How did we do this Christmas?  There are a few books I received that I wanted to point out as something special.  I was able to review a few chapters of my friend Paul Ciolino’s new book about the history of paramedics prior to publication, and highly recommend it.  It is a story largely unwritten until now, and Paul knows how to bring it to life on the written page.  I was also flattered to be sent a copy of the much-anticipated book “Composition Warfare” by Eeben Barlow, which is essentially a text book on fighting and winning conflicts in Africa.  Barlow strips down the convoluted and contrived language that has watered down how we think and talk about tactics and strategy and tells it like it is.  I can’t wait to read it.  The third book is “Branding Terror,” which is an encyclopedia of  the world’s terrorist organizations, describing the iconography of their flags and insignia, sure to be a much referenced tool in my work at SOFREP.

Dead in Six Minutes” by Paul Ciolino

This is the story of a renegade medical doctor who fought the old school medical establishment, lawmakers, and bureaucrats who absolutely did not want the paramedic and emergency medical services programs to exist. Prior to December 1, 1972 there was no such thing as emergency medical technician, paramedic, or a fire department that operated ambulances that actually treated and transported sick or injured people. Prior to that cold December day in 1972 in ten northwest suburban cities of metropolitan Chicago these services were nonexistent. The heroic efforts of Dr. Stanley M. Zydlo Jr. M.D., and a rag-tag band of renegade firemen and fire chiefs changed all that and American medicine would never be the same again. In spite of overwhelming odds and the power of an entire national medical community, the modern paramedic is responsible for saving the lives of tens of millions of people in the last 44 years. Dr. Zydlo’s genius and incredible ability to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles places him at the top of American achievement in the last century. The modern paramedic is perhaps the most valuable public asset ever created.

Branding Terror” by Artur Beifuss and Francesco Trivini Bellini

Terrorist groups are no different from other organizations in their use of branding to promote their ideas and to distinguish themselves from groups that share similar aims. The branding they employ may contain complex systems of meaning and emotion; it conveys the group’s beliefs and capabilities. Branding Terror is the first comprehensive survey of the visual identity of the world’s major terrorist organizations, from al-Qaeda and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine to the Tamil Tigers. Each of the 60-plus entries contains a concise description of the group’s ideology, leadership, and modus operandi, and a brief timeline of events. The group’s branding — the symbolism, colors, and typography of its logo and flag — is then analyzed in detail. Branding Terror does not seek to make any political statements; rather, it offers insight into an understudied area of counter-intelligence, and provides an original and provocative source of inspiration for graphic designers.

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Composite Warfare” by Eeben Barlow

“Composite Warfare” presents African soldiers and scholars with a true African ‘Art of War.’ As a continent, Africa presents her armies with a vast, dynamic and multidimensional operating environment. It has numerous complex and diverse ethnic, religious, cultural and tribal interests and loyalties, along with many multifaceted threat-drivers coupled to varied and infrastructure-poor terrain plus vast climatic variations. The continent is, furthermore, characterized by numerous half-won conflicts and wars fought by incorrectly structured, inadequately trained and ill-equipped armies. For many reasons, these forces have difficulty adapting to the complex, demanding and rapidly changing environments they do battle in. Similarly, the armies have difficulty in decisively defeating the various threats they face. Many of these problems stem from the fact that numerous modern-day African armies are merely clones of the armies established by their once-colonial masters, their Cold War allies or their new international allies. Many of the principles and tactics, techniques and procedures they were – and still are – being taught relate to fighting in Europe and not in Africa. Some of these concepts are not even relevant to Africa.

This book is intended as a guide and textbook for African soldiers and scholars who wish to understand the development of hostilities, strategy, operational design, doctrine, and tactics. It also illustrates the importance of nonpartisanship and the mission and role of the armed forces. Officers, NCOs and their subordinates need to, furthermore, understand their role in defending and protecting the government and the people they serve. They additionally need to know how to successfully accomplish their numerous missions with aggression, audacity, boldness, speed and surprise. The book provides the reader with valuable information relating to conventional and unconventional maneuver. It also discusses how African armies can, with structured and balanced forces, achieve strategic, operational and tactical success. It covers the role of government along with operations related to war, operations other than war and intelligence operations and how these operations, operating in a coordinated and unified manner, can secure and strengthen a government. Composite Warfare draws on the author’s experiences and lessons in Central, Southern, East, West and North Africa where he has served numerous African governments as a politico-military strategist, division commander, division adviser, battalion commander and special operations commander.