and you'd probably hear another version somewhere between the two.

But, as an account of the events in Al Amarah during that period, Sniper One is a gripping read. Dan Mills describes the combat and the quiet moments with excellent pace. At no point did I find my interest wane, as the fighting becomes intense, and even the the non-combat situations are informative or amusing.

Sniper One by Sgt Dan Mills is an excellent read for anyone wondering what awaits a battle group once it arrives in an urban warzone.