Spare Parts: A Marine Reservist's Journey from Campus to Combat in 38 Days

 
9780786545186: Spare Parts: A Marine Reservist's Journey from Campus to Combat in 38 Days

A compelling look into the world of reservists--more than just the "spare parts" of our nation's military--as seen through one manís transformation from weekend warrior to combat marine

In 1989, Buzz Williams walked into a marine recruiting office to follow in the footsteps of the deceased older brother he grew up idolizing by signing up to join the Marine Reserves. Over the course of the next year, he would earn money to pay his college tuition by devoting one weekend a month and two full weeks in the summer to the grueling and often dangerous rigors of military training, while enduring the jarring readjustment that occurred each time he returned to civilian life.

But Williams had no idea that even the newest reservists could find themselves on the frontlines of a battlefield in a matter of weeks. On August 2, 1990--the day that he graduated from Light Armored Vehicle School--Saddam Hussein's forces invaded Kuwait, and Williams' life would change forever.

Spare Parts tells the story of Williams' harrowing deployment to the Persian Gulf, where he would be thrust into battle only 38 days after being called up. Enduring both the condescension of full-time Marines and the danger of his limited training, he managed to form a core group that the struggles to gain respect from a military machine that viewed them as mere "spare parts." In gripping, you-are-there detail, Williams brings to life the physical and emotional trials he would face on the killing fields of Kuwait--where some of the woefully underprepared Marines are able to rise to the challenge and others are broken by the horrors of battle.

A powerful portrait of one man's experience in battle--and of the reservists who stand ready to leave civilian life to defend our nation at a moment's notice--SPARE PARTS adds a moving new perspective to the literature of war.

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Review:

Long the stuff of historical, literary, and cinematic legend, the United States Marine Corps maintains arguably the most fervent cult of devotion of any branch of the Armed Services. Yet despite the colorful Corps traditions and clichés that have long since become a part of American culture, the crucial human dimensions of what drives a man to become a Marine have remained largely unexplored. Buzz Williams bravely stakes out his turf in this insightful memoir of his years as a Marine reservist and tour of duty in the first Gulf War of 1991.

Inspired by the USMC service of an older brother who died a tragic, early death, Williams' initial attraction to the Corps is almost cult-like in its intensity (his adopted nickname stems from the close-cropped military haircut he'd worn since childhood). As a way to balance his drive for service with the desire for a college education, Williams joined the USMC Reserves, and quickly found himself a second-class citizen in his cherished institution--when the Marines' "Green Machine" breaks down, they call for "Spare Parts," the Corps' derogatory term for reservists. But, when Iraq invaded Kuwait on the eve of his graduation from armor training at Camp Pendleton, new warrior Williams quickly found himself headed inexorably towards desert warfare in which American forces were often their own worst enemy.

What is striking about Williams' tale is its attentive, persistent psychoanalyses of both his fellow warriors and himself--an examination that finds many a conflicted hero with feet of clay. His unflinching observations about a venerable institution hobbled by bureaucracy, recruitment compromises, woefully inadequate training, and a chronic shortage of supplies seem especially timely in light of the contemporary military quagmire in Iraq. Yet through all his doubts and travails, Williams' dedication to the Corps emerges stubbornly Semper Fi. --Jerry McCulley

About the Author:

A Marine Reserve combat veteran of the First Gulf War, Buzz Williams rose to the rank of company master gunner and has six years of experience as a Light Armored Vehicle crewman. A former National Teacher of the Year, Williams now serves as a secondary school administrator with Harford County Public Schools in Maryland.

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