Joker One (book review)

At first glance, Donovan Campbell’s narrative of his time in Ramadi, Iraq, might seem like a typical war story. But, as the old cliché says, you cannot judge a book by its cover.

Joker One is the name of a United States Marine Corps platoon. But Joker One the book is really more about leadership. Lieutenant Campbell leads us through his day-by-day struggles to lead his men to success. Along the way he has to do the full 360-leadership cycle: leading up with his commanding officers; leading sideways with other commissioned officers; and lead leading down with his squad leaders. Along the way he discovers something remarkable: his Marines are great leaders themselves.

Lt. Campbell sees his men grow in their own leadership skills under his mentorship. He finds his strength in them. He carries a heavy leadership load until his men have to carry him. It reminded me so much of the leadership principles that others have postulated for the board room, but the Marines of Joker One make them happen on the battlefield.

This is a gripping story. Some of the battle scenes are gritty, and some of the language is a little rough (this is probably a PG-13 book). The love and respect that develops between this officer and his men is an amazing study in leadership. It’s also a book about decision-making under fire, the consequences of those decisions, pain, redemption, faith.

I cried and I cheered while reading this book. I hold the members of our military in very high esteem. This book raised my level of respect for our airmen, sailors, soldiers, and Marines even higher. You will be challenged and stirred by the exploits of Joker One.

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