Five men who are hardened criminals are about to learn just how tough the army can be. Five men with criminal records, jail time in the histories and yet for some reason they were chosen to be lead by Master Sergeant Keeble into dangerous Uzbekistan to take down a dangerous arms cartel. Men who lived on the streets of America in the toughest neighbors and survived, yet their lives filled with crime and jail might be turned around when coming face to face with Keeble. Keeble has no choice as the section leader he has to take this rough edged group of disjointed men and turn them into a unit ready to fight as a team. Personalities aside, fears to the curb, disagreements tables this group is being funded by a secret CIA directive leading them into Uzbekistan to infiltrate and become part of this drug cartel. But, will they survive? The training will be grueling and the punishments to their bodies, minds and souls unyielding yet these five men and the seven others who started with them will face death in a different way. Twelve men and only five make the cut as the author begins by introducing us to each one and relating their backgrounds and history.
Mike Winston was 24 years old and the first one we learn about in this unit. Mike tried to save the life of a child who lost his bearings and stumbled toward the oncoming traffic. Winston saw the boy and the opportunity to escape for more reasons than one. Helping the boy and bringing the boy to safety, so why was he arrested? Next meet Lev Smith who had a couple of NCAA violations at A&M. Insulted and having been thrown out of A&M someone insulted him claiming he raped some white women but not so politely said. The man enraged him and Lev’s fists were swinging but the man could not fight back and 911 were called and he was arrested for assault and battery. Next, Darrell Jones who is amazing as you will learn with computers and his trouble started with a simple chess game and learning how to steal identities of the opponents. Stolen a local Wi-Fi password, rewired his cell, set up a bogus free mobile hotspot and slinked the systems together. But, he did not know he was watched and someone handed him an envelope and then next thing he was arrested. Tyrin Turner is man number four looking at his ten by ten cell and never wanting to return. But, in order to get out of jails and never return he too agreed to be an army recruit and signed up. Our final man is Jack Daisy Jones and he joined the rest in jail after a big fight but the rest you need to learn for yourself as we meet the man who was behind creating Unit 416 Colonel Lawrence Jameson someone you won’t like, won’t identify with and who could care less about these men. If they got caught both the government and CIA would not claim that they knew them or about their mission. Marv Goldberg CIS chief of field operations for South Asia and Erick Harlow, chief field operations for Central Asia as behind this and what you hear when they speak and meet is that they need the best of the best to blend in with the cartel and since these men are all legitimate criminals the rest should be easy except for the leader Keeble who the Colonel wanted retired and gone. The meeting was quite enlightening and the end result will give help you understand why Keeble was a great asset to the army and why he wanted to remain. Taking on the training of the men in Unit 416 was important to him and even the Colonel not wanting him to do anything more than menial jobs of a desk job or take on this challenge head on and serve his country. Twelve misfits we under him as he reported to MacArthur Field and met Turner, Daisy, Winston, Jones and Smith who at first glance did not look like much and their first encounter with Keeble is priceless. As an extra-added bonus Sergeant Luis Rodriguez would help round out the group and when Keeble saw him what a great reaction to seeing an old friend. Introductions are not made in the usual way and their first encounter with training would only be the start of many grueling days and nights with and without food and sleep. From the start you realize that Winston was a hard nut to crack but might have potential in leading this group. Levern Smith and Winston seem to hit it off and Jones had his computer in tow at all times as each one had to deal with their own quirks and of course Rodriguez and Keeble. Throughout the book we learn more about these men and the others in the unit but these five are strong, stalwart and each one has special skill to enhance the success of the mission when they are deployed. One was strong on the range and could shoot as well as anyone more experienced. One was great at computer skills and could hack into anything or anyone’s account as became necessary, as the reader will learn. The others were great at combat, dealing with the SCAR weapon and other weapons as you will learn but Daisy Jones was amazing on the range. But, when you hear the voices of Goldberg, Harlow and Jameson, you will know that there is an underlying plot and secrets that they don’t want revealed and for whatever reason the funding that they get you won’t believe the source and Keeble when meeting with them stands his ground and although the is interested in someone named Rita Perez his loyalties to his men never falter. The authors take the time to describe each round of training, each type and place of training and at times you will join them on long hikes, jumping out of planes, learning specific types of combat and when it’s one on one the outcomes will change the dynamics in different directions.
When training and going on several training missions before the big one some got hurt, others groaned and some thought they would never make it from climbing mountains, dehydrated, tired and always on the look out for enemies. When the training was completed the next step would change everything when going to Uzbekistan and meeting Ray Griffin the man in charge of the mission there and learning that Keeble’s team might be heading it all. From the start the CIA’s team resents the unit’s men and obstacles are placed in their way but someone in this group is feeding secrets to the enemy and the end result will shock readers. When beginning their mission their first job is to do some recon and get some contacts dealing with the arms and drugs. Learning who the main person is will change it all as you hear and see what happens when this dangerous man is crossed. When things get out of control and Jameson wants to step up the mission too soon, not caring about the lives of anyone but making sure he gets what he wants completed, you learn more about Jones and his hacking skills, how he gets into Jameson’s bank accounts and what Keeble does to keep this man in line lets readers know that he is a force and no one will take him down.
Things get dicey as Keeble connects with a Russian named Burkhanov but when he thinks he has the upper hand watch and see what the unit does to teach him whose in charge. Learning that the man in charge of this cartel is Anemah Massiq and someone with Griffin’s group has been sending him Intel and is a mole but who and what is his relationship to this dangerous man?
The final scenes are so well crafted and realistic that it’s almost like you are experiencing the tension, battles, the gun shots, the fear and the terror that these men faced as they went into serious combat as on unified team. Author J. Leon Pridgen II fought in the jungles of Panama with the 82nd Airborne division and his experiences and research made the book and the final scenes come alive. Author A. John Vinci is a writer and filmmaker whose artistry is shown within this book that would easily made a primetime or silver screen movie. The ending will take you into and onto the battlefield as someone close to the mission is lost and the end result one man has to step up to save it all. As Jameson, Goldberg and Harlow listen on their feeds and Jones monitors on his special detecting computers, the finality of it all is that five men will fight to the finish to save get the arms dealers, their men, fight off more than they bargained for and mourn the loss of someone dear to all of them. What will their final fate be? Will they finish off the cartel? What happens when the Colonel asks them what’s next for them all? The book teaches young Americans the dangers and hazards of war, what will happen if they faced the jungles, the warlords, the terrorists and the training they would have to endure to survive as the issues of trust, loyalties, power, control, greed and survival come through loud and clear with a group of five men who I hope are brought back to finish what they started. Unit 416: You want these men on your side!
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine