Author: Joseph Givens

Publisher: Outskirts Press

ISBN 978-1-4787-1631-0

Military experience, like any other experience, is different for each individual.  Some men and women go through decades of military service without ever having a truly difficult time, while others, such as author Joseph Givens, seem to have misfortune after misfortune piled upon them.

In his memoir, Threaten the Body, Destroy the Mind, Givens speaks about the difficulties that he encountered while he was an airman in the United States Air Force.  These difficulties not only affected the way in which he functioned in the Air Force, but they also directly affected his life after his military service as well.  From the very beginning of his service, when he first arrived at his basic training unit, Givens realizes that he is in a world not quite like anything he had experienced before.  The mentality of physical dominance and absolute power were shockingly new to him, and this mentality would haunt him throughout his eight years of service.

Perhaps the most disturbing part of Givens’ memoir is his recitation of events which occurred while he was stationed in Iraq.  In Iraq Givens discovers that the main threat to his physical and mental well being isn’t from the Iraqi insurgents and foreign fighters, but rather it is from the non-commissioned officers who were directly above him.

Givens’ account of his experience in Iraq is disturbing to anyone, regardless as to whether or not the reader has military experience.  The physical violence with which he is threatened is horrific, especially when you realize that Givens has literally been thrust into a combat situation with absolutely no training.  Givens’ non-commissioned officers failed him by not explaining to him the realities of a combat mission.  They did not explain about situational awareness, proper safety precautions with weapons, or explain the need to maintain a vigilant stance regardless of a lack of sleep.

Givens was an Air Force videographer suddenly forced into the role of an Army infantryman without the benefit of training or the benefit of veteran non-commissioned officers to take him under their wing.  He was, instead, treated as if he should know the information already, and punished for his lack of knowledge in a way that left emotional and mental scars upon him for years.

Givens’ work is sharp and to the point, a short book that pointedly illustrates the failure of Givens’ superiors to support him following his traumatic experience in Iraq.  Threaten the Body, Destroy the Mind is an interesting read about the failure of command and its aftermath.

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