Paramedics have played a lot of roles in the Iraq war. I primarily thought that paramedics worked “outside the fence” either as part of patrol teams or evacuated wounded personnel from the field to field and combat hospitals. I was expecting another story of heroic rescues, rapid response to MCIs from IEDs, and door busting arrests of terrorists when I started reading Mass Casualties. Thus, I was really surprised and pleased with the story told by Spc. Michael Anthony in Mass Casualties: A Young Medic’s True Story of Death, Deception, and Dishonor in Iraq.
Spc. Anthony was stationed at a hospital in Northern Iraq as an OR technician. What unfolds is a dark story based on the author’s journal. The book is a strong indictment of how poor leadership, fatigue, depression, boredom, addiction, and lust bring out the worst in a group of soldiers. Mass casualties is worth reading to see a different side of combat and soldiers during a twelve month tour.
The book is laid out as a series of journal entries with each month of the tour as a chapter. Spc. Anthony captures colorful dialogue, interpersonal tension, and the worsening conflicts among his unit.
Although Spc. Anthony worked “inside the fence” the pressures and stresses were still very real. His hospital was under regular mortar attack, regularly taking care of severely injured US soldiers and Iraqi civilians, and facing significant environmental challenges. Despite the fight brought to them by the enemies; the internal fight and conflict between the enlisted personnel and their officers seemed to be more significant. During their first several months OR techs were scheduled a rotating shift schedule that essentially put them working a day shift, PM shift, and night shift in a three or four-day period. The commanding officer in charge of the schedule resisted all attempts to improve the schedule until the personnel complained to the superior which initiated a series of retaliations from the supervisor.
Learn more about Michael Anthony at his website MassCasualties.com. He is scheduled for an upcoming episode of the Medical Author Chat podcast. If you want your book or product reviewed check out the guidelines here.